The first thing I saw when I walked in to the Prudential Center last weekend was a Deadpool posing for cameras with a Spiderman. Behind them was a large group of gray Homestuck cosplayers sitting in a circle. Down the hall into the convention center was a a Link from Legend of Zelda and a few other con-goers playing an impromptu jam session as attendees crowded around them taking photos and videos. The anime characters were few and far between this year, but I still got glimpses of shinigami from Bleach, and magical girls from Madoka Magica (see above).
It was all very familiar. The signs were the same as I saw every year. The panels weren’t anything new. There was the AMV contest, the Masquerade, Cosplay Chess, and hentai dubbing for those of us with more of a higher tolerance for weird fetishes and a sick sense of humor.
Everything was the same as it had been since 2009 when I started attending Anime Boston.
Even the people were the same. They never aged, they wore the same costumes, and still never bothered to bathe.
My friends and I—all in our early to late twenties—felt underwhelmed by this same stuff. People who have been going to cons for years do it to hang out with friends, play games, and drink in hotel rooms. It’s less about the event itself and more what the event produces, and that’s a social setting.
For some of us, the fact that Anime Boston remains the same age is tiresome. It’s immortally 15 and in the height of its otaku phase complete with Naruto ninja headbands and neon messenger bags with kitties on them.
I can put myself into the category of being one of those people (especially since I barely watch anime anymore), but for others, I can understand why the convention continues to shine year after year, drawing in thousands of people for an all-out Prudential Center food court invasion.
People go to Anime Boston and other anime conventions for this familiarity. Japanese animation and pop culture is fairly popular in the United States, although it never reached a high enough peak that fans felt less ashamed about it. There is nothing inherently wrong with anime, but the strange sense of isolation teenagers typically feel in middle and high school is only made worse by the fact that they’re into shows that many people think only feature giant robots and scantily-clad cat girls.
Anime is so much more than Japanese schoolgirls and spiky-haired muscle men, although sometimes it doesn’t feel like it.
My first anime was Pokemon back when it first became popular over here. I had the Red, Blue, and Yellow versions for my GameBoy Color, forced my parents to go to Burger King to get as many Pokeballs as I could get my greasy hands on, and watched it every afternoon after school on Cartoon Network’s Toonami block, which featured popular anime. There was Sailor Moon, Tenchi Muyo, Dragonball Z, and countless others. I just ate them all up. It would be another few years before I even knew that this was called anime and that it was from Japan because then came Adult Swim, which ran more mature titles such as Inuyasha, Yu Yu Hakusho, and Cowboy Bebop. Over the years the network introduced me to so many more that soon became some of my favorite shows in any genre: Fullmetal Alchemist and FLCL are just a few.
But I was afraid. For the longest time I had no nerd friends because those were the kids that got picked on. People talked behind their backs. I didn’t want that. I watched my anime in isolation, and this was all before anime conventions happened.
It’s overwhelming to be into anime—or any geek culture for that matter—and to be at an anime convention puts it all into perspective. You get an idea of what is popular, what to check out, and who to check it out with.
People want to find that group that loves that obscure 2011 title as much as they do. They want to find artists that will draw them as their favorite characters, and merchandise that they can use to cover their walls.
This is the reason why Anime Boston will never change. There will always be dorky kids looking for someone who is just like them. We may have gotten older and moved on, but there will always be kids looking for acceptance and that one wall scroll that will go with the rest of their posters.