If you have been around this place for a while, you already know that I speak fluent geek. I adore most things geeky and nerdy in the scifi, fantasy, and comics space. I have traveled to attend a few comic cons in my life with San Diego Comic Con and Dragon Con being the biggest. Comic Cons are a time! I have yet to attend Blerdcon, but it has been a bucket list item for a few years. Covid derailed my regular attendance, but now that we’re back outside, I’m fully on board with hoping back in to the con circuit. This historical context is what landed me at my first anime convention in Tacoma, Washington at the end of January. One of my nieces is a budding otaku – though I would caution the use of the term to describe her as she’s not exactly obsessed.
I don’t actually watch anime. I dabbled into the big ones with my first introduction through dragonball Z and sailor moon in college. I explored more through Bleach, Naruto, and Cowboy Bebop over the years but it never really stuck. Largely because I am not one to actually sit down and watch tv. I am more a put tv on while I do other things kind of gal. Anime has subtitles and subtitles require my undivided attention. Over the holidays, my niece and nephew had me watching a few anime series that have found a home on Netflix. I enjoyed them and honestly, I might give anime another try soon. You know, when I have a free weekend to lay around on the couch in my super cute lougewear and veg out. I don’t know when such a day will come, but I believe in keeping hope alive. Until that day comes, I can relive my anime convention experience.
I want to start by expressing how incredibly comfortable I felt at the anime convention. Anime nerds and comic nerds aren’t all that different. We cosplay, obsess over our specific content, and enjoy the camaraderie of our fandoms. We are like first cousins. So, naturally I enjoyed the cosplay and the panels with artists and voice actors. What was a bit different for me was the art. I have no idea what I was looking at most of the time as I walked down the rows of vendors in the exhibit hall. But, I wasn’t really there for me. I was their for my niece. The important thing was that she was in bliss. Or at least her 12-year-old version of it.
As we walked through the con, sat through panels, and perused the vendor booths, I struggled to find any sign that she was enjoying herself. As an auntie (and the world’s greatest auntie to boot) I felt like I had failed. All the pieces were there. She was dressed as Shinobu Kocho from Demon Slayer and I may be biased but she was absolutely adorable. As other cosplayers walked past us, she would casually shout out who they were and what anime they were from so I wouldn’t walk away from the con completely uneducated. But if she was excited by all the awesome that was happening around us, she could have fooled me. And this is when I realized how incredibly frustrating we had to be way back in middle school when the only expression we exuded was our impression of “cool, calm, and collected” no matter how excited we were about something. I can remember my mom going out of her way to do something in recognition of the things that made me happy, and me giving a shrug or half smile as a thanks. Oh God. Another thing to go apologize to my mom for!
Eventually, my niece’s friend joined us and for a brief moment I saw external expressions of excitement. I think. Honestly, I’m still not sure. As we made our way to the exit I bravely asked her if she enjoyed herself. To my surprise she said it was the greatest day ever. Imagine that! To quote her: “sixth grade me is screaming for joy on the inside.” And there it was. She was in fact beside herself with joy and if she were still in the sixth grade all of that excitement would have oozed out of her. But she’s in the seventh grade now and that means she had to play it cool. That perpetual look of boredom wasn’t really a reflection of how she felt. It was merely the only socially acceptable way to express approval of something. Good to know being a preteen/early teen girl is still the most awkward, unforgiving season in a girl’s life.
Either way, I enjoyed my first anime convention and I enjoyed shepherding my niece deeper into the world of geek fandoms. It’s a crazy and joyous place and I love that I got to share that with her. Looking ahead, I can’t wait for when we can experience it together with an exuberant external expression of joy. That will be the day!