As has been stated on more than one occasion I’m a former anime/manga otaku who once ran a website devoted to the topic and spent countless hours traveling to cons and hanging out with people in the industry, but all of that had to fade into the background once I got married and my daughter, Courtney, came to live with me. Courtney since then has picked up the torch of anime otaku and has been running with it ever since, but she’s never had the experience of going to an anime convention before because most of them take place in other states. Turns out Michigan has had one called Youmacon for the past couple of years and it just took place for the third time this weekend. So, being the good father that I am, I offered to take Courtney and one of her friends to the con this weekend and that’s what I spent yesterday doing.
Now when I say I’m getting too old for anime conventions it’s not because I’m so out of date on current anime that I didn’t recognize any of the characters or titles that were on display at the show, though there were plenty of said titles there, nor is it because I think I’ve outgrown watching anime. No, I say I’m getting too old because we were there for some 8 or 9 hours wandering about to different panels and watching people parade around in their cosplay outfits and by the time we got home I hurt something fierce. Not only my back, which gets annoyed anytime I’m on my feet for any length of time, but my legs and my knees were bothering me. Surprisingly enough my feet were fine and usually that’s the first thing to start hurting, but we managed to sit down often enough that my feet were happy.
The con itself was pretty good even though—compared to a lot of cons I’ve been to in the past—this one was fairly small. The dealer room had maybe six companies in there hawking their wares and the selection of items was somewhat limited and overlapping. None of the importers (Viz Media, Tokyo Pop, ADV Films, AnimEigo, etc.) were present and there were no Japanese guests of honor to speak of, though they had plenty of guests from the American side of the industry including a number of English voice actors who were often also directors/producers/translators and so on. Still there were plenty of panels on a wide range of topics and the obligatory rooms dedicated to video and table top gaming.
I think it’s been just over a decade since the last convention I attended and while things have largely stayed the same over the years, some things have changed. For one thing the quality of the Anime Music Videos has gone up considerably giving testament to the availability of inexpensive high quality video editing software on home PCs and the rise of DVD burning. Back in the day the quality of the video tapes often suffered due to the high number of copies of each clip that had to be made in order to splice them together and syncing it all to music was often a hit or miss affair. The better the syncing the more likely the video quality would suffer. Some of the stuff we saw yesterday looked like it came right off of MTV as it was that good.
Another thing that changed is that it seems like there’s a lot more… hugging… going on these days. I’m not talking about the oh-look-it’s-our-friend-so-and-so-let’s-hug-them type hugging, but people walking around holding up signs offering “free hugs” or “glomp me” that gave the whole convention a pseudo-1960’s Free Love vibe to it. It is tempting to make the obvious joke about otaku being so starved for any kind of physical contact, but considering that I’m still an otaku myself it would probably be hypocritical of me to do so.
Along similar lines is the fact that there’s quite a bit more accommodation, at least at this con, for more adult material and one form that seems to be particularly popular (especially among women) is known as Yaoi and is defined as follows:
Yaoi is a publishing genre which originated in Japan and often encompasses manga, dōjinshi, anime, and fan art. It is homosexual love between male characters and is sexually explicit.
Yaoi, outside of Japan, is an umbrella term for all male/male erotic comics made for women from Japan; as well as male/male erotic comics made in the west. The actual name of the genre in Japan is called ‘BL’ or ‘Boy’s Love’. BL is an extension of shoujo and Lady’s categories, but is considered a separate category. Like ‘Yaoi’ is used in the United States, ‘BL’ is used in Japan to include: commercial and amateur works, works with no sex, works with sex, doujinshi about adolescents with little or no sex, works in all types of media – manga, anime, novels, games, and drama CDs with male/male content, and characters of all ages in male/male content. Terms such as yaoi, shounen-ai, tanbi, June, and original June, are all referred to in Japan, as ‘BL’. However, it does not include gay publications.
Though yaoi is sometimes used to refer to any male homosexual content in film and print media, particularly in works created by females, that is generally considered a misuse of the term. Professional Japanese artists, such as Kodaka Kazuma, are careful to distinguish their works as “yaoi,” rather than “gay,” when describing them to English-speaking audiences.
Only in Japan could they have a category of entertainment that deals with homosexual love between men that isn’t considered gay. The popularity of this sub-genre is surprising, or at least it is to someone who’s been out of the convention scene for as long as I have, and there were people of both genders walking around with “I ♥ Yaoi!” buttons and t-shirts on and at least one guy who combined his appreciation of yaoi with the tradition of “hug me” signs. Above and beyond just people openly admitting to enjoying one of the more esoteric forms of anime the convention itself had a number of late-night panels that were listed as being strictly for people 18 years or older and the con took steps to ensure this was enforced by putting a “Y” on the badge of any minor attendees. Considering that there’s always been at least some adult content at every convention I went to in the past, at least in regards to some of the titles/collectibles available in the dealer’s room, this seems like a natural and reasonable growth for the convention circuit. Of course I have no idea if any of the other cons are as accommodating, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they were.
One of the great things about attending any anime con are the folks brave enough to engage in cosplay and, as you can see from the couple of photos already posted, they were out in full force at Youmacon. In fact there was a surprising amount of cosplayers for what is arguably a smaller convention and it contained the standard mix of very brave people wearing very spicy outfits to very brave people who probably should have thought twice on the character they decided to dress up as. Courtney was in charge of taking pictures and she’s still a bit of a novice at that so a few of the shots didn’t turn out too well and she also seems to have avoided some of the bravest of the brave. Still she managed to get some good shots of some of the best costumes at the con so I’ve posted a few of them in the extended entry.
But before we go there I’d like to mention one very special attendee of the con that I totally didn’t expect to see there: Jesus Christ himself, in the flesh, so to speak.
Who knew Jesus was an otaku?
As always, you can click any of the pictures for a bigger version.