Despite the difficulties the anime industry has suffered this year, anime fandom in the UK goes from strength to strength.  If you need proof of this you just have to look at this year's Amecon which, with an attendance of 1500, was the biggest dedicated anime event this country has seen.

Amecon took over the mantle of the UK's biggest anime convention from Ayacon in 2006, and hasn't looked back.  Held at Leicester University, Amecon is spread over three large buildings which provides plenty of space for the huge programme of panels, events, screenings and workshops.  The facilities are great, with a couple of decently priced bars and a bargainous canteen joining the numerous rooms and lecture halls, and there is plenty of space inside and outside the buildings to ensure it rarely feels crowded.

Amecon Dealers Room

 For three days Amecon is a small utopia for anime fans.  The site is overrun with cosplayers and when you arrive you are issued with a free 'con bag' which contains a convention pass, guides, posters, Pocky and even a keyring of the Amecon mascot Ame-Chan!  Most of the action takes place in the large Charles Wilson building, on the ground floor you will find the aforementioned canteen alongside one of the events focal points - the dealers room.  The dealers room brings together a number of specialist retailers and anime distributors who offer all manner of anime and manga goods, often with special discounts.  Operating something like a market, the dealers room this

year included the likes of Neon Martian, Tokyotoys, Gundam Mad and Genki Gear alongside ADV Films, Beez, Manga Entertainment and MVM.  As you could guess the room is one of the busiest on site, with numerous fans spending their hard-earned cash on goods you'd be hard pressed to find anywhere else. 

Head upstairs and you come to the Games Room, where numerous consoles and a couple of arcade machines are set up for attendees to play on.  It gives a great opportunity to play the latest games for free, and those on offer this year included Soul Calibur IV and Rock Band on the PlayStation 2 and XBox 360, Mario Kart and Super Smash Brothers on the Wii, and a few retro games including Zero Wing and Sonic the Hedgehog on the Sega Megadrive and F-Zero on the N64.  Also available to play were some Japanese games like Gundam Seed on the PlayStation 2 and the Para Para Paradise and Dance Dance Revolution arcade machines.  A couple of game tournaments are run throughout the weekend and there's a fun and good atmosphere in the room which makes all of the games fun to play - whether you win or lose. 

 Round the corner from the games room is the Bring and Buy, where attendees can sell anime and manga goods at a price they decide, and an artists alley where you can sit down and draw anime inspired artwork for fun, or for the art competition that the convention runs.  Head further upstairs and you come to smaller rooms which are used for various activities, from tea ceremony lessons and industry panels to card game tournaments.  The convention hosts a large number of panels and workshops which give you the opportunity to speak to the anime distributors face-to-face or learn drawing techniques or Japanese traditions.  The card games and tournaments run throughout the

Andrew Partridge, Hugh David and Will Blewitt at the ADV Panel

weekend and give attendees the chance to test their Yu-Gi-Oh! and Pokémon skills against people from around the country.  There are also opportunities to have a go at anime voice acting, visit a cosplay cafe, find out about upcoming anime events or even just relax with some manga dotted around the Charles Wilson building's upper floors.  In fact there is so much to do that you can't even hope to see it all!

  Whilst the Charles Wilson building is the focus for most of the daytime activity, most of the evening and cosplay activities and a few larger events are held in the Student Union building just across the road.  Numerous cosplay workshops take place here, covering everything from sewing and stage presence to making latex masks.  This gives you the perfect opportunity to share you experiences and techniques with others whilst simultaneously learning from them in a very open environment.  The building also contains the Queen's Hall, a proper lecture hall which serves as the perfect venue for the larger anime industry panels, anime screenings and the charity auction.  The auction is a convention staple which sees numerous rare anime and manga goods offered for sale alongside limited edition convention merchandise which often goes for obscene amounts of money (Ł400 for a stuffed toy of the Amecon mascot!?).  If you still have any money left after that you can go upstairs to the Redfern bar, which offers food and drink as well as hosting an epic anime pub quiz on the Saturday night, or downstairs to the main bars.  The Oasis bar is open throughout the weekend and offers quite reasonably priced drinks to attendees.  There is a Concourse section for people to chill out in as well the large Mirage club room which is opened for special events such as the opening and closing ceremonies, cosplay masquerade, omake parade, live musical performances and parties.