When I went to my first anime convention in 2001, I was expecting to see maybe a few card tables of merchandise, perhaps a video room, nothing fancy. What I found was a phenomenon in mid-explosion. There was an entire ballroom dedicated to the dealers room, a music video contest, and a cosplay contest with a fervor a rock concert. Today Sakuracon can pack the Seattle convention Center with over 15,000 attendees. Even though the anime industry is in a slump, the convention continued to grow all over the world. It’s hard to believe they all started out as a twinkle in the eyes of scattered pockets of fans.
The images you see in this post are by lionboogy, a celebrated con photographer and Transformers cosplayer. When he posted these pictures on IRC in 1994, his friend balked at the idea that anime conventions could ever get this big. At the time they would have been right. What changed over the past 15 years to bring us what are essentially mobile theme parks dedicated to anime?
The answer is the personal computer. Anime fans, being interested in futuristic stuff, were quick to use their gadgets to plan their activities. When the Internet came to prominence, and from all over the state or province could find out where to gather. They were even distributing entire anime episodes over the net a full seven years before YouTube hit the scene.
I find it ironic when people talk about technology and the force of the isolation. I found Sakuracon over the Internet, and through it I’ve met very dear friends that I’ve had for almost a decade. Sure, you could use the Internet to sit in your basement all day and play MMOs, but if you’re willing to make full use of the technology they can make your life more real than you ever thought possible.
How many times have you been bored to death by an anime series, only to find out later that you “just need to stick with it” for a few episodes before it “picks up”? There seems to be some prevailing theory in the anime industry that you need to make viewers work for their enjoyment. If you hook people on the first episode, well, that’s just cheap. How will you know your fans will stick with you through the inevitable recap episode?
Take my experience with A Certain Scientific Railgun as an example. The first episode is all about how this school girl Mikoto is so apparently god-like that her sidekick Kuroko has made it her mission to lure her into love hotel. The antagonists, if you could call them that, are such push-overs that it’s embarrassing. Not only do I not care what happens to these characters, this show isn’t going to let anything happen in the first place. But of course, the fourth episode is totally epic. I just have to hang in there.
I still chase the dragon of anime bliss. The next Macross or Slayers could just be one more incomprehensible title away. I’ve given a lot of my time and money to anime. I’ve got a closet full of manga and un-assembled model kits to prove it. However, now that I’m not a university student with 11:30am classes, my time is kind of at a premium. I just don’t think it’s too much to ask to start enjoying a show as soon as the opening credits roll.
Sure, we like to complain about how complicated technology is, but even the most basic amenities that we take for granted today had a learning curve back in their day. Apparently this sign adorned some hotel rooms in the 1870s. A printable version can be found here. Found via BoingBoing Gadgets.
Blood of Bahamut truly displays the elegance of hardware and software pushed to the limit. Honestly, who cares about HD graphics when you can make a DS do this? Via GameTrailers
There is nothing cooler than t-shirts with subtle geek references. A passing glance at one of these Metal Gear T-shirts leads the mundane observer to consider them a product of a rock band or an insipid fashion label. Closer inspection reveals that they are trophies of all the hours you logged trying to get past Sniper Wolf.Via BoingBoing OffWorld
The more minor characters of the Star Wars Saga get their due with this funky ABC design set. Via Topless Robot
Proof that Volks doesn’t just make those creepy dolls you find hanging around anime conventions. Via Neko Magic
You wouldn’t think that Chilliwack would play host to an anime cosplay meetup, but last Saturday, the weather cooperated with the gorgeously designed Rotary Central Community Park in order to showcase the local talent. You can see the full gallery after the jump.