The last time I was at Anime Next was in 2012. For 2016 I was lucky to return to help with the World Cosplay Summit. Normally I spend a lot of my time at conventions taking photos and going to panels and events but this year I was focused on helping out the amazing WCS staff, so the pictures and report is a bit different.
Anime Next found a good home in Atlantic City. It's easily accessible from many parts of the East Coast and the Atlantic City Convention Center is plenty big for Anime Next to use and grow into. As part of the gambling city's downtown area there's a lot of shopping, restaurants, and of course also gambling available in the area. The offical con hotel, Bally's, was a few blocks away but for those who wanted, the Sheraton was right next door. Caesar's, for those with a bit more upscale taste, is right next to Bally's. Both "remote" hotels are a pleasant walk in the relative low heat, though in future years this could change.
I had suspected that by moving to Atlantic City the convention would draw a larger adult segment on account of the draw of gambling and bars. I was wrong. As you'll find at most anime conventions the average age is probably just around the legal drinking age (which in the US is 21 years old). Of course, many of the drinking (and gambling) age attendees probably spent a fair bit of time at the various bars and casinos, so the impressinos from the convention center itself may not be representative. I went for a bit of gambling when I had the chance. As always, assume your money is gone as soon as it's on the table; you're paying for entertainment. Even on the weekend the table limits were fairly reasonable. You don't have to go hunting for the one or two $10 blackjack tables.
Restaurants abound in the downtown area, too, from fast-food quality and price up to high-end steak houses. Unlike many other conventions I never had a difficulty finding food that didn't have a long line. I'd really recommend the Crepe house in the outlet shoping area. As for the convention itself, in my limited amount of time to walk around it felt like most other conventions I've been to. That is to say, there's a fair amount of panels across a broad range of interests. You'll be able to find Anime Music Videos and various fandom panels. The guest list this year included some big names (Megumi Kouno
, animator on IDOLM@STER; Rei Hiroe
, creator of Black Lagoon
; and band ROOKiEZ is PUNK’D
) who are a lot more accessible at smaller conventions than they are elsewhere. So if you're looking for autographs and sketches you'll probably have more luck at Anime Next than Anime Expo, and without sleeping on a concrete sidewalk.
The masquerade and World Cosplay Summit were back-to-back events but went smoothly so there was no long wait for those who wanted to see both. The masquerade awards filled in time before the WCS event making the whole affair work together seemlessly. The WCS skits were, as to be expected, top notch. Even the few mishaps didn't stop contestants from pushing through with their best efforts.
I'll be looking to go back again next year if possible. The location is great, the event itself is a lot of fun, and it's a very convenient drive for me from the DC area.