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  • Writer's pictureKristina Elyse Butke

Con in Review: Animate! Columbus 2023

Anime and cartoon characters make up the background for CON IN REVIEW Animate! Columbus
Original image from Galaxycon/Animate Columbus

Animate! marks my first convention since returning to the United States, and I had a great time celebrating one of my favorite things: animation! But also, things have changed considerably over the past six years in the convention world, which I will definitely note here.

Let me tell you what I did!

…So, primarily the reason why I go to conventions is two-fold: meet the voice actors, and shop at Artist Alley. That's pretty much it. Panels and events are secondary to me, but I like going to them. Sometimes I cosplay at cons, and sometimes I don't. This time around I didn't cosplay because my costume no longer fits me, but I'm trying to get back into shape by December for GalaxyCon. Anyway, I kept things really, really mellow this time around and only went to a few things.

A convention badge and lanyard that both say VIP on it for Animate! Columbus 2023.
My VIP badge.

I splurged on a VIP badge because it operated as a fast pass for autograph lines, should they get really long. The badge also came with swag (bag, pins, D20 dice, comics, poster, folder, etc.) and then probably the biggest thing was the VIP Event Friday night in the VIP Lounge, where celebrities and guests could mingle over cocktails. I debated on whether or not I should go to this, and ultimately decided against it because a) I can't drink and b) I'm not good at socializing by myself. So for me, the value of the VIP badge all boiled down to the ability to move through autograph lines quickly.

As it turns out, I didn't even need the "fast pass" part of the badge to see my celebrities! I went to the autograph line on Friday night and met with Adam McArthur (Yuuji in Jujutsu Kaisen), Brad Swaile (Light in Death Note), Alessandro Juliani (L in Death Note), Alejandro Saab (Cyno in Genshin Impact), and Austin Tindle (Kaneki Ken in Tokyo Ghoul) and there was like one or two people in the line, or sometimes no line at all. I couldn't believe it. I got a chance to chat with all of them, bought some really cool art to get autographed, and then had stuff I brought with me from home autographed, too. Out of all the people I met Friday, I was really excited to meet Austin Tindle because of my deep love for Tokyo Ghoul. It was a dream come true to get his autograph!

Kaiji Tang (Gojo in Jujutsu Kaisen) was out when I went to the lines on Friday night so when the exhibition hall opened Saturday morning at 10am, I got right in line for him and had him sign my Fate DVD. He was really nice and complimented me on my sloth shirt, tee hee!

Here's a collage of all the autographs I got:

Upper left Genshin and Honkai Star rail characters, Fate series characters in the middle, at right, Tokyo Ghoul, left bottom Death note characters, bottom right Jujutsu Kaisen character Yuuji. All images are autographed.
All my autographs from Animate!

This is what's so different about conventions nowadays from my experiences between 2012-2016: autographs cost money. Kind of a lot. There were $40 autographs and $60 autographs, and $20 for used to be that just by attending a convention, you could get an autograph (usually 1-3!) and a snapshot with the celebrity for free. I was not expecting things to cost so much, so this is where most of my money went during the convention. To me, it was worth it, but I can see how it might be discouraging for attendees to have to budget a lot for signatures. On the other hand, I think the VAs deserve to make money, and based on what I've observed on Twitter, the VAs commission the art of the characters themselves (which costs money) and I'm sure they handle printing costs, too. So they need to make back on their investment. It was a bit of a shock to me, but it makes sense. I just know that when I go to GalaxyCon in December, I'm going to have to budget for signatures again, and avoid taking photographs to save money. But despite this change, I walked away from the VAs with a big grin on my face. It was lovely to meet all of them.

Next up, Artist Alley. I bought art of Link from The Legend of Zelda, The Unicorn from The Last Unicorn, a Death the Kid postcard from Soul Eater, Howl from Howl's Moving Castle, and Griffith from Berserk. My two favorite arts are here:

Howl from Howls moving castle at left; Griffith from Berserk at right
Howl is by artist Einsu; I forgot the business card for the artist for Griffith so I don't have a name (sorry!).

Next up, panels! Of course, the other big reason why I was at Animate! was for my own panel, FANFIC INTO FICTION. It was Saturday 5:45-6:45 and I had 23 people there, including an old friend of mine who offered moral support. That was way more than I expected to come because there were some celebrity panels going on during my panel, so I was relieved to have people there. The audience was very good about talking during the open discussion parts of my presentation, and I finished 15 minutes early which allowed for a Q&A.

Here's the program for the convention, featuring my panel:

At left is the cover to the Animate program guide for Columbus, featuring a spoof of My Neighbor Totoro with robots, at left is the panel description for Fanfic into Fiction
My panel in the official program guide!

I also made up some snazzy business cards for the con that match the design of this website (courtesy of Moo):

At left the banner to my official website, an underwater view of the sea with black circular designs and my name, Kristina Elyse Butke. At right, my social media and contact details.
My snazzy new business cards.

The other panel that I really wanted to go to during the convention was COSPLAYING OVER 40: GROWN FOLKS COSPLAYING. I can't remember the name of the host, unfortunately, but he is a 53-year-old cosplayer who is in the military and travels all over the US cosplaying at different conventions. We got to see a lot of what he's done, plus photographs and stories from other adult and older cosplayers. It was a very encouraging panel and I enjoyed it. It made me feel better about cosplaying at my age, and the fact that I'll probably continue doing it the older I get.

Lastly, cosplay. Compared to other conventions, it seemed like not as many people cosplayed at this one, or else I wasn't out and about enough to see a lot of it. I did see Demon Slayer and Naruto cosplayers, but they passed by me rather quickly so I couldn't snap their pics in time. On Sunday, before leaving, I managed to snap one pic of a great Trigun: Stampede cosplay group.

Cosplayers from Animate Columbus dress as characters from Trigun Stampede: Knives, Meryl, and Vash.
L to R: Knives, Meryl, and Vash from Trigun: Stampede.

I regret not having stuck around for the cosplay contests and masquerades, where I would've seen more cosplayers. Oh well. There's always next year.

So, this was my convention experience! I took it easy for all of it, coming and going when and where I pleased, relaxing in a snazzy hotel, and eating amazing crab rangoon from one of the convention center's restaurants (Chicken and Eggs, I'm looking at you!). I loved the art I bought and the chance to meet celebrities I love.

They advertised GalaxyCon heavily during this convention and Animate! attendees got a discount on tickets, so I went ahead and ordered them. The guest list for that convention (in December) is insane. There goes all my money towards autographs again!

I hope you enjoyed this review and consider going to the convention when they come back. They had all sorts of things, like cosplay wrestling, celebrity Q&As, dance parties, raves, gaming, and more. Check it out and have a good time!


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