Ever wondered what a convention looks and feels like to someone who isn’t as familiar with the scene? Here’s our guest correspondent, Quell, who went to Ikkicon in Austin, TX for the first time and reported on her experience at a cosplay photoshoot.
This is the first of two parts. Quell’s blog is here. –Mike
I am sitting in the Hilton hotel downtown in the city I live in, Austin, Texas. It is approximately seven-thirty on a Thursday night, the night before Friday night, which would be January 1st, the New Year. I am surrounded by a scene whose photo could be entered into literary textbooks under the phrase “juxtaposition for contrast.”
I had been invited by some friends of mine to attend IkkiCon some time earlier. I’ve read a couple mangas (i.e.: “Kenshin” and “Death Note”) and seen “Tokyo Godfathers,” but they were far more familiar with the entire scene than I was, much less a Con. I was excited about attending when they first suggested—I even contacted Anime Diet about writing an article about my experience, as you can now see—but I had forgotten it was so soon. I was certainly not expecting for it to have been the location of my engagement tonight: when I was told the “Hilton” I imagined a somewhat fancy affair, my friends in pretty dresses sipping wine. It’s an entirely different type of posturing. I should have realized, but I’ve never been good at keeping up with dates.
So, to back up, I am sitting at a very nice table in the lobby of the ritzy downtown Hilton hotel. High-powered businesspeople in Brooks Brothers and flashy fancily-dressed women in low-cut and shiny dresses are coming and going along with gaggles of strangely-dressed adolescents. There are boys in tails and ears, girls in purple wigs and lime green fishnet. I see a person in a full “Master Chief” outfit from the game Halo go up the escalator with a girl in a full white gown and a blue wig. There is a roaming guy in a rainbow tye-dye shirt singing and playing popular singles involving no more than four chords. There is also a tall, fat, shirtless man in a khaki trench coat roam back and forth in the lobby wringing his fingers and muttering to himself. I see a girl who couldn’t have been older than thirteen go up the elevator in a thong and an impossibly short schoolgirl’s skirt and I see her entire ass. I want to cry.
To be honest, there have been few times in my life where I felt so entirely out of place. I left.
I realize at this point that con-goers are those who will be reading this article. I want to say right now that it is the farthest intention from mine to patronize or mock; I only wish to honestly convey my first impression. I also realize that what may seem surreal and impossible to me is completely normal to you. For that I apologize and ask that you bear with me. Perhaps reading about the experience through another’s eyes will inspire you to also see this familiar aspect of your life in a new light.
That evening, I finally meet up with Karla and Hays, the aforementioned friends who invited me to the Con. I don’t want to hurt their feelings, but I’ll admit I’m wary of returning. However, Karla and Hays are doing a “shoot” tomorrow, in which a group of fans of a popular manga/anime/game/whatever all dress as their famous characters and take pictures. They’re doing Team Fortress 2, a multiplayer first-person shooter game with something of a cult appreciation due to humorous videos and promos from the developers. I decide to give it a chance.
So I find myself standing on a platform of a light-rail service whose funds-cut and unfortunate political entanglements caused it to be, shall we say, derailed. Its stop areas and rigging are all in red, something pointed out to me to be ironic as the majority of my fellow “Team Fortress 2” cosplayers are on the blue “BLUE (Builders League United)” team, the apparent enemies of the red “RED (Reliable Excavation & Demolition)” team. The station has an electronic sign with red LEDs flashing that it was not yet in use. Periodically a creepy, slightly bit-crushed female voice came on informing us that ”Service is unavailable at this time,” frightening the group and inciting exclamations of “GLADOS!”— the cool-voiced antagonist in the game “Portal.” I am “Scout’s mom,” who is not actually a character within the game but actually a story involved in a humorous backstory created by the developers in various promotions for the game involving the blue scout, who Karla was cosplaying, and the red spy, who Hays was cosplaying. Long story short, I arrive dressed as instructed like a chic 50’s lady in a blue dress and a beehive to discover I have “fraternized with the enemy,” so to speak, to make three+ children with the Red Spy. I don’t think this actually happened in the game, but three people came as the Scout character, so three new children for momma it is.You could say Hays was the cosplaya.
To be continued in part 2…