Okay, you all are giving me skeptical, "What is she talking about?" glances. All right, I'll get off "Evangelion." Still, you guys have heard of "Trigun," right? There's this awesome guy known as "Vash" and he has this HUGE gun shaped like a cross. It's called the Punisher. Well, one time, when I was at Otakon in Baltimore, this guy cosplayed as Vash the Stampede, except his Punisher wasn't shaped like a cross. His Punisher was a huge Star of David! Hahahahahahahaha! Vash the nice Jewish boy! I almost busted a rib.
OH COME ON!!! How are you guys not laughing? Don't you get it? I mean... see... like, even if you don't watch a lot of anime.... or even just... oh come on!
Oh well. You see, this is why anime conventions, comic book conventions, movie conventions, collectible conventions, He-Man, She-Ra, Transformers, Dr. Who, Star Trek, Star Wars and so on exist. For the other 360-odd days in a year we go about our business, carefully tailoring our conversations so that they are understandable to the people around us. For instance, if my boss said something about how his children always seem to be wanting something and I said "Yeah, always 'I-WANNIT! I-WANNIT!' hahahaha!" ... he would look at me strangely. The word "I-WANNIT!" (technically words, but pronounced as a single word) was my little sister's first word. She was fifteen months old when she mastered "I-WANNIT!" and this firm yet adorable demand on her part has become family legend. If I cracked a "I-WANNIT!" joke in front of my mother, she'd laugh. If I cracked the same joke in front of my boss, he'd be understandably confused. He's never met my sister and he knows next to nothing about my family. So I temper my conversation to topics that I know (or am at least reasonably sure) he knows about. It's something that all of us need to do when we interact with other people in our society.
Yet once we nerds reach the convention hall that requirement to temper our conversation to the knowledge of others is dropped. We assume that, through the presence of the convention badge, every single person in the rented hotel banquet hall or convention center possesses the same mind as we do. When we make a reference to an anime show ("Strenght of mind is going on a ten-hour 'Serial Experiments Lain' marathon and retaining your sanity"), we know we'll get a laugh because everybody else in the room will have watched it too (or at least TRIED to have watched it in the case of "Serial Experiments Lain"... a notoriously dark and weird form of unwatchable, avant-garde anime). If we make fun of a parody of an anime parody ("Operation Hot Yaoi Action is a go!" from "Nescaflowne," a fan parody of "Escaflowne") we know we'll get a laugh because our convention comrades will have watched it too. Hell, we could just reference what Joe in the poorly-constructed "Sailor Moon" cosplay outfit mumbled drunkly during the costume contest at Otakon 2007... and people would get it! Geeks of a feather gathered together at one convention are more of one mind than a hive full of bees.
Of course geeks can be very poisonous towards each other as well. There are cliques within cliques after all. My college friends were snooty of cosplayers, believing that sexy school girl outfits, blazing-red hair and steampunk petticoats merely cheapened the good name of anime fandom. Webcartoonist Randy K. Milholland, creator of the famous "Something Positive" webcartoon, is famous for despising what he calls "catgirls"... middle-school age girls who wear cat ears for no real reason at comic book conventions, cheerfully spout off phrases in bad Japanese and revere treacly shojo manga comic series. Other fans sometimes shout abuse about the series "Megatokyo" because it's not "real" manga due to the fact that it's written by an American writer, the extraordinarily talented Fred Gallagher. The fact that Mr. Gallagher lived in Japan for many years, speaks fluent Japanese and has a spookily-accurate grasp of Japanese Otaku culture does not matter. He is not Japanese so "Megatokyo" is not "real" manga. During a "Megatokyo" panel one anime fan yelled "Your comic sucks!" to Mr. Gallagher right in front of his wife and three-year-old son. While the other fans hissed at the heckler I could see no remorse in the obese, unshaven anime fan's face. "I don't fucking care," he yelled back at the other fans, "What are you gonna do to me, huh?" He then wandered off before security could escort him out of the room, pausing only to ogle a slim young woman barely dressed in a bit of camouflage body floss and covered in fake blood.
"Nice," he said to her, "That's from 'Bikini Samurai,' right?"
The woman ignored him. Sure, she and everyone else knew what he meant because we were all anime fans bound together through our mutual love of Japanese animation.... but that didn't mean we would excuse bad manners.
Nevertheless, as the room quieted down and the q&a got back on track, I couldn't help but ruminate a bit on the nature of time change and anime conventions. Anime is a young person's game.... and at the age of thirty I realized that I had grown a bit too big for the game. Certainly five years ago I would be in the thick of the zeitgeist, squeezed into a Gothic Lolita gown and exchanging oh-so-esoteric quips with the rest of my geekdom brethren... but now I had slipped. I had not touched on anime for the last three years ago and now the kids were all referencing shows that I had no idea about. I could only recognize at 2% of the cosplayer characters instead of 48%- my record back in 2004. The storylines of the newest anime shows had gotten even more convoluted, the graphics slicker, the CGI more jaw-dropping and I had missed it all. The friends with whom I had stood in line seven years ago at Otakon were now married with children. They had not gone to anime conventions for a long time and could only snatch the occasional Tokyo/Steampunk offering when kiddies were asleep and job-related paperwork had been finished. Their view on the injustice of society's patronizing views towards anime fans had mellowed as their now thirty-something minds were now occupied with more important matters. Geeks and Gothic Lolitas were all very nice... but for us older people the weekend was over. It was time to head out, grab a coffee and get ready for work.