Sunday, August 3, 2014

Närcon 2014 Summary

THIS BLOG POST CONTAINS MAJOR TALES OF SYMPHONIA SPOILERS. IF YOU HAVEN'T COMPLETED THE GAME/READ THE MANGA/SEEN THE ANIMATION, THEN DON'T READ/SCROLL THIS POST! DON'T CARE? SCROLL AHEAD!

Närcon - Sweden's biggest and most famous con and probably the best con to many out there. This year however, I headed there with only Sacchan by my side from my usual con company. Everything for the con was already bought so there was nothing more to do for me than to wait for Sacchan's arrival at my place, buy some snacks for the trip, pack my luggage and have our planned Attack on Titan photoshoot at Shiro Samurai and Hasakitsuki's place a day before our departure to southern Sweden.

Alright then, I think we're all ready to move towards the con summary.

Wednesday (pre-Närcon)

Wednesday the 23rd July was the day when I and Sacchan took our luggages -we had surprisingly little stuff with us this time to the con- and headed out of my apartment and towards the bus station. At the bus station we took the Norrlands Kusten bus to Luleå where our Stockholm train awaited us, just like last year. Nothing worth mentioning happened on the bus and once at Luleå we dragged our stuff to the train station, boarded the right cart to Stockholm and somehow climbed our way up to our beds in the "room" we had. Yeah, we decided to take the sleeping cart place this time as the normal seat place in a night train is horrible especially if you have a hard time to fall asleep when it's noisy, like I have. I can remember all my seat place night train trips being more or less horrible and sleep deprived. Besides, the sleeping cart place was almost the same price as the seat place. In our "room" we had the beds highest up and it was sort of troublesome (mostly for Sacchan) when there wasn't any stairs to use to get down. Myself I'm quite "creative" so I try all sort of climbing ideas to get myself up. During the trip we wore casual clothing with Attack on Titan inspiration and the character wigs, so we didn't bother with full cosplay as the weather was toast. Our trip to Stockholm went quite fast according to me and it was nice, even if we didn't do much more than speak about the con, eat our snacks and chill. Oh oh one thing! According to our tickets we had to change trains at Gävle to reach Stockholm, but I asked the person who scanned our tickets if we could take the train to Stockholm directly and just skip the Gävle train to make it easier for us. Besides, I had a gut feeling that something with the Gävle train would screw up. It was absolutely fine with them as the price would still be the same. A couple of hours later I got a sms from SJ (the train company we traveled with) saying that the Gävle - Stockholm train we were meant to take had been cancelled. I smiled to myself when I got the text message and thanked my gut feeling. Now the train will take us straight to Stockholm, yiihoo!

~ Attention troops! ~

In this post I will write two lists of what I think was good and less-good about the con at the end of this summary and why my con opinion is as it is. This means that a few details from specific days will be listed at the end of this post along with my opinions about it, instead of being included during the actual day it happened.

Alright, with that being said let's move on to the actual con days.

Thursday

I don't remember exactly when I got up but I think it was around 08:00 and I played some Tales of the World: Radiant Mythology on my PSP until the clock was 10:00, then I decided to wake Mikasa-täti Sacchan up, as we would be in Stockholm around 11:00. Once at Stockholm we took our stuff and went to search for the area where the Närcon buses would be and depart. The Närcon bus would take congoers straight from either Stockholm or Göteborg to Närcon which is very nice and cheap. If you took the Närcon bus you wouldn't need to bother with a train to Linköping first and then a taxi to the con/hotel. We took one of the buses to the con and the bus was just like any other bigger bus featuring a toilet. Finally at the con we were looking for that expected, mega long con band line somewhere but to our positive surprise the con had a better idea than growing huge lines of people. This year Närcon had 4 con band stations -what I heard- spread out in different locations outside the con, where you could line up to get your ticket. This way, we got our tickets pretty fast and without problems. We searched for Psycho Cat -who we are gonna share the hotel room with- and once we found them, the three of us headed to the hotel to change to cosplays and to take shelter from the extreme heat. I think it was at least 27 degrees at this time during the day! Our hotel was 1,7 km away from the con -in other words, pretty close- so it wasn't that bad to walk there but the heat was almost unbearable! It was super nice when we finally reached the hotel and could take a cold shower, relax a bit after the journey, unpack our stuff and later head back to the con. The shower was the most desired thing at the hotel. I were a bit "meh" over that they didn't have a fridge or even a microwave, c'mon Scandic even the cheap Omenahotels in Finland have that kind of stuff! When everyone had their cosplays on for the day and were ready we walked back to the con. I cosplayed Suit!Levi and Sacchan was Wings of Counterattack!Mikasa Ackerman both from Attack on Titan and Psycho Cat cosplayed Kabuto Yakushi from Naruto.

 At the con I hanged around with my hotel company during the whole day and we checked the many Dealer's Hall rooms several times (the building is very confusing, it's like a maze especially the "shopping sector"). I saw some goods that I got interested in but I decided to observe as I had no money on me and I knew that the most stores don't take debit card. We didn't attend any panels or events that day either. Later, somewhere during the evening and forward I and Sacchan went to hang out with my good friends Prince and SilverRacoon. This year they had their close friend Kim with them who travelled all the way from America to Närcon and who was super fun and awesome! We grew quickly friends! I took some photos of a few cosplayers and things that I found nice during the day:

A bulletin near the cafeteria area with all the different kinds of Närcon's "good to know about" posters. Some were really nice! Explanation text in Swedish only!
My personal favorite poster.
School versions of Eren Yaeger, Armin Arlert and Mikasa Ackerman (Attack on Titan) feat. sunglasses!
The professor from The Powerpuff Girls! Nostalgia!
Finnish Armin Arlert and Bertolt Hoover (Attack on Titan) cosplayer.
Somewhere around 22:00 I think, I and Sacchan headed towards the hotel to have some sleep and we said goodnight to Prince, SilverRacoon and Kim and then we left. Psycho Cat had already left for the hotel earlier than us. By the way, I was toasting so much in my Suit!Levi cosplay and I don't even want to think about how warm it was for my Mikasa-chan!

Friday

Friday morning started with that our group of three got up and went to eat breakfast in the hotel that was included in the hotel price. The breakfast was good, I especially liked the mango yoghurt and the bread they had! With our tummies full we headed back to our room, lagged a bit and changed to our cosplays. My cosplay for Friday was Pre-Game!Kratos Aurion with Sacchan as Anna Irving both from Tales of Symphonia. Psycho Cat decided to be Kabuto again. Finally at the con after a toasting walk, we just walked around the con and went to check this one seller who sold fans, keychains, plushies and posters etc and I really wanted the Attack on Titan fan. Mainly because I really needed it in the warm con weather and it also had a cool design and c'mon I don't have a fan to start with! How am I supposed to survive the coming summer cons without one? I quickly realized when I stood in front of the seller that I didn't have any money on me -still only debit card- and it didn't hit to take out some when we were near the ATM (machine you take out paper money from). Psycho Cat was so kind to lend me enough for the fan and I promised to pay them back when I had the correct amount at hand before the con ended. Later during the day they wanted to hang with their own friends so we split up for the rest of the day. I and Sacchan went to find and wait for MangaRINer so that we could have our planned Aurion family time-fuck photoshoot as MangaRINer really wanted to cosplay Lloyd Irving (Tales of Symphonia) now when there actually was someone cosplaying the character's real parents namely - Kratos Aurion and Anna Irving. MangaRINer's friends both old and new -I think?- joined the small photoshoot and we had fun doing it and sharing photo ideas. I hope that I can get the photos from the later photoshoot as a memory. I grew quickly friends with one new friend of MangaRINer's who cosplayed as Veigue Lungberg from Tales of Rebirth. I and Sacchan spent a good chunk of time being with these people. At one point during the evening we went to watch the CMV contest that was a "warm-up" before the Hall Cosplay competition. We went to watch it mainly because MangaRINer and their friends made one of the CMV entries. Personally I think the first shown CMV was the best one but all were good, more or less. The funniest ones was the one my friends did and the one with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cosplayers. After the CMV contest we said goodnight to MangaRINer and their company as they went to sleep. We went to spend the rest of the evening together with Prince, SilverRacoon and Kim again. We had a blast! Here is some photos from Friday:

World of Warcraft cosplayers? I'm not sure but their costumes were amazing!
The Närcon grill this year, it had changed location from the previous year. The grill was on the road leading to the con's main sleeping accommodation place (read: classrooms).
Beauty and the Beast cosplayers! My second favorite Disney movie! <3
Bowser with his Princess Peach harem! I loved the originality of this idea! xD
Heisuke Tōdō from Hakuōki: Shinsengumi Kitan.
Just a picture from the beginning of the CMV contest.
Saturday

Saturday was perhaps our most awaited day as the Tales of Gathering were on this day and I had been looking forward to meet all the people from last year's Närcon. We got up around 08:00 I think, had breakfast like usual and changed to our Tales of Symphonia cosplays, in a bit of a hurry. I cosplayed Kratos Aurion and Sacchan rolled with Sheena Fujibayashi. Once with our cosplays on, Sacchan helped Psycho Cat with their Amaimon (Blue Exorcist) cosplay nails and then we left for the con as we had a meet to catch. When we were almost at the con I picked up my phone and we realized that we were too late for the first meet at 11:00 so we had to aim to be there on the one at 12:00 instead. Inside the con, we took a look around if there was any Tales of cosplayers around but there wasn't so we decided to take a quick look at this one Dealer's Hall seller's stuff who sold the most interesting stuff -according to both of us- before it was time for the second meet. We had barely time to check the merchandises before Sacchan pointed at the clock and asked if the second meet was supposed to be 12:00. I said it was and then we hurried back to the main area and there was -almost- all the other Tales of cosplayers waiting. We went to secure our spots and a lot of congoers took our photos (we were around 20+ cosplayers just like last year) and when all the photographing was done, I thought it was the perfect time to pick a chat with some of the peeps from last year. But as soon as I turned around and was ready to hit a chat all of the other Tales of cosplayers -except for Prince and MangaRINer's friends- had left! You bet if I felt "meh" afterwards! I mean, I've been looking forward to meet these peeps again and I didn't even get a chance to speak with them after picking up my stuff and preparing myself mentally. Laaaaame *cough*

After the "meet" I and Sacchan went back to that same seller and if I remember right she bought this one Colossal Titan (Attack on Titan) mask for shit and giggles and later during the day I bought two Hakuōki figurines, one for Shiro Samurai and the other one for Hasakitsuki, they will pay me back for it later. I also got a free Teepo (Tales of Xillia) magnet from one of the Namco Bandai workers at the con, it was the only freebie that I wanted from what they had. Somewhere around 13:00-14:00 I think, I went to have my "yearly talk" with MangaRINer that both of us had been looking really forward to. I had a really nice time talking with them and I knew they had as well. When we were done talking they returned to their friends and I went to find Sacchan. Sacchan told me that the Sheena cosplay had made her breathing uncomfortable so we decided to head to the hotel to take a small break, despite having our legs and backs hurting pretty much from all the walking. Also, some of the knuckle details from my Kratos cosplay had came off and disappeared during the meet and I felt I needed a break too. Oh and I needed to take out some money too! We headed towards our hotel and along the way the rubber band on my left Kratos shoe snapped. Great, now I really had a reason to change cosplays. At the hotel I changed to casual Levi and Sacchan to casual Mikasa Ackerman and I must say that it felt great to have an easy cosplay on after going as Kratos half day! Back at the con we spent the rest of the evening hanging with Prince, SilverRacoon and Kim, ate at McDonald's which was near the con area -there wasn't anything else nearby- and missed the Tales of Panel's beginning time by a sliver, nooooes! We had planned to watch it and both of our friend groups were participating in it and I heard afterwards that it was hilarious! Luckily it was recorded, so we will see it someday, yaay! At late evening Sacchan felt like turning into a titan and make some funny things when wearing the Colossal Titan mask (I took photos of course!) and go plot twist! Colossal Titan!Mikasa! Nah, just kidding!

Anyway, we had fun in our casual Attack on Titan cosplays and later we went outside to try one of the new fruity drinks that Närcon had this year from Josbaren - the Charmander drink. If I remember right it had mango, raspberry and orange or something like that in it. It was pretty cool but it didn't beat the Super Mario drink according to me. During the day I ran into some familiar faces like Arche (our Raine from last year), Mighty, Sabi etc and I was glad to get all my affairs done during that day and Friday. Here is the Saturday photos, peeps!



That Colossal Titan though! xD
The "sweet corner" at the main building. Pretty popular, always people there.
Glassbaren (ice cream bar) and the Josbaren (fruity drink bar) in the same tent.
Waluigi! <3 from Super Mario.
Before we headed to sleep for the day we ran into a Levi and Eren Yaeger cosplayer and Sacchan wanted to have a photo with them as Colossal Titan!Mikasa feat. my mop. We arrived at the hotel almost the same time as Psycho Cat. We spoke a bit with each other before we headed to bed.

Sunday

The last con day and I didn't even feel as laggy as I use to on Sundays. I guess that's a good thing? We got up from our cozy beds, had breakfast and then we changed to our Sunday cosplays. It was interesting for me to put on Dio's bandage for the first time -he has only one eye so I need to cover my left one- as I had no clue how feels to only be able to see with one eye, I didn't see through the bandage. But it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be and neither did it cause me any kind of headache in the length. With the cosplay on (no makeup) and the bandage over my left eye -I later found out that I should have covered the right one- I was done. I cosplayed Dio and Sacchan cosplayed as Aya Drevis both from Mad Father. We were excited to cosplay these two characters because during the other days we had seen two other cosplayers from Mad Father namely Aya and Alfred Drevis, Aya's father. So we were really hoping that we would run into them during the day! The con ended 16:00 and we didn't really go anywhere or checked anything as we decided to leave our luggage at the main entrance together with Prince, SilverRacoon and Kim's luggage. It was this spot where many congoers had left their luggages for a quick and easy access to it later when leaving the con. No one of us could be bothered to line up at the mega long line to the Garderoben and pay a small sum for storing them there. When we had our stuff near the entrance we had this thing that at least one of us had to stay and watch the stuff if anyone wanted/needed to go somewhere. This was no problem as there was always someone who didn't feel like going anywhere. While waiting at the entrance these other Mad Father cosplayers almost passed us by, before we waved at them and told them to come to us as we really wanted a group photo. They were happy to see other people cosplaying from the game and expected themselves to be the only ones, lolnope!

We chatted with Prince, SilverRacoon and Kim until the clock was somewhere around 14:30 and then we all had to head to our respective departure areas to later get home. But before we had to leave I got the promised Attack on Titan boots from Prince for free (thank you so muuuch, really! <3) which was his old ones that he could give away as he had bought new, better and more comfortable ones to himself. After this I and Sacchan went to change back to normal gear and I took my chance to try out the new boots. The ones I've been using during the whole con started to really hurt so I was glad having a change of boots! Okay, having the newly received boots on was like balsam for the toes as they were singing Hallelujah in unison! I cut it right to the core - they were easily my most comfortable cosplay shoes ever! So comfortable that I almost didn't want to take them off during the train trip back home! With both of us in normal gear and back at the main entrance, it was time to say goodbye to Prince, SilverRacoon and Kim and oh dang I'm gonna miss you guys so freaking much! We followed them outside, gave our final hugs to each other and went separate ways. I and Sacchan spent the last con minutes by waiting at the line for the Närcon bus to take us to Stockholm. There was nothing really interesting on the way back home it was pretty much the same as the way down to Närcon. But we enjoyed our trip back home despite having our train being 4 hours and 30 minutes late. Oh well, shit happens!

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Alright. Now when the main Närcon day summaries are behind it's time for my opinion post about the good and the less-good things during the con. Let's start!

Good:

+ The variety of merchandise. For the first time -according to me- it felt like that the sellers sold different stuff compared to the previous years. But overall, there was only one store selling t-shirts, another focusing on figurines, a third on contact lenses etc. Keep this up!

+ New drinks in Josbaren & Glassbaren. Not only one but at least 3-4! Great!

+ Artist's Alley got an own building with lots of space and one that actually was comfy to visit and not crowded, despite the amount of people there. Good location hence a bit far from the main building.

+ The line system this year to get the con band was super smooth! Närcon had fixed more than one station where congoers could scan their tickets to get their con bands. With this system Närcon can leave the old-fashioned "it's-taking-forever" ticket line behind. Awesome!

Bad:

- The whole con atmosphere, seriously. I couldn't feel the con hype like the past years, the majority of the congoers felt somehow annoyed or something and it was more like a zombie apocalypse edition this year.

- That the Kårallen house was for crew people only this year. Yeah, I can understand it being closed during a competition after that it has started and all but why have it closed this year when the closest ATM is there? Närcon should know that many congoers spends a lot of money at cons, runs out of it and needs to take out more somewhere. Want to sell? Make it as easy as possible for the congoers to take it out somewhere - preferably as close to the con area as possible. This year the closest ATM was at Hemköp -so far I know- about 1,7 kms away from the con area. So who wants to travel with hurting feet and legs, uncomfortable shoes, hurting backs and other body parts in a toasting weather for 1,7 kms raise your hand! Do you see any hands up? Personally, I would only go that distance with hurting body parts if I really, really had to (read: for example if a cosplay broke).

- The overall information and lack of direction signs. Alright, not only was the atmosphere bad but so was seemingly the information of the con too according to how it felt and what I heard from friends. I feel lucky at least knowing that I got accurate answers about the Närcon bus when it was time to head back. Apart from this, it feels like the con was just a mess. I heard from friends of mine who asked for help and no one knew anything what was going on and directed them to the wrong people/place. Neither did people really bother speaking English with them which really annoyed my friends (they're not Swedish). I also missed out interesting activities like the Cosplay Board Games' Cosplay Chess (sure, I heard what time it was but were was it?), the food festival and the vattenkrig (water war) game that I heard afterwards was one of the con's highlights. When I and my hotel friends were heading for the camping area once, there wasn't a single sign along the way stating if we even were on the right track. This is especially important if Närcon plans to aim at being an International con and have guests and visitors outside of Sweden. Make sure that there is proper signs in English -at least- clearly marking and showing what is going on, where and when! Oh and please keep the programs in Swedish and English too. All of them. Be a good image Närcon! I want you to be it not only for the con but for the sake of Sweden's con reputation too! Närcon is the biggest and most famous con in Sweden, remember? So make sure that it lives up to it too! ;)

- Organization. The con just felt very unorganized and unfinished somehow compared to previous years, like that it slipped out of the hands of the crew and organizers. I'm now going after what my friends told me and felt and partly from my own experience. Personally I think Närcon took a too big step to increase the amount of visitors from around 4500 to 7000 in just one year. One year. This big increase really needs proper planning and I felt it was here where the con and its information fell short. It would be wiser to take a small increase of visitors each year and see how it rolls, if good by all means make it bigger. But make sure that all the details and administration stuff works according to the con's size too!

- The food. I have read and heard that Närcon had planned to increase their amount of food variations. Sure they did, but was it good? No. Even McDonald's was better compared to what the con had from own and friends experience again. Cheaper, better and faster. I had one of my friend's Creams telling me how dry and tasteless the Närcon grill burgers was. I wish Närcon really does something about this in the future. Food is an essential part of staying healthy and have the energy to be active at the con.

I guess that covers it up. I also thought about skipping Närcon for a few years and see were it's going. The con is getting more expensive and at the same time less-good -in my opinion- right now. In the length if Närcon stays or keeps it up like this, I'm gonna leave it be and visit other cons unless Närcon either gets that amazing Guest of Honor that I really don't want to miss or changes to the better. But yeah, I will observe for now and see what happens and read others' stories about future Närcons. When living in northern Sweden it's expensive to travel south and Finland's cons overall are just so much better organized than Närcon was this year. They are also much cheaper both con and travel wise, learn from Finland big brother. I'm sad that I won't see my friends for a while but I'm sure we can solve this somehow. Oh and I also figured along with some friends and Sacchan at the con that if I go to Närcon in the future, it would be wiser to take the train to Helsinki first, then the boat over to Stockholm and if Creams and her friend can give us a ride to Närcon straight from Stockholm, it will be worth it. Also considering other options.

That's all I have to say about Närcon this year and I'm honestly more disappointed than satisfied with it and I don't know what I would do there without Prince or MangaRINer and their friends. These peeps deserve a "Best company of the year" medals for simply being an amazing company during all the days.

Thank you for reading and I'm out.

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See a photo of yourself in this post? Want it? Just send me a mail and I will send the photo to you in its original size! My mail address is MercenaryKratos@gmail.com. You can also contact me if you took my photo during the con.

Frozen Angel out.

5 comments:

  1. Närcon was really disappointing this year. Good thing that great company made it up <3 ;_;

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  2. It's pretty ridiculous that even though one would live in the very far north of Sweden *coughlikeuscough* it's still cheaper to take the train to Helsinki and then take, for example, one of the Silja Line ships to Stockholm (and have a ride to Linköping by the con bus or something, maybe) than what it is to just travel with train and bus through Sweden to Linköping. Then again for the Silja Line you would need to be at least 2, preferably 3 or 4 persons and share the cost of the cheapest cabin (C cabins) and make sure you depart on a day when the ship prices are on the lower end.

    But yeah, it's pretty disappointing to read that Närcon took a turn for the worse compared to earlier years. :( I wasn't there as you know but I've heard here and there that several others didn't have the best experience either - especially with the food being disappointing, lack of information, hard to find some places, too long distances to walk and time wasted to get from place A to B (especially annoying with cumbersome cosplays) etc. I heard that Närcon was undermanned (not enough workers) and that that was one of the main reasons things got out of their hands and no one knew shit about anything etc. But yeah, I hope Närcon will turn towards the better and gather itself for the next years.. I still want to attend the con in the future again but I don't want to have a disappointing experience because well, it's not a cheap ride to get there. At all.

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    1. Agreed, we should at least consider that if Närcon later turns out to the better. No fun paying a lot and then get a semi-meh con. At least I had an amazing company to make up for it though.

      I really hope that they do something about it, if many people were disappointed!

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  3. PROFESSORI UTONIUM HOLYMOTHERFUCKINGOD!
    Tästä tulee melkeen tippa linssiin siitä ettei meijän oma Tehari-ryhmmä koskaan onnistunu kunnolla >:

    Harmi että con oli pettymys >: Ois kiva käyä Närconissa joku kerta, mut empä tiä jos tollai on. Palautetta vaan conille menemää nii eiköhä se kuulla!
    Hassua että teille ois halvempaa tulla Helsingin kautta :'D Laivassa tosin on se huono juttu, että just et tarvii väh 3-4 ihmistä kaveriks ja sit et kaikkien pitää olla täysikäsiä, Viikkarilla must ikäraja on 21, muuten pitää olla huoltaja/valvoja mukana

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    1. Aaw, no Utonium oli kyllä aikamoinen "I didn't see that one coming!" cossi meikälle myös ^^

      Joo, ymmärän. Ja pistin niile palautetta menemään myös (ne lähetti semoisen Survey juttun conin jälkeen). Kiitos laiva tiedosta! Ja onhan se outoa kun on halvempi lähteä Suomen ja meren kautta Etelä Ruotsiin kun junalla suoraan pohjoisesta etelään.:D

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