This weekend I attended Naka-Con, an anime convention, in Kansas City, Kansas. It provided a different perspective to the con going experience for me. I’ve attended a wide variety of both comic and gaming conventions before, but never an anime convention. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with the subject matter, it’s simply that I’m not very knowledgeable about it. So for the first time, I was at a convention, looking from the outside in.
It was an experience that clarified the value of conventions. The atmosphere of Naka-Con was very similar to that of a Wizard World, GenCon or Orgins, even if the subject matter was different. It was a gathering of people who felt very passionately and cared a great deal about a medium and its stories. This generated an inclusive atmosphere that’s difficult to describe. The sheer number of costumes, odd accessories and other eccentric accoutrements that wandered about the Sheraton Hotel could not be found under any other circumstances. More importantly, everyone there was comfortable dressing, speaking or behaving in whatever way they wanted. That’s an incredible thing.
Expressing yourself and sharing your passions is often far more difficult than it should be. That statement is not limited to arenas like gaming, comics or anime. It applies to subjects like football or classic car repair as well. Consider how often you really delve into what you love at work or at family affairs. As a generalization, it’s something that is only raised in passing due to a concern that others do not care as much. So conventions (and tailgates for that matter) are the opportunity that allows passionate people to be passionate. It’s something to behold.
It’s not just enjoyable for insiders though. I had a great time at Naka-Kon, possibly because of my lack of familiarity. Seeing other people having a great time and sharing what they loved helped encourage me to explore the subject material. At one point I saw an odd-looking frog backpack and went around trying to figure out what the hell a Sgt. Frog was. Turns out it’s a pretty amusing children’s television show about an frog-like alien trying to conquer Earth. Conventions and similar gatherings don’t just support insiders, they encourage outsiders to come in. The main reason I watch football today is due to tailgating in college.
That’s the take away from this and the reason I’m writing about an anime convention in a comics blog. Comic cons are an important component of the culture surrounding comics currently. They exist for both insiders and outsiders to the medium, providing support and a safe haven of expression for insiders and a welcome mat to outsiders. So if you’ve never attended a comic convention, I would encourage you to go. Not just to meet special guests, but also to check out panels, learn about new things, and ask questions. In two weeks Kansas City will be hosting its own comics convention, featuring creators like Brian Azzarello, Scott Snyder, Neal Adams, and Jason Aaron. I hope to see some of you there.
Expect a very special set of reviews Wednesday night. Trust me, this is one column you will not want to miss.
Now for some obligatory cosplay shots. Enjoy!