Convention Entropy: A Slow Spin into Denial
With Katsucon Twenty behind me, I feel like I’ve had the same conversation afterwards for the past decade. “Am I going next year?” The answer always ends up being yes immediately. Why would I say no? Anime conventions are different experiences for different people. For most people, it’s probably the only time in the year they escape their otherwise mundane worlds to enjoy their hobby among others who speak their language. For others, it might just be the same thing they already do in a bigger space. I’ve quipped a number of times that conventions are really the same thing every year. So why do I keep going? Why not just stop?
I don’t usually like to get into personal wah-wah shit in this blog, but some context may be required to frame the post here. You’ll know when.
This year’s convention felt out of place for me compared to the last. I’m not sure if it is just because my time at these things are wearing thin, that my wife kept dogging me with the finances, putting a damper on things, or the fact that I didn’t really get a chance to walk around and see anything else. I know I’ve said that all conventions are really the same, and they are for people like me. This is something like the 30th or so convention I’ve been to, and if you’re not interested in the sixteen ATTACK ON TITAN panels being held, you really don’t care too much. Some panels are worth seeing because they aren’t the same, like Super Art Fight, or Geek Comedy Tour, but SAF comes to Hartford every year for Connecticon, so I feel like if I really need to see them, I can drive fifteen minutes from home for it, as opposed to six hours for Katsucon.
Being the ultra-hipster I am, I easily scoffed at the fact that every other kid was dressed from Shingeki, Kill la Kill, and even Kyoukai no Kanata. But I think what really grinded my gears was they all had no idea what its non-English name was. SHINGEKI NO KYOJIN. I mean, I’m not usually one to care about titles, and I hate kids who insist on proper pronunciations, but when someone doesn’t even know the original titles and just parrots what Crunchyroll spits out at them, it really sort of pisses me off. It waters down the fandom for those of us who at least pretend we’re part of something genuinely interesting. Now, I did say before that if I were to cosplay, I wouldn’t mind doing the Shingeki uniforms, but I’d need to weigh about 150 pounds less for me to feel comfortable with that. “But Delta, it doesn’t matter how much you weigh, no one should EVER judge you!” Fun fact, people judge you, and so do I. Wearing Halloween costumes after you enter middle school makes you either SO EDGY, or a fucking freak, and 90% of the time, it’s the latter. Even the girl cosplaying as Moxxi my wife took a photo of, I felt a little reserved posting that to Twitter. I assume that when you have big breasts and you choose a costume that flaunts that, you’re typically doing so on purpose. But going down this route usually lands me in Tumblr Social Justice Warrior Jail when they cry foul and call me a sexist pig, because she is cosplaying her favorite character, not putting out for other men. For the record, I do not assume girls cosplay to be sex symbols, and I assume this woman chose Moxxi because she is a Borderlands fan. I am also a Borderlands fan, so I loved her cosplay on that merit first. But she had the assets, and the tip jar prop, to completely back that outfit up and make it one of the best I saw of the show. If you SJW fucks want to come after me, talk to my wife, because she is less apologetic than me about this sort of shit.
Another observation I made this year being in Artist Alley is that most artists did not waste time jumping on the popular anime bandwagon with their art. Shingeki, KLK, and non-anime fandoms like Doctor Who and Sherlock were front-and-center in various artist booths and the Art Show. Now, we’re a fairly diverse show, we have anime and non-anime art. Several reoccurring artists bring things that have little to do with anime, and they sell. Consequently, other nerd interests sell quite well. A Mass Effect piece went to auction and sold for quite a bit. A Mulan-inspired piece sold for more. The price these artists set on their work generally ends up being lower than they can truly get for it. The assumption that con attendees are poor is sort of a misnomer. Attendees are actually pretty high on cash, but they are very picky about what they spend it on.
One artist entered a number of pieces priced from 50-500, mostly above 100. Congoers have money, but we're talking thrift shop here.
— TLDRAnimu (@tldranimu) February 16, 2014
Most kids will only shell out a lot of money for their favorite shows or the ubiquitous ANIME OF THE YEAR.
— TLDRAnimu (@tldranimu) February 16, 2014
So if you're looking to make money, buck up, draw ATTACK ON TITAN, and hate yourself for pandering to plebs. That's nerdom.
— TLDRAnimu (@tldranimu) February 16, 2014
Now, her art was not bad. It was very detailed, and very intricate, and if this were Christie’s Auction, I bet you could make some serious money there, because people who bid on art there have a lot of money. But this is an anime convention, and while you might have a couple high-rollers, the odds of selling a piece that isn’t anime or another nerd fandom in our auction are not terribly high. Crafts have been the exception, as some very nice non-nerd crafts have gone for a decent dollar. So if you’re an artist looking to make money from the con circuit, unfortunately, you have to study and understand the fan pulse, and capitalize on it. I hate Sword Art Online, but if I wanted to make money, I’d have a couple pieces from it to sell. Most artist booths I saw had the high-rollers from the last three seasons up front. Even god damn Free. Because I know how much you fuckers love men.
I view the anime fandom as any other fandom. Not any other nerd fandom, any fandom. I don’t see a difference between being an anime fan and being a football fan. One likes watching cartoons about cute girls doing cute things, another like watching sweaty men clobber each other over an oblong-shaped pigskin. Both fandoms are capable of producing men who sit around on the couch all day demanding their wives bring them another Milwaukee’s Best and the leftover pizza from the previous night. Both fandoms are capable of producing women who will cheat on their significant other for “King Anime” (or “King Cheesehead”) in an effort to rise in the social order. See, I don’t believe there is any real distinction between one person’s interests and another’s, and both are capable of turning them into monsters if they take them too far. Both of my parents were “parrotheads”, fans of Jimmy Buffett music. They did events and annual trips to places like Key West to meet other fans. Did I understand what that meant back then? Not really. Do I understand it now? Not really. I went to Put-in-Bay Ohio one year for my mother’s wedding when she remarried and could not understand why anyone would come to a random island to drink and drag each other around in wagons. But hey, to each their own. No different than kids dressing up as Homestruck characters and running around the hotel lobby, right?
What got me thinking about conventions and my role among them, however, was the drive home. Six hours is a short drive to me, but it’s enough time that I began to think about why it is I make this trip each year. My good friend, when he lived on the east coast years ago, asked me after Katsucon 9 if I wanted to join staff with his department for Katsucon 10. I accepted because I thought it’d be interesting. Even after he, and his S/O of the time parted and left staff, I’ve stayed on as long as I have because it’s been a generally good time, and because no one else seems to be coming in to replace those who have bowed out. We’re not security, medical, reg, cosplay, any of the more interesting and sought-after staff roles in a convention. We’re a small group tucked inside another which is tucked inside another. If enough of us quit, the show would likely not go on, or would be rather crippled. Maybe.
But for someone like my wife, who sort of drafted herself alongside me for this trip each year, she questions why she is there. She isn’t an anime fan, at least not to the degree I am, and does it more as a support role for myself. I sometimes joke that she comes because she won’t let me come by myself, that she fears some anime nerd girl will seduce me. Fun Fact, real anime nerd girls are as awkward as anime nerd boys and won’t do shit. You should actually fear normal girls who come along looking for an easy catch. Regardless, as accommodating as I try to be because I know she is not Power Level Retard at anime conventions, we often have difficulty making this trip because she simply doesn’t understand what it’s about. She doesn’t understand why people are willing to sleep on hotel room floors to avoid paying 200+ for a room. She doesn’t understand why people don’t take showers or make themselves look presentable. She doesn’t understand the extreme levels of fandom. We’re freaks to her. I don’t really blame her for feeling that way. She didn’t sink into this fandom for any number of reasons those of us who have. She likes Rozen Maiden and Soul Eater and that’s about it. She watches a lot of Netflix and TV shows, but you won’t find her going to San Diego Comic-Con in order to fill her face with the cast of NCIS or anything like that. She’s told me she rather go to PAX because the people who attend PAX are C-level nerds, people in their thirties and forties who just like games, not rabid fanthings in costumes squeaking about. The freaks.Freaks and Geeks: From the Outside In (Expand to read)
At a time when my parents were arguing with each other often, and eventually divorcing, having a group of people that I could be among, doing what I enjoyed, this probably saved me from becoming something truly worse in society. Neither of my parents really understood, or still understand to this day, just how depressed and shitty I felt back then. It never reached the point where I’d try to kill myself or someone else, but there were times where I nearly wanted to just give up, drop out, and go somewhere else. I hated people who sat around and leveled their hopes, dreams, and expectations on to me without bothering to even ask how I felt about it. I wasn’t supposed to have emotions or thoughts, only to execute instructions and produce output. Like a computer. Trust me, the irony is not lost to this day.
I do not argue that my early anime days were exactly like the people who go to cons now. I dug deep into this nerdom between 2000 and 2005. I went to two or three conventions a year, had wall posters and shit, the whole nine yards. All of my friends were anime nerds, and I dated a girl who I met in an anime club. I smoked that shit and flew high, but you can only escape reality for so long. When that came crashing down, I shifted to another nerd interest. I found my way back to anime when it got the point where one could watch a bunch of new shows a week because people were subbing them. I’ve never left the fandom, but today, I just watch shows I want to watch, and go to that one convention a year. I don’t even go to my local anime con each summer because I don’t really care to go by myself. But I found myself being upset at the fact that I nearly missed Katsucon due to winter weather storms here. The more I thought about it, the more I found that even though I don’t really enjoy trying to avoid being rammed into by other people and bad cosplay, they’re like me, they’re obsessive freaks, they speak my language. I feel comfortable here. I don’t have to worry about being scrutinized and judged, I don’t have to worry about how people perceive me. I’m just another anime fan. Another nerd. Nerd fandoms may have their own inner cliches, but as a whole, they are easily one of the more non-judgmental groups to be a part of.Judgement (Expand to read)
A marriage, or relationship, is built on compromise. She has been very supportive of compromising on my extreme fandom over the years, for which I love her for it. Most people think you should marry another anime fan if you are one, but I believe it leads to a mutually destructive relationship where neither person can reach outside of the box. It’s like putting two shut-ins in a room and expecting them to come out. They enable each other. She is my counter-balance. I depend on her to pull me away from this shit when I get too deep, because I have poor self-control. But at the same time, I also depend on her to respect my judgement that I can handle my shit when I need to. I don’t need her to defend me from people who think I am some kind of monster because I believe cartoons are not just for children. I don’t care if other people judge me for being an anime fan. I watch television shows and write about them. I collect some select merchandise. But if you passed by me on the street, like thousands of people have before, you wouldn’t know any of that. It’s not displayed on my face, or my clothes, or in any other physical form. I don’t stop you on the street and ask you if you’ve watched K-ON! I don’t even care about you. You could be a raging fan of How I Met Your Mother and I wouldn’t give a shit. I’m not that kind of person.
No, people judge me because they think anime is “those Chinese cartoons”. They think it’s Pokemon or Digimon. They think it’s Yu-Gi-Oh and other Americanized bullshit made for money. It’s not, and also fuck you. Fuck you for being the kind of person who has the same narrow vision that can’t understand why people can’t be homosexual, or have mental illnesses. While those aren’t even comparisons, it illustrates how people are completely and utterly unwilling to understand something beyond the surface, beyond the common public perception. I am not telling you that you should watch anime, or that it will save you from everything, but if you aren’t willing to take some time to watch a show that is in your ballpark of interest, such as Gundam if you are a interested in giant robots, then you are just being a condescending asshole. “Oh, me and my girl totally dig the Transformers movies, but we won’t watch that Japanese shit because it’s for kids!” You let me know when your FULL RETARD goes away and I’ll show you things that make Transformers look like children’s entertainment. I’m not a hardcore football fan, but I read articles, I look up some stats. I’m not the kind of asshole who gets on Twitter or Facebook and goes “Ugh, football fans, no one cares!” I used to make fun of Star Trek fans when I was little. I became a Trek fan after watching episodes of TNG, because I found it interested me more than I thought. It’s so easy to jump on the hate bandwagon before you actually understand anything about it, and now I’ve explained how politics works.The Wall (Expand to read)
I am not immune to my own self-view though. I know all I do is basically come home from work and get on my home computer and do whatever, anime, games, more work. I began to do that after an age when it was acceptable to still be on the bedroom floor playing with toys. I don’t have kids to manage, only animals. I used to build models and draw, but both fell to the wayside. I live in an apartment, so I can’t go build something in the garage or work in the yard. I enjoy watching things and writing about them. If it were movies, and I tried hard enough, I’d be a movie critic, and no one had a problem with Roger Ebert, right? Why does it take subtle differences to make something wrong right?
I honestly have no idea how long I’ll continue to be into anime. My wife has been trying to push me out of it ever since we met, and makes comments like if I am still in it in ten more years or whatever there will be problems. This bothers me, because even if I stop doing conventions and that sort, I don’t feel I have a reason to stop being a fan, to stop watching new shows. I already have come down from the terrible peak I was at six or seven years ago, and I don’t think it’s unreasonable of me to continue to enjoy it in the years down the road. I don’t expect my children, if we have any, to be fans either. I know some nerd parents try really hard to impress their fandoms on to their children, even going so far as to name them after characters, but that isn’t something I will do. I’m not going to drag them around to conventions. I’m not going to dress them up to impress other nerds. Now, if they want to get into it on their own, they can. I want to have very few expectations of my children. I don’t want them to feel pressured or burdened by me in planning their own futures and ambitions. I want them to have a life free of the kind anxiety I have and continue to face, if possible. I think, above all, my biggest fear, is if I were to remove my interest in anime from myself completely, what would fill it? I’ve always wondered what effect drugs had on someone, but I’m beginning to understand, it’s like I am on one, at a point where I fear removing it. I fear the emptiness it would bring. That seems incredibly sad to say, because it’s just fucking cartoons, and I’m sure I’d just go back to playing video games or something else, but isn’t that what humans do? They just fill the free time in their days with something meaningless and silly?
I guess, in the end, I simply don’t know what it means to be a normal person. I’ve always regarded normal as a setting in video games. I live in a world where death is permanent and all of my stuff gets dropped. What I’ve collected, what I’ve done, everything I am and will be, none of that will matter someday. So I tend to live for what I want every day. I try to include as many people with me as possible, but many choose to live their own lives. That’s fine. We all do.
Regular programming will resume this weekend or so. I have a lot of shows to catch up on, but I am still tired from driving and such. Try not to read too much into all of this, but if you have thoughts, feel free to leave them. I’d be interested to hear from others who have been in this fandom awhile and would weigh in on their experiences. No obligation to do so though.