con-fidential

In hindsight, it seems like a quick year since my last anime convention.  This is my second Anime Detour and my third con of all time.  Again, I find myself at Caribou Coffee.

I sort of feel like a spy at these things.  Maybe that’s why I feel it’s my duty to write this report.  So that my side knows what the other side has been up to.  But it’s hard not to feel this way–I don’t exactly blend in with the attendees.

Don’t get me wrong, I still volunteer to go, pay the registration fee, pay for the hotel room, pay for my costume–yes, I did wear a costume this year–thus, I’m not completely removed from this demographic.  However, I’m definitely not up to code on the lingo.  I also have to constantly ask, “What’s that guy from?  What’s he dressed as?”

Maybe I’m getting ahead of myself.  You all probably know what an anime convention is right?  I’m presupposing  you know what anime is, but I think that’s a given in this day and age.  Like any fan convention, Detour allows fans of Japanese animation to dress up (cosplay) as their favorite character.  There’s also panels where celebrities speak and fan-hosted discussions and lectures.  There’s a consuite where you can get round the clock snacks, ramen, and rice all for free.

Sounds pretty standard, right?

Well, sort of.  And this is where the spy in me kicks in.  Anime conventions seem to be a breeding ground for the socially inept–both literally and figuratively.  It’s almost like a universal language that all these fans share.  It’s okay to be inappropriately loud, smack your friends, wear next to nothing at all in the name of fandom, and approach total strangers and start asking for their personal information.

It’s also the home of every person that talks in movie theaters.  The commentary type, not the casual conversationalist.

There’s also this thing called “glomping” where one or more people ambush random people with hugs.  Yeah, it’s so common they had to give it a name.

Hugs in general are out of control at these things.  If you love someone’s costume, you either take a picture or ask them for a hug.  Or if they’re not in costume and just want a hug.  And several people walk around with notebook-paper-and-Sharpie signs advertising FREE HUGS.

Speaking of costumes, I’ve noticed that the anime convention has gone the way of any comic book convention in that you can cosplay basically anything.  In fact, I would go out on a limb and say the majority of costumes come from video games, American cartoons, and Doctor Who.  I think that’s cheating.

But I’m the spy, remember?

All social awkwardness aside, one of the most disturbing things about these conventions is the clash of blossoming sexuality and the range of ages attending the con.  Very minor girls are running around in short-shorts and fishnets under the pretense of cosplay in an environment where much older men can get away with asking for pictures.  I don’t know if that has ever been a problem in the past, but I feel like it’s a PR debacle waiting to happen.  And there has to be some connection to the constant hugging.

But maybe I’m reading too far into it.  There’s lots of positives of an event like this.  One weekend a year, people that are struggling to fit into society can roam the halls of a hotel unbridled.  I mean, nobody there is a shining example of ‘normal,’ but some of these people can use any chance they get to hone their people skills.  People are wildly friendly and everyone is willing to give anyone else a shot.  Nobody’s fighting–violently, anyway–and nobody is surprised when a stranger walks up and says hey.

In a way, it’s refreshing to see.  These kids that are probably quiet, reserved, and misunderstood in the halls of their school are getting a crash course in meeting-n-greeting.

I definitely spent a good time away from the con this year.  I stuck to Caribou, Subway, the neighboring hotel and its lobby.  I don’t regret it.  I still feel like I got my money’s worth.

But, this year, I definitely felt more like an outsider than ever before.  I didn’t seem to have the ability to jump right into the weirdness.  I stayed back.  I strayed far from the FREE HUGS people.  I kept my communication to a minimum.

So, in a way, it was almost detrimental to my social skills to attend this thing.  But, I still enjoy anime–and I have some great new leads on what to watch.  I still love the people I go with.  It’s the one time each year we get together and I wouldn’t trade it for all the glomping in the world.  And the Artist Alley showcases a lot of up-and-coming talent.

But, it’s been a long weekend.  I’m excited to see my girlfriend, my dad, my grandma, and my buds.

Vacation ain’t over yet.

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