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Thursday, December 8, 2011

(Slightly Belated) A2F Recap!

For the first time ever, I got to go to the Arkansas Anime Festival last weekend, and it was a blast!  The Arkansas Anime Festival, or A2F for short, is held twice a year in the Northwest part of the state, so December 2-4 was the fall/winter edition, and there will be another next spring.

I first made plans to go to A2F back in July or August, I believe, so I'd been looking forward to it for awhile.  The dates were pushed back from November to December, but really I think it wound up working out for the best (more on this later).  Originally, A2F would have been my first con (besides animal-related conventions/expos and the one Star Trek convention my parents took me to when I was very young), but then I wound up going to GlitchCon for just a day back in September.  So A2F was really still my first full con experience staying in the host hotel and going for the whole weekend.

The downside of the date change was that the con was the weekend before finals, but I planned ahead and made sure that I got all of my essays for my History final exam written and finished before leaving.  (My History class this semester was an online-only class, so for the exams we were given 8-9 possible questions in advance, and then we just had to log on to Blackboard during the week of the exam, access the test, pick 2 out of 3 of the given questions to answer, and then copy/paste and submit our answers that we should have already had prepared).  By the time I was finished all that studying and writing all those essays, I was definitely ready for a vacation!

But A2F wasn't exactly a vacation for me - it was also work!  Besides being a part of the Arkansas Tenshi doll meetups, I'm also a member of the Clockwork & High Tea Society.  It's mostly a social group that gets together once a month in Fayetteville for tea, treats, and a salon-style discussion on creative topics.  However, there is a smaller group within CHiTS that is a workgroup, and puts on presentations and performances at various events like conventions.  I was invited into the workgroup, but wasn't really an active part until one of the former members dropped out and I was asked to fill in as Mey-Rin in the Black Butler cosplay that CHiTS was preparing for A2F.  It was very last minute, but it just so happened that the dress I had recently ordered from Fan + Friend was pretty much a PERFECT match to the dress the character wears.  So, I quickly got together the rest of the elements I'd need to complete the cosplay, worked on getting the in-character stuff down, and ta-da!  I was Mey-Rin. 
Me as Mey-Rin from Black Butler

In addition to serving/acting for the Black Butler tea, I agreed to serve for the Lolita & Japanese Fashion tea, and then I was also invited to co-host the Ball Jointed Doll panel with my friend Alicia!  So I had lots to do and keep me busy at the con - and all of this made me both nervous and excited for it.

Somewhere between when I originally made plans to go and the actual con itself, I wound up inviting my friends Beth and then later Nikki to join me in sharing the hotel room and driving up together.  So we got that all sorted, and left out from my house in Little Rock on Friday morning.  We were all super excited, and I don't know about them, but I had gotten very little sleep the night before because I was up packing, checking my to-do list a million times, and just generally too excited to sleep.  We made it to the hotel pretty quickly (I'm a fast driver ^_^  hehe), and it was easy to find from the freeway, so that was good.  We checked into the room, dropped off all our stuff, stopped in the dealer room to visit with Alicia, and then were off to the first panel - The History of Steampunk hosted by Eric Burton.  Friday was pretty much the only day of the con that I didn't have any responsibilities, so I spent it running around mostly with Beth, dolls in tow.  Nikki went to bed early, and then Beth went to bed shortly after, so I wandered downstairs by myself.  I couldn't find Alicia or Zylphia (turns out they were in a panel), so I found a quiet corner to sit in while I texted Boyfriend.  It was at that point that I started feeling very homesick and lonely.  I missed Boyfriend terribly, and my social anxiety was kicking in, making me feel very awkward about being there on my own.  Apparently Beth wasn't feeling all that great either, so just as I was tearfully saying goodnight to Boyfriend (I'd already kept him up later than I should have because he was trying to comfort me), I saw her wandering down the hall.  She joined me in the corner, and we sat and talk and finally got to feeling better and joking around.  So the night wound up ending on a good note afterall, and we crawled into bed feeling better about things.

Saturday morning I woke up and started getting into my cosplay (I had showered the night before after working out, so luckily I was still clean).  Alicia wanted to go to breakfast, so she and Beth and I drove over to a little fast food and ice cream type place.  Alicia was in full cosplay, and I was in Lolita (I hadn't put my wig or any of the other cosplay-specific components of my outfit on yet) so we got some weird looks from the locals lol.  We ate quickly and then went back to the hotel to finish getting ready for the Black Butler Tea.  I was very nervous, and I think we were all pretty stressed as we rushed around the tea room setting up the drinks, snacks, table decorations, and of course all the dolls.  There was a huge turnout of guests, and we were pretty much constantly running around serving people and posing for pictures.  It was non-stop for two hours pretty much!  We got lots of compliments on our presentation though, and were asked many times if we were a professional cosplay group (people were surprised to learn we are local)!
The CHiTS Black Butler cosplayers and one of our guests at the tea.
Me as Mey-Rin, Zylphia as Sebastian, Zachary as Ciel, Mimi as Madam Red, and Alicia as Grell

The rest of the day is kind of a blur.  I changed out of my costume and just sort of wandered around the con.  I went to a panel here and there, browsed the vendor room and artist alley (and bought a few things ^^), chatted with friends who were also wandering around the con, visited and helped watch Alicia's dealer table (and bought lots of stuff from her.. my dolls are spoiled), and then helped Alicia by being time-keeper for her Hetalia fan panel.  I pretty much had at least one doll on me for the entire con, and got lots of compliments, questions, and took the opportunity to promote the doll panel!  Also got some rude comments, but oh well, I guess there will always be people who judge you.

Oh, and I was the victim of this epic dollie trolling courtesy of Nikki.  XD
I came back to the hotel room to find my dollies in an epic battle.

Sunday was the last day of the con, but still busy busy!  Alicia and I hosted the Ball Jointed Doll panel in the morning.  We'd already drummed up a few guests by getting noticed with our dolls throughout the weekend.  We had a really nice turnout, and the audience included experienced doll owners as well as people who were new and curious about dolls.  Alicia and I have very different public speaking styles, but I think we really complimented each other and made a great team.  We discussed what ball jointed dolls are, where to get them, how to take care of them and customize/style them, various arts-and-crafty things you can do with them, and more!  We also had good audience participation and questions.  And of course, we promoted Arkansas Tenshi (Northwest and Central) meetups!  There were a few people from the central Arkansas area who were very excited to learn about our meetup group and who will hopefully be joining us this coming Sunday for the next meet-and-greet in Little Rock.  Co-hosting the panel was so much fun, and I hope I get to do it again in the future!
My and Alicia's dolls (plus Nikki's Isaac and Suzume) set up on display for the BJD panel

The rest of the day seemed to go quickly.  Alicia, Grant, and Mimi all had panels to host in the afternoon.  I wound up spontaneously helping Mimi with her sushi panel.  And then we all rushed together to get ready for the Lolita and Japanese Fashion Tea that CHiTS was also hosting.  It was a lot more laid back than the Black Butler tea, but it was the perfect atmosphere and was quite a relaxing wind-down to the con.
Tables laid out with sweets and tea for the Lolita & Japanese Fashion tea

After the tea, the con was pretty much over.  Only staff and a few stragglers were left wandering the hotel.  We broke down, made sure dolls and luggage were all packed, and changed back into street clothes for the long drive.  Nikki had a family emergency come up, causing someone to come get her early, so it was just Beth and I alone together for the ride home.  We said our goodbyes to all of our friends, and everyone congratulated each other on a job well done and a successful con.

I of course want to thank Brooke and the other staff and volunteers of A2F for putting on such a fantastic convention and for allowing the Clockwork and High Tea Society to be such a big part of the events.  Many thanks to my fellow CHiTS Armada members for inviting me to be a part of the workgroup and therefore be able to participate in all the fun! 

I'm already looking forward to the upcoming A2F in the spring!  I hope I'll come out of my shell even more and get braver about talking with new people so I can make even more friends this next time around.

For more pictures of the con, check out my A2F album on Facebook!


  1. It was all so much fun! I loved the BJD panel and the Lolita tea. Wish I hadn't missed the Black Butler Tea. Perhaps next time.

  2. I'm so glad you could come to A2F and join us for the Doll Panel and the Lolita Tea! I'm glad you enjoyed them. It was great meeting you, and I hope we can see each other at another con again soon!

  3. It was a good weekend and staying up that night with you really did make me feel better. I'm glad it helped you too! Still don't know why I was so down then... I had a lot of fun with you. Hopefully next time will be just as great and you'll be able to actually get to more panels. At least to Alicia's. Her Hetalia panel was fun! Have you seen it yet btw? It's pretty funny. And hopefully some more guests!

  4. Yep yep, lots of fun and hopefully I'll go to more panels next time. I was at Alicia's Hetalia panel though - I was up front helping her by being timekeeper, remember? d:

  5. Yep, I wish I saw her black butler panel. That sounded like it was fun.


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