AWA 2023 Wrap Up Post

Adam Hebert/ October 31, 2023/ Uncategorized

Anime Weekend Atlanta 2023 is over. I’m not going to lie. This one was a bittersweet convention, for reasons I will explain shortly. The convention went fine. Great, even. Aside from a hiccup at the Embassy Suites that left me unable to check in for nearly 8 hours. The convention was well organized and staffed well, better than it was the last time I went. It was nice seeing people I hadn’t seen in years (like Mr. Vincent). All in all, the convention was fun and I can’t wait to share my interviews with our listeners.

First, let’s get to the big take aways from this year’s convention. As has been mentioned before, this was the last year AWA would be at the Cobb Galleria center and the Renaissance Waverly hotel. Like a kid, AWA outgrew the old venue and now needs a new, bigger one. And so, I can share that the new venue will be the Georgia World Congressional Center in downtown Atlanta. The good thing about this is that it will not be as difficult for those of us who use public transit to get there and back to get there, and it should be a shorter trip to and from the airport. The downside is that the new timeframe for AWA is early-mid December. Unfortunately, because of my day job being retail, I cannot guarantee that I will be able to return until the time changes. We will keep you posted about Radio For Humans coverage of this event.

As for interviews, I had several. We will be sharing them in the near future, so watch our blog and Patreon for details. But I’ll share some information about who I interviewed and what you can look forward to.

Todd Haberkorn- My only repeat interview this year. I interviewed him for the first time in 2016, and he remembered me. He had some very encouraging words.

Erika Harlacher-Stone- The voice actress for Ann Takamaki from Persona 5 and many others. She was very kind and bubbly, which made the interview a lot of fun.

John Swasey- A Funimation heavy weight, we talked about how things were early in the emergence of anime into the mainstream.

James Sie (Pronounced See)- The voice of the cabbage merchant from Avatar, as well as Jackie and Shendu from Jackie Chan Adventures. We discussed his current project, Stillwater, and how stories are important for children.

D.C. Douglas- Voice actor for Resident Evil’s Wesker, as well as Wooden Sword Ryu from Shaman King, who I found to be quite witty and funny.

Samantha Inoue-Hart- Another kind and funny person, we had a good talk about her background.

Kyle Hebert (Pronounced hey-bear)- Another Funimation heavyweight. He’s the voice of Ryu from Streetfighter and Aizen from Bleach.

Michelle Ruff- The voice actress of Rukia from Bleach, Luna from Sailor Moon and so many other roles. She talked about her start on Michigan Public Radio. I asked her how it felt to finally say “Bankai”, and got a great answer.

I had an interview with Trina Nishimura, the voice actress of Mikasa from Attack on Titan, but she canceled due to feeling under the weather. That said, we had a great talk at her autograph table about her family’s experiences as Americans of Japanese descent, and I will be asking permission to share that discussion.

There are also two possible interviews I can book post-con. I requested interviews with Veronica Taylor (original voice actress for Ash from Pokemon) and Tiffany Grant (Asuka from Evangelion, et cetera), but didn’t get them. When I told them about it, they both offered to talk about the possibility, so I’ll be reaching out soon.

The dealers room was well organized, and the crowd was well maintained. I had little trouble walking the aisles of it, and I’m quite the chonky guy. My biggest disappointment was the lack of tabletop gaming booths in the dealer’s room. Ever since AWA ended their relationship with Titan Games and Comics (or vice versa), the con has lacked a solid option for buying card and board games. Perhaps this will be remedied in the new venue.

Lines at the autograph tables were decent. Some of the guests had crowds, most of them seemed to be quick. I was able to briefly meet voice acting legend Billy West, voice of a lot of the principle cast from Futurama, and many other cartoons. No one was at his table! I think he was ignored because he wasn’t in the anime industry. I was legitimately offended for him. I wanted to shout to everyone at the top of my lungs, saying “Don’t you know who this is?! IT’S BILLY F*CKING WEST!” I stopped by the booths of the actors I had interviews with (as well as people I had interviewed before). It helps me to be more relaxed if I introduce myself to the people I’ll interview.

Like I mentioned at the beginning of the piece, this convention was bittersweet. Yes, there are new opportunities coming, and I can’t wait to see what the future holds for AWA. However, I have been going to this convention for the better part of twenty years. Aside from a couple of years when I was living in Illinois, as well as going to school in Montana, I attended AWA every year since 2003.

I attended my first AWA with my younger sister Carrie, and my dear friend Nikki. Before Carrie and I left to go home after the weekend, the three of us took a picture at the fountain outside of the Waverly. We were still young then. Even though we were in our twenties, we were still pretty much kids. At least, I was.That year, I met my good friend Brad, and the members of his anime club, The Huntsville Alabama Anime Society (HAAS). Over time, my AWA “Family” grew.

Two more dear friends of mine, Tobi and Chris, started coming to AWA. My other sister, Nicole, came a couple of times as well, but she never really got into the anime scene was much as the rest of us. By 2015, I had a nephew, Kai. And in 2016, he and my brother-in-law Kevin joined us at AWA. And around 2016, Goji joined the group formed by myself, Chris, Tobi and Nikki.

I have no idea what possessed me to apply for a press pass in 2016. Maybe it was because of my love of anime, and hey. I was doing a podcast/radio show, so why not? Maybe it was because the political climate seemed so freaking crazy (this was right before Trump was “elected”) and I wanted an escape from it. Either way, I did it. And I got approved. I had the privilege of interviewing Lex Lang, Todd Haberkorn, Zach Aguilar, and others.

In 2017, I got invited back as press and interviewed Erica Lindbeck, Michael Sinterniklaas, Stephanie Sheh and others. And in 2018, the last time I went before COVID (which I jokingly refer to as The Eleventh Plague of Egypt) came, I got to interview some of my heroes. Steve Blum, Grey Delisle-Griffin, Mary Elizabeth McGlynn, and Dante Basco. That convention, my co-hosts Miles and Michelle were with me. I am so happy that I was able to create those amazing memories with them.

I have many fond memories of attending AWA at the Cobb Galleria and Waverly. And it’s sad that there will be no more. Going to that hotel and center every year, it’s like returning home. I know where everything is. All the food options that are available. Where I can go if I need a break from the hustle and bustle of the con.

That’s not to say that there won’t be those sorts of things at the new venue. It’s just going to be different. And that’s okay. I look forward to seeing what AWA will be like in the future, while keeping memories of what it was in my heart.

Please watch our website for more information about when we will be airing the interviews.