By all accounts I should be too old for Anime conventions. They are crowded, smelly, and noisy. Not a year goes by without some epic account of organizational ineptitude on the part of the managing staff. My total wait time at registration this year was three and a half hours. The hazards of cosplay are many. You can kill yourself trying to meet a con deadline through accidents with sharp objects, hotglue and paint fumes, not to mention sleep deprivation. Don’t ever forget the sleep deprivation! That bustling photo you see in this post was taken at 10:30pm! Yet still, year after year, my friends and I manage to show up. Why do we do this to ourselves?
I don’t think the answer has anything to do with meeting friends or a slavish devotion to Japanese cartoons. Sometimes you just need an ordeal. No matter where you are in life, no matter what problems you have, there is nothing like a good shunt of self-inflicted stress to make it all go away. When you’re working on a costume, a music video or a drawing, you aren’t thinking about car payments or where your career is going. You just know that when Saturday rolls around, that labor of love needs to be out the door, no matter what state it’s in. When you see the looks of amazement on the faces of passersby, you know you’ve just spun a little bit of fiction into fact.
These conventions retain a kind of purity because of the fact that only the anime creators are allowed to really make money there. You’re not grasping after abstract concepts like meaning or marketability, you’re just having fun taking something that was in your head and making it a reality. That feeling of knowing “hey, I made that” feeds the soul. Once you’ve tasted it, you’ll go through hell and back to experience it again.