It’s been a long time since I’ve been to any anime events. While I’ve visited plenty of gaming conventions or comic cons with anime as I’ve written about before, the last actual anime event I’ve been to might’ve been Amecon 2004, almost 20 years back now. My return is long overdue, so I thought I’d check out Birmingham Anime and Gaming Con, run by AnimeLeague.
A Community Convention
Birmingham Anime and Gaming Con is a relatively small convention, even if it’s so packed that you can barely move at times. That said, it has all of the normal convention mainstays. There’s cosplay, stage shows, panel talks, vendors, an artist alley, and gaming. It’s only one of the events they run, with there being Bristol, Manchester, Glasgow, London, and several more versions being held.
Perhaps because it’s a local event or that there’s a forum and Discord community attached, it felt like more of a community event in some ways. I saw quite a few groups meeting up, people taking their families along and quite a friendly vibe overall. Perhaps since it’s only a couple minutes’ walk from Birmingham New Street Station, there were a lot of younger anime fans there too.
While it’s called Birmingham ‘Anime and Gaming Con’, it feels like it certainly leans far more towards the anime side. This isn’t too surprising, since it’s run by AnimeLeague. It certainly isn’t unwelcome; There are plenty of gaming-only events as it is.
You couldn’t look far without finding a cosplayer at Birmingham Anime and Gaming Con. From giant Pikachu suits to multiple Deku’s and even a Zero Two – cosplayers of all types could be found. From the casual ones that had been thrown together something from owned items to the meticulously crafted ones, there are a lot of different characters to see.
Popular series were well represented here. I spotted a couple of Konosuba cosplays, several from Demon Slayers, a Saitama from One Punch Man, several Naruto cosplayers, and even a Yor from Spy x Family. There were several anime-style maids too, who I’m not sure if were from a specific series or just maid costumes.
There’s a Cosplay Masquerade too, which made itself clear that it’s open to everyone, no matter the type or source of their cosplay. It’s nice to see it be so open.
Events, Talks, and More
There was always something to do or watch at Birmingham Anime and Gaming Con. On the main stage, there were events like a lip sync battle, a lightsaber combat display, and an event by Vocafest UK with Vocaloid music. In the talk area, there were more interactive events like a gaming quiz, guess the anime character, and Beat Saber to give people a taste of virtual reality. Quite a few parents came along too, so they held a ‘Beginner’s Guide to Anime’ talk for them.
That’s just a few of the highlights from Saturday. I didn’t go on the Sunday, but they scheduled performances from Mion, a Japanese singer-songwriter, and Meowgical Rosie, a Scottish pop idol that I wish I had been able to see perform.
Want to take a break? There was an anime screening area to sit down in too.
Bring Money. Lots of It.
The biggest area of all would be the vendors. They were very anime-focused, with a bit of gaming and general ‘geek’ merchandise thrown in. There were tons of figures, body pillows, anime wall scrolls, t-shirts, prints, and Japanese snacks like Pocky and mochi.
Lucky boxes (and bags) stood out. It seems like every other store had them. One was Animaid Cafe, which sadly had no maids (or even butlers!), but did have quite a lot of figures, body pillows, and lucky bags. Oddly quite a few of the other retailers said they have no online presence and only attend events.
Another that stood out was Skin Pixel Custom Controllers. They offer custom controllers, some with modifications to add back paddles/buttons like the Extreme Rate for PlayStation 5 and Xbox kits. We recently covered some similar controllers that Defy Gaming and HexGaming sent over to us for review. That said, the designs here are mostly themed around popular games or classic consoles here, instead of a ‘create your own’ from several parts. In some cases, they sell both the whole controller or just the shell.
I spoke with the owner briefly, who kindly explained that he uses airbrushing and spray painting on official shells to create these and that they’re all custom designs. From what I could see from a brief look at their Pokémon Master Ball Joycons, they look very well done too. Might be a good one to play the upcoming (at the time of writing) Pokémon Scarlet and Violet with.
There were a lot of tempting items in the vendor’s area. It’d be rather easy to spend all your money quickly.
Another place to spend your money is artist alley. This was primarily artists selling their wares. It had a variety of types, with very cute pink and pastel accessories, 3D art, keyrings, stickers, and prints of their art. While a variety of series and original art were represented, there was a lot of Pokémon in particular here.
While there were several very interesting people there, a couple caught my attention in particular.
Peppermint Papers has a very nice style. She was selling prints, postcards, and stickers of her own work. She displayed a piece from Ouran High School Host Club, which remains in my memory as an anime I loved when I was younger, which is what stood out initially. You can see quite a lot of nice art from her here.
The other was Meowgical Rosie, a pop idol from Glasgow that performs J-pop-inspired songs. Speaking with her briefly, she explained that she was selling merch and some handcrafted goods. She even had a flashing magic wand powered by love (and possibly batteries). While I only spoke with her briefly and didn’t get to see her perform (as her show is on the Sunday), I got the impression that she’s a very friendly and considerate person.
It’s a Gaming Con Too!
While anime does seem to be the focus, there is certainly still a good amount of gaming going on.
A tabletop area was set up with a selection of games. These ranged from Monopoly to the Digimon card game to some obscure board games. This area was mostly casual with the ability to turn up, grab a game and play. It was a nice way to try out some new games, stress-free. That said, they did run a Dungeons and Dragons session too.
There were two video game areas. One was for retro consoles and the other was for modern ones. Retro ranged from the SNES and Mega Drive to the PlayStation 2 and Gamecube. Modern had the newest consoles and PCs with a selection of games to play. These were generally just casual places to sit down and play something for a while. I did see some of the very young attendees being introduced to some of the classics by their parents in the retro area and people talking about trying out new things in the modern area. I sat down to revisit Super Mario World for a while – it was a great place to relax for a while.
Beyond the places to sit down and play casually, there were a few tournaments. These were mostly centered around fighting games, but there was a Mario Kart one and some TCG ones too.
Play some games, jump into an event or listen to a talk. There always seems to be something to do at the Birmingham Anime and Gaming Con. It does seem to be a very community-focused event, so it might be best to jump into the forums or Discord first. Just make sure that you don’t overspend – those mystery boxes are far too tempting!
Many thanks go to AnimeLeague for providing a press pass for this event.
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A gamer since the days of Amstrad and DOS and someone who has dabbled in a variety of professions. He enjoys a wide variety of genres, but has been focusing on visual novels and virtual reality in recent years. Head Editor of NookGaming. Follow him and the website on @NookSite.