This past month I had the opportunity to attend an entirely brand-new anime convention in the Netherlands, Nishicon.

Taking place in the city of Haarlem, Nishicon was held in a kind of sports gymnasium, which meant a few things. First, the primary form of seating was bleachers, which given the small con population (though by no means a disappointing turn-out) actually made for very convenient seating. Practically everything took place on that central floor, with workshops and video games being the only exceptions, so it was easy to move from one thing to another. If you were on the main floor, it was essentially impossible to avoid hearing the cosplay and AMV competitions, which seemed more of a close gathering of enthusiasts than the massive arena-filling extravaganzas of a large or even medium-sized American anime convention. When the AMV contest was taking place, every so often I could peer over to the other corner of the room and catch a glimpse of it.

Another feature of Nishicon was the bar and maid cafe, which like “Anime Con” in  Netherlands (and unlike New York Anime Festival) allowed the maids to serve its customers. This maid cafe is run by a different group than the one from Anime Con, and in speaking to one of the head maids I found out that they were looking to differentiate themselves from other maid cafes at Dutch anime cons by providing a more interactive experience. In addition to custom snacks (alongside the standard Dutch bar fare, beer, frikandel, kroket, etc.), they also provided a chance to play card games and board games, as well as provide a shoulder massage which only cost 2 euros.

Speaking of cost, I’ve noticed that Dutch cons seem to provide much more affordable food options than their American counterparts. While a tad pricier than just going to an automat, a broodje kroket (croquet on a roll) cost me a mere €2.50 or so. While I don’t know the exact reason for this, I have to imagine that it’s because every convention I’ve been to so far has had some sort of fully stocked bar attached to it, and they simply charge the prices they normally would. That said, if you’re coming from the United States watch out for the dollar to euro conversion rate.

I bought one piece of merchandise at this convention: a card game called “Manga Manga” (no relation). As you can see from the box, it has Action Power.

Outside of the AMVs and the cosplay, there were no big “events” or panel programming. For me, this is quite unusual, as I primarily spend my normal convention experience darting from panel to panel, with breaks for food and checking out the dealers’ room. As a result, this meant that if I were to enjoy myself at Nishicon, it would have to be at a relaxed, non-goal-oriented pace. In that regard, I think Nishicon was quite successful for me. I was able to play Go for the first time (and lose, naturally). I spoke to people at tables, asking them what they thought of the convention, one of whom mentioned that it’s fortunate for a convention to be located more towards the western side of the country). I found myself at a drawing area (run by the fine folks at mangaschool.nl) next to people I didn’t know, putting to paper whatever came to mind. It was actually the first time in a long while that I’ve drawn that much, and that made me feel good (or bad, depending on how you look at it).

What it all came down to for me was that the “lack” of major events made me participate in the convention the way I think most con-goers in general do. The point isn’t to listen to fans and creators talk about some aspect of anime and manga, nor is it to expect some “thing” out of it. That vital aspect I think people are looking for is the simple pleasure of being surrounded by others with the same passion for anime, and that is something that can be experienced by just sitting around other anime fans. Don’t get me wrong, I love attending Otakon, but I would not have ever sat down there next to other artists (aspiring and otherwise) in order to just relax with pen and paper.

Before I leave off with a barrage of photos, I want to mention something that might make some people feel a tad salty: did you know that Michiko & Hatchin was released in the Netherlands but not the United States?

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