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Anime at GenCon

This, sadly, will be a quick report. Mr. Overthinker and I were only able to take in one of “the four best days in gaming.” That said there was clearly still a lot going on for fans of anime at Gen Con. Even though the convention emphasizes game and gaming from video games to CCGs and TCGs to role playing games of all types to table top and board games it has also been a place where nerd culture of many stripes can be comfortable. This is graciously extended to anime and manga culture with a variety of events and opportunities for those who wish to take part.

The largest and most visible bit of the anime world at Gen Con remains cosplayers. Convention attendees show their affection of and admiration for characters all around the con (something that I had to learn over a couple of years was that the best costumes are often not entered into the costume contest). Speaking of the costume contest the best way to see the costumes featured without loosing the better part of an afternoon is to catch the parade as it winds its way through the halls. A quick perusal of the costumes on display this year revealed fewer shinigami from the shonen action series Bleach and a noticeable uptick for characters from Trigun. There were fewer anime cosplayers all around this year, but still enough to make their presence felt.

Scheduled events included lectures and workshops, party games, viewings, and several special events in celebration of the AMV or anime music video. Racier titles are featured at an adults only event of growing popularity, and amateur artists were given a special display space to show off their works. The anime events are mostly held in the Westin Hotel which, even though it is connected to the convention center, is much farther from the main exhibit hall (than before construction on the convention center was finished) and so managed to feel somewhat disconnected from the rest of the convention.

Gen Con can be a great time to sample newly released works to decide whether or not to purchase them. Several screenings showed the first several episodes of titles that have newly been released with English language audio. There was a good blend of shoujo, shonen, josei, and seinen in display this year emphasizing (preaching to the choir?) that anime is a medium not a genre. It was nice to see quality titles like House of Five Leaves and Usagi Drop getting some love along with superhero fare like the fun Tiger and Bunny and horror titles like Shiki.

When I have been able to go to the whole convention one of my favorite places to go when I need a little break from the press of humanity is the Manga library. Freely available to everybody with a badge the library lets you sit down in a quiet cool place with a volume of manga. It’s like heaven. It was there I was introduced to CLAMP’s Legal Drug, and there I realized that the volumes didn’t continue near like I wanted them to.

The main exhibit hall offers much for readers (and watchers). Each year used books have more shelf space, and a number of those titles are manga; other sellers hawk a wide assortment of anime titles on DVD and Blu-ray. Character goods and t shirts abound (I snagged a rather fetching Cowboy Bebop one this year). But the booth I am happiest to see (as a student of anime) is the one set up by the fine folks at McFarland. Each year they add more titles that embrace anime and manga as legitimate areas of study and discourse. This year’s table featured titles from author Dani Cavallaro on anime and numerous other works by other authors on topics of gaming, sci fi, and fantasy.

What does the future hold? I think it’s clear that anime and gaming will be compatible friends indefinitely. Konami remains a huge sponsor of GenCon and uses their both space to develop a wider audience for their joint project with Shonen Jump, the Yu-Gi-Oh! TCG. Might there be a title by your own Overthinker on the McFarland table? Who knows. Will there be a workshop hosted by yours truly? Probably, so look forward to it.

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