Tora-Con 2019: The Fifteenth...ening

So, this past weekend, my wife, my son, and I went to Tora-Con 2019, sponsored by the RIT Anime Club, down the road from us at the Rochester Institute of Technology. This made our fourth time attending the convention, and I wanted to do a brief write-up of my experiences.

2019 was the fifteenth Tora-Con. What started in the mid-2000s as a 1-day convention that was “big” when it had a few hundred people attending is now a 2-day (plus Friday evening early badge pickup), capped-at-3000-attendees, no registrations at the door, Event.

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As I noted above, this was our fourth time attending, and possibly our busiest con (in terms of how much we went to) since our first. Having several years’ experience, however, it wasn’t as bad as that first year’s running back and forth. Even better, I wasn’t in a wheelchair this year, so we weren’t limited to how fast my wife could push me around the campus, or figuring out where the elevators/wheelchair lifts were hidden.

Friday, March 22: The Zeroth Day

We left for Rochester Friday afternoon, to get there in time to check in to our hotel, get dinner, and get to the Friday Early Badge Pickup session. I took off work a little early, and my wife had dropped me off at work in the morning, and then picked me up from there directly, so we could get right on the highway. The drive was fine, until a nice little snowstorm made things interesting for the last 20 minutes or so of the drive. Fortunately, it was over by the time we got to dinner, and was just getting going again as we left badge pickup.

This year being the 15th year, the Con had changed from badges that were paper slips inside plastic holders, to the sturdier cardboard style you can see in the header image. Sadly, the special lanyards that they were supposed to have didn’t make it in in time, so they had to scramble at the last minute for a backup plan. I like the new badge style, although I was a little worried if the top of the badge would hold up and not tear out at the hole.

Saturday, March 23: The First Day

This year, we started our con days a little early, as we wanted to make the annual Con AMV contest’s Saturday 9am showing. Typically on Saturdays, my wife and son cosplay (you can see some of their past works in my previous article). This year was no different. My son’s current favorite show is Yokai Watch, so he went as Nate, while my wife went as Nate’s Mom. Personally, I’m more of an anime tshirts guy, so that’s what I did, wearing a new Love Detective Chika tshirt from Kaguya-sama: Love is War.

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We managed to drag ourselves out, grab breakfast from the Tim Horton’s drive thru, and get to the AMV Contest. There were some really good, really fun entries, although sadly they were having some technical difficulties with some of them. A playlist of most of them is below.

Being a convention hosted by a student organization, there are quite a few “amateur” (e.g., students/locals, not necessarily reflective of their quality) hosted panels, meetups, etc., as well as events like the AMV contest, anime screenings, a maid cafe, the Cosplay Contest, Cosplay Chess, and the Cosplay Dating Game, but there are also plenty of guests.

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This year, amongst others, they had English VAs Kristen McGuire, Brian Beacock, Matt Shipman, and Brittany Lauda, as well as the late-announced (literally days before the Con), last guest announcement, Dandy himself, Ian Sinclair. We went to one of the panels with Matt and Brittany (who are married), ostensibly about their roles in the Darling in the Franxx dub (which I haven’t seen), but about VA stuff in general.

One of the big things Tora-Con has is a ‘proper’ Vendors’ Hall and Artists’ Alley. I’ve heard stories of them having to tuck them into cafeterias and classrooms in the past, but at this stage, they’re able to put them both in the big gym in RIT’s Gordon Field House. There are plenty of vendors, with one of the biggest (if not the biggest) sections being reserved for local store (and OG friend of the Anime Club/alum) Hammergirl Anime. Returning for the I don’t know how many-th year in Artists’ Alley were the Chalk Twins, who do anime art in chalk, including a LARGE piece that they work on during the con itself:

This year’s Chalk Twins Con piece
Photo: Chalk Twins
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This year, several of the VAs had some merch tables with signings, which, despite being limited timing, was (IMO) better than the ‘open’ signing period, as it was easier to get to them (the regular signings tend to have to be limited as there are too many people for the time available).

I almost bought Kristen McGuire signed merch (I couldn’t decide, and she was packing up stuff at her table - she actually saw me looking and was like “I don’t bite!” which was cool, but I think I’d only caught her in one thing.)

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However, what I *did* get Saturday afternoon was a signed Dandy print from Ian Sinclair. He seemed to really like that besides Dandy of course, one of my favorite roles of his was Koiwai from Recovery of an MMO Junkie.

In addition to the English VAs who attended, the biggest guest I was excited for was Japanese singer Eri Sasaki, who performed “Fuyu Biyori”, the ED for Yuru Camp, one of my absolute favorites from last year.

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Eri was scheduled for a concert Saturday night, and another one Sunday. We managed to get into the Saturday night concert, which was great. Not only did she sing “Fuyu Biyori” (as well as several other of her anime and non-anime songs), she also sang a part of the Yuru Camp OST as well, the “Yuru Camp Theme”.

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(Sorry for the crap quality, it was all my phone in the dark from rows back.)

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At the end of the concert, Eri did some Q&A, and then they had a drawing based on tickets handed out for autographs. While I didn’t get that, they also had some photos of her that she had pre-signed, I *did* get lucky enough to have my ticket pulled for that.

After the concert, we went to my son’s favorite (annual) panel, “What the Hell Happens Next?”, where the host finds some obscure stuff with weird situations, where he’ll play a part, and then pause the video, and present multiple choices as to what happens next.

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After a long day, we went to a local bar & grill for dinner, and finally all crashed way late into bed.

Sunday, March 24: The Second Day 

Once again, we had an early panel we wanted to make, this time at 8:30am. Combined with needing to check out of the hotel, we all got moving again, and got out in time, with yet another Timmy’s drive thru breakfast to be consumed while waiting in line for our first panel. No cosplay today, so it was anime tshirts for all of us. My wife found a great shirt online, and she and I each got one, while my son got one she found at the store.

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Our shirts say “Service with a Smile!” with the Legendary Yamada Tae (best girl) on them, while my son’s says “Pokemon Trainer”

The tshirts were appropriate for the first panel, which was supposed to be people in character as Franchouchou from Zombieland Saga, doing dancing and Q&A and so forth. Sadly, they didn’t really do any dancing before we left for a 9:30 Q&A panel with VA Ian Sinclair that was hilarious and free-ranging.

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Having made Saturday’s Eri Sasaki concert, I didn’t worry about Sunday’s, and we instead made a last visit to the Vendor Room, and picked up a bunch of stuff.

My stuff: Rem and Rin Nesoberis, the Ian Sinclair signed Dandy print (“Stay Dandy Baby”), and the Eri Sasaki signed photo. Not shown: My son’s Kyouko Nesoberi
Photo: Self
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I got two Nesoberis, Rem and Rin Tohsaka (actually, I’d gotten Rem the day before, but went back for another neso when my son did), and my son got Kyouko from Madoka Magica.

After the Vendor Room, and a brief snack, we attended one of the panels (about Youkai in popular culture) put on by guest group The Manly Battleships. We went to a few last panels, and then, on our way out of town, stopped for that most Rochester of traditions, a last garbage plate with friends:

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All in all, it was a great time, and I’m hoping we’ll be able to make it back next year. (They’ve already announced March dates for it, so we’ll have to see about scheduling, and once again worry about weather.)

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