2017 marked the second year of the conventions stay at the Marriott World Center, and there’s been quite an improvement from the first. In its previous year, a weighted concession tray was placed in every room, and, as stated in the previous report, if you so much as bumped it, the room was charged to obscene amount of money. FOR JUST BUMPING IT! Thankfully, they did away with that. No one needs to be charged for looking at M&Ms in a jar.
To recap the location report from last year:
Two pools, six on-site restaurant/food options of varying price ranges, gorgeous scenery and areas to take photos, and friendly, attentive hotel staff. Also, a sweet laser light show could be caught at the main pool every night (and you bet the Chibi Media staff were dancing at the top of it all)! The layout for the convention held minor, if any changes at all, which is nice, since we previously commented in our last report that the structure was smooth and cohesive.
Now, we got that covered, right? Right. Let’s get to the stuff you’re really here for.
Speaking of merchandise, the staff at Holiday Matsuri is having none of that bootleg gimmick. If 40 percent or more of a vendor’s stock was found to be a knock-off of any kind, they were gone, no ifs, ands, or buts. As a consumer, knowing that I could safely make a purchase and that the chances of me finding a fake product weren’t great brought me a sense of confidence and trust in the showrunners.
The autograph lines ran, for the most part, the same as the previous year. There was hardly any clutter, and the queue move swiftly through without the feeling of being rushed. The exception to this was the relocation of the cosplay guests, which were moved from the middle left of the hall to the back with the other guests. It wasn’t particularly an issue, but there was a general lack of line for the cosplay guests. Everyone seemed to just form a conglomerate mass around the tables, which, again was fine. If anything, it was a little congested, but not so much problematic.
Ah, the Game Room. Sadly, I didn’t get to spend much time here, but the time that was spent, I had a blast. My hat’s off to HolMat for the subtle, but no less appreciated 8-bit music that was playing upon entry. The overall vibe of the room – which was pretty decent in size – provided a chill atmosphere with the lights down low, and rhythm games spaced out properly so that the sounds didn’t overlap. As for the games themselves, there was a wide variety of cabinets, console, and motion games that ranged from retro to modern. Basically, if you’re a gamer and you were bored in this room, you aren’t a gamer and you’re lying.
Attached to the Game Room was the Carolina Manga Library. This is something we never had the chance to check out before, and we were impressed with how well-kept everything was. Every manga in the library (which included a lot of different series) was organized alphabetically and kept straightened in the crates. Surprisingly, despite the Game Room being connected, the library was relatively quiet. There were a few tabletop games going on, but no one was getting rowdy. In fact, there was something of a respect for those that were genuinely there to read. …like in a library. It served as a quiet reprieve to those that needed to take a few moments to themselves and collect their thoughts. They also had a few items for sale, such as various manga and wall scrolls. In addition, the library held a charity raffle, in which the attendees had a chance to buy in for a chance to win a Nintendo Switch.
As an aside, we at Chibi Media highly recommend checking out the Carolina Manga Library on your own. Laura is as sweet as can be, and the entire organization is all about giving back to the community. Seriously, if you love manga, please show them some love and check out their Facebook page.
Moving on. Of the two panels we attended at Holiday Matsuri, one of them was the Cosplay Guests Q&A, which featured: KayBear Cosplay, Colossal Smidgen Cosplay, Alyson Tabbitha, Indra Rojas, Leon Chiro, Moderately Okay Cosplay, AKrCos, and Kristen Hughey. The panel kicked off with John (Moderately Okay Cosplay), warming up the crowd by engaging them in short, one-on-one questions and answers. Each question varied from person to person, generally depending on the cosplay they were wearing (or not wearing, because not everyone was in cosplay), and it allowed the audience to relax and get a feel for how the rest of the panel would be.
Eventually, the rest of the panelists filed out from backstage and took a seat…except for Leon, who couldn’t sit still, but we lovingly didn’t expect anything less from him. The questions from the crowd were the typical kind of questions you would expect, such as, “What was the most challenging cosplay you’ve made?” (There was an all-around distaste for League of Legends cosplay because of the amount of work put into it), and “What is your favorite cosplay to wear?” The questions, though short and to the point, took a long time to answer because of how many guests had to answer them. Because of that, the panel tended to drag, but that was also something to be expected.
One question that stood out, however, was addressed to the table as a whole. “How do you deal with the negativity that inevitably comes from the cosplay community and the internet overall?” I wish I had had the thought at the time to whip out my phone and at least grab an audio clip of what was said, because there is far too much to recap. However, the clear message that all of the guests got across was that they sometimes get down themselves, and it’s hard to get back up sometimes, but having close friends in the community, friends that love you in and out of cosplay and building a support system is the best thing you can have. There were lots of good, positive vibes around the room, then, and it was nice to end the panel on that kind of a note.
Also, here’s a special shout out to poor Indra, who ran around the room with a mic to take questions for three quarters of the panel. You’re the real MVP.
As mentioned above, his panel was a standard Q&A, where he was able to embellish on his accomplishments since his visit last year. Nate spoke a lot about self-care, and how he took a step back from the things that weren’t bringing him joy anymore to really evaluate what it was that he wanted to do. Through this, Nate was able to get back to the root of what he loves most – music – and together with Cristina Vee, Ghost Fight, and Andy Stein, started his independent record label, Give Heart Records.
Another accomplishment that Nate talked about was the released of his newest album, Sandcastle Kingdoms. He gave us a bit of a preview at HolMat 2016, and on March 1st, 2017, released the full album on iTunes, Google Play Store, and more. As a huge fan of Nate, I can’t sing the praises of this album enough, and I wish there was more of it. He did mention that there was a possibility of a new album or cover album coming in mid-late 2018, but didn’t go into any more details.
Something else that was mentioned was his work with Jirard Khalil (That One Video Gamer), Alex Faciane (The Dex), and Satchell Drakes (Satchbag), as Big Bad Bosses (or B3). Nate said while he loved the project and would love to do more with them in the future, there had been no talk of doing anything more on the project. If there is anyone who hasn’t checked out the boy band parody collab album, Power Overwhelming, it is also available on iTunes and the Google Play Store.
Finally, Nate got to talking about all of his voice work in 2017, with a special nod towards the Game Grumps project that took the indie scene by storm, Dream Daddy. He talked about how he jumped at the chance to work with them, as they are good friends of his, and then was asked to do a bunch of, and I quote, “dad grunts.” The entire recording took all of about twenty minutes, Nate said, and then he hadn’t heard anything about the project for a long time. Months and months later, he caught wind of Dream Daddy, and he loved it. He even bought himself a coffee mug with Craig (his character), on it, saying that it was a surreal dream come true to buy merchandise of a character that he’s voiced. Nate also, in response to a question, (“Other than Craig, what other dad would you date in the game?), divulged that other than the player dad – and after jokingly asking “There are other dads?” – that he would date “Goth Dad”, aka, Damien.
And that’s that for this year’s HolMat report. We really enjoy this convention, and we love how much it’s grown in the last few years. It really is an experience like no other convention, but that’s just our opinion. Overall, Holiday Matsuri remains one of our favorite cons each year. Thank you to all of the staff, volunteers, and show runners who put in their all of provide an amazing weekend.