Animazement 2005 Convention Report
I was just outside the Dealer’s Room when the Pocky began to take hold. A shady looking man standing in a booth slipped it to me. I looked around, checking the cops at the door, then passed him a twenty and scuttled away with my precious little treats. One stick and I was hooked. First one is always supposed to be free, but tell that to the guy behind the table. Try and get away from the Dealer’s Room without opening your wallet and screeching “Fly, my pretties!” Never turn your back on Japanese treats and the men selling them. Not if you know what’s good for you.
In other words, I just survived my first anime convention with no more scars than I started out with and the bruises will fade over time. The memories, though, they’ll stay forever, and if there’s a better way to spend a weekend than watching way more anime than any human mind is fit to handle with 2,000 of your closest friends, I am hard-pressed to think of it.
Things started out alright. I circled the hotel looking for parking, wondering where to go, but in situations like these, there is one steadfast rule I cling to: Look for the people who look like they know what they’re doing, and follow them. When I saw blue hair, I knew I’d found the right spot and when I saw costumes, I decided these were the guys to follow. My cunning plan lead me straight inside the hotel, where I filled out a small piece of paper with my details, scribbled my name on a pass, and hung it around my neck like a badge of honor, a way to say, “Greeting, kinsmen, I am not of your tribe, but I have heard of you. Let us break bread and be fanboys together.”
Running the gauntlet of registration required all my training and experience, as well as little green slips of paper. Once I’d gotten my pass and con book, I scurried away before I could be talked into a t-shirt and retired to the room next door to scan the schedule and wonder what kind of Wonderland of colored hair and nice costumes I’d entered. My attention was drawn away, however, by a bank of TVs and the guys and girls arrayed before them. Ah. Video games. An island of familiarity in a sea of newness. I clung to it like a life raft, parking myself by the machines and gawking at the nigh-impossible things well-practiced players were doing to their animated avatars.
But it was a trap. The small Asian guy beating everybody looked up at me expectantly. As did everyone else. It seemed I’d been loitering long enough that they assumed I wanted to play and I knew I had to represent what we professionals stand for. Of course, what we stand for is getting soundly thrashed when the button mashing strategy we carefully employ in these situations is completely destroyed by the guy who practices with the fighting kangaroo for hours and hours and hours and hours. I didn’t know fighting kangaroos were major video game characters, or active in electronic entertainment at all, thus my defeat was swift and assured.
Mumbling “Good game”, I fled the land of my ignominious defeat and exiled myself to one of the hotel hallways, plotting my next move. To truly understand this new tribe, I had to blend in among them. Become one with them. I checked my equipment and found that technology was as reliable as ever. My flash memory drove my Canon to drink, and she was putting down the double As and getting angry, swearing I never loved her and she’d be at her mother’s. Photography was right out. Perhaps I’d lurk and patrol. The Dealer Room beckoned and I cannot speak of what unfolded afterwards, save that I awoke from my Pocky-fuelled frenzy to find myself questioning all that I knew of the universe. I also had a headache.
Screenings, panels, conversations, and a few more fighting game beatdowns later, I retired to my abode, tremendously happy and plotting my plan of attack for the second day. Those of you who watch anime already know how enjoyable it is and probably know how much more enjoyable it is with others who share your particular taste, especially en masse. The panels and discussions and events were fun, but what I enjoyed most was roaming from point to point on the floor, peoplewatching and listening to excited conversations around me. The price of admission was worth it to watch Alphonse Elric go coasting by on Rollerblades, tallying up a Roy vs. Edward vote on her back. Ed was winning, but I suspect the Colonel would just smirk at that, then make some bold proclamation that he enjoyed being the underdog before lighting things on fire.
Day two dawned and my feet protested, but I bribed them with the prospect of screening rooms and not a lot of walking. I lied, of course, and spent most of the day lurking around Artist’s Alley, studying the cool art on display and contemplating how very silly I’d look if I bought one of those hats with ears on them. Fortunately, my will held, and my silliness remains but an abstract, a theory. But they were really fuzzy.
Which isn’t to say I didn’t spend plenty of time watching anime. This was a perfect crash course for a budding fan like me and spending a few days watching anime with people way more obsessive than I am proved quite educational. The venue was awesome, at least in my humble opinion, with something always going on in one of the ballrooms and plenty of space to have a sit down, catch your breath, and watch the Inuyashas wander by. The Sheraton Imperial Hotel managed to balance open spaces for moderate conversation with teeming rooms of people being as loud as possible. As my feet cried out in protest, I began to wish I’d reserved a room ahead of time, as a lair where I might retreat and get off my feet. I can’t say, as I didn’t go exploring, but it looked to me like the elevators took you right down into the lobby, where everyone kind of chilled before wandering off to other areas.
By day three, I liked to think I’d settled into a comfortable routine, gone from the wide-eyed rookie to the grizzled veteran, though the truth was both brain hemispheres fused from massive sugar injections. The last day was mostly wrapping things up on both ends. I hit a few more of the vendors to debate how much I wanted to spend on cool anime merchandise. Sore legs and a pleading Mastercard made me bid adieu to the con, hobbling out on aching feet to spend Monday on a strict recovery regimen of Final Fantasy VII and Baten Kaitos. Sore, tired, but happy, I went home and tumbled into bed, convention badge still around my neck.