Otaku life: So you want to go to a con
"Puella Magi Madoka Magica" fans show off their costumes.
November 11th, 2011
01:03 PM ET

Otaku life: So you want to go to a con

Becoming an Asian culture nerd is a sneaky process.

Sometimes it creeps up on you in such a way that you have no idea that it's actually happening. You listen to some AKB48 singles that a friend gave you, and soon they're in rotation on your favorite playlist. You saw one Japanese horror movie, and now suddenly you have to see them all. You picked up an anime habit you can't seem to shake.

Or, most befuddling of all, you've piled on all these habits and you seem to keep finding new ones, like researching characters from shows you like and realizing you're wondering what it would be like to dress up as them.

Maybe you're handy at sewing, and you decide to make the costume yourself, or maybe you're a total klutz and you buy the costume on the internet. Next thing you know, you've tried it all on at home in the mirror, and you feel magical and awesome, and you realize that you have one major problem: You need a place to go to show this off and to enjoy the feeling of being that character you admire for a day, or two, or maybe even a whole weekend. And all at once, it hits you that your hobbies are about to go to a whole new level.

It's time to attend your first convention.

To a person who has never attended one before, a convention (or "cons", as they are called for short) may seem intimidating, like some sort of secret club that one has to gain admission to. And in a way, that impression is somewhat valid - one does need to buy an actual ticket to walk inside of a proper convention. However, the ticket really is all you need.

I say that because whether you attend your first convention with a gaggle of friends and plan a group cosplay, or whether you show up alone, you're bound to make more friends along the way. That's one of the magical things about going to a con: You're about to enter a sacred space that is dominated by a large group of people who share a tremendous amount of your interests, and are just as starved to talk about them as you are. In other words, you've found your tribe.

Hard not to be excited about that.

Where to begin, though? Well, by now, friends, forums and Twitter have probably let slip some of the heavy-hitters: Anime Expo. Otakon. Fanime. Anime North. These bigger cons get mentioned more often, of course. But perhaps it's not in your budget to go running to the other side of the country, rent a hotel room, buy a ticket AND pay for the cost of your costume.

If that's the case, smaller, local cons are a great way to start, and there are tons of them. While they may not have all the star power of the biggest cons, they still offer a lot for the budding anime fan to enjoy. And if you love it, you can always save up to make the big trek across the country for one of the big ones. Good luck packing that Buster Sword for travel, by the way.

When you arrive at the con, you may realize you've been propelled here by some simple motive such as seeing a guest or maybe even just dressing up. However, there's a ton of cool stuff to do at a con, and it can be overwhelming to know where to begin.

For instance, there are meet-ups designed for cosplayers who like certain characters. So, if you came dressed like Hatsune Miku, you can go meet everyone else that's in their Miku costumes. You can meet voice actors who voice your favorite characters in anime. You can go to see musical performances. You can go to the Dealer's Room, which typically has a huge selection of anime-related merchandise to purchase.

And last but not least, you can go to panels, which host all sorts of topics and cater to every niche. Hang around until late night, and you can even slip into some "adult interest panels" - better known as hentai in the Japanese world.

Speaking of niches, there are cons that cater to each specific area of otaku interest. Maybe the deeper you get into anime, you realize that you really like certain kinds, or some subgenres really speak to you.

For instance, Yaoi-Con is a growing convention that takes place every year in Burlingame, CA that caters to fans of a subgenre of anime called "yaoi" - also known as "boy love," or anime that depicts attractive young men falling in love with one another,  which was created in Japan specifically for a female audience. Some would turn up their noses at the prospect, but for others, it's like stumbling into their own private heaven, complete with a large group of people who can understand exactly why that is.

That's what's at the core of every con - a sort of alchemy among its attendees. The heart of the transmutation is the creation of a temporary universe, where people who do not normally feel accepted in the world can go and feel right at home.

Perhaps you will pass someone in the hallway, recognize their costume and yell, "Yeah! Asuka!" and know you will be rewarded with a smile for knowing who they are. Maybe even stop to talk or make a new friend. As long as cons continue to offer these opportunities, people will continue to be drawn to them, whether they cater to otaku interests, comics, sci-fi or anything else in the geek spectrum.

So go. Find your tribe. They're waiting.

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Filed under: Otaku
soundoff (19 Responses)
  1. Zurhy

    (Author) November 22, 2011 at 6:00 pm waaa bestnye ko dh pnearh pi jepun.. aku bila la agaknya..sape dlm kategori kipas susah mati anime/manga, grenti diorg suka jepun :PZoOL recently posted..

    August 2, 2012 at 5:41 pm |
  2. Reithena

    Love Otakon! Have been going since I was 15 and plan on never stopping! Baltimore is so welcoming to the otaku's that come out and is great since there are lots of hotels and free transportation lines ^^

    November 21, 2011 at 7:49 am |
  3. ps3chick

    Cons are so much fun! There's nothing like being surrounded by hundreds or thousands of other people who share your passion. I can't wait to get the chance to go to Yaoi-Con...mmmm...but in the meantime A-Kon is the closest major one to me. I'm ready for summer and con season all over again.

    November 19, 2011 at 4:32 pm |
  4. Naka-Kon Director

    Hey, if you're talking about good regional anime conventions, don't forget about Naka-Kon! This relatively new anime convention in the midwest boasted an attendance of approximately 4,700 people last year, and we're still growing. We've got great guests, an incredible cosplay contest, and wonderful panels. We're in the Kansas City metro area, specifically at the Overland Park convention center this year, February 10th to the 12th. Games, contests, panels, dances, and more.

    I normally don't attend anime conventions. I'm more of a sci-fi fan, but Naka-Kon is awesome, which is why I agreed to join their staff.

    As far as other types of conventions are concerned, the best LARGE convention is Dragon*Con, without a doubt. The best regional con (and I've been to a few) is Arisia in Boston. Arisia is January 13th to the 16th, and it has a bit of everything. EXCELLENT regional convention. I used to live in Boston, but now that I've moved to Kansas City, I still travel back to Boston every year for Arisia.

    Aaaah, convention life... it's grand.

    November 15, 2011 at 12:41 am |
  5. Ettura

    Give "steampunk" a try and learn a little history along the way. The costumes can be awesome, too.

    November 14, 2011 at 10:58 am |
    • Amin

      The thing that surprised me most about Hourou Musuko is how fun and jofuyl it often is. I mean, I laughed quite a few times watching it not like LOL laughter, but laughter nonetheless. It was sensitive but didn't roll around in its own self-importance.

      August 5, 2012 at 1:24 am |
  6. Emelia

    To be fair, Jim, since the last few big cons, everything BUT the anime cons have been addressed on the site. ^^ Save for an article on cosplaying, which addressed all cosplayers. And this is "Otaku life", after all. ^.~

    November 13, 2011 at 3:33 pm |
  7. Jim H.

    Interesting article but unfortunately it only concentrated on anime fandom. Every sci-fi/fantasy genre has it's own conventions such as Doctor Who, Star Trek, MegaCon, and so on. Also omitted are the multimedia conventions such as San Diego Comic-Con, C2E2, and – my personal favorite – Dragon*Con. I usually attend conventions to people watch, shop in the dealers' halls, take photographs, and meet-up with friends I only get to see during conventions.

    November 13, 2011 at 11:20 am |
    • denim

      Word. Anime cons are one very narrow niche group.

      November 13, 2011 at 2:39 pm |
    • Expo

      Let us not forget the KING of all "cons" Penny Arcade Expo. PAX as it is call makes all other cons look like amateur hour. It shows up on both coasts and draws in over 60k. For anyone who has been (I have been to every one since 2005) it is a life changing event

      November 14, 2011 at 10:03 am |
  8. Dan

    Me love you long time

    November 12, 2011 at 3:50 pm |
  9. Emelia

    You never forget your first con. I was so excited when I saw a Sunao Fujimori cosplayer I found myself unable to speak, or squeal. Heh! Ah, memories... Keep hoping Kat-tun or Arashi would show up at Sakura-con.
    Omfg, Yaoicon, YES. I WANT to go to it. Want to so much someday. (Yaoi is win. Hetero is so overrated after all, lol.)

    November 12, 2011 at 3:47 am |
  10. Saith

    I had a friend coerce me to visit her in Atlanta on the weekend of Dragon*con in 2008. I thought it sounded like fun to dress up and she had a plan for a Zelda group so I did a princess Zelda costume. I spent about 30 hours sewing it up and making the armor and wound up having a blast doing it. When I got to the con I was entrenched in a massive group of people with awesome experiences, jobs, knowledge, skills, and interests. I go back yearly now to show off my new work and see how far my friends have progressed. Conventions are a blast.

    November 12, 2011 at 1:45 am |
  11. TWILIGHT ZONE

    BEAM ME DOWN SCOTTY

    November 11, 2011 at 11:41 pm |
  12. Good night, Miss Agnes

    OMFG!!

    November 11, 2011 at 10:14 pm |
  13. asgardshill

    Not only would you probably have a great deal of trouble packing your "real" Buster Sword for travel, you'd probably have to have it peacebound at the con itself (if they let you in the door at all with it).

    November 11, 2011 at 7:46 pm |
  14. Tez

    Oh god I remember my first con...I will never ever ever forget the headache I got from standing in the admissions line listening to the thirteen-year-old Sakura cosplayer behind me shrieking like crazy at a Sasuke that walked by. Protip: brace yourself for screaming fangirls at any anime convention, particularly if you cosplay some popularly handsome male character.

    My hometown con is Sakuracon, which is - I believe - the second largest con on the West coast after AX. Seattle is the best location possible for any convention, seriously - hotels within easy walking distance, food and shopping and anything else you might want close enough to the main con site that you don't have to hike/drive miles just to get a burger that's not gonna cost you twenty bucks, easy access to more espresso stands than just the shop on the first floor and the Sbux on the second floor. I'm not biased or anything, naturally.

    November 11, 2011 at 4:11 pm |
  15. Primula

    Yep, it snuck up on me as well! I became otaku about 4 years ago, but living on the Great Plains has meant being rather physically isolated from other fans. Thank you internet for keeping me sane! I have since discovered several small cons in the region and have volunteered to help with Sogen Con in Sioux Falls, SD next summer. It will be my first anime con and I'm really looking forward to it. I'm hoping to get two cosplay and one steampunk costume together for it. Anyone can check it out at sogencon (dot) org

    November 11, 2011 at 2:23 pm |
  16. razor

    "Speaking of niches, there are cons that cater to each specific area of otaku interest." Anime based "cons" are a niche in and of themselves. Small fry by comparison.

    November 11, 2011 at 2:16 pm |