With a brand-new location in the heart of downtown Houston, Texas, convention guests from as far away as South Korea and a host of the 2013 United States World Cosplay Summit Finals, Anime Matsuri 2013 had it all this year. Cosplayers from all over the country, including Hawaii, flew in to one of the biggest cities in the South to take part in the festivities of a con that previously hadn’t had much impact on the cosplay scene.
The convention itself was held in the Hyatt Regency Houston, which had been recently renovated and featured a brand new modern sunken lobby bar and a spacious feel due to the 28 floors of rooms built around the central lobby. Across the street from the hotel were stationed food trucks cooking up various Asian cuisine, Houston’s Kaminari taiko drummers, and even an import car show.
Speaking to the convention chairman, I learned that Anime Matsuri this year had expected around 10,000 attendees but broke the record big time with 15,000 weekend attendees. Unfortunately, the Hyatt’s lobby, being taken up mostly with the center bar, felt the crunch later on Friday and all of Saturday with very little space for traffic and no room for cosplayers to pose and have photos taken. Because of the central open floorplan design, the upper floors were even more crowded, with traffic in the Artist Alley coming to a complete standstill for most of Saturday. Wherever I went, I ran into frazzled security guards who were trying their best to keep walkways clear with no success.
Fortunately, the weather cooperated, and photographers and cosplayers were able to shoot outside to avoid the crowds. The Hyatt is surrounded by city blocks of steel-and-glass financial complexes. A few parks and fountains are scattered between the buildings, and underneath it all are tunnels crisscrossing all of downtown Houston. The costumes also did not disappoint; the southern cosplayers I met had brought their best work to date and most were planning on competing in the cosplay contest on Saturday night. The contest was so packed that the audience completely filled the Main Events room and people had to be turned away at the door.
The highlight of Anime Matsuri was the World Cosplay Summit finals on Sunday afternoon. The Gulf Preliminaries, held first at 1 PM, showcased seven talented teams from as far away as Washington, D.C. The winners of that round, Bejitaballz Cosplay and Cupcake Cosplay, then went on to compete in the national finals, held that same day at 3 PM.
The WCS finals is always one of the most exciting, elaborate cosplay events of the year. This year’s finalists dazzled the crowd with pyrotechnics, confetti, stage-fighting, and top-notch acting and dance. Many teams had pre-recorded video broadcasted across the Jumbotron backdrop as an addition to their skits.
Runners-up Wild Garden Cosplay, from Denver, Colorado, were incredible as Kefka Palazzo and his Magitek plaything-turned-rebel Terra Branford from Final Fantasy. But in the end it was Cupcake Cosplay, who had just competed in the 1 PM preliminaries, who stole the show with their Heart no Kuni no Alice performance and painstakingly designed dresses. As well as being chosen as the United States representatives to Japan for 2013, they took home both of the People’s Choice awards from the audience.
Despite the space restrictions, the great weather, wonderful costumes, and thrill of the World Cosplay Summit made Anime Matsuri a convention to remember and catapulted it into the running for one of the south’s best anime conventions. It remains to be seen if Anime Matsuri will continue to experience such rapid growth in future years. If it does, they’ll soon have to look for a new, bigger space!
For updates on the World Cosplay Summit 2013, you can follow Cupcake Cosplay’s WCS Facebook page, as well as the official WCS Twitter feed. The World Cosplay Summit finals will be held in Nagoya City, Japan, the first week of August 2013.