Anime Banzai 2017

 

To Clarify, I’m not that into Anime. It’s fine, there are certain shows I don’t mind watching, but I very rarely seek out anime to watch.

I don’t know much about it. I know even less about the massive culture that surrounds it. You can imagine the outsider feelings I had when I attended Anime Bazai. Utah’s premiere Anime convention.

Usually I’m good at recognizing pop culture. I can point out characters from (western) TV, movies, and comic books fairly easily. Here I was lost. There were tons of people cosplaying a million different characters, from what had to be a hundred different shows. However, to me they all blended together in a sea of foam and fabric. The outfits were all extravagant, and well crafted. Even if I didn’t understand the reference I still enjoyed people expressing themselves in brightly colored costumes. It’s fascinating experiencing a convention so singularly dedicated to one thing. Especially something that I wasn’t a part of. It felt as though I could witness the experience as a whole without being a part of it. It wasn’t like the bigger commercial events I was used to covering.

The convention as a whole was definitely rough around the edges. The timing of some of the panels was off, many of the hosts felt like they were just amateurs winging it, rather than practiced professionals, and it felt like no one was quite sure what to do with press. It was rather bizarre. Especially compared to the clean cut, sterile experience of the larger conventions I’ve been too. I think, this messiness is what made the experience so interesting. It didn’t feel like it was all just there to turn a profit.

The hosts felt like Amateurs because they were. They were just fans excited to be there and share their love of something with a group of like minded people. Things didn’t need to be orderly, because everyone there was just excited to be there. To be somewhere they could let go, and open up around people who felt the same. This was a convention but on by fans for fans. This was really just a place for fans to hang out and participate in their hobby together. Which may be the mission statements for some of the bigger conventions, but it never feels quite like that’s what’s happening. This never felt quite like the glorified shopping malls conventions can easily turn out to be.

Something that really caught my attention was that there was just a room where people were watching Anime on a projector. It didn’t matter that they were at a convention they were just doing the things they wanted to do. Everything was just so focused on making sure the fans had a good time. One of my favorite parts of the convention was the artist’s alley. I love art. I love art even at the larger conventions I go to, but there It gets to a point where a lot of the art starts to look the same. Same Characters, same poses, same styles. There it was a task to go through and find the truly unique art. At this convention. It was all brilliant. Maybe due to the small size of the alley it was easier to see the artist’s personal style come through, but I think a lot of it is that these are the artists who want to be here showing their art to people who will really appreciate it. There was actually a wide array of styles and types of art. It wasn’t all just fan art done in the same anime style.

Friday Night, we decided to stay a little longer and attend the formal ball, just to see what it was gonna be like. It required a semi-formal dress code, so I threw on a tie and headed in. This experience was wild. It was just a bunch of people enjoying themselves. Having a mini-prom after the first day of the convention. Everyone was dancing and having a good time. People who may not get to have that experience elsewhere get to have it here. It goes back to being able to open up and enjoy themselves around like minded people. Here they have a safe space to let loose.

Something else that I found fascinating about the convention is that there was stuff going on constantly, such as panels at midnight. The convention took place in a hotel, so attendees were encouraged to get rooms and hang out all weekend. The experience went beyond the simple convention.

This is the convention experience I want to have. The whole time I was there I kept thinking, wow I wish I was into anime so I could really be a part of this and enjoy it with everyone else. Or more precisely I want this to be the convention experience for the things that I’m into. Even though I’m not a part of this community, I’m glad I got to witness this cool event.

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