Oh yes, we went.
I haven't been since 2007 and man, it has changed. It's become a much bigger event now drawing more crowds than ever. Which is cool in some ways but sucky in other. For example, it's cool that there are so many more people to meet and costumes to see. Bigger celebrities are coming and doing awesome panels. It sucks not being able to get into certain panels because you didn't get there an hour early and wait in an incredibly long line.
Monday is one of my kid's birthday. Arianna will be seven. So we said, hey, let's take her to this event for her birthday. We'll dress up and it'll be great. I've been working on my kids' costumes for months. Oh, I could have bought costumes but that's not how I roll. They wanted to go as Inuyasha characters and I made that happen. They were so cute.
We get there and get in line to register at a bit after 9:00 am. My kids' faces at 10:00 am:
They've got that "Are we there yet?" look down pat. Luckily the weather and temperature were perfect and we saw lots of cool costumed cosplayers while we waited. Then, we were finally registered and we could go where we pleased. We watched a
bit of a karate seminar but they couldn't sit through that one. We visited the Artist's Alley for a short time.
The kids got a kick out of random people asking for their picture. This happened, I shit you not, over fifty times all throughout the day. We even got caught in the bathroom for a couple. Everyone couldn't get over how adorable they were.
Before we knew it, it was lunch time and we made the mistake of buying food there. No one really liked it and my husband bitched and pouted about how much he spent on it for a while. Then my girls played games, colored and painted in the Kid's Room while I charged my already dying phone and did repairs on props. We spent some time oohing and ahing at people's costumes and trying to find fellow Inuyasha cosplayers. We did actually find some!
Then it was the Dealer's Room, the bane of my existence. Oh, I love the place, to be sure, but I spend way too much money there and the crowds are such a huge pain. My cell wouldn't work very well in there either: one minute I had full bars, the next nothing. My husband was separated from us and starting to flip out when I couldn't return his messages or call him. The kids couldn't make up their minds about what they wanted so we had to back track a few times through those crowded aisles again and again. Two hours later I'm dragging them out, tired and getting cranky. I didn't buy anything for myself this time but each kid got something cool to remember the con experience.
I was rushing out to try and make it to an autograph session. They went back to the Kid's Room while I stood in line. I was dying to get Shinichiro Watanabe's signature. And I totally did!
Soon it was dinner time and when I asked where the closest McDonald's was (Because I had seen peeps walking around with their cups.) I was given the wrong directions. Once we were two blocks away from the Raleigh Convention Center, my cell suddenly started working just fine and the map I found said that no, we were in the opposite direction of McDonalds. More walking. Tired and hungry kids. You get the picture.
Once we finally got there and sat down and ate, our spirits were revived at the thought of watching the Cosplay Masquerade. It had already started by then but we hoped that we could still get in and catch some of the performances. After walking back to the van and dropping some things off, we made it back with over thirty minutes left in the show. And though they let us in, there were only 3 acts left. Kind of bummed and wondering what they were planning on doing with those thirty minutes while the judges decided the winners, we were surprised when a samurai actor unit called THE JACABAL'S performed a sword dancing show. Two musicians accompanied them and it just blew me away. I loved it and I could tell that the kids were really impressed too.
We had some time to kill before the last event that I wanted to go to started and Arianna wanted to go downstairs and dance outside at the rave. It was getting dark by then but I said, sure. It's her birthday, why not? We get out there and the techno is blasting and cosplayers are dancing and once again the kids were wowed. I don't think they'd even heard of a rave party. The music seeped in and before I knew it, my aching feet were forgotten and I was dancing out there with them. Someone passed out glow sticks and once and a while bubbles would float up from a source I couldn't see over the crowd. It was magical. It was fun. The looks of pure joy on their faces were priceless. It's a memory I'll keep with me for always.
After I took a break, we realized that we would be late for the Studio Ghibli thing I wanted to go to. I was hoping that if we were, they'd let us in anyway. Umm, no. The line wrapped around a few times and the volunteer worker at the end of it said, too bad, so sad, we missed it. I was a little miffed but I perked up and was soon dragging them off to another event that started at the same time: The AMV Contest. That line was even longer but they let us in it. It wasn't long before we were seated and watching fan-made anime music videos of varying categories. By then, it was almost 10:00 pm and Arianna fell asleep in her seat watching the vids. After we watched about eight or so, I picked her up and we left, heading back to the car and back to our house.
But not before two more requests for pics of the kids.
For those of you who think that they could never enjoy such an event because it's "for young people" or "cosplayers are stuck up" or whatever silly reason you might have, I have to tell you, you are missing out. Sure, there were a lot of teenagers and early twenties kids there. I even met a few people who were hating on other people's costumes because they hadn't "done them right". But for those who think that those are good reasons not to go, let me leave you with this story:
I got in line to get Watanabe's autograph at 3:00 pm. The girl waiting behind me in line suddenly struck up a conversation with me. I'm not really a social person but we started talking about the event and some of the cool costumes we saw in the room. Then we started talking about anime and we had a great conversation about what we'd seen, what we loved, how the shows did or didn't match the manga, what made us cry, etc. We talked as the line slowly looped around and around and we inched closer and closer to the autograph table.
Next thing I know, the table is in sight but still a bit away and Paul is bringing the kids down to wait with us. The Kid's Room had closed and they were bored and wanted to see what I was up to. Finally, at around 5:45 pm, I get up to the table and get my autograph but as I step away I stand and wait for the girl behind me, Tiffany, to get hers. I wanted to say goodbye to her. I hadn't had a conversation with someone who had watched as much anime and read the same manga series as me in many years. We said our farewells and promised that if we saw each other again during the day, we'd wave and say hi.
I didn't see her again but the experience reminded me of what these events are really all about. Two strangers from different walks of life, different ethnic backgrounds, and different age groups found a common interest in the Japanese culture. She didn't care that I was at least ten years older than her (Hell, might be closer to fifteen.) and I didn't care that she was black. She didn't care that I weighed over a hundred pounds more than her and I didn't care that she was probably still in high school. Anime, manga and cosplay brought us together as we waited in line with aching feet and people blowing up our cell phones wondering where we were.
A lot of disappointment throughout the day. Missed events. Tired, aching bodies. Cranky children and spouse. Long lines. Money spent left and right.
But the little moments were what I'll remember. Getting pictures taken. Dancing with my kids. Watching sword dancing. The looks of wonder on their faces. "Oh my god, you're kids are so cute!" Talking anime with a stranger. These are what made the entire experience worth it.
That, people, is what it's all about.