Over the 5th and 6th of August 2023, masses of anime and gaming nerds flocked to Bristol to attend the latest iteration of the Bristol Anime and Gaming Con. And thanks to being granted a pair of press passes, both my wife and I attended as well. So we set out with a defined goal in mind. To find some Hunter x Hunter-related merch!
An oddly specific goal for sure, but at the time we were in the middle of binge-watching the series. We found the adventures of Gon, Killua, Kurapika, and Leorio to be very endearing. Hence the desire for some appropriate merch. And it turned out this particular mission was to be accomplished much easier than we originally anticipated.
As soon as we rocked up to the venue, we headed over to the person distributing wristbands. After a short discussion, we were both given a wristband and then directed inside. It was by far the most relaxed an event has ever been regarding press passes which was actually pretty good. I was expecting to be handed a physical lanyard or similar like at other events though. It had zero negative influence on my experience so that’s fine.
The venue itself was the elegant Mercure Bristol Grand Hotel. As locations go it was easy to get to. There also seemed to be plenty of accessibility options to move around the building, including ramps and lifts. Although I don’t need to use any of those facilities, therefore my experience might not have been the most valid. It did feel a bit strange when inside though. Many of the corridors were narrow and sparsely lit, which made getting around feel quite claustrophobic. And was even more so when more guests started arriving.
When inside the event rooms, they were well laid out and had plenty of room to manoeuvre. It was just the journeys between said rooms that were slightly overwhelming. As previously mentioned, they were pretty claustrophobic. In an attempt to combat this, the entire layout used a one-way system. Plenty of attendants were around to help direct the flow of traffic, but at times it did feel quite chaotic. I don’t really think this is the fault of the event organisers. Rather, just a slight negative to using several conference rooms to host the event instead of a larger dedicated convention space
Attending the event
Activity-wise, there was plenty to keep visitors busy. Alongside the Exhibitors Hall and Artist Alley, there were several panels and acts to watch. In particular, Stardust Allergy in the Artist Alley was a highlight. This is where we found the first lot of Hunter x Hunter merch. They had a pretty sweet 4 for 3 offer on their keyrings, so together we bought a few!
As neither of us is that into watching performers, we spent most of our time away from the main stage, but we did drop in to see the FAIRE performance. Not quite our cup of tea, but the seating area was pretty packed out. More of interest to us was the video gaming hall. A great selection of modern and retro consoles were available free for guests to enjoy. Several tournaments were going on too including Smash Ultimate Doubles and a Minecraft Creative Contest. I also had the chance to sit down and play Sonic the Hedgehog on a well-loved Sega Master System.
In addition to the Hunter x Hunter keychains, we also came across a massive mystery bag full of related merchandise. My wife snapped that up very quickly. For just £20, we found all kinds of stuff inside, including a mousemat, clipboard and even a pillowcase. Neither of us expected too much of the mystery bag, so we were pleasantly surprised. I also picked up a sealed Retro Electro Collectable Model of the Sega Mega Drive for just £10. Fair pricing all around I think, especially after witnessing some of the price inflation at larger conventions. I was very tempted to pick up an amazing cute Slime plushy from the Dragon Quest franchise, but I relented. One day it shall be mine!
Overall, our first visit to the Bristol Anime and Gaming Con was fun. It is clear that the organizers, exhibitors, artists, performers and guests are passionate about what they do. I think the pricing was very reasonable. For the dedicated fans, there is definitely a weekend’s worth of entertainment to be enjoyed there. For casual visitors, or people stopping by for a few hours like us, there’s also something to do. My only problem was the location. It was a little odd and chaotic, and a bit confusing to begin with.