With Anime Club’s annual trip to Anime Central (ACen) approaching and Chicago’s C2E2 peppering Facebook feeds, it is clear that conventions are a presence on the Knox campus.
The conventions themselves are a hodgepodge of activities, ranging from cosplay photo meetups to merchandise-filled dealers’ halls to panels of professionals and experts talking about their shows or fields.
The cons actually contain much more than the general populace may think. Anime and comic conventions do cover their target medium, but they also cater to fans of webcomics, TV shows, movies and video games.
In someone else’s shoes
One of the most well-known aspects of conventions is cosplay, where people dress up as their favorite character.
“It’s a little more exciting when you’re in cosplay, since [people] might stop you and ask for a picture,” junior Emily Nield said.
Junior Ari Bailey was stopped a lot at the smaller Anime Detour convention when she cosplayed as Clopin from Disney’s “Hunchback of Notre Dame.” Since the character was recognizable, but not common, people stopped her enough for the experience to become an “inconvenience” but also an “ego boost.”
The experience gives cosplayers a chance to bond with their fellow fans, since the people who stop them usually want to talk about the series, which can be gratifying when the cosplayer loves the character they are portraying and knows how much work went into the outfit.
Not everyone cosplays, but Nield described conventions as “the only place you feel weird and out of place when you’re not in costume.”
Even when they are not dressed up, con-goers might spice up a normal outfit with an anime t-shirt, fishnet leggings, cat ears or other pieces of Japanese-inspired clothing. In plain clothes, con-goers find it much easier to go under the radar, but not always.
Senior Samantha Butler said that one year at ACen, a man stopped and asked her for a photo when she was just wearing jeans and a plain t-shirt. She was confused, so he explained that he had a bet going with a friend that he could find a “cute girl” in normal clothes at a convention.
“[He said] ‘You’re kind of like a unicorn, and I have to prove you exist with photographic evidence,’” Butler said. “I felt like I was glittering.”
You look familiar
Conventions also give chances for fans to connect with the famous guests the convention invites. At comic book conventions, this might include comic writers and artists, but may also include actors from cult TV shows or other geek celebrities. Anime cons invite musical guests, voice actors, manga historians or fashion icons.
Although most people have to stand in long lines to get to see their favorite stars at panels or signings, it is also possible to run into them completely on accident.
Junior Sarah Longfellow, who will be attending her fifth ACen this year, once decided she was tired and did not want to wait in a long line to meet Johnny Yong Bosche Ñ best known as the black Power Ranger in “Mighty Morphing Power Rangers” and as the voice of Ichigo on “Bleach.” However, when she was wandering through the Dealer’s Hall, waiting for friends, she saw a booth set up for his band which everyone else was passing by. She decided to get a closer look, and there he was, completely alone. She went over and got a photo, which attracted other people’s attention, and soon he was completely swamped.
A place to belong
Another important aspect of conventions is the community. Even though superhero movies consistently break box office records, devoted fans of more obscure works often feel alone, but conventions are filled with people who like the same things they do. When she attended her first con, Nield attended a high school that only had a few anime fans. She was so moved by the community she found at this smaller Nebraskon convention that she has come back every year.
They mean business
Not everyone goes to cons just for fun. Some attendees use the events to network.
Junior Neil Phelps would like to write graphic novels, and so in addition to exploring the dealer’s floor, he plans on going to panels at comic conventions like Chicago’s C2E2.
“I have to market myself if I want to be in the industry,” Phelps said. He said he has made a game of approaching everyone he is intimidated to approach.
“I tried to ask a question at every panel,” he said.
One year, he asked Ethan Van Sciver (an artist who, among other things, collaborated with acclaimed writer Geoff Johns on “Flash: Rebirth” and “Green Lantern”) about how he could get into writing. Sciver said that he should “come back with a script and a box of cookies.” The next year, Phelps handed Sciver a laminated script and three boxes of cookies.
Butler has also used conventions for networking. A place on last year’s fanfiction panel (a place she is taking again this year) turned into some minor voice acting jobs with Funimation, and she hopes to drum up more work this year.
Although she still has fun at cons, Butler said that this has made the trip more “justifiable” to outsiders, like her dad, who do not necessarily enjoy the geekier things of life. When they ask her why she is going to the con, she can say she is “making contacts with a lot of industries,” but she will also be getting to talk about her favorite shows while doing it.