Providence Anime Conference premiered in 2008 as Rhode Island's first anime convention. Geared towards a more adult clientle, the convention requiredrequires attendees to be over 21 years old and its events are modeled after an academic conference rather than a fan convention.
The premiere of Providence Anime Conference excited many and offended some by requiring attendees to be 21+ in order to purchase a badge. The concept was to create a laid-back atmosphere where adult fans could mingle and explore the industry in a more academic fashion. The age requirement also allowed for cash bars to sell alcohol at events, and hentai was sold openly in the dealer's room. However, despite some accusing PAC of being all about drinking and porn, the con proved its critics wrong and hosted a weekend of incredible panels on everything from expert sewing to stage combat training, table discussions with actors and industry insiders, and social events. For cosplayers, PAC decided to hold only non-competitive events which showcased the work of accomplished cosplayers, including a Fashion Show, Performance Showcase, and Costume Expo, in which costumes were placed on display in an art-gallery style setup. However, located in the sprawling Rhode Island Convention Center, PAC bit off more than it could chew for its first year. The con struggled and ultimately failed to sell enough badges to necessitate such a large space and would have fared better in a hotel setting. As a whole, the convention was a fantastic departure from the normal con fare, and suffered only in its lack of promotion and attendance.
Steve and I drove down to Rhode Island Friday evening to check into the con. The Westin was the official hotel for the convention and connected to the RICC, but we stayed at the Hilton which was only a block away and much less expensive. When we picked up our badges, we were immediately shocked at how deserted the RICC was. Only a handful of people could be seen milling about and Stardust, dressed in her Terra Branford costume from Final Fantasy VI, was the only cosplayer in sight! Somewhat disheartened, we headed to the dealer’s room, which was MASSIVE given the size of the convention. People would have been lining up around the block to buy badges if they could have seen the size and variety of vendors in that room. That evening I had agreed to participate as Shiva from Final Fantasy VII in the Cosplay Fashion Show, an exhibition highlighting the best work of cosplayers in attendance. Before the show began, I had a blast mingling with fellow con-goers while nursing cocktails at the welcome reception in main events. I also finally got to meet Tristen Citrine who was really sweet; she was dressed as an adorable frog suit version of Mikuru Asahina from The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya when she came up to us and complimented me on my Shiva costume. “I’d seen your Shiva online and I’m glad to finally see it in person,” she said. Later on, those of us in the Fashion Show took turns walking the catwalk while Jekka and Ladyhawke described our ensembles and how they were made, which was a lot of fun and put an interesting spin on the cosplay walk-on.
Saturday I wore Princess Reina from Final Fantasy V, while EllyStar dressed as Lucca Ashtear from Chrono Trigger and Steve work Link. The convention center remained depressingly deserted, so Steve and I took a walk outside to the river and got some amazing photos of my costume. That afternoon we attended PatD’s panel on running conventions; it was nice to have perspectives from several different people, including Anime Weekend Atlanta’s con chair. That evening was the Skit Exhibition, which was a fantastic concept: a non-competitive night of performances of the best skits from around the country. Ideally groups would have to audition for this kind of thing, but unfortunately no one signed up and we had to throw together some lame skits amongst ourselves. Obviously, the show was terrible as a result but we tried to make it funny. That debacle over with, we settled into main events to watch Jekka and Sketch perform in 21+ Anime Unscripted along with voice actor Chris Ayres and Robotech's Kevin McKeever. It was AMAZING! Freed from the constraints of keeping the show PG-13 certainly helped the humor, and the highlight reel included Jekka falling down a bottomless pit during an Indiana Jones-esque scene and busting out her fluent Japanese to act out a foreign horror film. My favorite scene of the evening, however, was “Film and Theater Styles,” in which Jekka came home to discover her husband Kevin having an affair with Sketch through the lens of a furniture commercial, Sesame Street episode, Film Noir scene, Broadway musical number, Shakespearean dialogue, Japanese game show.... I was crying I was laughing so hard.
Sunday I wore my Arwen outfit from Lord of the Rings and arrived at the RICC just in time to catch Hyakunin Kuizu, the con version of Family Feud and hosted by PatD. It was pretty funny, and we were honestly surprised at many of the answers! After the game wrapped up we joined PatD in watching a screening of Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, which, of course, we sang along to. Before leaving we did one last round of the dealer’s room, where Steve got an awesome Final Fantasy XII poster for only $9! This con had so many wonderful ideas, I really hope they are able to hold a second one and get more people to show up!