Photos By David Taylor // Staff Photographer and Tanner Dedmon // Lifestyles Editor
Cosplayers, celebrity guests and animation fanatics converged in Nashville from Friday to Sunday to celebrate and discuss anime and culture at the Middle Tennessee Anime Convention.
Returning for the sixteenth year, MTAC 16-Bit took over the Sheraton Music City and Embassy Suites Nashville hotels, filling them with Sailor Scouts, Super Saiyans and Pokemon trainers. Of course, no convention would be complete without appearances from the stars who made the anime genre what it is, and this year’s gathering was no different. Fan favorites such as Eric Stuart, Marianne Miller, Kaiji Tang and Vic Mignogna signed autographs, led discussion panels and even sat in on events to interact with guests.
“This is my hometown con, so I love this con,” said Eric Stuart, Nashville resident and voice of instantly recognizable anime icons such as Brock Harrison from Pokemon and Seto Kaiba from Yu-Gi-Oh! “It’s a great con to not only be a guest, but I also love to go to the events myself. I sit in on the panels, and I don’t do that at every con, but at MTAC, I always do that.”
And the panels and events hosted at MTAC reflected the genre perfectly. Encompassing topics from cosplay competitions to the anime production process to more risqué 18-and-up gatherings, the discussions and functions were playful and enlightening where appropriate, but never failed to entertain. Celebrities and guests led topics such as “Voice Actors After Dark,” “Portrayals of Women and People of Color in Media” and “Video Game Creation 101.” The schedule was stacked with event after event, and with many of them being slated for overlapping times, deciding which ones to attend proved difficult. But with such a diverse itinerary, attending any event was rewarding enough to ensure an enjoyable escapade, and it never once made it seem like one experience was being sacrificed for another.
Not all events involved intellectual discussion or rolling laughter; some allowed guests to show off their talents through lip-syncing competitions and electronic dance parties, while others provided a quiet, relaxing break from the commotion for attendees to watch subbed and dubbed animes.
One of the biggest attractions offered at MTAC was the analog and digital game rooms that dominated the Embassy Suites. While weaving through spacious rooms turned cluttered with tables of gamers battling in tabletop games such as Pathfinder and Magic: The Gathering, any and every board, card and role-playing game imaginable could be found to compete in. To satisfy old-school urges, a smaller room was devoted to arcade-style games such as a Game of Thrones pinball machine and large, retro installations, joystick and all. Out of all the gaming opportunities present, the largest and most popular by far was the digital game room. This competitive paradise was filled with Gamecubes, Nintendo 64s, the obscure Ouya and a Wii U that offered guests the never-ending opportunity to pit their favorite Nintendo champions against one another in Super Smash Bros. The only sound able to drown out the joyful exclamations of gaming spectators was the constant serenading from Rock Band musicians who treated gamers to personalized renditions of songs ranging from Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” to Fall Out Boy’s “Centuries.” Tournaments were held during all three days of the convention, some resulting in cash rewards from buy-ins and others rewarding contestants solely with bragging rights.
For those who need something to hold them over till the next MTAC – or maybe just wanted to complete their Funko Pop! collection – several sizable rooms were crammed with anime and gaming merchandise. One room referred to as Artist’s Alley offered local and travelling artists the chance to sell their unique interpretations on iconic characters and shows. Two other dealer rooms showcased collectible figures, official clothing. life-sized weapons and Japanese treats such as melon bread and pastries filled with flavored jams. Eager shoppers crowded around tables and booths to score the latest in anime fashion and memorabilia as vendors rushed to meet their demands.
“We’ve actually done much better this year than last year we were here,” said Doris Bachman as she sold Starboxes, a mystery box filled with anything from manga to clothing. “We sold out of boxes the first night, and we had to rush to make more today. People have said they’ve been waiting in line for almost an hour to get into the dealer rooms, so when they get in, they want to spend their money right away.”
While business was booming for vendors, those creeping forwards in the aforementioned lines were none to happy at the wait times resulting from the amount of con goers. Hallways and rooms were packed with elbow-to-elbow crowds, and MTAC staff members said guests were still registering on Easter Sunday. Signs outside of the dealer rooms indicated at how long it would take patrons to get in, the longest wait time being two hours as shown by a sign that was posted in front of the hotel at the end of a line that wound out the dealer room door, down the hallway and outside, wrapping all the way to the corner of the building.
“They didn’t seem prepared for how big [MTAC] was going to be,” said Daniel Greene, a first-time attendee of MTAC. “Honestly, it needed to be in a bigger venue.” Greene went on to say that while he thoroughly enjoyed MTAC and that it was definitely bigger than other conventions he’d attended, next year’s event needed more organization.
To contact Lifestyles editor Tanner Dedmon email email@example.com.