Merchandise. MetroCon never fails to provide a great vendor selection. Specialized product sellers were easily embedded among variety sellers. Whether one was looking for figs, body pillows, blu-rays, plushes, manga, wigs, or cosplay, it could probably be found. I was surprised to find that none of the vendors sold wig caps, though. Pro tip: even if you’re not a wig seller, corner that market. The only area in which I was a little disappointed in terms of merchandise offering was Dojinshi. This is presumably because MetroCon is marketed as a family-friendly con, and didn’t want materials like that on display (though this theory conflicts with some of the figures and body pillows readily available for a child’s eyes).
Artist Alley. Fan Favorite, Newsha Gashemi had a booth in the Alley this year. Unfortunately, the booth appeared to remain unstaffed for the bulk of the weekend, but fans were able to purchase her work on the final day, or also pick up a card to order online. Art quality, as well as size of Artist Alley at MetroCon is outstanding in comparison to many other cons. Wow, Tampa!
Organization. Crowd control and badge monitoring have always been strengths of MetroCon staff and volunteers. The downfall of the organization comes with events. Seldom do events at MetroCon start on time, and this year was no exception. It’s generally a safe plan to assume one will be in line 15 minutes (minimum ) longer than anticipated when expecting to attend a special event.
Metro Massive (the Rave) is another standout component of MetroCon every year. With high-quality DJs and an even higher quality crowd, it never fails to disappoint. I should also add that security is especially effective.
Masquerade Ball. To our dismay, the Masquerade Ball was somewhat of a disappointment this year. Though the story was relatively compelling, there were regular technical issues, and whomever chose the music had a strange talent for choosing songs that are hard to casually dance to. The other issue with the masquerade this year was the lax expectations for wardrobe. Previously, admission could not be achieved without a mask and some form of relatively formal attire. This year it seemed to be a free-for-all. Normally, I wouldn’t care about wardrobe at an event like this, but I presume if someone is willing to pay extra for an event like this, they’d be willing to put in the effort to meet a dress code. It seems communication with attendees was lost on that end.
Chess Match. This years chess match exceeded expectations. It featured a dramatic face-off between Saber, the King of Knights from Fate/Stay Night and Dracula, the Immortal King of Night. Guest star characters included favorites/least favorites like Itachi Uchiha from “Naruto”, Geralt from “The Witcher”, Excalibuer from “Soul Eater”, and the dreaded Shou Tucker from “Fullmetal Alchemist”. The Chess Match really stole the show this year.
Panels. Metro saw a scarcity of panels this year it seems. Though it appeared to have variety and Quality, the schedule was filled with unused time. The schedule entirely lacked 18+ content, correlating with the family-friendly ideology Metro wishes to portray. Of the panels we managed to attend, Disney/Anime Sing-Along and Vic Mignogna’s Q&A stood out the most.
Venue. Held at the Tampa Convention Center, MetroCon seems to fit like a glove. The convention center is not so crowded that one cannot get where they want to go, but it also isn’t a gaping empty labrynth when one is searching for their next panel room. I would have liked to see the con utilize the rooms with more panels by shortening the gaps between panel sessions, though I understand the lack of panels is not entirely up to the con staff themselves, but up to what fans and potential panelists bring to the table. Regarding the actual attendance of the con, the Convention Center was the perfect fit.
Attendee Climate. The general draw of MetroCon tended to fall on a lower average age than many other conventions. This is presumably due to the lack of 18+ content panels in the evening as well as the absence of con-promoted room-parties (another common adult feature that many cons choose to allow). Because of this, aside from many teens and 20-somethings, we also saw a favorite attendee archetype: The Parent. Expect to receive a photo with a tween or two taken by their parent if you attend MetroCon. No shame in Mom or Dad coming along at all, of course. After all, the next generation of Otaku is upon us!