I’m getting too old for anime conventions.

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Now when I say I’m getting too old for anime conventions it’s not because I’m so out of date on current anime that I didn’t recognize any of the characters or titles that were on display at the show, though there were plenty of said titles there, nor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.

9 thoughts on “I’m getting too old for anime conventions.

  1. One thing you didn’t mention is how Courtney was on cloud nine all night due to the fact she met her hero.  tongue laugh

  2. I know what you mean about cons (in general, not just anime).  Here in Atlanta we have Dragon*Con every Labor Day weekend (Last weekend in August/first weekend in September for non US members – 2007 was Aug 31-Sep 3), followed by AWA (Anime Weekend Atlanta) about 3 weeks later –  the feet, back, and wallet all hurt by the beginning of October. Then there’s Oktoberfest….

    They are fun to attend, but very wearying especially since I am a 1960 model human and all warranties are long expired ohh

  3. So they get dressed up as their favourite characters, then….

    I just can’t see how people can enjoy talking to people they don’t know on what would be to me an entirely superficial level, even if they are likeminded, I don’t really care who they are or where they came from, I might try to look polite, but only under threat.

    I only deal with people for selfish reasons (ie at work I have to get on to earn money and leniency), even now I only come to SEB for practise, extra ideas, etc, I don’t care about anyone personally

  4. I moved to Japan a year ago to study. I’ve met so many ‘otaku’ people who don’t understand that their cute little subculture can be more that that for a lot of people. Otaku in Japan are more than misfits, they’re shunned and don’t fit into any part of society. They can also be disgustingly creepy. (See mohe, and lolicon.) What disturbs me about Americans (or any other people not living in Japan) who are fans of anime or Japanese culture, is the fact that they’re misfits in America but somehow when they get to Japan think life is going to be as if they’re in a manga. Some of them are so deranged. I don’t know how they idolize that lifestyle…

    However, my major is animation and film. (I do love anime and manga too…) I live in Japan so obviously I like it here, but its really hard to talk to Japanophiles about all the problems Japan has because its been placed on a pedestal. Once you do that to something, its really hard to remove that mindset. Anime conventions can be fun and interesting but coming from a person who worked one for six years, they are also a showcase of some of the most bizzare people who choose to live that way. Those kids usually have the worst culture shocks if they study abroad. I know most people are sane and rational, but I’ve met some who I think needed psychiatric help and since I’m going into this industry I just want to understand the obesession. Sometimes its not healthy.

  5. I sit on the “Older Otaku” Panel at Otakon in Baltimore. I completely know where you’re coming from with the change in the anime culture. My Panel aims to keep us “old skool nerds” in the know so we understand where my little otaku is into. (she’s 13)Our entire family does Cons—-we did Comic Con this year and it was DA BOMB. EEEK! I HUGGED SETH GREEN!

    Otakon did completely outlaw glomping, hugging and any sign advertising because it created a lot of problems. Unwanted advances being the major one. It was protested loudly at first, but membership has increased nonetheless. As a result, Otakon has become more inviting to families wanting to take their smaller kids to a con.

  6. I was wrong in my last comment to fight people’s hobbies

    If it makes people happy, i’ll leave it be so long as it doesn’t do any net harm. Harm would be in the form Shaye mentioned

  7. Shaye, I was once a bit of a Japanophile and I still find the country fascinating, but I’m aware enough of the culture differences to know that it’d be a fun place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there. I’m far from a True Otaku which is probably why back when I ran an anime website I called it “The Casual Otaku” which is, really, an oxymoron.

    THFM, I’ve been to a couple of Otakons in my time and it was the second con I ever attended (Katsucon III being the first). It was certainly one of my favorite of the conventions I managed to get to. Good to hear it’s still going strong.

  8. Les, sounds interesting. If you have any questions about Japan don’t hesitate to ask!

    Also I’m from GR so we’re both Michiganders. But I don’t get over to Detroit area much.

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