I knew today wouldn’t be an ordinary day when I got on the subway on my way to Otakuthon 2008 and found myself standing next to Aang from Avatar.
Yesterday (Saturday) was a no-go for me since I was stuck at work. I decided to make up today for my absence by arriving early — so early that the convention hall hadn’t even opened yet. Not a problem! I passed the time by wandering off into the labyrinthine corridors of Montreal’s Palais des Congrès. I eventually stumbled into the backstage area where the first person I came across was Lauren, a friend from work who was wearing a walkie-talkie and a desperate face.
Alarm sirens went off in my head when I saw Lauren’s eyes light up after spotting me.
Fortunately for Lauren I’m the helpful type (even when it’s my goddamn birthday — yes Lauren, you read that correctly, you made me work on my birthday!). And so I joined her corps of volunteers on a part-time basis: my first assignment would be to secure the dealers’s hall’s entrance and stamp order on an unruly mob hungry for Haruhi hug pillows and cheap DVDs. This I achieved by yelling, crossing my arms, acting tough, and when the wait grew a bit too long, by slapping a “FREE HUGS” sign around my neck and offering whatever comfort my virile body can muster to the restless con-goers. To my surprise, quite a few people took me up on my offer, most of them cute teenage girls with braces and high-pitched giggles. And one guy. One big guy. Who insisted that another attendee take a picture of us hugging.
What the hell. It’s not Otakuthon every day. “Just don’t grab my ass,” I said.
After half an hour the dealers’s hall opened and I was free to wander around. I caught a Code Geass panel where we analyzed the characters of Anya and Marianne, and where EVERYONE hated Suzaku too. Whew. I sampled the first episode of Allison and Lillia (seemed decent, hungry for more!) and a few minutes of a shoujo show about girls obsessing over their weight. (If you can identify the show, drop me a line, thanks!)
The games room nearly burst with consoles — from a weathered SNES to a DDR setup for public humiliation — along with tabletop games, othello, card tables… you name it, it was there. I was lucky enough to catch the SSBB semi-finale, where Ice Climbers sent Meta Knight airborne and won the match with one second remaining. The crowd went bucking fonkers, lemme tell you.
However, my duty was not done, and Lauren called on me and my sunny demeanor to help with badge-checking at the entrance. Not the most fascinating job… But it did come with a license to ogle. “Your honor, it’s not my fault, Yuna had her badge pinned on her butt! I simply had to check!” Chances are if you got in between noon and three o’clock on Sunday, you saw me, the tall guy with the ponytail and the thoughtful beard.
It also didn’t hurt that the maid who worked at the nearby weapon check counter was so sexy she could knock planets out of orbit. Wherever you are, Maid Girl, I want to extend my most sincere, heartfelt and respectful thanks to you. You turned three interminable hours of standing in the same spot in my flip-flops into a pleasant experience.
Did I have fun despite my unplanned volunteering? Hell yes. It’s hard to describe the feeling of withdrawal in which I’m writing at the moment, but imagine leaving an environment whose participants are all full of good cheer and good will, an environment where you’re free to be as weird or colorful or geeky as you want, and where you can’t walk twenty feet without bumping into two or three pretty girls in revealing attire who offer free hugs. Dayum.
As a fanboy I’m still quite a ways from traveling thousands of miles to the next con, but you can bet I’ll be in attendance at Otakuthon 2009.
Best Dressed Awards
Lessons learned from my first anime convention:
- Plan ahead. If the first I’d heard of Otakuthon hadn’t been a week ago, I would have pre-registered for both days and scheduled work around the event.
- Print my own schedule. I lost my grab-bag early on and with it awareness of what events were going on where at what time.
- Dress up, even if it’s ridiculous. No really. The Worst Dressed Award should always go to the people who don’t bother dressing up at all; even the chubby Rei with a tired blue wig who can’t walk straight in her lace-up boots should rank above the boring unoriginal types, present company included. In my defense I had little time to prepare the enormous testosterone injections that my planned Kamina disguise requires.
- Scope out the surrounding restaurants and food courts. I wasn’t in the mood for the Japanese food at the Cosplay Café, but then the only other option was Subway downstairs and it ran out of bread during the lunch hour.
- Make myself a sign that says “HUG ME IT’S MY BIRTHDAY”. Hey, can’t hurt to try.
- And lest ye not believe my words: photographic evidence of a spontaneous nyan nyan conga line.
Today’s Karen is: TIRED