Explorations in Japanese Culture
As I have mentioned before in my posts, living in northwest Georgia tends to leave me feeling isolated from others with a similar love of Japanese culture and anime. So any chance I can get to share this love with others is one that I will readily jump at! I guess I should go ahead and finally publicly admit it……I am a bit of an otaku. I know it is kind of a dirty word, and I often worry that people will just lump my interests in Japanese culture as simply an off shoot of being an otaku. However, they are two completely separate interests for me! With that out of the way though, I will talk more about Anime Weekend Atlanta (AWA), a place where I was able to let me hidden otaku shine through and love every minute of it!
Anime Weekend Atlanta is one of the largest anime conventions in the US and is listed as one of the top 10 anime cons in North America! I absolutely love going because there is a multitude of things to do at the convention ranging from panels, a HUGE dealers room, art show rooms, video gaming, RPG gaming and many other special events. Typically it is held at the joint Cobb Galleria and the Renaissance Waverly Hotel, giving con goers from out of the area a convent place to stay. Cost is always a question on my mind when I am thinking about big events like this and if you are on a budget then you can pre-register as early as now and get a 3 day pass for only $30! Which is a steal, because a 3 day pass walk-in cost is $50. The con is also accompanied by a formal, black tie required ball that takes place the night before the first con day. While the cost is extra, I think it is well worth it. I will be attending the ball for the first time next year and I am really looking forward to it.
There is so much to see and do at AWA, that I really don’t have time to recount my total experience here, so instead I will focus on three of my favorite parts: the Dealer’s Room, my favorite panels, and the cosplay. The Dealer’s Room is really just what it sounds like, it is the collection of all the people selling things at AWA packed into two exhibition halls. Just to give you an idea of how many people where there, my first walk through took about an hour and a half. That was just me trying to get a quick look at everything once. It was like the holy grail for my inner otaku. Everything you can imagine wanting to buy that is remotely related to anime was available in the dealers room be it figurines, anime, manga, cosplay items or some fan fiction manga. Myself, I bought a few things including a Doraemon plush and a FMA: Brotherhood replica watch. If you are at all interested in collecting figurines or want to blow a paycheck on anime stuff, you do not want to miss the dealer’s room.
There were a variety of different panels held at AWA ranging from industry panels held by Funimation and Viz Media to cosplay workshops. One of my favorite panels was all about Rurouni Kenshin’s 15th anniversary. The panel was led by a pair of hard core fans who talked about all the different story arcs of the series as well as the best scenes for the many different characters. It was like being part of a fan forum in real life and for me, a first time experiece that I will never forget. I did not have time go to to nearly as many panels as I wanted to due to time constraints, but I plan to remedy that next year! Most of my time was spent watching the endless stream of cosplayers.
I am going to take a big leap here and hope that all my readers know what cosplay is and waste no time explaining it. If you don’t maybe look it up along with otaku….(since chances are you are probably lost on that one as well). The cosplay at AWA ranged from poorly done sailor moons (trust me, I am being kind by only calling them that), to full out productions of characters from Bleach, Naruto, Soul Eater and Ouran Host Club just to name a few. If you are a fan of people watching, AWA is the place to do it. I spent 3 hrs sitting at the base of the escalators that connected to the food court to the convention halls just taking it all in. If you ever have a chance to go, the bottom of the escalator simply can’t be beat, it is like a moving cosplay run way! There is not much else to say about cosplay without pictures, so below I have added a slideshow of all the cosplay pictures taken at AWA by my best friend Jessie.
For me AWA was not quite a life changing experience, but really more of an awakening. I have always been rather ashamed of my interest in anime and as that interest has grown over the past decade I have kept it contained to myself, only letting it filter out in small doses to those around me. However, AWA was a chance for me to feel un-ashamed and not alone in how much I love anime. For that, AWA was priceless to me. Being able to go with my best friend one day and my wife the next was perfect and I would have it no other way. My best friend nerded out with me while we ate sub way with Rurouni Kenshin and my wife stood close unembarrassed while I poured over Totoro plushes and bargained the dealer down to get a free key chain. If you have not found a place to be happy with others who have the same passion as you, then I strongly encourage you to seek that place out. It is like going to a home you never knew you had.