This is the show I cut my teeth on. Before Otakon, I’d never been to any sort of convention, never seen live cosplay, never seen manga/anime fandom in full effect. This show tainted me. By the time Calvin got me to San Diego, I was like a cranky old man: “Where are all the girls?” “Why do the costumes suck?” “What do you mean ‘there’s no rave’?!”
I come to Otakon, and all my faith in the fandom is restored. The publishers didn’t make it (most of them), and the anime companies came in dragging their respiratory systems behind them (some of them), but the fans came, they brought their money, they brought suitcases full of costumes, they brought their glowsticks, and they came to party.
This is one of the first costumes I saw when I entered the convention center.
Look closely at the hands. At one point, a bunch of guys walked by and were like “where’s your beer?”
“I dropped it!”
“Where’s your porn?”
“I dropped that, too!”
I think it’s a 12 or 15 year old girl under all that foil.
I do my best to hit the usual vendors when I’m there (note: it’s not the same show w/o Chris Oarr) and one thing that I hear year after year is that for most retailers, it’s their number one show. They walk in with their palettes of books, and walk out with sweaty fist fulls of cash.
One vendor in the corner was selling huge, oversized, (and very pricey) plushies. I heard a few girls squealing “plushies!” and their boyfriends blanching at the price tag. I spoke to the owner of the company and he told me that It took 7 palettes to bring in over 500 of these, soft, furry animal pillows. By the end of the day on Sat, he’d sold 400 of them.
[Images pulled fr. the squishables website]
Every year, I come looking for the girl with the biggest gun. I think she wins:
I think this is first year that I didn’t go to any panels or have any big interviews lined up. So I just hung out and shot the shit with the Spartans:
We talked about shopping for togas.
At one point, I hit the Aurora booth and Mika introduces me to Mr. Tanaka who is one of few male BL editors in Japan. “One of two” Mika says, to be precise, and shows me a book that he wants to introduce to the U.S. market:
dou kyu sei by Asumiko Nakamura
Mika doesn’t think it’s a good match for the American market. “It’s very subtle.” I flipped through it and the artwork is phenomenal, and even in Japanese (which I can’t read) the story reeks of longing. Lots of lanky, lean boys falling over each other with passion. But Mika says something reassuring about Ms. Nakamura: “She will be a star soon.”
I hit the Kinokuniya booth next and find a box of books just for me:
By day’s end, I’m sitting at the Yuricon/ALC Publishing booth with Erica Friedman, who always makes me wonder what my life would be like if I were a cool lesbian. Erica publishes yuri (girl/girl romance) and comments extensively on small publishing on her okazu blog. We chit-chatted quite a bit about the current state of things manga – most of which I’ll be putting into my article for Comic Foundry. The more I think about it, the more I wonder how manga made it at all in this environment. Bookstores and publishers both feel too large, lumbering, and slow to have even landed something so fluid and svelte as the manga fandom. The energy and passion at Otakon is an overwhelming force and that publishers were even able to harness and focus this energy into a business is amazing. I’m not even sure it’s about manga because a lot of the manga that has been successful here has been a vehicle for a certain sentiment and emotion. Whether books find the distribution and shelf space they deserve or need is beside the point. The kids will find what they want – and it may not even be manga.
As I was being ushered off the floor with the rest of the crowd, all I could think of was how change is a foot, and how the fandom will be here whether manga or anime are or not. I have an even stronger feeling that we’re playing catch-up and 20 questions, that we’re still trying to figure out what makes her tick. That it’s really not up to us to choose or dictate the market, but to woo the readership as if she’s a bratty but incredibly hot young woman.
One thing cheers me up for sure:
A plushie for me! The pink octopus reminds me of Kye Young Chon’s manhwa DVD that DramaQueen put out a couple of years ago. I miss DVD, I miss the innocence of simply being in love with manga and thinking that that faith would be enough. The soft, sloppy, fat, octopus helps – though dragging him through the convention to interviews will compromise any reporter’s professional air.
But he still gets my nomination for “best company for the train ride home.”