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What is Anime Central?

Anime Central (ACen) is the largest anime, manga and Japanese popular culture convention in Chicago and the Midwest. ACen happens once a year in the Spring (around April or May) less than 30 minutes from downtown Chicago, in Rosemont, IL.  The convention is held at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center and the Hyatt Regency O’Hare in Rosemont, IL.

As part of its mission, ACen brings fans together with guests from the Japanese and US sectors of the anime and manga industry, as well as gaming, cinema, and Asian culture personalities. The event includes a huge exhibit hall, a massive video game room, concerts, dances, educational panels and workshops, premiere screenings, autograph sessions, 24-hour video rooms, tabletop gaming and much, much more!

Chicago is currently the third largest city by population in the United States, with a population of over 9 million in the metropolitan area. 34 million tourists visit the city yearly, and it has many sister cities around the world, one of which is Osaka, Japan.

Who Organizes Anime Central?

The convention is sponsored by a not-for-profit, 501(c)(3) organization named MAPS (Midwest Animation Promotion Society). The convention is staffed by volunteers who dedicate their time and energy to putting on a fun and exciting convention event.

The purpose of the Midwest Animation Promotion Society is to promote the development of the animation industry in North America and to further the appreciation of anime and manga as valid art forms.

The secondary purpose of the Midwest Animation Promotion Society is to educate people about Asian culture and traditions.  Each year, the Midwest Animation Promotion Society sponsors a number of events and gatherings devoted to anime, manga, and Asian culture.  Our primary annual event, Anime Central, is held annually for all our members.  Anyone who purchases a membership badge for M.A.P.S. is invited to attend Anime Central as a member of the organization.

When is Anime Central and How Long is it?

Anime Central typically takes place on a weekend mid-May running Friday through Sunday.  From opening ceremonies to closing ceremonies, we never completely shut down.  We have some events that run all night, so you can consider us a 24-hour convention.

How Do I Attend Anime Central?

In order to attend Anime Central, you will need to purchase a membership.  Memberships can be purchased through our registration system.  More information about attending can be found on our attendee registration page.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is there to do at Anime Central?

All sorts of things! We have panels on favorite series, guest signings, a dealer’s room with anime/manga and Japanese culture merchandise, video rooms, special events such as the Masquerade, and more! And that’s not counting all the opportunities you get to hang out with people who like anime/manga too.

How long has Anime Central been around?

Anime Central started in 1998, but the planning for it began much earlier in 1996 at a local anime club. Ever since then, we’ve been going strong, and our exponential growth has put us among the top conventions in the United States.

Where are all the events held? Is there a map of the convention?

Anime Central is held in the Hyatt O’Hare and the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center. The program guide will have all the specifics of when and where to go for each event.

Is there a limit to how many attendees can enter?

There is no limit to the amount of attendees that can attend Anime Central. Some events, such as the Masquerade, will have limited attendance due to fire code rules and space. For the event itself however, we have no membership cap. Please remember that because of the volume of individuals at the convention site, you should be mindful of congregating in one place where you can block the hallways and common areas that people need to get through.

What can I expect at a convention?

You can expect pretty much anything, but aside from that, some specific things to expect are dependant on what kind of convention you attend. At ACen, you can expect to find cosplayers who dress up as their favorite Anime or Japanese culture characters, live events, concerts, dances, competitions, gaming, and individuals of all ages who appreciate different parts of the anime, manga, and Asian culture genres. We also hope you’ll find a fun and sociable atmosphere, and memories to cherish.

What is cosplay?

Cosplay is short for “costume play,” where individuals create or have made costumes of their favorite anime characters and wear them to the convention. Cosplayers are creative and are proud of their work, and it’s common to see many of them walking the halls during an anime convention.

What is the Masquerade?

The Masquerade is one of the biggest events of the convention and it is an opportunity for cosplayers to show off their costumes, present skits, and if so desired, compete for prizes.

Where’s the programming schedule, and when will it be finished?

The programming schedule is fluid depending on many factors, including but not limited to guest lineup, panel demand, new events, and time constraints. We want to put up the most accurate grid of events that we can, and not confuse our attendees with changing information. This is why we wait until the programming grid is final before we post it online. You can of course find the programming grid in the program book of your convention packet.

I want to be a volunteer at Anime Central. Who should I contact?

You can email vss@mapsevents.org to get information from the Volunteer Staffing Services team about being on staff for Anime Central. Alternatively, volunteers can use conventionsupport@acen.org to get at-con volunteering information.

What can you expect from being on staff?

You can expect a lot of work, time, and energy spent. You can also expect, depending on what department you’re in, to miss some or most of the convention. You can expect to be told to follow the orders of your assigned department and be respectful and courteous to our attendees. But most of all, you can expect to meet a great bunch of people that want to put on a neat event for others.