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JapanaTen: The top ten things anime cons should never ever lose

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Ye Olde Otakone is coming up fast, and as we scurry around on our hamster wheels, trying like hell to make sure we all end up in approximately the same place(s) and time(s) August 8-10, it occurs to me that I'm really, really looking forward to this huge-ass con. I've gone to several in my time, if not as many as some folks 'round these parts; Dale recently pointed out many a valid annoyance of convention-going, without losing that ol' loving spirit for the whole thing. I haven't been to one since June, so I can't wait to thrust myself into the sweaty, be-Narutarded masses again. :D

Come to think of it, we all complain about pretty much the same things that suck the same every time--but we still keep coming back. Let's face it: body odor, poor behavior on various persons' parts - no pun intended...yuck - and three days of weary feet can't put much of a ding in the collective awesomeness that is an anime convention. Hit the jump as we explore ten of the finer points of public fangasmation.

10. Permission to be a total geek where people can hear you

We've all been directly behind the shrieking fangirls, the preteen "OMGeeeeeeeee!!!oneone" bounce-abouters, and the guy on his cell phone at the concert: "Yeah, I'm in here. ...IN HERE. CAN YOU HEAR ME? HELLO?" *beepbeep* They're just the side effects, though, of having the freedom to let your love of this nerdy crap all hang out. Where else can you admit out loud that you're more excited about Bleach gashapon, pornographic doujinshi and new cartoon voices than, say, the latest New York Times story on that multibillionaire Princeton graduate NFL quarterback who got caught having sex with Office Max furniture?

And where else can you turn to almost anyone in line or around the dealers room or before a panel and strike up a conversation as if you're already pals? The ratio of friendly friends-you-haven't-met-yet to vague "Why are you speaking to me, peasant?" stares is approximately 50 times higher at your average convention than in any other case of human interaction known to man, except maybe the ones involving beer and paid companionship. As with most people, the coolness of your new friends will always be a crapshoot, but I'd rather chat with a friendly, overenthusiastic goober than a snotty genius almost any day. Remember, you can always lose them in the bathroom!

9. Free, fleshy eye candy

There's also the less discreet faction of fans who choose to display themselves in totally alien garb, sometimes literally, because 1) a fictional character wore it first and 2) the cosplayer knows at least one, possibly hundreds of people will recognize and appreciate it. Those of us whose heads are too big for their L wigs can also fall back on appropriately unwholesome T-shirts and garner their share of "Nice shirt!"s, as God intended. We've all seen Sailor Bubba, Man-Faye, and people whose body type doesn't necessarily match the characters they're depicting; however, like screaming yaoi-paddlers, the really atrocious examples are in the vast minority, and the occasional gem more than makes up for it. Where else do real, non-celluloid/ink people in fantastic getups parade themselves around for the precise purpose of being looked at?

Besides the chance to get free eyefuls of hot girls, cosplay also offers some of the most unparalleled escapism you'll ever get. Work sucks? That's for later, assholes, 'cause I'm watching Pyramid Head dance with Sailor Moon! Your bills are piling up and the dog just ate your last good pair of shoes? Think about it when you're not watching Phoenix Wright / Trauma Center / House skits!

Most importantly, doing something society generally regards as unacceptably dumb with thousands of other people is some of the greatest fun in the universe. So what if you don't have a 100-pound, D-cup figure and your face isn't Miss America material, what with you being a big hairy guy and all? You can do that Yoko cosplay if you want to, because it's not the silliest thing people will see that weekend!

8. Febreze Ninjas!

I haven't seen this guy or his ilk recently, but they embody one of the greatest traits of otaku in large groups: namely, no matter how cranky or argumentative or meme-spouty we might get, damned if we let people get away with stupid behavior un-called-out. At the same time, as a rule, I've always been impressed with the way blatantly stupid con behavior tends to self-contain itself--we can all recall incidents of loudmouth douchery or knock-you-out BO at big events and in the dealers rooms, but in my experience, anime fans are, overall, surprisingly courteous, if not strictly well-behaved. :D Everyone's there to have a good time, and if some folks allow their manners and/or hygiene to lapse, many more of them are determined not to become an anecdote for someone else's turn at swapping con horror stories.

7. Oodles of options, schedule-wise AND socially

This can be a pain in the butt press-wise, as you want to get a good balance of industry coverage in with your other shenanigans, and we've all experienced the pain of having to decide between attending that badass fencing workshop or the live catgirl wrestling; it's difficult, though, in retrospect, to not see this as a fantastic thing. Con schedules are never perfect, espcially for the ones coordinating 20,000+ attendees and all their guests and other panelists, but in recent years, more and more aspects of nerddom have been covered in big and smaller conventions without sacrificing the panels and competitions that turned us to the Dark Side in the first place. (Could do without all the ladies carting around Dollfies as if the damn things were live human babies, but that's the price you pay for freedom.)

Tied into that very freedom is the choice you can make of what to go to, or not, for the price of your badge. You can go to all the social events and make enough new pals to break Twitter again, like those people who go around "following" tens of thousands of strangers for no apparent purpose--or you can pick up a few awesome acquaintances, or attend "How to Talk To Girls" and come away with some excellent life lessons in addition to a raunchy good time. (Be confident, and bathe!) Or you can sit quietly in a corner with your new bargain-priced manga and absorb the whole crazy atmosphere. It's not summer camp, with people always pestering you to go do something and to stop wishing you could punch the counselors in the 'nads; your itinerary is entirely up to you. Take that, Girl Scouts!

6. Awesome security people

Speaking of counselors, it's also quite possible to recall having seen or heard of someone in a BLAHCON SECURITY shirt being a certified dick to confused, sheepish or otherwise hapless congoers, evidently convinced that their authority was All-Powerful and awesome and stuff. Like smelly cosplayers and Sailor Bubba, though, these guys get about 99% of the attention and make up less than 1% of the total population. It's an excellent bet that going up to one of these guys and politely asking a simple question will get you an equally polite answer, or direction to someone else who knows it. These people take immense quantities of crap over the course of several hours, and are responsible for making sure them damn kids quit spilling things, running, screaming, hitting people with dangerous props, breaking hotel property, and so on. Is it any wonder they start to get a little frazzled?

Extra-special thanks go out to the lady who let me into the breakfast banquet at Ushicon a few years back when I lost my ticket and the confirmation printout, the A-kon Hentaifest incident where I had to go change my shirt with the F word on it, and the Anime Hell dude who let me into the room even though the equipment wasn't set up, it was running 5 minutes late already and people in line were starting to protest. I salute their patience and graciousness, and resolve to give the next one I see some candy. ...Mmmm. Candy.

5. Random complimenters

Even as some dudes are trying their darndest to "accidentally" brush up against cosplayers or get panty shots on the escalators, most congoers will stop cosplayers politely for photo ops or even just pass by with a casual "Hey, nice" or "Oooh, I like your tattoo! How'd you do that?" (Pro tip: a good Fullmetal Alchemist mark needs a homemade stencil and purple nail polish.) Then there's the chance to show off your Art Show acquisitions or new bankai Ichigo figure to random seatmates or line-sitters, all of which are met with at least feigned admiration and/or friendly envy from people you've never met. If occasionally skeevy and socially awkward, otaku are also some of the most openly appreciative people I've ever met.

Does that sound creepy? Well, extremes aside, let's face it: being noticed is awesome. It's probably safe to assert that most anime fans don't normally garner a whole lot of attention on the street, Paris Hilton-style, so making the effort to dress up and seeing it pay off in a safe environment is incredibly gratifying. Whether you've never picked up a needle in your life or make a semi-career out of your hobby, it's fantastic to be complimented on it, and you're pretty well guaranteed that at a con.

4. Awesome staffers

Like security people, staffers run themselves ragged over the course of godknowshowmany hours for simple swag or more likely nothing: they tell you everything from where to find the bathrooms to where to line up for Japanese Cheesemaking 101; they also bear the brunts of people complaining when told to swing the line around the other wall, for fear they'll lose their spots, or who attempt to camp out in the back row of panels right before another block with a massive line right outside, or the morons who insist that they should be allowed to cut 10 minutes before Cosplay starts because they had no idea they'd ever have to go to the bathroom anytime this weekend. It's a wearying, largely thankless job, dogged further by often-spotty communication with higher-ups (like the A-kon press badge switched midday that Saturday) and the ensuing frustration of not being able to answer every question people might come up with. They try like hell, though, and they get their own salute for it.

3. Hanging out with other press members

A gratuitous shout-out to my most recently discovered joy as a press member: meeting the guys from Anime Matsuri and having one of the best alcoholic beverages I've ever tasted, though I admittedly don't drink much in the first place. No matter how awesome the events you're attending might be, there's nothing like having a cadre of secret ninjas to dick around with after hours or buy you dinner (<3 to our immortal stepsister, Gia--I guess AM are our cousins?). New friends are always handy to have around; Otakon will see Team Jtor coalesce into greater numbers than ever before, and I have no idea how any of us are going to get any sleep that weekend, what with the semierotic pillow fights and all. Will take pics, no worries!

(Unrelated curiosity: any others of you ever met really great friends/bfs/gfs at cons?)

2. Screwing around with guests

As Captain Dale rightly noted - again, all his points are valid, just more noticable than good behavior from everyone, which is what I'm thinking of in anticipation - at least one popular con fixture has a minor history of being a dick to other guests and con/hotel staff. The thing is, "Ed" is a hell of a lot of fun to hang out with in a friendly "Whee, con!" setting. One epic, magical breakfast banquet at Ushicon '05 (Ushicon being the spiritual predecessor of Austin's Ikkicon), my sister, a friend and I impulsively bought tickets to sit with "Ed" and Justin Cook, who did many a voice for FUNi, including Yusuke in Yu Yu Hakusho and Hatsuharu in Fruits Basket. (Whatever happened to him?) We chatted for a while, then started a food fight with Monica Rial at the next table; we lobbed grapes, she threw bacon from behind a large fanboy bodyguard, and they took turns drawing middle-school graffiti on each other's pictures in my sister's program.

Later, Monica clambered up onto the tables dividing our dining room from the dealer's room and threw grapes at a vendor she knew, and he wasn't allowed into our room to retaliate; as she gloated, "Ed" threw a grape that nailed her on the butt cheek clear across the room. FLAWLESS VICTORY

The point is, most con guests are not celebrities. They work in a relatively niche market, catering to an audience smaller than that of most mass media (DBZ and Naruto notwithstanding). Nevertheless, it's difficult not to get to know of voice actors, artists and directors, and when you get the chance to interact with them on a person-to-person basis, it's not only some of the most fun I've ever had, it has that additional "Guess who I threw bacon at??" fillip. Passing over further discussion of abuse of that power, we have:

1. Bizarre, inventive and/or "WTF?" cosplay

Vash, Inuyasha and Naruto are all such cosplay staples that the average otaku eye tends to gloss right over ones without any distinguishing features. Of course, there are little touches that set you apart from others dressed up as a very popular character, like a frilly skirt or huge bloodstains; and then there's...

Yep.

Seriously, where the hell else do you find people dressed up as Master Shake? Or a 7-foot robot? Or a bendy Tetris block? Or an exploding zombie penguin? People are getting more and more creative, and while some of it is Phail made manifest, I think science will continue to march onward. Especially with boobies.


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Aoi
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'Ello, luvs. I be a sometime editor o' Jtor, dependent on my school and work schedule. Thanks for reading! Remember, the first one's free. more + disclosures


 



Filed under... #Cons #otaku culture #Rant

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