I've spent the last two days with my 16 yr. old at Anime Boston. For people who don't know what anime is....anime is Japanese animated serial cartoons. These are not your typical cartoons, tho. They tend to be fantasy, with some definite urban fantasy and steampunk, which is right up my alley. So while I don't watch it, I totally get the concept of it. The good guys are not always good and the bad guys are not always bad. (And the book form of this particular genre is called manga - think graphic novels but in book form, black & white.)
My son is majorly into both anime and manga. So, of course, Anime Boston is his nirvana.
So, what is Anime Boston like, you ask? It's hard to describe (and hopefully when my overloaded brain starts working again, I'll put up some video and pictures because words...well, they fall short.) It lasts 3 days and about 20,000 people attend. Most attend multiple days. Most have multiple costumes. And most spend a small fortune to be there. There are panels where you can learn to make plushies or amigurumi (crochet plushies), listen to anime music, talk about various series, meet writers and illustrators. There's shopping. There's a masquerade ball. And soooo much more.
The convention takes place at the Hynes Convention Center in Boston which is attached to both the Prudential Center and Copley Place, both malls, with the Pru having an observation tower at the top where you can see all of Boston, and (if I remember right) something like 50 miles in any direction. The Pru is a huge tourist draw. And Copley is snoot shopping (think the most expensive stores where a tank top costs $300) and a hotel. The convention attendees spill out into both of these areas for the three days and mingle with tourists who have NO clue what's going on (you can tell them by their blank faces as the swarm of anime costumes pass by them) and locals (you can tell them by their complete ignoring of them).
Now, the Hynes is 3 stories with several auditoriums, and probably 40 or so convention rooms. Every room has activities from 10am-12midnight and some rooms are 8am-2am.
There are 3 huge rooms of dealers - maybe 300 or so, selling everything from steampunk to hand-drawn art to plushies to action figures to pins. Dealers who want to sell here have to be fast. The convention lets them know a date and time that they can sign up. All spaces are filled within 15 mins. (they do it online and only the fastest get in according to one I talked to).
As for who goes to Anime Boston...well, I would put the majority between 16 and 30, but as young as infants (saw one dressed as Yoda) to as old as 70's (a group of women in period goth vampire clothes). People dress as their favorite anime characters, right down to the last detail including weapons that stand 10-15 feet tall. There is some steampunk and some people who just wear anime t-shirts and hats, but they're the minority. Most of the costumes are handmade, although there are some professionally made mixed in. Men dress as women, women dress as men. And I kid you not, there is one man who goes every year who the crowd calls "Mansty". He dresses as Misty from Pokemon with his belly hanging out - he curses and makes seriously vulgar comments while posing for pictures.
And the pictures? Everyone has cameras. Everyone knows what anime character each other is. People hand over cameras to complete strangers to get their photos taken with other characters and they strike poses like their characters might.
There is a joy in this crowd that is hard to explain. People high five each other up and down the escalators. It's not unusual for the entire crowd to break into song (usually the Pokemon theme, but I heard "Closing Time" too). In the food court, a group of about 30 people spontaneously sang a number of songs while some of them did an impromptu dance.
Periodically, someone will shout something (the favorite is "Marco") to which the ENTIRE crowd (all 20,000 of them) replies (in the case of Marco, they shout "Polo"). The other favorite is "What time is it?" and the reply is "Adventure Time".
Everyone is enthusiastic, friendly and downright excited to be there. Nobody looks at anyone oddly no matter how they're dressed. They are, each and every one, accepted and welcomed as they are. And I think that's probably the most amazing thing about it, because I have the feeling that this is not a normal thing for 90% of the crowd.
I saw complete strangers hugging and laughing and talking about how much fun they were having. I saw grown men carrying pink plushies with the delight of a small child. I saw 6ft. tall men in skimpy Japanese schoolgirl costumes, their ass cheeks peeking out from their panties, walking on platform Mary Janes. I saw girls dressed in goth Lolita (my personal favorite - if I was 16 again, I'd be so into that) handing out candy. It's probably the only place in the world that someone dressed in combat gear with a gas grill tank strapped to their back turned into a flamethrower can walk around without being arrested. There were zombies and a group all dressed as Waldo. There were vampires. There were southern belles with huge hoop skirts. And each and every one of them had a smile on their face and a bounce in their step.
It was inspiring.
That's why I think everyone should go to a Con at some point. There's a magic that happens there that's hard to explain.
(And yes, I did the plushie workshop and made a zombie doll!!!) SO MUCH FUN!