Anime Festival Orlando Review
Our journey begins 30,000 feet in the air, soaring above the clouds to Orlando. Sephiroth can fly quickly enough, but it is still an exhaustingly long three hour flight from Iowa, the current headquarters of the general. Arriving at Orlando and quickly losing himself, he is driven by taxi to the Wyndham Resort to finally arrive at 11:00pm Thursday evening – where was the Shin-Ra limo?
Jumping right into the activities, Anime Festival Orlando 2009 opening ceremonies started off with the back story of the Sword of Orlandia game, in an aptly named Citrus Ballroom. Swords of Orlandia is an interactive RPG happening throughout the convention, where attendees can earn achievements, complete quests, solve riddles, and work towards furthering either the cause of good or evil in the battle to control the fictional world of Orlandia.
In the swords of Orlandia saga, which can be read on the Anime Festival Orlando website, players earn dice, which are used as experience points, by rolling against other players or completing quests given by in-game generals. Earning levels involved getting enough dice to trade in for more levels, while dice could also be used to buy equipment for use in-game. Tavern games ranging from Nerf darts to boardgames gave attendees one opportunity to bet dice against each other, while quests such as those that involved decoding secret messages offered another.
Throughout the day on Friday more and more cosplayers and attendees had arrived, packing the hallways and main events. The event filled most of the Wyndham Resort in Orlando, with crowds of mostly well-made costumes making their way through the halls and corridors.
View pictures from AFO.
The first packed event was the Full Metal Alchemist signing, where over 300 attendees awaited signatures from the many guests involved in the FMA series. Attendees brought in everything from wallscrolls to DVDs for signature, and many even had the opportunity to take pictures with the guests. The signing was so crowded that it spilled over a half hour into the next event, but the organizers did a fine job balancing time to allow as many attendees get their pictures and autographs while keeping the line moving.
As the convention progressed, it was clear that they were nearly outgrowing the Wyndham resort, as Saturday afternoon had attendees wall-to-wall in much of the hallway and programming space, mostly as attendees awaited for autographs or for cosplay seating. Staff seemed aware of this, keeping hallways organized and clear as much as possible.
The rave on Saturday night, also known as the biggest thing not to miss at AFO, was also packed in similar style, although it was very fun. Lots of attendees came with more glowsticks than a glowstick store, using them to demonstrate great rave skill.
Panelists and staff at Anime Festival Orlando 2009 also orchestrated a number of successful panels and other events over the course of the weekend as well. The game shows hosted by 'Wheldon Smiley' were often a hit, and the late night 18+ panels were well attended.
Overall, it's clear why Anime Festival Orlando calls themselves Florida's favorite anime convention. Things were well organized, despite the crowds, both the staff and volunteers were friendly, and tons of attendees came and had a good time. The convention looked to be seeing more growth, and many local 'regulars' gave the event high praise, cementing the title another time by the end of AFO 10.
We are on a five week convention tour, next is Sogen Con. We could not get our high-quality camera for AFO, so we sorry that there will be no video report (we had been looking forward to it). Thanks to the conventions for their support so far.