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!
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:
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.
I was a broke high school student during my first convention. Although I wanted to buy everything, I simply didn’t have the money.
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.
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.
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.
My friend and I walked to a Lolita stall, where a Lolita girl invited us to come in and look at the dresses.
My friend agreed to try it on. Soon, what was supposed to be a quick look turned into an entire shopping trip.
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?
Whether you buy anything or not, shopping is fun!
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.
This also makes it hard to stick with your friends.
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!
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
It’s easy to find people who love the same things that you do.
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.
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.
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.
Talk it out.
One of my friends, a newbie to Anime Boston, asked me this question near the end of the con:
Another friend– the one who had gone Lolita that weekend– chimed in.
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.
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.
I thought about a guy we had met in the subway that day.
I thought about all the people I had talked to over the weekend.
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!
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.
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!