If you are of the geek/otaku persuasion, July is a busy month here in Southern California. The beginning of the month brings along Anime Expo, the biggest anime convention this side of the pacific, and it is quickly followed by the granddaddy of all cons, San Diego Comic Con. Each event has their own individual perks and problems, the least of which are the logistics of actually attending.
Let’s begin with Anime Expo. As the biggest Anime Con in the US, it easily takes up nearly all the Los Angeles convention center. From the sales floor, to the (cosplay-filled) lobby, to the jam-packed panels and events, to the gaming area, you would be hard-pressed not to find something to like about the convention. Even people who’s only anime experience is watching an episode of Sailor Moon 15 years ago, can attend and enjoy a tutorial on origami, take pictures of outrageous costumes, or learn about new video games. The main issues stem from actually trying to do those things. If you don’t line up more than an hour before your My Little Pony: Origami is Magic panel, chances are you won’t get in. And it doesn’t help that the panel is in a room that fits 200 people, while there are nearly 400 people in pony ears waiting in line. That’s a lot of pissed off Bronies.
However, in a way, that’s a good thing for the growth of the con. When different fandoms can share the same space and all attending are able to find something to enjoy, it opens up new experiences and cultures to learn about. If the big cheeses then say, “Hey, we put the Skullgirls panel in this teeny tiny theater that holds 150, but the turnout was 500… next year we need to put them in one of the bigger spaces,” then that is a win of sorts. Maybe it will also help them think and examine what the current hot commodity is before room assignments are dished out. Research, then assign, people. Also, letting their staffers know when to cut off a line could help too. It’s a thankless job for those poor red vest workers, having angry fans in blue hair giving them the stink eye, but you would feel the same way after waiting in line 30 minutes, just to find out you can’t get into the panel.
For San Diego, it truly gives you a unique experience like no other, where you can bump elbows with your favorite movie star, get a sketch from your favorite artist, or even catch a sneak peek of the next big thing before it becomes the current big thing. That is, of course, if you can get in the front door. Due to its astounding popularity, which grows exponentially each year, it gets more difficult just to enter the hallowed halls of geek Mecca. Registration for your badge has become such a chore in itself, soon the show runners will need to resort to a Hunger Games style lottery system to determine who can attend. Picture a dystopian future where every fandom must send two representatives into a death battle royale, and the winner’s group will have first privilege to buy badges to that year’s Comic Con. Just imagine Trekkies versus Bronies, Marvel Zombies versus Johnny DCs, and Anime Otaku versus Twihards all duking it out for the right to stand in a line, to stand in another line, to wait 5 hours for a free t-shirt and then shake Seth Green’s hand.
Once you are inside, you can stare in awe at the elaborate setup of the convention floor. Many companies spare no expense just so that they can have the biggest and best booth that is able to be seen anywhere from Hall A to Hall H. Each is planned down to the smallest detail, so to be 100% accurate to whatever pop culture phenomenon they happen to be peddling. Of course, you can’t help but notice all these details and gaze at the decorative arrangements, since you won’t be able to move. People pack into the San Diego so tightly, it might just be some titan’s plot to create the perfect can of human sardines. If you wanted to eliminate 90% of the nerd population on earth, this would be good place to start.
Despite all this, once both conventions are over and done with, the realization sets in that you are going to have to wait another year for July to pop back around. You begin to forget all the bad things and focus on the good stuff. You think about that great limited edition toy you have been searching for, the one you just happened to find at a corner booth at the end of the show floor, and for a reasonable price. Or that time you shared an elevator with Neil Gaiman, but you were too terrified to talk to him and tell him what an inspiration he has been to you. And when you asked the art director for Stand Alone Complex to sketch a picture of Major Kusanagi for you, and he wrote Happy Birthday over the top just because you mentioned it was your birthday. These are all experiences that could only happen at a convention, and once it’s over you suddenly feel like something is missing from your life. Something you had for the briefest of moments, but you didn’t appreciate it at the time, then it was gone. So you sit and you wait for the next year roll around, wondering who you will meet or what rare trinket you will find. This waiting, my friends, is what we call the post-convention blues. And I got it bad right now.