I have to say one thing about hardcore anime fans before I begin. They are scary. Not scary as in they could kick my ass, because most of them could not, but scary in the way a religious fanatic is scary. These are people so completely devoted to their hobby that they’ve let it devour their minds. I like anime, but these people love it.
A-Kon is the first anime “con” in the United States and apparently the largest in the southwest (according to some guy named Mike Battle). A-Kon 17 is the 17th A-Kon to occure since 1987. A-Kon 17 took place from June 9th to the 11th at the Adam’s Mark Hotel. The full name of the convention is Project A-Kon which contrary to popular belief is not a play on the name of the anime Project A-Ko, but an abbreviation of “Anime Convention”.
This was my first trip to an anime convention and it really is another world. First, the buildings in Dallas are huge. My home city is really small when compared to other cities in the country and Dallas is no exception. I spend half my time in other cities staring up at the skyscrapers, all the while thinking that there are cities whose building are even taller. The Adam’s Mark Hotel has large indoor areas; the conference room area is enormous and so are most of the rooms attached to it. The Hotel itself consists of three towers, two connected by a sky bridge. Another sky bridge connects it to the nearby Bryan Tower and the Plaza of the Americas. The Plaza of the Americas is home to a number of shops and restaurants and even has an ice rink in its center.
Now if you take all of that and add one thousand plus otaku to it, you’ve got a pretty clear view of how the convention was. The hotel has by my estimate around fifty-seven elevators, a number not even close to handling the amount of people present. Often I found myself waiting in line to use them when I needed something from my room or needed to get back down to the convention floor. “Waiting for the elevator isn’t so bad,” you might say. “Suck it up and deal.” Well you’re right. Waiting isn’t bad, but try to enjoy an elevator ride where you’re smashed up next to a smelly fat woman in an InuYasha costume.
The cosplay is interesting. Before A-Kon I always pictured cosplayers to be either immature people who were trapped in some kind of Halloween fantasy wonderland or people who liked anime so much that it had eaten their brain, but after seeing a absolutely amazing Alucard costume I revised my opinion (well maybe a little). My favorite costumes that I saw were ones of anime that I’d never seen. That way I had no context or prejudices (example: I hate InuYasha and so am not likely going to think kindly of anyone who likes it enough to dress up as one of its characters). There are things you start to notice about the cosplayers after awhile. You may see as many as seven different Sakuras and most of these will be shitty, but there will always be one that catches your eye and remains the definitive Sakura cosplayer for the rest of the convention. There are times you want to scream at the cosplayers. After seeing what had to be seven of these Sakuras, I wanted to start grabbing them and yelling, “Pick something original! You don’t see four-fucking-hundred of those Jill Valentines do you?” Actually, I only remember seeing one Jill Valentine and she was a cutie.
Which brings me to another observation, there are hot otaku chicks, but for every one of them there are about five disgusting women and for every one of them there are probably about ten guys. Some of these guys are beyond foul. Some of them are the kind that wait two hours in a line for the Hentai Room to open up.
Not all of the convention was cos-play and hentai. There where multiple rooms for viewing videos, there was a tabletop role-playing room, a boffer fighting room (I watched about two minutes of these fuckers and left in disgust. I’ve done my fair share of boffer fighting back in the day and I am still quite sure that a shield needs to be held in front of a person and not at their side to be effective.), a fair amount of live action roleplaying societies doing demonstrations, a 24-hour computer gaming room, a console gaming room (I heard that it was canceled after the sponsor pulled out unexpectedly, but I have no way of confirming this), an art and charity auction, numerous amateur artist tables, the guy who played Chewbacca signing autographs, and a concert hall.
The last three in that list particularly interest me. Some of the amateur artists are very talented. So talented in fact that I seriously wonder why they aren’t making bucket loads of money. What was really strange is that I actually got to meet the creator of Crap I Drew on my Lunch Break, a web-comic I enjoy (and those are few and far between).
I also got to meet Peter Mayhew, the guy who plays Chewie in the Star Wars films. The encounter was strange. One of the people I was with at the convention needed to go pick up another member of our group at one of Dallas’s airports and I decided that I’d hitch a ride because I wanted to see more of the city. After driving around for several hours, my “friend” decided to call our contact and tell her that she’d better just call a cab, because we were terribly lost. So lost that we even had to call the hotel for directions back to it. Upon returning, we discovered that the parking garage was full. My friend argued with the attendant who was stationed at the entrance for several minutes (“You don’t understand, I have a ticket!” “Everybody’s got a ticket.”) before finally agreeing to go to the overflow lot. Well, we get there and he headed to the convention floor while I doubled back to the parking garage to tip the attendant for having to put up with him. When I entered the garage I noticed a very large man leaning in an alcove obscured from the street smoking a cigarette. I was taken aback by how large this man was and it took a few seconds for the face to click in my memory.
Me: Chewbacca right?
Me: Cool. You see a large black parking attendant anywhere here?
I like Star Wars just fine, but I’m not the kind to geek out over meeting one of the actors. I try to play it cool. My mind may be going, “Holy shit! It’s Chewbacca!” but I don’t want be drooling over this guy because he was in some movie I happened to see.
The concert on Friday was essentially the Japanese version of Britney Spears. Her name was something like Koni-Ko or Ko-ko. Everybody seemed to know who she was, anyway. Her music was far too pop-y for me to enjoy, but she was entertaining mainly because she had a tendency to shed clothes as her show progressed. The concert on Saturday was a band called PENICILLIN nano which I missed because I had gotten myself involved in Cthulhu the LARP.
A-Kon was fun, but money went fast. As I understand it all the ATMs around the Adam’s Mark Hotel went dry some time on Saturday. I, myself, spent roughly two hundred dollars by Saturday. There are t-shirts with the joke “Anime: Crack is cheaper” and that is the truth. If I ever go again, I’ll bring four hundred bucks.
(I’m told that the con made it into the top five things to do in Dallas, that weekend.)
Source me up, sexy!
Project A-Kon by clearpebbles.