I'm far from being a local con attendee; I'd even venture to guess I was the most far away person present, this including the Japanese guests of honor and two girls of Scotland. I live in Finland and I have come to enjoy the USA anime convention scene, so I try to attend to a con per year, seeing as that is as much as is even distantly possible finantially for a university student. Last year I went to Anime Expo, due to their choise of guests and this year I wanted something a bit better organized and friendly. I had had very good experience with Nan Desu Kan previously and it had been one of my favourite cons by far, so I was happy to return there. However, this year I was let down and disappointed by the organizing of the costume and cosplay event to the point where I don't see myself returning to NDK again.
I love cosplay and the cosplay&costume contest is always the highlight of any con I go to. Regardless of guests or programs, I have come to count on the con being worth it because of the cosplay. Two years ago, when I was at NDK the previous time, I participated in the costume contest with no problems and was looking forward to part-taking again. My local friend, whom with I was, works in the dealer's room and I had agreed to help her out with her booth, since the dealer's room can be quite hectic at times. Over an hour before the costume&cosplay contest sign up, we went to talk to the information booth in the dealer's room and they said they didn't know anything and send us to ops for more information.
Anyone who has worked at the dealers' room knows that it can get quite crazy and overhelming for a single person to handle, so we were hoping that we wouldn't need to stand in line for the costume&cosplay contest. After checking with the ops for what time the cosplay&costume contest sign up would start, we explained our situation to them and they assured us that since we were dealers, it would be certainly ok for us to just stop by when the signing up began and not have to stand in line for over an hour. With relieved and reassured state of mind, we went back to help provide the other con attendees with their much desired merchandise.
At the correct time, my friend went to sign us up, but rather soon returned saying that the cosplay sign up stuff had refused to do so. I was baffled and upset and we got a friend of ours to mind the booth as we run to try to sort this out. We pleaded our case, explaining how we were dealers, how we had been told by the ops that we could do this, how if we had been told we need to line up, we would had found a way to do despite its inconvience and would had been first in line, how I was from Finland... and we got the cold shoulder. The volunteer staff was sympathetic but the head of cosplay&costume, who had the ultimate say, refused to do anything and told us we should had signed up online if we wanted to make sure.
I have now looked at the online cosplay&costume sign up. Neither of us had really *noticed* the online sign up possibility before (which we also explained), but we were told it was "very clearly there". It is indeed stated at the end of the costume&cosplay rules, but we really had not seen any real obvious reason to go read the rules through carefully, since we have done this before and there had not been big notices of changes. We did notice the big news box "Cosplay Competition Signup is LIVE!", since we did keep frequent eye on the page and the forums due to our dealer status, but that news refers to only *cosplay competition*, which we had learned in our previous NDK costuming times means solely the cosplay contest and not the *costume* contest, which is what we wanted.
However, none of that really matters, because we *could not have* signed up even if we had understood from the vaque information that we should do it. The online sign-up was only available for people who have pre-registrated as individuals, which we had not since we were, as mentioned before, dealers. Dealers badges do not have our names or anything, just the store we represent. All this means is that we were told we should have done something that was not made available or possible for us and since we had not done this impossible thing, it was our own fault.
I don't really have words to explain how shocked, upset and disappointed I was. I broke down crying right there and my friend had to guide me back to our room. On our way, we run into several con attendees as well as staff members, who expressed their concern over me. We told them the situation and all of them very really shocked. They all told us that surely if we explained the situation, there could be some arrangements made and they were even more shocked and clearly felt bad for us, when we said we had explained and had gotten such rude response. One of the staff members told us that maybe we should go to the ops to get them to help us plead our case, since they did give us the misinformation and maybe them confirming that would help. We were desperate, so we went to get one of the ops, who helpfully did come with us and did confirm our story, but it was still to no avail. Nothing we said or did got any other reply than "too bad, sucks to be you".
To sum it all up: we were not given an actual chance to sign up ahead online, we were given misinformation on how to go about it and were denied the chance to enter the costume contest, added with more misinformation given with a superior attidute (of how we should had signed online if we wanted to assure getting in).
Also, I feel the type of attidute we encountered from the cosplay staff head, of seeing con-goers as inferior is especially inappropriate when it comes to costume and cosplay contest. It is one of the most popular events of the con and the very point of that event is created by con-goers themselves; the cosplayers. With most events, the superiority of the staff could be understandable, if still inappropriate, when it is events that the staff has created for the con-goers to enjoy. Costume and cosplay contest however are created and made possible just as much by the con-goers, so looking down on them is just baffling.
As I said, I love cosplay and it is always the highlight of my con. This time that highlight was totally ruined and destroyed. After the way we had been threated, added to the depression of not being able to do the contest that I had planned for half a year, I could not even find it in me to go as audience. When you spend 1300 dollars on plane tickets alone, having the main event of your con experience be denied in fashion such as this and with such rudeness was a huge blow and disappointment.
I am also not upset simply because of the loss I experienced in making the bad decision of putting so much time and money into attending to NDK, but because the type of cold, inflexible and superior way that we were threated was something no rule-abiding con-goer should have to face. Even if it had not been me, I feel that the cosplay&costume high-ups should had actually tried to be helpful, especially since our situation was purely due to being misinformed by official con staff. Making extra special case of taking an extra entry surely would not had bumbed the schedule that askew or even taking us into the line, since that is where we would had been if we had been told correct info. Had I been in the line and someone with our situation had showed up, I'd been upset if I didn't fit, but would had felt it was the fair way to go. I feel at the very least they should had taken up our information for a possible cancelation slot, in case there somehow turned out to be room.
The rest of my experiences with NDK have still been very positive and I would like to add my thanks and praise to the wonderful people who made those other events and general order. I'd also like to thank all the other con attendees who were nice and friendly; especially the ones I met in my crushed state. However, with how important cosplay is to me, that single rude, unfriendly and unreasonable experience very nearly ruined the whole con for me and I cannot see myself taking that risk with NDK again, as sad as it makes me.