I used to think that every facet of my geekiness had to be kept separate from each other. I’ve had experiences of other geeks judging me, saying my actions or interests were “too geeky” for them, but that is a story for another time. This story is about conventions.
Several years ago, I began to attend conventions. Specifically, the Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo (C2E2) and Anime Central (ACen), each for the first time in the same year, and I mistakenly thought that C2E2 was only for pop culture things like comics and books while ACen was only for anime. This year’s C2E2 proved me wrong.
This year, I especially felt a strong growth of Japanese presence at the con, including the booths and panels. Yes, there have been Japanese fandom items at booths before, but nothing as widespread as this year’s event. Some of the companies that had booths this year included Anime Palace, Anime World, Kinokuniya Bookstore, OtakU Joe’s, tokidoki, Ukiyo-e Heroes, and many more.
While cosplay has come to include dressing in outfits relating to any fandom, not just Japanese, the word itself was coined in Japan and its original focus was on costumes of Japanese interest. This year, C2E2 offered two things related to cosplay: Cosplay Central and the C2E2 Crown Championship of Cosplay.
Cosplay Central was a specific area on the show floor which included appearances by Yaya Han, a changing area, a triage area, special backdrops for photos, workshops, and events. The workshops and panels were so varied in focus that either a beginner or even a pro cosplayer could learn a thing or two.
Another added feature for this year’s festivities was a Manga Lending Library. It was located off of the show floor so it was away from the crowd and noise (which was useful if someone needed a break). This year, C2E2 partnered with the Carolina Manga Library to offer over 5,000 books including American comics, manga, and art books. The workers there were super friendly and they had put together a cozy environment in which to chill and read.
As I mentioned, there was an increase of anime/manga related panels, including ones about Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim, a Crunchyroll Industry panel, a Kodansha Comics panel, and a Viz Media panel. Of particular interest to me was the last panel I attended, “Manga in the Classroom: A Guide for the Uninitiated”, led by journalists and editors including Joel Enos (senior editor at Viz Media). At the end of which I even walked away with signed documentation from the Illinois State Board of Education as “evidence of completion for professional development.”
I had a great congoing experience this year, for more reasons than mentioned in this piece. If you went, I hope you had fun. If you have not had a chance to check out C2E2, mark your calendars for the weekend of March 29th in 2019; you never know what you’ll find there, Japanese or otherwise.