This weekend in Dallas, Texas is Project A-Kon, an anime convention that is celebrating its 20 year anniversary. I’ve visited the convention at this hotel for the last five years. It’s had it’s ups and it’s downs, but there’s truly nothing like a gathering of like minds in an atmosphere such as this.
I’ve attended anime conventions for over five years, filming them all along the way. What is it that keeps me coming back? I mean, sure, I sometimes get burned out on them, yet when a new one creeps up on me, I’m always there. Why is that?
I suppose it’s best explained by why I started attending conventions in the first place. I was at the end of my high school years and only just beginning to embrace anime as a story-telling art form. In fact, I was still in denial about the whole situation. I had convinced myself that I was going for the video games, not the anime (yeah, right).
I piled into the backseat of this tiny Volkswagen Thing with tons of other friends and their bags and their costumes and everything right after the final class bell. We played our music loud and drove for over an hour from the San Antonio area to Austin to reach Ushicon (a now defunct convention that I hear is attempting to reset themselves). It was a blast just along the way up. We were meeting other people from school there, too. We were all in the same line of thought, ready to stay up all weekend and see absolutely everything there was to see.
My first cosplay as Aeris from FFVII at Ushicon 3, 2004
I arrived in cosplay, as Aeris Gainsborough from Final Fantasy VII. While I was not the most top notch Aeris cosplayer that ever existed (that title belongs to Adella), it was determined that I was at least the best Aeris at the convention at that time. I was proud. And I had pictures galore. You can find a lot of them on my Flickr page, sitting over there on the right of this blog. People actually stopped me and wanted my attention, wanted pictures with me… it was amazing.
And it wasn’t just the cosplay. It was the copious amounts of people sharing my interests, actually willing to talk with me, and walking away with the romantic interests of multiple men. A first in my life! And it was then that I realized that I wasn’t doomed to be the quiet kid in the corner with no one of similar interests to talk to. I realized that I could have all the friends I ever wanted. And I got that and more.
Things only escalated from there. As time went on and I went to more and more anime conventions, everyone realized that I was the person to come to when looking for convention information. It was a kind of a drug or a high. I felt important and special in a sort of nerdy environment. And it helped that I really liked and appreciated the environment, too.
What’s great about an anime convention is that the environment isn’t truly limited only to anime. Video games follow closely behind, as well as tabletop gaming (card games, Dungeons and Dragons, etc.). And even after that, other nerdly-related memes and behaviors are widely accepted in these places. You’re even considered cool for going more obscure. That’s really what I love about these places. Conventions have the most widely accepting community of people I’ve ever met. They’ll accept you no matter your race, creed, gender, sexual orientation, whatever. If you’re there, you’re part of a big, happy, easily excitable, sugar-high family.
The activities over the course of the weekend are well worth the price you’re paying. When you go, you’ll never want to go to sleep (but, please do!). There’s guests you may never have seen before, and in some situations may never have the opportunity to see again. Especially those musical guests. GO TO THOSE CONCERTS! These are usually guests from Japan. You MUST see them! You’re only paying maybe a $50 entrance fee for 72 hours (sometimes more)! You have no excuse not to see some of these guests!
And so, even though I have attended A-Kon five years in a row at the same hotel, and despite the convention drama that likes to rear its ugly head from time to time, I’m still a sucker for the atmosphere. I think there are a lot of convention regulars who can agree with me. I am certainly excited to see A-Kon’s 20th year of operation. Sign me up for another one of those yearly commemorative shirts.