By MICHAEL MAUER
Question: Where can one dress up as a mad scientist, hug random strangers, and introduce oneself like this?
Answer: an anime convention.
To anyone who has not been to an anime convention, I suggest that you attend one post-haste. There are few things more amazing for anyone who loves anime, manga or video games. That said, I’ve also realized recently how much of a negative image such conventions carry in general society. Many people seem to think of them as creepy gatherings of greasy nerds dressed up as Japanese school girls. While there is definitely some basis for this sentiment, I’d like to discuss some of the truly amazing things about conventions.
First, and foremost, is the enthusiasm. Anime conventions are overflowing with more happiness and energy than con-goers know what to do with (hence the aforementioned hugging). Many people seem creeped out by this closeness and exuberance. Yet, in my experience, cases of harassment are extremely rare. In fact, conventions are an excellent place to make friends. I still talk with many of my “con friends” quite regularly.
Another aspect of conventions that many people find strange is cosplay. The boundless creativity which which people approach it never fails to amaze me. From a ten foot tall (stationary) Optimus Prime to a Chunnibyou/Attack on Titan crossover, every convention has something new. Yeah, there’s usually a cross dresser or two. However, I don’t think this merits treating cosplay in general as extremely strange. It’s a wonderfully accessible form of creative expression that never fails to amaze me.
Speaking of creativity, there’s the artist’s alley: A place where local artists can come together and sell every manner of fan made anime merchandise. Not only anime and manga – cosplay materials, figurines and much more. Conventions are an excellent place for local artists to sell (a lot) of handmade crafts to extremely enthusiastic buyers.
Finally, there are panels – something which I think even con-goers are prone to forgetting. Most conventions pay people in the anime industry to visit and talk about all manner of things relating to anime and manga. These panels are always entertaining and informative – I will never forget Ian Sinclair casually playing his 3DS while taking questions about directing anime. However, in addition to guest panels, most conventions encourage attendees to host their own panels. I’ve attended panels on everything from making bento to mental illness in fiction.
There are, of course, countless other awesome things going on at anime conventions. I’ve only skimmed the surface. However, I have to get back to planning my cosplay and applying for a panel at the next convention I’ll be attending.
Michael Mauer is a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Manga Mondays appears Mondays this semester.