Youmacon 2016, Anime convention takes over Detroit

I’ve been attending Youmacon ever since 2013, and the feel of the convention changes every year.

I arrived to the convention Thursday night and was pleasantly surprised by the number of people attending the preview day. Two years ago on preview night, the only people picking up their badges were at the COBO. This year, there were countless people enjoying the convention. It felt like a Friday at a traditional three-day convention.

What I’ve never done, though, is host a panel on the preview day. This time, I hosted a program about the Japanese computer software Vocaloid and surprisingly had a really good turnout. I can only assume Youma will slowly evolve into being a four-day convention if it continues to have preview-day numbers like this.

The venue was once again the COBO and the Renaissance Center in downtown Detroit. The Riverwalk was a fantastic place to go take photographs, and the Ren Cen had countless nooks and crannies to hide away and sit with friends.

I’d criticize the confusing layout of the Ren Cen, but that isn’t the fault of the convention. What I can criticize with the venue, however, is the walk or people-mover trip between buildings. Luckily, weather was cooperative this year and walking between buildings wasn’t horrible.

But reading through the feedback thread on the unofficial Youma Facebook group, many people faced harassment as they trekked through downtown to their next convention destination. If there was some way for there to be staff escorts between buildings, or even a way for staff members to ride on the people mover to keep harassment down, I think the convention would generally feel much safer.

Another huge convention staple is the rave. Usually, con raves differ from real-life raves in the way that there is zero tolerance for alcohol or drugs. But from the stories I have seen online from convention goers and staffers, there was some trouble with these substances during the Youma rave.

With the rave being an all-ages event, I think more security will be needed to keep these events welcoming to younger guests, but the staff did a fantastic job at keeping panic to a minimum and kept the convention going the next day.

On Friday, I was able to attend the Steam Powered Giraffe concert. It’s been a couple years since I was able to go, and I was not disappointed by this year’s show. If you’ve never seen SPG, I highly recommend checking them out. It’s like a musical in the form of a concert, and their performances are always some of the most entertaining shows I’ve ever been to, anime convention or elsewhere.

A picture of the crowd for one of the events my team and I hosted
Courtesy of Damien Blake
A picture of the crowd for one of the events my team and I hosted

As I mentioned before, I hosted multiple panels over the weekend. The panel rooms were up on the fifth floor of the Ren Cen and were all on their own, making it easy for attendees to find them. However, the COBO panel rooms were much harder to find. They were tucked away in the first floor hallway by the Multi-Ops room, which many attendees didn’t know about.

I hope that next year there are more signs pointing newcomers in the right direction, but this is a minor complaint. The sound systems and general panel room layout were absolutely fantastic, and the people in charge of panels were super friendly and easy to work with.

One fantastic thing with Youmacon is that there is always something to do. The game room was completely stocked with a couple hundred arcade machines and countless gaming systems. I was excited to see the UFO Catcher, a Japanese claw machine, and even though it did cost to play, it was fun to be able to experience something I had only ever seen on TV before.

Youmacon is one of the conventions I debate every year on dropping. It’s local, I’ve been going to it for a while, traveling is half the fun, I’ve run through every excuse in the book. But this year’s convention had everything I could have asked for and more, and I am excited to go back again year after year and show my Youmacon pride.