This marks my third time attending Anime Weekend Atlanta and each time I’ve been to this event I’ve enjoyed it immensely and gotten so much out of it. This time was different, but only because I got far more out of this event than the incredible experiences I’ve had before. Not only did it feature a lot of the stuff I loved from the previous times I’ve been here but this year added something with incredible emotional depth. This event featured panels that celebrated the life of the late and great Billy Kametz a voice actor who was beloved by many. The addition of this celebration elevated the emotional gravity of the entire event to a level unlike anything I’ve ever seen before, and perhaps unlike anything I will ever see again.
Considering the circumstances I want to save everything involved with the celebration of Billy to the end of the review and I’ll instead start with guests. The guest list was incredible as always. AWA has had an incredible amount of success in finding amazing talent to bring to the area and oftentimes talent that is hard to find in the general area. Most of the people I met at this event were those that I never expected to be able to meet without paying for expensive flights but Atlanta is close enough to home I can drive to which makes it so much better for me. Plus it had some of my favorite actors like Chris Hackney who voices Dimitri in Fire Emblem: Three Houses and as many of you know I am a Blue Lions without question. I will say this though the event kind of dropped the ball with communication regarding the guests. I finally got to meet Bryson Baugus, the voice of Bell in Danmachi, for the first time but he was only recently added to the event’s website and no mention was made of him or a few other actors on their social media pages which I found to be odd since that was a huge miss on the convention’s part to not market who would be there.
Unlike most events, I went to a lot of panels at this convention and I mean a lot of panels. Concerts, Q&A panels, trivia, etc. This convention had about six or seven things to do at any given time so more often than not we were able to find something to do at all times. If we didn’t find a panel we wanted to go to we found games going on like Werewolf to pass the time. There was no shortage of things to do and lots of fandoms were represented. I went to panels about My Hero Academia, Sailor Moon, Love Live, Fire Emblem, Danmachi, and a lot more. There really was a little something for everyone here. I even got to play some games and had a great time getting to know some of the other attendees. Overall I liked most of the panels I went to but there were a couple I probably could have liked more. The only real issue panel-wise was the internet as some of the panels were interactive via a wifi connection which was virtually non-existent at this convention.
Next, I’ll talk about the vendors. I really enjoyed shopping here as it had one of my favorite vendors, Colorworld, and a lot of great options. However, sadly it repeated the same problem it had last year where it was just cramped when shopping so I’m sure there was a lot that I missed while walking around, but this time it wasn’t just artist ally that was crowded but the entire area and this was the case for the entire weekend. While the selection is amazing a few fewer vendors to make more room would make a big difference, even the vendors themselves told me this. Even so, I managed to get a lot of merch like art, and T-shirts. I even found both seasons of one of my favorite Gundam animes Gundam 00.
While I’ve mentioned a couple of flaws this event had those were relatively minor, but these next two are fairly significant in my opinion. The first is the registration issues. The pre-reg lines were so massive the fire marshal had to come in and cap the lines which is something I’ve only ever seen at two other events, both of which were plagued with severe management issues. Now I opted for badge mailing which was a huge relief as it saved me a lot of hassle but my friend did not and spent about an hour in line and we got there really early on Friday. I understand that this event wants to enforce covid safety regulations but if they are going to do that they need to plan methods that keep the lines moving to avoid this problem as it went on for most of the weekend. The second problem I briefly mentioned already but it was their communication issues. Several guests did not have any kind of official announcement from the convention itself, the covid policies were missed by a lot of attendees due to similar problems and it caused several issues that really could have been avoided with some notifications either via Twitter or Instagram. I got the impression something happened to make this year more challenging than normal but I really don’t have the information to understand what happened here.
Now onto the Billy Kametz celebration. The first event was a smash brothers panel where fans got to play against voice actors which was something Billy would do at events he attended. I got to play Smash Brothers with Chris Hackney, Bill Butts, and Tony Oliver while Kyle Mccarly moderated and it was one of the best convention experiences I’ve ever had. I’m still in awe of how much fun I had and I’m sure many other fans felt the same way. The second event was a celebration of life for Billy and it features several emotional stories from different guests. The panel featured snips of Billy’s work in various mediums such as his work in Persona 5 Royal, Fire Emblem, Rising of the Shield Hero, and his on-stage work in Aladdin. Several voice actors and members of Billy’s family spoke and gave really heartfelt speeches about their time with Billy and it drove the speakers and the attendees to tears. The way the panel hit the feels the hardest was at the end when they used a video of Billy to say goodbye and that was it there wasn’t a dry eye in the audience. It was a very beautiful experience.
Overall AWA once again held an event with a lot to do and incredible people to meet. The vendors, panels, and guests were all top notch and there was no shortage of things to do. Some things were not done as well as they should have been such as the pre-reg line and overall communication with the fans which is a very unusual problem as this was the first time I’ve seen this happen at AWA, but hopefully, these problems remain exclusive to this year. The celebration for Billy was incredible in every way and elevated the emotional impact of this event to a level I’ve never experienced before, but given the circumstances, one I hope will not be needed again for a very long time. I’m considering going back again in 2023 but if I do I’ll plan earlier to get the host hotel and save on the driving to and from the hotel because that got a little tedious.
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