How to up your game at your next anime con

I can’t claim to be a convention connoisseur. There are people who convention-hop, traveling from con to con in their area. There are those who rent hotels with their friends, hanging out with all the anime geeks night and day. There are those who go hard, hitting up one of the local clubs when the convention closes each night.

I’m not one of those people. I went to my first con five years ago, an itty-bitty one called Zenkaikon. Two years later, I moved up to Boston, where I have conveniently attended Anime Boston for the last three years. Each night, I can go home and snuggle up in my own bed.

While I’m no expert, there are some things I wish I knew before attending my first convention way back when. So I wish to impart this knowledge on whoever is interested– because nothing’s wrong with making your anime con more awesome!

Preregister.

Some events like PAX sell out within hours. Luckily, other cons will allow registration up until the day itself. During my first convention, I decided last-minute to attend. When I arrived at the convention center, though, I was faced with this:

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The lines at Anime Boston can get even larger. Additionally, registering beforehand can be cheaper than buying it the day of. If you’re going to be attending for sure, save time and money– register beforehand!

Resist the Dealer’s Room.

Most conventions will have a dealer’s room, full of shiny sparkling merchandise from your favorite shows and games.

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I was a broke high school student during my first convention. Although I wanted to buy everything, I simply didn’t have the money.

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And it’s certainly possible to stay on a budget! Some people only bring a limited amount of cash with them. I tend to shop around first, choosing the items I want the most and prioritizing what to buy. At my first convention, I only bought one thing.

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Don’t resist the Dealer’s Room.

On the other hand, if you do have some money to spare, shopping around the Dealer’s Room can be the greatest thing ever.

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For example, take my friend who attended Anime Boston for the first time this year. I watched as she navigated the Dealer’s Room on the first day of the con.

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My friend and I walked to a Lolita stall, where a Lolita girl invited us to come in and look at the dresses.

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My friend agreed to try it on. Soon, what was supposed to be a quick look turned into an entire shopping trip.

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That dress turned what would have been a fun weekend into an awesome weekend. People approached and asked her for photos. She talked to people about the adorableness that is Lolita fashion. And sometimes, you just want to dress up in a sickeningly frilly dress, you know?

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Whether you buy anything or not, shopping is fun!

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Don’t lose your way.

Kill la Kill fans, please don’t slap me. I mean it! Depending on the size of the convention, the convention hall can be large and confusing. Dozens of rooms, multiple floors, hallways that all look the same. During my first Anime Boston, I had no idea where I was at any given time.

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This also makes it hard to stick with your friends.

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My best advice? If your event uses the Guidebook app, download it! For Anime Boston, the app included maps of the entire convention center. The app also included all the panels and performances for the entire weekend, allowing you to create and customize your own convention schedule. This made it a whole lot easier to find my way!

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Be prepared to go to panels early.

During my first Anime Boston, I would arrive at panels right when they were about to start. As a result, I heard this sentence a lot:

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If the panel is covering a popular topic (such as Pokemon or Studio Ghibli, for instance) a lot of people will be interested– and a lot of people will show up. The lines at the Penny Arcade Expos can get so bad that there’s a whole Twitter devoted to them.

Be prepared to go to concerts and other main events REALLY early.

Panels fill fast. Main events, like a concert by a popular artist or a Q&A with a famous actor, can be even worse. One of the most popular events at Anime Boston is the cosplay masquerade. I remember talking to some of the people who were waiting in line.

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Therefore, be ready to hang around.

If you do have to absolutely see the Video Game Orchestra, or the JAM Project, or whoever else is presenting/performing that year, you might have to wait in line. For a while. When I attended PAX East last year, people knew this and came prepared.

Seriously, this happened! I'm stealing this image from a post I wrote last year.

This really happened! I’m stealing this image from a post I wrote last year.

The long wait becomes much more tolerable when you spend it playing Cards Against Humanity or Spaceteam with your friends. Or, in this case, with complete strangers who happen to love the same things you do.

Dress it up.

If you weren’t able to tell, I’m a big fan of cosplay. Why wouldn’t I be? There are so many reasons to like cosplay.

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And while anime conventions are certainly enjoyable in normal clothes, I find that cosplaying makes it so much more fun. When I’m in costume, and when others are in costume, it becomes a conversation starter.

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It’s easy to find people who love the same things that you do.

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An anime convention is kind of like a big dance for geeks: everyone comes looking their best, except instead of formal wear everyone’s in their finest costume. These geek conventions are the only times where dressing up as Naruto or Monkey D. Luffy is socially acceptable, after all. Not to mention it’s a nice ego boost.

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Speaking of photos…

Bring your camera.

Maybe this is just me. My urge to take photos runs stronger than most people. Photos are a great way to preserve your memories, though, and a great way to share all the cool cosplay you’ll see.

Asking cosplayers for photos is normal at a convention, so don’t be shy! People even enjoy being asked for photos. It’s flattering, you know? So I didn’t hold back, and asked tons and tons of people for their photo.

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If you’re me, you bring your giant Nikon DSLR, extra batteries, your battery charger, and some extra SD cards in case. If you’re a normal person, you bring your phone and snap photos from there. Either one works– just be sure to bring a charger for when your camera runs out of juice.

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Talk it out.

One of my friends, a newbie to Anime Boston, asked me this question near the end of the con:

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Another friend– the one who had gone Lolita that weekend– chimed in.

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I nodded. That sounded about right.

But then I paused. Everything I’ve described here were reasons to come to Anime Boston. Going to panels. Shopping. Cosplaying. Yet there was something else to it. There was something about these nerd conventions that ran deeper than just buying wall scrolls and watching Attack on Titan characters walk by.

I thought back to my first Anime Boston.

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I ended up hanging out with those complete strangers for the entire day, a friendship based purely on a mutual love for Final Fantasy VIII.

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Well, the guy in red is from Final Fantasy X.

I thought about a guy we had met in the subway that day.

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I thought about all the people I had talked to over the weekend.

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With a female Kakashi from Naruto!

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With Uncle Iroh from Avatar!

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With Mitsukuni “Honey” Haninozuka from Ouran High School Host Club!

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I thought about it, and realized: While the panels and performances and picture-taking is fun, it’s really the people that make the whole experience for me. There’s a strong sense of camaraderie at Anime Boston. Everyone is accepted, whether it be the tall guy in a Lolita dress or the girl wearing bunny ears and a fox tail. People become incredibly friendly, eager to talk to you about their favorite anime or manga or video game.

I was shy at my first few conventions, hesitating to ask anyone for even a photo. Now, I love approaching people at conventions. Chances are, they’ll have a good story to tell– or at least a decent anime recommendation.

It’s that openness– that sense of community– that I find to be the core of Anime Boston. It’s not often that you’ll be surrounded by thousands of people who have the same interests that you do, eager to fangirl over Avatar or debate over the Legend of Zelda timeline. Approach people about their costume. Ask them about their favorite series. Geek out– because here, it’s okay!

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With Hiccup from How to Train Your Dragon!

And that, I find, is my favorite way to enjoy a convention.

Don’t just listen to me, though. Go to a convention yourself! Chances are, you’ll find your own ways to enjoy it. And when you do, let me know– I’d love to know how to make a great time even more awesome.

Even better, let me know how to deal with that post-con depression.

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I’m already planning my next cosplay.

 

 

 

For those who don’t know, I went to Anime Boston this year dressed as Yuna in her Final Fantasy X-2 outfit! I’ve compiled a little gallery of my favorite Anime Boston photos from this year. Check it out if you’d like!

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14 thoughts on “How to up your game at your next anime con

  1. HAHAHA!! This is fantastic! And, you are perfectly right. While people come for the panels, the concerts, and the cosplay, the real reason anime conventions are so great is because of the people and the mentality they have. These are the only places that you can talk so much about your interests with people who have similar interests, being very friendly toward one another. Truly, it is the lack of judgment people give each other, and the willingness to be nice to everyone. It is these traits that make conventions so great, and it is these traits that all of humanity could use to make a better world.

    • You know, I have to agree! I wish people were always as friendly and open-minded as they are at conventions. Not to say that the geek world doesn’t have its own problems (I’m sure you’ve heard of cosplayers being fat-shamed or slut-shamed) but generally, people are so nice. Have you been able to go to any conventions?

      • Yeah, wow. That was the whole reason I started to reply, but I completely forgot. I HAVE BEEN TO A CONVENTION!! In fact, I helped to run a convention! Here at BGSU (Bowling Green State University), we have an annual anime convention called Animarathon! Why am I shouting? Anyways, I am apart of the Anime in Northwest Ohio club at BGSU (again Bowling Green State University, in case you didn’t get it the first time) or ANO for short (that’s concerning Anime in North-ENOUGH OF THIS)! Relax, relax. Haaaaa… I am a member of ANO, and just last weekend we had our anime convention, and IT WAS A LOT OF FUN!! All sorts of people from all over the country showed up (but mostly from around the state (of Ohio)) and we had a total of 3700 people show up at the convention! I went to some funny panels and we had a rave at the end that I thought was a lot of fun. Generally, I ran around and did what the club officers told me to do, but I saw plenty of different cosplay costumes that were great!
        I have not heard of slut/fat-shaming. I mean, I’m sure that sort of thing happens, but I have not heard of it specifically relating to cosplay. (goes off to check Internet three minutes ago (time travel?)) Yeah, that’s too bad. Of course, the quality of the time you have at a convention (or anywhere really) is only a concept of your mind and can be controlled, but if people are less-friendly, mean, rude, etc., then that can greatly affect the quality of your time at a convention. But, if you are ever subject to such things just remember that your thoughts and how you feel are completely controlled by YOU!

        Good luck (on everything),

        Straw Hat Luffy

        • No wayyy!! Not only have you been to a convention, but you helped run it?! That’s awesome! Man, you’ve really gotten into comics. 3,700 people are quite a lot to organize, too! Sounds like you had a blast, and even a rave?! I’m jealous– Anime Boston used to have an “informal dance” (Aka a rave) except after my first year attending, rumors spread that someone had died at the rave. After that, Anime Boston discontinued the dance.

          I guess I spend too much time on reddit and tumblr, so I’ve read a lot of articles about girls in cosplay getting insulted or harassed. It’s true that people will always say mean or negative things– but in the end, who are they to take away your enjoyment? Conventions are awesome and you should be able to enjoy them! And I guess developing a thick skin is just a part of that.

          Good luck with your anime club, it sounds like a lot of fun!

          –Vy

  2. Thank you for the Uncle Iroh shots. He is the only character I cosplay simply because I look just like him and I love the ATLA and Korra shows on Nickelodeon!

    Jerry “Uncle Iroh” Glose
    Whitehall PA

  3. Great Post! I enjoyed all of it. I went to one convention in Indy years ago .. Gen Con. It was fantastic. Now, I wish I had gone in years past and dressed the part!
    I have started reading “Attack on Titan” – decent, I am liking it all.
    I don’t know if I had ever told you I used to play MTG (Magic the Gathering) for years. Still have about 39,000 cards. Would sell them if I could now. Those were good memories.

  4. This is so awesome. Hahaha. Omg. I’ve never been to a convention before, but it seems super fun. :”) The first and only time I’ve cosplayed was in a school event, and it was Rinoa too! ❤ Oooo, hahaha, she and Squall are my favorites in the FF universe. :")

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