This past weekend I attended an anime convention in Tulsa called Tokyo in Tulsa. Official stats are not out yet, be I’m guessing there were at least 4000+ attendees over the three day weekend. For those of you not familiar with Japanese anime, I highly recommend you check it out. There is literally something for everyone in every age group.
At Tokyo in Tulsa (TnT) I saw parents with infants and young children, grandparents dressed as superheroes following around their grandkids who were dressed as anime characters, children dressed as their favorite Pokemon, several Borg and a couple of zombies. The list goes on and on. There were people my age, college students, high school students, industry professionals and more.
Through out the con, the energy was very high. Often I would hear someone randomly shout “Oh my god there is *insert favorite character*” and go running to meet someone cosplaying*. There was lots of hugging. Lots and lots of hugging. Of old friends, new friends, acquaintances, and total strangers. Everyone got hugged at some point. Even me. Actually I got hugged more this past weekend than I can ever remember being hugged in such a short span of time. Pretty epic. Especially considering that only three days ago I’d never met most of them.
Its amazing how having something as simple as a TV show in common with someone can spark a friendship and ignite a relationship that crosses state lines and every other boundary imaginable. Anime and cosplaying is a wonderful subculture that is often mocked for being trivial and ‘weird’. I’d rather spend a weekend with my wonderful geeks in costume than getting drunk at a bar or going to some seedy club. At least at the con there is a focus on culture, being open to new things, applying one’s self to a craft and learning tolerance in all it’s forms. I don’t see that at a nightclub. At TnT I met people from the video game industry, published writers, actors, musicians, costumers, make-up artists, radio personalities, graphic artists, photographers, directors, professional storytellers, and a samurai. I think I might have glimpsed a couple of ninja but they are hard to spot.
It was also my great privilege to give two panels on writing this year. It was wonderful to find other writers to connect and converse with. On Friday I addressed the phenomenon that is fan fiction. Then Saturday we discussed character design and avoiding the Mary Sue*. Both of these panels are great fun to give and I work hard to make sure they are very informative.
For the first time I also gave what is known as a fan panel. Yes, I might be in my mid-thirties but I love anime enough that I want to spend at least an hour discussing my particular fandom with other fans. Honestly, I could spend much longer discussing it. It was quite wonderful to have the opportunity to share my love of the characters and story line with other fans.
One of my favorite things about anime, and something I stress to those unfamiliar, is that it places great importance on friendship and being selfless. I had a wonderful conversation with a gentleman at the hotel bar Friday evening. He asked me what the con was about and I was more than happy to explain it to him. I do not encourage my children to watch American programming. We watch anime. Through anime, my children learn that helping others and being loyal to your friends and family are what is important. I encourage you to click the above picture and read the blurb about the show. Watch the first episode and you will see themes explored that most American shows rarely touch. And this is something I can watch with my children. Granted not all titles are for children, but that is fine too. There are much darker themes also explored in anime and then there are titles that are just hilarious crazy fun.
Another thing that I enjoyed at the con was the live concert on Friday night. The two opening bands were fun and got the crowd going. However, when the headliner stepped on stage the atmosphere changed. The instant the opening riff rang through the hall you felt the difference. These were pros. The next hour was intense and amazing. I’ve been a fan of The Slants for several years now. Yet I had not had the chance to catch a concert. Boy have I been missing out. Energetic, culturally relevant, technically superb, and amazing artists who truly love their fans, these guys are not to be dismissed just because they choose to remain independent. I think that fact makes them even more relevant. Their message is not watered down by corporate censorship.
And yes, the entire band is comprised of Asian-Americans. They are an amazing group of guys and I feel very privileged to have finally met them in person.
Overall, it was an unforgettable weekend. I can’t wait to do it again. And I don’t have long. I’ll be going to Glitch Con in Bentonville, AR the first weekend in August. Kevin J Anderson is going to be there.