The Faces of Anime Boston

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Before this last weekend, I had never been to a convention. Anime, videogame, Star Trek cons — nothing. I had a general idea of what happened at these sorts of things, but no real sense of what to expect. A day and a half in, and those are basically the words that came out of my mouth. “I don’t know what I was expecting.”

“But this isn’t it?” she asks, to which I really have no answer. The only one I can come up with is the rather dull “I don’t know.” It feels like a thought interrupted. Was I going somewhere with that? “I don’t know what I was expecting, but I certainly never expected X?” I don’t remember what I was trying to say, if I was trying to say anything at all.

That’s the con experience in a nutshell: “…what was I saying?” It’s a tempest of color and sound and emotion that blows past so fast you’re not really sure what just happened, but you’re definitely sure you want more.

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Don’t worry. It looks scary but it’s perfectly harmless.

I got home on Sunday and have only just today recovered completely, I think. I couldn’t tell you what happened to Monday. There was no Monday this week — only a series of weird fever dreams as my brain tried to create some order out of the sensory overload it had just taken point blank.

So if you’re looking for raw impressions from a con virgin (as I’ve been called), you’ve come to the right place. Where to start, though? Let’s see…

Cosplay? Sure, I suppose that’s the first thing you’ll notice. For some reason I wasn’t expecting much from the cosplay here. “It’s not really that big a con,” I remember thinking; “I don’t think many people will take it too seriously.” Boy howdy was I wrong. I don’t know where these people find the time or how they possess the artistic ability to create these these costumes, but they’re nothing short of spectacular. Surprisingly, some of the very best cosplay wasn’t even from anime. Take that Borderlands 2 bandit up there… or some of his friends:

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In addition to the bandit, The Sheriff of Lynchwood, Tiny Tina, and Handsome Jack himself.

If that doesn’t strike your fancy, maybe one of the classics?

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Fire Mario is best Mario.

Even though I know I’d be awful at it, seeing all these folks having so much fun? Almost makes me want to try it out myself — but I have no idea who I could even attempt to dress up as. Will need to think about that one.

And I’m pretty convinced that you could spend the entire con people-watching, taking pictures, chatting in the hallways — and have an absolute blast. I was little nervous at first, as you might expect, stopping perfect strangers to ask for a picture, but then I realized the fear was kind of silly. These people live to be photographed wearing the costumes they put all this hard work into, and even ignoring that fact, kindness and friendliness are apparently just natural state of Anime Bostonites. It’s like when you walk through the doors, you’ve entered an alternate dimension where everyone is an old friend. Yeah, I guess Anime Boston is basically Cheers.

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See how friendly this guy looks?

There’s also the panels, which I’m told is the core of the con experience. There are tons of them, and while they can be a little hit-or-miss, if you land yourself in one of the good ones, you won’t regret it. (Hint: if a line is forming an hour before the panel starts, it’s probably worth checking out.) “Anime Hell” was an utterly bizarre mishmash of clips from — oddly — not just anime, but western cartoons, CG animations, and even one… uh… live action workplace safety video. (Which you should definitely not look up on YouTube if you’re squeamish about blood.)

I also dropped by the a panel with Kari Wahlgren — English voice actor of Haruko in FLCL, also known as the Greatest Anime Ever — who had some really interesting stories to tell and what sounded like solid advice for aspiring voice actors. She got swarmed by fans after the panel, though, so I didn’t get to meet her face-to-face. Maybe next year.

We did manage to stop this guy for a picture right afterward, though, so I’ll call it a success.

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Canti-sama!

All that said, the best part of the con, in my case, was the people I spent it with. I took the train into Boston and stayed there for a weekend with almost the entire Anime Club from my school. A weekend with a group of people I really, honestly, don’t know that well — which in itself is very out of character for me. I’ve spent a semester around these folks so far, and a semester is about the amount of time it takes me to just begin getting comfortable with a group and to open up. That’s what I was doing the last few weeks of classes: just introducing myself, for real. Just starting to be comfortable being myself.

And then this. Thrown into a completely new dynamic. Sharing a room with almost-strangers; sleeping in the same bed as an almost-stranger. The whole lot of us spent the weekend hanging out, laughing, talking about the things we love — and discovering we love some of the same things. By the end, we came out not just not-strangers, but friends. That’ll be the lasting impression of convention life for me.

If you’ve ever wanted to go to a convention and you haven’t yet, do yourself a favor. Please. For the fandom, the panels, the anime, the people — whatever your reason, go. In my case, it was an excuse to spend an entire weekend with someone who’s fast becoming one of my favorite people in the world. (But shh — don’t tell her I said that!)

Anyway, I’ll leave you with what was my absolute favorite cosplay at the whole convention (it’s not like I’m biased or anything!).

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Amarao and Haruko

And that’s all she wrote — until next year. I sure as heck am going to Anime Boston 2014. Maybe we’ll see each other there!

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