Sun 8 May 2011
I hate anime conventions. At least that’s what I’ve been conditioned to believe. Maybe I had the wrong friends in high school, maybe I’m a bit turned off by its connotations (like that pun?), maybe I’ve just had really really bad experiences before.
I first got into anime during 10th grade, and everything was magic. I could watch everything a million times and still love it. For all I cared, Rozen Maiden was the best thing I’ve seen in my life. As was School Rumble, and my second, third, and fourth anime. But it was a private affair, known only to me and my few anime-loving friends. Sad. High-schooler kevo’ wanted to be cool. This secret couldn’t get out. After all, you know what anime fans are like.
It’s this awful stigma that is burned onto the fandom, annoying idiots that go the extra mile expressing their love for the medium. “Otaku”, if you will. Sadly, they have become the face of the American anime fan. I was ashamed to hide my hobby in high school. Maybe I could find other people who loved anime like I did– platonically. So in the summer of 2007, I snuck to ACEN in Chicago for an afternoon.
My memory of the whole incident is rather blurry. I remember High and Mighty Color being there, but I felt alone and disillusioned. I talked with some nice people, but they didn’t seem at all interesting to me. I looked at some stuff to buy, but I didn’t want to buy any of it. Maybe I was overwhelmed, an anime novice in the deep end of the pool, not knowing how to swim. I’d like to make it clear that perfectly normal and friendly people populate anime conventions, but I also saw some of the worst social detritus you could imagine there. I also remember some very annoying people flipping out over The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi. “Oh yeah, it was pretty good,” I said, trying to stir up some conversation, “but I found the ending rather random.” It was as if I had just insulted their cancer-ridden little sister.
When 2008 rolled around, some of my high school acquaintances asked if I was interested in joining them for ACEN. One was a furry that never showered and would occasionally wear his raccoon tail to school. Another was the most antisocial and annoying kid you have ever seen. I politely refused. There was no way I was going to go back, I thought, not to a place where there’s just more of these two.
So my first convention spurned me. Maybe I wasn’t ready for her fiery passion and I was afraid to go back to her. College came and I moved to the distant land of Minnesota. I’ve been watching anime for a few years now, experience jaded me. Slowly with time, my memories faded yet my yearning slowly crept into my consciousness. I checked out a local convention called Anime Detour, which was much smaller than ACEN. I thought it would be more homely.
“The thing I hate most about anime is the fans,” a friend tells me, and I understand why. If what I saw at Anime Detour was love for anime, maybe I just don’t understand love. Conversations are just a laundry list of polar opinions: things are either “fucking sweet” or “uber fail”. I felt like I was in some kind of vacuum void of meaningful discourse and full of dead jokes. And while I understand that cosplay can be pretty amazing sometimes, the terrible attempts far outweighed the good ones. Have you no pride? Have you no dignity? I felt like a hypocrite and an elitist. What right do I have judging people for expressing themselves? Who am I to ridicule people for their hobbies? Maybe conventions are not for me, I thought. I’ll never understand these things, I’ll never be able to hang around these people, have fun at these gatherings. I’ll just write in my blog all day and have meaningful anime discussions online.
It’s been three years since my heart has broken, but a faint thread of hope remains intact among the shards. I have decided to attend Anime Expo this summer. I finally have money, why not use it for one last shot to experience a real convention, the right way. This time socially, not alone. Boldly, not secretively. Optimistic, not detached. With hope, with confidence, and with all these cool people I’ve gotten to know over the years. Maybe a trip to far off California will rekindle my love and slake my yearning to experience the magic that conventions bring to people. My gamer friends rave about their trip to the Penny Arcade Expo, and dream of going to E3 one day. Maybe I too will have something to look forward to during the long summer. Plus, Kalafina should be pretty sweet. So hit me up if you’re going too, I’d love to see everyone there!