Category: Tips and Tricks

Cosplaying on a Budget

Looking to join the Masquerade but don’t have a lot of money to put into a costume? Don’t know how to make fancy armor pieces as intimidating as your favorite chivalrous character’s armor? Just want to throw a neat costume together and not put in a lot of time and effort? Here are some tips and tricks that might help you put together a winning costume!

For those of you with sewing skills, the sky is the limit! Costume patterns at various levels of skill to create are easily found at fabric stores and online. The largest investment will most likely be your time and effort in making your costume (unless you spend a lot of money on fancy fabric), but in the end, you have something custom made for you and by you! You get bragging rights that what you’re wearing was earned by the sweat of your brow.

For those of you with minimal sewing skills, Closet cosplay is for you! Closet cosplay is where you wear costumes made with minimal prep from items straight out of your closet. Some good examples can be found at Thrift stores and resale shops are your friends! Sailor style school uniforms might be hard to come by, but in many recent school series (and today in real life), many schools have moved away from the sailor uniforms to a simple blazer and skirt or pants. Pick up a blazer, add a fancy looking school logo patch, and you’ve got a school uniform! In going with a blazer theme, many series had characters dressed in a suit. Roger Smith, and Spike Spiegel, and Lupin the Third always looked good doing what they do. Besides, who doesn’t look good in a suit and tie?

Even if you can’t replicate a character’s costume down to the last detail, there’s always room for reinterpretations and artistic license. Hanie Mohd’s series of “DC Girls in Sweaters” ( shows popular super-heroines with parts of their capes and cowls swapped out for comfy sweater and hoodie versions of their outfits. Your costume doesn’t have to be exact. It merely needs to convey a sense of the character you want to portray!

If you’ve ever taken a Japanese martial art, such as Judo, Karate, or Kendo, you may already have part of a samurai outfit! The traditional uniform consists of a keiko-gi (the white cotton jacket and pants set), and some martial arts use a set of hakama (traditional pleated outer pants). A set of keiko-gi and hakama can be on the pricey side for decent quality ($30 to $70 for either), but as these are clothes for a physical sport, they are usually are designed to be very durable and comfortable. Together with a hanten or haori kimono jacket, they make up something resembling traditional samurai garb. Even without the kimono jacket, many (high school aged) anime characters wore their kendo-gi. Go as Kuno-sempai from Ranma 1/2!

For body armor pieces, sporting goods stores have sports pads that may work as serviceable items. If there’s a particular piece that you’ve been eyeing, oftentimes items from that sport are drastically discounted after the season is over. With a little silver spray paint, many a Sephiroth costume had the shoulder armor made from football pads. Even much of the post-apocalyptic armor in Mad Max was made from football pads, motocross armor, and other sporting equipment.

For more exotic or custom props and armor pieces, papercraft is a good and economical way to go. Minimally, the skill requires you to be able to shape and glue together pieces cardboard or cardstock, and then paint or decorate your piece. The difficult part is finding a good structural design that will hold up to at least casual use and still look good. Additionally, just as sewing a costume, the biggest investment will be your time and effort, but again, you will have something unique that you created!

For making custom baubles, small jewelry, and military insignia, Shrinky Dinks plastic sheets work very well! In lieu of buying actual Shrinky Dinks brand sheets, look for any plastic containers with #6 plastic recycling symbol (such as doggie bag containers from a restaurant). It’s literally the exact same material. The plastic sheets can be colored with felt-tip pens, acrylic paint, colored pencils (or just about anything that can withstand the heat) and then cut into the desired shape. Heat the plastic at about 325 to 350 degrees for about one to three minutes. The plastic shrinks by about 2/3rds the original size when heated and becomes thicker and more rigid, while retaining the colored design.

Tactical gear and uniform items for military costumes can be found at military surplus stores. You can strive for accuracy in a military costume, but always remember to be respectful to actual people in the military. Avoid doing anything showing disrespect to any branch of the military of any nation. Be especially careful with symbols of known hate-groups, past and present (i.e. swastikas, SS and Nazi insignia, etc.). Even though it’s just a Hetalia costume, not everybody in the immediate area of a convention may know that and be offended. Many conventions ban these symbols outright (ACen included). No matter what costume you’re wearing, other people have a right not to play along. Many may appreciate your dedication to playing your character, but you don’t get a free pass to act rudely just because you’re cosplaying as a Klingon or Lobo.

Prop and Replica Weapons Advice (Included Free of Charge!)

Prop and replica weapons are a touchy subject for conventions and police. Many conventions have very strict policies, if not ban them outright. For the few conventions that do allow them, most have standard rules. Whether it’s Anime Central or any other event, always find out what their weapons policy is before you go. When in doubt with any prop or replica weapon, don’t bring it! For Anime Central’s official weapons policy, visit

Most conventions don’t allow any actual metal blades such as knives or swords, even if they have dulled edges. Wooden swords, bokken, and rubber training knives are usually okay. Real firearms are banned outright unless you have a legal and legitimate reason for carrying one in public (if you’re not sure whether you do or not, you most likely don’t).

Crossbows and other archery implements must be rendered incapable of shooting projectiles, usually in the form of unstringing the bow. Some conventions might be okay with the bow being loosely strung with a flimsy material such as yarn.

Airsoft and replica guns must also be rendered incapable of shooting projectiles, usually in the form of leaving out any magazines and disconnecting batteries (for electric powered guns) or air tanks (for gas powered guns). They must also have a permanent blaze orange tip to indicate that they are replicas. Rubber training replica guns are usually okay. Squirt guns shouldn’t have any water in them. No one wants to clean up a wet mess.

Bonus Chicagoland Locations for Cosplay Shopping!

The Army-Navy Store is the quintessential Chicago military surplus shop! They have lots of uniforms and outerwear, and a decent selection of tactical and survival gear. They are located in the Lakeview area (near Belmont and Lincoln). For more info, visit their site at

Belmont Army Surplus isn’t just military surplus. They also have large selection of vintage clothes from all the modern (and fashionable) eras, and they have a well stocked skate shop. Their military surplus ranges from a wide variety of uniforms (both work and dress), to lots of tactical and survival gear. They have 2 locations in Chicago: the Lakeview area (near Belmont and Clark), and the Wicker Park area (near Milwaukee Ave and Division). For more info, visit their site at

American Science and Surplus is a great place for all sorts of weird things. Their primary stock is scientific equipment, such as test tubes and beakers, but they also stock lots of electronics and parts along with neat toys and other educational stuff. It’s the perfect place to outfit a steampunk costume! Additionally, they have an interesting selection of military and police surplus equipment too. They have 2 locations in Chicagoland: the Jefferson Park area (Near Foster and Milwaukee Avenue), and the west suburb Geneva. For more info, visit their site at

Ragstock has many options for costuming. Most of what they sell are vintage, overstock, and secondhand clothes. They also stock lots of costumes for Halloween which become drastically discounted after. There’s a selection of military surplus uniforms and some equipment (at their Lakeview location), and oddly enough, a wide array of real kimonos imported from Japan at dirt cheap prices (at both their Lakeview and Wicker Park locations). They have 4 locations in Chicagoland: the Lakeview area (near Belmont and Clark), the Wicker Park area (near Milwaukee Ave and North Ave), the north west suburb Schaumburg (in Woodfield Mall), and the south west suburb Oakbrook. For more info, visit their site at

How did you put together your costume? Feel free to leave a comment!

Asian Shopping Locations in the Chicagoland Area

Don’t know where to find a wallscroll for your favorite anime at a place that isn’t at a convention? Looking for the ingredients to make good sushi? Do you just want a really good bowl of shrimp fried rice? If you’re in the Chicagoland area, either living near or just visiting, here are some excellent places to find good Asian food and fun Asian things!

Chinatown (South Side, Cermak and Wentworth)

Located on the south side of Chicago along Cermak Avenue and Wentworth Avenue, a block away from the Cermak-Chinatown Red Line “L” stop, Chinatown is well known for its restaurants and shopping! There are lots of Asian themed items you can find, such as qipao/cheongsam (traditional Chinese garb), martial arts weapons, and tea/herbalism shops. Many shops also sell licensed Anime toys and collectables. You can find lots of plushes, wallscrolls, models, and toys at many of the shops along Wentworth Avenue such as Giftland! Don’t forget to visit the shops and restaurants at Chinatown Square Plaza long Archer Avenue as well. Try the bubble tea at Joy Yee’s! Many Chinese festivals are held along Wentworth Avenue throughout the year, such as the Chinese New Year Festival. For more info and a list of events, visit the Chinatown Chamber of Commerce’s site at

New Chinatown (North Side, Broadway and Argyle)

There’s also New Chinatown (also known as the West Argyle Street Historic District, Little Saigon, or Little Vietnam), located on the north side of Chicago along Argyle Street and Broadway Street, right on the Argyle Red Line “L” stop. The Argyle stop was even remodeled with an Asian theme during the 1980s! New Chinatown is an excellent place for Asian dining and has many excellent Chinese bakeries.

H Mart (Niles and Naperville)

H Mart is a chain of Korean grocery stores with two locations in Chicagoland, one in the southwest suburb of Naperville and one in the north suburb of Niles. In addition to a large grocery selection, complete with fresh produce, butcher and seafood section, and a bakery, they have a selection of in-store shops selling, jewelry, Asian house wares, and toys and collectables. For more info about H Mart, visit

Mitsuwa Marketplace (Arlington Heights)

Mitsuwa Marketplace is a chain of Japanese grocery stores with a Chicago location in the north suburb of Arlington Heights. Their grocery selection has some of the finest goods imported from Japan. They have an excellent seafood section, along with a large bakery and many restaurants. Their sushi section is always cheap, in large proportions, and delicious; but get there before the lunch and dinner rush otherwise a lot of it is gone! Gabatto Burger is known for their tasty burgers, but their stuffed pancakes are delightful! Their Asian house wares selection is excellent, well stocked with kitchen gadgets and Japanese flatware. There’s even a large bookstore specializing in Japanese books, with a small section of Japanese publications in English. For more info about the Chicago Mitsuwa location, visit

Where have you gone shopping for Asian food and goods? Feel free to leave a comment!

Last Minute Announcements and What to do when you get to the Convention

The Convention is coming up this weekend! We’re all so excited! Our staff is geared up and getting everything prepared for an awesome weekend. Are you ready?

You’re on your way to the Convention! What do you need to do when you get there?

If you’re driving to the Convention, make sure you have enough cash to park your car. Some lots accept credit cards, but many do not. We posted about the local parking rates on our previous post at!

If you’re staying at or near the Convention, check into your hotel room. Bring your luggage up and make sure your room is in good condition. If you have a costume, now might be a good time to put it on!

Go to Registration and get your badge (unless you already had it mailed to you). You can’t get into the Convention without your badge! Be sure to grab a copy of the Program Guide, or download the Guidebook app in advance at (link). Take the time to see what’s going on in the Program Guide, so you can plan out what to do while you’re there!

Before you leave home, are you fully packed for the Convention? Do you have everything you need, ready to go? Here’s what you’ll probably need in order of likely importance! Print off this handy checklist!


- Government issued identification

- Cash

- Credit cards

- Anime Central 2013 Badge (if you pre-registered and had it mailed to you)


- Important medications and medical equipment (ace wraps, blood testers, etc.)

- Bottle of water, with lanyard

- Snacks & munchies

-Chewing gum/breath mints


- Cellular telephone

- Laptop computer/tablet

- Music player

- Power/charging/data cables

Stuff to have autographed

- Books/movies/collectibles

- Autograph notebook

- Pen/marker/writing utensil


- Toothbrush & toothpaste (not optional!)

- Deodorant (also not optional!)

- Soap & shampoo (very much not optional!)

- Towel (are you a hoopy frood?)

- Feminine hygiene products (if needed)


- Cosplay costumes

- Warm & comfy clothes

- Shoes & socks (both comfy shoes and any costume shoes!)

- Clean underwear!

- Sleepwear

- Swimwear (for the hotel pool, if it has one!)

Anything else you can think of? Feel free to leave a comment!

Packing for the Convention

“What should I bring to the con with me?” Well, that all depends. What do you want to do? How long are you staying? There’s a lot to consider. It’s never good to bring too much or too little.

Whether you’re planning on coming for the day or staying the whole weekend, make sure to have all the essentials you can’t live without, and we’re not talking about just your smart phone. Don’t forget to bring any medication you might need. Bring a bottle of water, preferably a bottle with a lanyard, so you don’t have to hold it in your hand the whole time. Stay hydrated because Otakudom is thirsty work!  Be sure to bring your wallet, ID, and cash/credit cards. You’ll need to pay for your badge and any souvenirs you want to buy. The best things in life are free, but Otakudom isn’t cheap!

Don’t forget the appropriate cables and accessories for your phone, computer, or any other electronics you plan to bring too! At least make sure your phone is charged and ready for emergencies. There are emergency charging stations with a variety of different plugs in the Convention Center lobby, but they may be in use when you get there, especially during the busiest times of the Convention.

This may be your only chance to meet that celebrity you love so much, so bring all the things you want autographed with you too! Don’t bring too much to sign, as a celebrity may have limits to what they will sign. At the very least, they may make you go back to the end of the line after a certain limit. The full rules for autographs are posted in the program guide, but a celebrity may have addition rules beyond that.

If you are planning on staying more than one day, make sure you have all your toiletries with you. Your toothbrush and deodorant are not optional! The hotel you’re staying at will have complimentary soaps, shampoos, conditioners, lotions, and towels, but make sure there’s enough to go around if you are staying in a room with friends. Hoopy froods always knows where their towels are.

Don’t forget regular clothes too! Your costume may be too complicated to put on at a moment’s notice, or you might just want to relax in a t-shirt and comfy pants. Make sure you always wear clean underwear; you never know what might happen!

Odds are you’re coming to the Convention to buy stuff! If you’re just coming for one day to see a few panels and do a quick browse of the exhibit hall, all you need is enough backpack space to carry what you purchased, and enough room in your car to be able to take it home. Your friend probably wouldn’t appreciate having to hold 3 broadswords, 5 wall scrolls, and 7 boxes of manga in his lap the whole drive home. Even if you’re planning on staying for more than one day, and you’re getting a hotel room to have a place to sleep and somewhere to keep your stuff, make sure that you have enough room to take everything home with you after the con is over.

Are you planning on participating in the Masquerade, or do you have costumes you worked hard on and want to show off? How intricate are you costumes? How many parts do they have? How many costumes are you planning on bringing? The Convention is only for 3 days, so unless you’re looking to go through Lady Gaga amounts of costume changes, one costume per day is usually enough, but feel free to wear as many costumes as you like, as long as you’re having fun doing it!

On Friday, the Convention is usually starting; you’re excited for the con, and have a lot of energy. You might be tempted to wear your fancy (heavy), intricate (delicate), detailed (uncomfortable) costume on Friday, but most people aren’t getting to the Convention until later in the evening. Saturday is usually the best day to show off your costume because you’ll have the whole day and evening to show off your ensemble. Saturday is also the night of the Masquerade. If you’re going to wear a costume on Sunday (still highly recommended, as the fun still isn’t over yet), make sure that you don’t pack parts of your costume so deep in your suitcase that you can’t get them, and that when you do take it off to leave, you should still have room in your luggage and/or vehicle to take it with you! Sunday is Children’s day, so make sure your little ones join in on the fun and get to cosplay too!

For Friday and Sunday cosplay, a good rule of thumb is to keep it simple. Dress as a character who wears a laid back or casual costume. Arthur Dent travelled the universe in nothing but his pajamas and bathrobe. If you’re coming from work on Friday you might even be coming to the con *in* your work clothes. Why not make your work clothes work for you? Many characters look dapper in a suit and tie which is always workplace office appropriate. If you’re lucky, Friday is casual day in your office anyway. If you can get away with it, just wear your costume to work! See how many people notice. You might discover a fellow otaku you previously did not know about.

What are your tips and tricks for packing for the Convention? Feel free to leave a comment!

Food at the Convention

If you’re coming to the Convention, you’re staying long enough to get hungry! “What is there to eat around here? Is there anything I’ll like?” Of course! There are lots to choose from, so if there isn’t anything you like, you probably don’t like food!

Located on the east side of the Convention Center is the Great Expoteria, an a la carte restaurant with a variety of fare. There are also concession stands throughout the Convention Center where you can get a quick snack or drink.

The Park at Rosemont entertainment district has many bar and restaurant choices (along with a movie theater, bowling alley, and comedy club), located on the west side of the Rosemont Public Parking Garage. It’s so new that they’re still adding more restaurants! For the most up to date info and restaurant specials visit their site at

If you’re going to leave the Convention to drive to a nearby restaurant, the parking lots may not have in and out privileges, unless you’re staying at the hotel and each hotel has different policies. Be sure to check with the front desk! For all the dining options in the city of Rosemont, visit their site at

If you’re staying at one of the many area hotels, room service is always excellent and makes you feel posh! Each hotel has many bar and restaurant choices within the hotel as well. Some hotels and restaurants may even have specials for our attendees, so don’t forget to mention ACen!

Optimally, cash and credit cards are much more portable, but bringing food with you can be an inexpensive alternative. If coming to the Convention is going to be a road trip for you, you may as well bring some meals, snacks, and munchies for the weekend. Remember that most hotel rooms don’t have microwaves or refrigerators, and depending on what kind of room you’re staying in, it might be against the fire code to have a hot plate or food warmer in your room. Be sure to check with the front desk!

If you’re just coming for the day, eat a good breakfast before you come to the Convention, treat yourself to one of the finer restaurants in the area for lunch, and then have a nice dinner after you leave.

Above all else, don’t forget to eat, and to eat properly! Otaku cannot live on Pocky alone! Don’t spend all your money on toys, t-shirts, and manga, forgetting that you have to eat for the rest of the time you’re at the Convention!

Where have you eaten at or around the Convention? Feel free to leave a comment!

Staying Healthy and Special Needs at the Convention

At Anime Central, we want all our attendees to have a good time. So it’s important to us that you have any health issues or special needs that you might have seen to! We have a well trained and experienced staff ready to help you!

Special Needs and ADA Assistance

Anime Central is proud to have one of the most extensive ADA Assistance programs of any convention anywhere! We seek to provide a quality experience for all our attendees. For any of our attendees with special needs, we help in any and every way possible! Ask Special Needs Services about accommodations if you…

…cannot stay in a line for extended periods.

…need a sign language interpreter.

…need to obtain a wheelchair or scooter.

…need assistance in getting to a certain area of the Convention.

…need a secluded space to nurse a child or escape packed and noisy crowds for a few minutes.

…have any other special needs not mentioned here.

Our experienced and caring staff will understand your needs, and will keep any personal information you may need to discuss in the strictest confidence. If you have any questions about special needs, visit, e-mail our Special Needs Department at, or visit the Special Needs Department at the Convention.

Additionally, if you see an attendee on crutches or in a wheelchair, trying to get on/off the elevator or go through a crowded area, help your fellow otaku by stepping back and letting them through! We can all do our part to make Anime Central a great Con for everyone!

Staying Healthy at the Convention

Avoid sore feet and Con Plague! The best way to stay healthy at the Convention is to be prepared and prevent things from happening!

Many colds and sicknesses travel through hand contact, so make sure to wash your hands early and often! You know where your hands have been; do you know where everyone else’s hands have been? Hand sanitizer is okay for emergencies in a pinch, but washing your hands thoroughly is always better!

In addition to washing your hands regularly, it’s important to shower too! Not only does bathing keep you socially acceptable; it washes off the dirt, grime, and the con funk of the day. Think of a time you didn’t feel better after a shower! There’s a reason why the tagline of the Convention is “Got Soap?”

Keeping your energy up is important as well! Make sure that you eat regularly, and that you eat balanced meals too! Otaku cannot survive on Pocky alone! Be sure to drink water and stay hydrated! Bring a water bottle with a lanyard and hang it off your belt. Avoid caffeinated drinks because they tend to make water go through you faster than water alone would! Additionally, caffeine is not a replacement for sleep! Make sure to get at least 6 to 8 hours of sleep each night!

There’s a lot of walking to be had between the hotel and Convention Center, and the Convention Center is big too! In addition to staying hydrated, make sure you’re wearing comfortable shoes! Wear your cool (but ill-fitting) costume shoes for just the Masquerade, and wear your comfy shoes when just walking around the Convention casually. It’s harder to go see all the different things at the Convention if you’re having difficulty walking!

Emergency Medical Response Team (EMRT)

In a medical emergency at the Convention, Anime Central’s EMRT staff is on hand to help! If you are going through or are involved in a medical emergency while at the Convention, call EMRT! First of all: Don’t Panic! Help is always near at the Convention.

To request medical assistance, find the nearest Customer Service desk or staff member with a radio; they can radio for help from the nearest EMRT staff member. Let them know what’s happening and where. If you’re not involved in the medical emergency, or you see EMRT staff racing from one location to another, please remain clear and stay back to give EMRT staff to move and work through.

When in doubt, do not move an injured person, unless there are nearby hazards! You may unintentionally do more harm than good. EMRT staff will come to help where the emergency is. If you’re involved in the medical emergency, please stay on the scene until released by EMRT staff. They may need you to help answer any questions about what’s going on. EMRT staff will tend to the patient and make the call if an ambulance is needed. Last of all: Don’t Panic! You’re in good hands.

Non-Critical Issues

EMRT staff are more than happy to provide feminine hygiene products and ace bandages, but please understand that supplies are limited! If you anticipate that you may have those needs, make sure to bring those items with you! They’ll even help you properly wrap you ankle if you bring your own ace bandages as well.

Unfortunately, EMRT staff are not licensed to dispense any medication under any circumstance, so make sure have any important medication with you on hand, or be prepared to make a quick stop at a local pharmacy.

If you have any questions about emergency medical issues, visit the EMRT Department at the Convention.

What advice do you have to stay healthy at the Convention? What can we do to make it easier for everyone to get around the Convention? Feel free to leave a comment!

Spotting Unlicensed and Bootleg Merchandise

Anime Central may be your only chance to meet that celebrity you love so much, so bring all the things you want autographed with you, but be warned! One of the quickest ways to insult a celebrity is by asking them to autograph unlicensed or bootleg merchandise!

In addition, buying unlicensed or bootleg merchandise hurts the Anime industry by not allowing the payout the creators work for. If a bootlegger makes or sells an unlicensed item, all or most of the profits go to the bootlegger and none to the creator! If the creator isn’t getting paid for their hard work, they can’t create any more of your favorite anime.

Bootlegs also saturate the market with (often low quality) merchandise. If you are lucky, you may be undercharged for a bootleg item, but many times, you’re overcharged for a bootleg item that has no quality control behind it, and may end up being worthless in the end.

But how can you tell whether or not something is the real deal or a total fake?

When bringing something to a guest to autograph and they politely decline to sign it because it’s bootleg, don’t be too dismayed! Most guests have pictures or official merchandise available (sometimes for free, sometimes to purchase) that you can get autographed. Merchandise bought directly from the guest is a sure way to get legitimate merchandise (plus you’re buttering up the guest by putting money back in their wallet!)

When it comes to individual vendors, shopping online, or at a kawaii/collectible store, be weary of vendors who insist you do not touch or examine the merchandise. They may want you to buy the merchandise without realizing that it’s bootleg. You should always get a chance to determine the authenticity of a new item you buy.

Do your research! Ways to identify merchandise are always changing. Manufacturers change their particular labeling and marking techniques to make it harder for bootleggers to make “genuine-looking” merchandise. In addition, being intimately familiar with a series makes you a quasi-expert in that series, making it easier to spot discrepancies in bootlegged merchandise. Bootleggers will often get details about a particular series wrong because they care more about moving product than they worry about the quality of the product. There are also companies out there known for not respecting copyrights and making bootleg merchandise.

Bootleg DVDs often have incorrect details on the box. The descriptions of the story may be wrong, information on the actors is incorrect, copyright info may even be missing. Any series is usually printed with 4 episodes per disc to make sure the video quality is high. If a series is packed with more than 4 episodes per disc, not only is it most likely a bootleg, the video quality is most likely low as to cram as many episodes per disc.

New plush toys have tush tags and swing tags. Tush tags are a fabric label sewn into the seam of a plush that contain info about the company that made them. Every new plush from Japan should have a tush tag. Swing tags provide consumers with safety info, so not attaching them is a liability to a company. All new plush, imported and domestic, will come with a swing tag. Bootleg plush will often have missing or incorrect info on tush and swing tags. Depending on when a plush was made, the tags will contain particular info, so always do your research!

Many collectibles and plastic toys have limited runs, and usually come with a paper insert showing the entire set that item is from. Bootlegs are often of an inferior quality because they are often molded from a copy of an item instead of being molded from an original metal mold.

Some franchises don’t even license out their properties for certain items. Disney and Square Enix have not licensed any swords or keyblades from any of their video games, so any of those items you see for sale are bootleg. Bill Waterson of Calvin and Hobbes was known for not licensing out his property except in very rare and small numbers. Just about all Calvin and Hobbes merchandise is bootleg.

We pride ourselves on making sure all merchandise sold in our Exhibit Hall is official and fully licensed. We don’t allow any of our vendors to sell any bootleg or unlicensed merchandise. If you think you spot a vendor selling bootleg merchandise, get in touch with one of our Exhibit Hall staff and we’ll look into it, or contact them at  Let us know where you saw the vendor, and what item(s) might be bootleg. All tips will be anonymous, so you have nothing to fear in coming forward.

Otaku News has an excellent in-depth article on spotting bootlegs at, last updated November of 2012. They even have a handy 2 page guide for spotting bootlegs that you can print out and bring with you. Get it at

What experiences have you had with bootleg merchandise? Feel free to leave a comment!

An Interview with ACen’s Chief of Staff (Plus How To Join ACen Staff!)

Anime Central is a convention run by fans for fans! As such, we like show you the faces of those who volunteer their time to help run the Convention. This week’s post is an interview with our Chief of Staff!

Speaking of staff, ever wonder what goes into making the Convention happen? Ever wanted to be a part of that? ACen Staffers past and present can hold their heads up proudly, knowing they had a hand in creating the awesome event that is Anime Central. Staffing ACen can entail attending planning meetings weeks before Convention and running things the weekend of the Convention, but it’s not all work! We wouldn’t be working the Convention if we couldn’t enjoy it!

In addition to the responsibility of working to make ACen great, you get a full Staff badge to the Convention, a Staff hotel room shared with other Staffers at the Convention (numbers are limited), and invites to year-round events! We have a staff Christmas party, a Summer Matsuri picnic, and other events throughout the year to get us together, keeping us working as a team! You don’t just see your fellow staffers once a year! It’s a great way to keep in touch with new friends!

There are openings in multiple departments such as Panel Programming, Registration, and Customer Service. For more information on our individual departments, go to For more information on requirements and to apply for Staff, visit, under the “Staff Requirements” section, and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible on what you can do to help ACen!

So without further ado, here’s a little about the person who herds all the cats that make ACen happen!

Name: Rosa Halcomb

A little about yourself: Hmm. I’m a big nerd who sews, reads tarot cards, collects manga and antique cameos? Not that much to tell. I grew up in Kentucky, and I still live there, and I drive up to Chicago for ACen meetings and planning things. I travel a lot for work, so the driving is no big deal, and I love the people involved in the Con– they make it all worth it! What else? I’m in my 30s. I have a cat, and I garden in my allegedly spare time. My day job is as a business analyst for a cable company – basically I write business rules and process materials for the engineering and support teams. I geek for fun and I geek for a living. It’s a happy life!

What are some of your favorite anime related media? I grew up watching Bubblegum Crisis and Tenchi Muyo. I’m a big fan of horror anime like Higurashi or Hellsing, and I like things with a good story. Really, I will watch or listen to pretty much anything given the chance, and am currently working my way through Madoka and Sword Art Online. I also was a huge fan of Initial D, because I adore the music. MOVE is one of my favorite bands. X Japan is another. I mentioned that, right? I don’t need to jump up and shout “We Are X” to get the point across.

Staff for how long: 10 fabulous years and more to come. I started as Art Show staff, and then ran Artist’s Alley for a couple years. I was the Convention Secretary, the Chief of Staff, the Vice Chair, and then the Conchair. Now I’ve retired from Conchair and gone back to being Chief of Staff, and I really love it!

What was your first/best ACen experience? In 1999 I was just learning about this anime stuff, and the guy I was dating wanted to road trip to Chicago to this con he heard about from an artist friend of ours. That weekend I discovered ACen. I stood in line to get Kenichi Sonoda’s autograph, and the fire alarm was pulled during the signing, so he just lined us all up like ducklings and led the way outside, and finished the signing in the hotel’s outdoor space. That really taught me my first and most important lesson about conventions: you have to learn to roll with the crazy moments, and not sweat the small stuff too much. My secret favorite moment of the Con is to slip backstage just before the rave starts up, or just before a big event like a concert is going to happen. I wait for the moment the lights hit, and the crowd makes that amazing rolling roar of sound that’s so full of excited anticipation. It just makes me want to jump up and down and cheer. I love knowing that people have a great time, it’s very energizing.

Now and then I get to meet someone who joins us as staff or as a guest who really touches my heart. Hideko Tamura Snider was one such person. She was ten years old when her home in Hiroshima was destroyed by an atomic bomb, and her thoughtful eloquence and inspired writing are amazing. She wrote a book called One Sunny Day about her memories of the bombing, what came before, and what has happened since. Meeting her and talking for a while about the book made me really rethink a lot of things about my own way of living. She is just a truly inspiring lady, and I admire her very much. Read the book if you have the chance.

Why did you join staff? I was always hanging out in the Artist Alley bothering friends and looking at the pretty original stuff. Eventually, I asked if I could help, and the next year I was volunteering full time for the Con. I met all these amazing, fun, dedicated people who had the gift of grace under pressure, and this adventuresome spirit I really admired. I never left.

What tips do you have for attendees to enjoy ACen more? The community is what matters most. Remember we’re all fans of this genre that is as diverse and wide-ranging as the fans who love it, and every one of those fans deserves respect. There’s enough bullying and rudeness in the world, ACen is our place to be with people who like the things we like. Whether they’re into Naruto, or DBZ, or One Piece, or Panty & Stocking, or something obscure that’s just coming out, when we subdivide and make fun of other fans, we’re acting exactly counter to the reason we all get together. Be kind to your fellow Otaku! And Get Soap, okay?

Also: Volunteer! We love to have bunches of new folks on the team, because they bring new perspectives and ideas. Plus, there’s lots of good in it for you, as well! Not only can you earn back your badge, you’ll also meet some amazing people. Plus, you get great experience that can help you with experience for your resume, references for your work, and great answers to tough questions like, “How to you react to high pressure situations?” I’m proud to be a professional reference for lots of folks on the team, and if you do a good job I have no qualms about telling a prospective employer that.

Have you ever met an ACen Staffer who went above an beyond at con and just made your experience that much better? Tell us about it in the comments!

Anime Central is a convention run by fans for fans! As such, we like show you the faces of those who volunteer their time to help run the Convention. This week’s post is an interview with our Department Head for Registration!

And speaking of registration, you should pre-register for the Convention now! The tier 3 rate of $53.00 is available until April 1st, after that it’s $60.00 to register. Pre-register at Skip the Registration line and choose Badge Mailing for only $2.00 extra! The option to have your badge mailed ends April 1st as well. If you already pre-registered opting to pick up your badge at will-call, but would like to upgrade that to a mailed badge, email our Registration team at and they will be more than happy to help you out. Go to for more information on tier deadline, rates, and policies. And just so you know, badges go out after April 1st, so please be patient!

So without further ado, here’s a little about the person who makes your badges happen!

Name: Melinda Hayden

Department: I am the current Department Head for Registration where we process the registrations and badges for all of our attendees.

Staff for how long: Fall 2008-Present; all in Registration

A little about yourself: Chapter One … There was once this girl who – well, no idea where I am going there; but it was a place to start typing. If I had to say one thing about me, it’s that I am eclectic. I have two cats who I named after the main characters after one of my favorite books, and I currently work in my local library; I collect the footed McCoy flower pots from the 1940’s, and random silverplate from the 20’s; after spending time at the Art Institute for college, I do a mean doodle; and even though I think that I am much more of a tom-boy, I <3 my pink laptop.

What are some of your favorite anime related media? There are too many anime to list, but the ones that I find myself watching over again are Ouran High School Host Club and Fruits Basket among a couple others. My all-time favorite Studio Ghibli movie is Spirited Away, followed closely by Howl’s Moving Castle.

Why did you join staff? Funny story there; my first ACen was the year Registration became infamous. It was my first date with the man I later married, and we had decided to attend ACen for the day. That morning I woke up with a 101+ fever and my head swimming. Instead of canceling, I decided to take a couple of cold meds and go anyways; not the smartest idea in retrospect, but cest la vie. We arrived around 11AM on Saturday to a sea of people in line already. Hour one went by as we did the normal chit-chat, getting to know you that you do on first dates. Hour two came and went and I started paying more attention to the registration staff running to-and-fro and what-all was going on around me than I was talking to him. Hour three hit as we inched closer and closer to the front of the line and all I could think of by then, was I was going to look into volunteering myself. XD

Needless to say, I applied and was hired that fall; spent 2009 as General Staff, promoted to ADH for 2010-2011, and took over the department for 2012-present.

What tips do you have for attendees to enjoy ACen more? Wear comfortable shoes; there is a LOT of ground to cover between events going on in the Hyatt, the Convention Center, and various other locations. That being said, EMRT will be more than happy to give you first aid for blisters if needed.

Bonus Stuff: Discounts to get into the Convention

Are you a little short on funds and might not have quite enough to make it to the Convention this year? We wouldn’t want you to miss the Convention just because you’re strapped for cash! Here are some ways that might help you lighten your financial burdens enough to get you to the Convention!

Are you going to pre-register online to get your badge before April 1stDid you miss the whole opening paragraph to this post? The tier 3 rate of $53.00 ends April 1st, after that it’s $60.00 to register! Pre-register at

Do you have a group of 10 or more friends who want to go to Anime Central? Did you know that if you all register online at the same time, we’ll give you a group discount? If you register 10 to 19 badges, we’ll give you $2.00 off each badge; if you register 20 or more badges, we’ll give you $5.00 off each badge! Pre-register and get a group discount online at Group registration is not available at the convention.

Are you an educator looking to enrich your students with the knowledge of Japanese Pop Culture? Why not bring your class to Anime Central? What better way to expose them to discussions, panels, and media from Japan? Email us for more information at

Are you Police Officer, Fire Fighter and/or currently serving in the United States Military? To show our thanks to all Airmen, Sailors, Marines, Soldiers, Guardsmen, Police Officers, and Fire Fighters for their service, we want to give back to those that help serve, protect, and help make our country a better place. You can get our First Responder/Military Discount of 50% off your badge by showing us a current valid government ID when you register for your badge at the door.  Domo arigato gozaimasu for your service!

Do you run a convention that’s related to anime, manga, or Japanese culture?  If you want to promote another convention or event that you represent, why not get a convention trade table? If you are interested in applying for a convention trade table, visit Apply quickly because space in the Convention Table row are given on a first come first serve basis and space is limited!

Can’t come to the Convention because you have to watch the kids? Is your child obsessed with the newest hit anime on TV, a budding otaku in the making? Well, why not bring them with to the Convention? Sunday is Children’s Day at Anime Central! Children aged 12 and under get in for free with the purchase of any adult badge! We’ll also have games, panels, and events just for younger fans, to ready them to be the future of Otakudom!

Are you going to another convention where the Anime Central Road Show will be? The ACen Road Show makes appearances at other conventions, where you can purchase badges at a special (low!) rate. We run games and contests, recruit staff, answer questions, and have a great time doing our very best to get the word out about our show. The Road Show pre-registration rate is $38.00, whenever we appear—that’s the best rate you’ll find anywhere, lower than the earliest early-bird price. The Road show rate will only be given to attendees registered at the convention or event we are at, the Road show rate is in appreciation for showing support to other conventions. For our Road Show appearance schedule, visit

Want a cheap badge to next year’s Convention? The sooner you pre-register for your Anime Central 2014 badge, the cheaper it is! If you register for next year’s Convention, we’ll give it to you at our ACen Road Show price of $38.00! You can visit any of our Registration Booths in the Convention Center for details on getting registered before you leave.

Want a *free* badge to next year’s Convention? We’re always looking for people to volunteer at the Convention as Anime Central Gophers, going where departments need extra help. If you work enough hours you could earn a free badge for next year’s convention. For more information or to sign up, go to under the “At-Con Volunteer” section, or stop by the Volunteer Headquarters during the Convention.

What are your best experiences with getting a badge for Con? Feel free to leave a comment!

Travel to and Parking at the Convention

“How am I going to get to ACen this year?” Well, that all depends. Before we answer that, let’s answer a few other questions first.

How long am I staying at the Convention?”  ACen is a 3 day convention with things going on whole 72 hours that the Convention is there: late night viewings, first time premiers, and dances lasting until the wee hours of the morning. If you’re coming during normal daylight hours, you can still enjoy most of the viewings, panels, and the exhibit hall, but there’s lots of afterhours fun to be had too! If you plan on staying late, or more than one day, you might want to think about getting a hotel room.

Where am I going to sleep?” ACen is based out of the Hyatt Regency O’Hare and is the best hotel to stay at to keep central to the con. But rooms tend to sell out fast, and even then, unless you have a few friends to split a room with, you might need more economical solution. There are many other hotels in the area; some even have ACen programming space in them as well. Some are within walking distance; some are a short drive away.

Directly connected to the Convention Center via a sky bridge network:

- The Aloft Chicago O’Hare

- The Double Tree O’Hare

- The Hilton Rosemont Chicago O’Hare, (where both Video and Board Gaming will be located)

- The Hyatt Regency O’Hare (the main hotel for the Convention)

You can walk from those locations and two parking garages with a roof always overhead!

Located next to the Convention Center:

- The Crowne Plaza Chicago O’Hare

- The Embassy Suites Hotel O’Hare-Rosemont

Located a short walk from the Convention Center:

- The Chicago Marriot Suites O’Hare

- The Intercontinental Chicago O’Hare

- The Westin O’Hare

Located a bit of a walk (or a short drive) from the Convention Center:

- The Courtyard Chicago O’Hare

- The Hilton Garden Inn Chicago O’Hare

- The Hyatt Rosemont

- The Motel 6 Chicago O’Hare Schiller Park

- The Radisson Des Plaines

Maybe bring a bike, skateboard, or roller-skates? Many area hotels may have a shuttle service to and from the Convention Center and O’Hare Airport. Be sure to ask at the front desk!

If you are driving to the Convention, this leads us back to the main part of our first question.

How am I going to get to the Convention?” If you are driving to the con, you’ll need a place to park your car! The Rosemont Public Parking Garage is across the street from the Convention Center, where you can park for $13.00 for 24 hours. It accommodates both the Convention Center and some of the local hotels, some of which may have different pricing if you are staying at one of the hotel (results may vary, be sure to ask the front desk). The parking garage has over 8,000 parking spaces and is the closest parking to the Convention Center. There’s also an inexpensive paid parking lot with about 800 spaces at the Rosemont “L” stop, which is a short walk from the Convention Center. You can park there for $5.00 for 0-14 hours, $8.00 for 14-18 hours, or $12.00 for 18-24 hours.

If you happen to be local to the Chicagoland area, or are flying in from O’Hare or Midway Airport, go green and take public transportation! The Rosemont Blue Line “L” train stop is a short walk from the Convention Center, and goes to and from many parts of Chicago as well as both airports. The Blue Line runs about every 15 minutes, 24 hours a day, but some of the other lines stop service at night. Be sure to double check their schedule and rates at the CTA’s website: You can find more info about the Park and Ride rates for the Rosemont “L” stop parking lot as well.

For those in the Chicagoland suburbs, you can also take the Metra! The Rosemont stop on the NCS Line is a short walk from the Convention Center, but only runs Monday through Friday. Be sure to double check their schedule and rates at Metra’s website:

There are also hotels located near “L” stops one stop away from the Rosemont stop. Located a short walk from an “L” stop:

- The Chicago Marriot O’Hare

- The Chicago O’Hare Garden Hotel

- The Holiday Inn Chicago O’Hare

- The Renaissance Chicago O’Hare Suites

- The Spring Hill Suites Chicago O’Hare (all the above near the Cumberland stop)

- The Hilton Chicago O’Hare Airport (in O’Hare Airport, at the O’Hare stop)

Again, many area hotels may have a shuttle service to and from the Convention Center and O’Hare Airport. You may not even have to take the “L”! Be sure to ask at the front desk!

We hope you safe travels to and from this year’s Anime Central and we look forward to seeing you! How are you getting to the con this year? Feel free to leave a comment!

- Edit 03/10/13: For more info about the Rooms in Anime Central Hotel Block, visit

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