Saturday, October 3, 2009

An Ode to Anime Conventions, or My Disillusionment

WARNING: The following is a long post that is long overdue. But it's finally here! The Animazement report thing! Please don't be discouraged from reading. Or skimming. Or commenting.

Quite an impressive spread.

Back in Manga Meditation's blog drafts are two entries detailing Polecat's and my (Blackbird) recent adventure to Animazement, a now twelve-year-old convention newly located to the Raleigh Convention Center in Raleigh, NC. These posts, however, haven't been published like we had promised earlier. The reason? To be honest, they were a little boring to write. That, and the descriptions were becoming a little mean.

When I was twelve I followed my much cooler and wiser friend to my first anime convention. She dressed up, what as I can't exactly recall. Cosplay was something I first thought was somewhat strange, but also something I learned to accept as I immersed myself in the strange world of all nerd conventions. It was actually cool to like manga and anime! I could wear silly hats with cat ears, don pins with Edward Elric's scowling face, and get my ass kicked by thirty-year-olds at Super Smash Brothers in the game room and still be considered normal.

I even tried to acclimate myself to other strange rituals. I was hugged by a random girl while in line for the cosplay event simply for wearing a Yuki mouse hat from Fruits Basket. I got Watase Yu to sign one of my tankubon and got my picture taken with her. The year after, I invited one of my male friends who I had enthusiasticaly encouraged to come to the convention. "It's sooo much fun I spend sooo much money," I told him. While waiting in that tedious, long line for the cosplay show, one of my other friends, a fan of yaoi, jokingly encouraged him to hold up a sign reading "man sex please." We began a mini rave in the otherwise demure line, and my poor friend was subjected to some fake, um, anal penetration by an older guy passing by. A strange and disturbing event that the two of us remember so many years later, a fond memory we'd both like to forget.

Regardless of all those oddities, at the time I couldn't think of anything else that was as fun as that convention, an event that spruced up an otherwise drab middle school life. I saved up all of my money every year for four years in anticipation of the event, and I allowed myself to relax and have fun with friends with whom I shared an obsession.

I saw many adults milling about the convention and thought, "Yeah, I think I'll be into this stuff when I'm that age," without a shred of irony.

Going back to Animazement this year was a poignant experience. It was as though I was confronting this event, something so prominent to me in my awkward preteen years, something I had not gone to for a few years and had forgotten. Now, not only was I in a different stage in my life, but the convention itself was now literally, for the first time, in a different location. No longer in the small Sheraton Hotel in nearby Durham, Animazement had moved to the much, much larger and nicer location in Raleigh.

I wasn't sure how to feel about it. The new space was so large that it became tiresome to go to each location. Finding the dealer's room, the anime nerd mecca, was frustrating and not as easy with the multiple flights of stairs and expansive carpet floors.

However, the space was also much more impressive, if a little overwhelming. Artist's Alley, formerly the narrow hallway to the dealer's room, now occupied a large room of its own with all of the artist's dealing their wares in a setup not unlike the dealer's room itself. The real dealer's room was much larger than in past years, but not necessarily in the number of dealers; about a third of the room was empty. Regardless, they sold what dealers always sell including cat ears, busty figurines, and of course manga and anime. Polecat and I even bought some stuff. Admittedly it was mostly Star Trek posters and cute Japanese planners, but at least we bought something.

Instead of having to get food at that one hotel cafe that smelled like vomit (I KID YOU NOT MY SANDWICH WAS IMBUED WITH THE PURE STENCH OF STOMACH BILE), or live off of Pocky and Ramune, the dinner of choice in past years, convention attendees could now get overpriced pizza and hotdogs at a small food court. I suppose this was all right, but I feel like some of the Animazement character was lost when they decided to actually institutionalize the food. Call me a romantic.

While this was all okay, a little boring but a good way to kill a few hours, there was one thing that ruined our otherwise innocuous day.

Uchuu Sentai NOIZ.

I don't ever remember concerts coming to Animazement. This had to have been a result of the much larger digs. I can't go into detail for why this band irked me so (not yet, at least), mostly because I don't have our copious notes, and I might become a little too derisive here. Basically, the music and environment reminded me of carefully sliced, moldy bread dusted with glitter. Now try eating that and you'll know what it's like to listen to Uchuu Sentai NOIZ.

The one thing that Polecat and I thought we would be able to depend on was good photographs. I buttered up the cosplay she was going to see, and we were deliriously happy with the prospect of putting up photos without having to put credit or having the fear of being sued. However, our photographic endeavor became somewhat derogatory and really just a transparent way to make fun of people. We became a little ashamed of ourselves, to be honest. It was then that we came to a realization.

As much as we tried to enjoy the convention, even as the Manga Meditation brand of the "self-aware fangirl," it seemed that it was impossible to enjoy the convention without already being completely immersed in its culture. We were outsiders looking in as we always had been, but this was the first time that we were truly confronted with that role.

Perhaps one day those two convention reports will be published, but I think this post is a better reflection of my experience there. And at the end of the day, I think that's more important than a detailed account of the day's events. If anybody really, really wants to see them, please leave a comment! Or tell us what you would like to read about!


I apologize for the lengthiness of this post. I just wanted to do my twelve-year-old self some justice, you know?

Until later,


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