Anime Boston 2015 – My First Anime Con!

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This past weekend I went to Anime Boston 2015! I have been to many video game conventions before such as PAX East, but this was my first time attending an anime convention. I was not exactly sure what to expect.

This was my view within the first five seconds:

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This is one of the many entrances to the Hynes Convention Center in Boston, where I pretty much spent my entire weekend. It was an exhilarating experience.

I noticed a lot of differences between PAX East and Anime Boston, and more broadly, between a video game convention and an anime convention. First of all, the number of attendees, and by extension the size of the convention, was significantly smaller. There were still over 25,000 people, so it was by no means a small event, but that cannot compare to the massive 50k+ attendees that PAX East has every year. I much prefer the smaller scale of Anime Boston. It was less crowded overall, with the main exception being the entrances, and the lines for all of the events were a lot shorter. I felt like I was able to do more at Anime Boston than at PAX East, simply because I was able to spend less time waiting in line.

I think that this smaller sized convention is largely due to the difference between the video game and anime fandoms. Even though anime is growing in popularity around the world at a rapid pace, it pales in comparison to the immense popularity of video games. Video games are more commonly accepted, and more people choose them as one of their sources of entertainment. This is an interesting fact, but just talking about numbers does not really amount to anything. What I am more interested in is the difference between video game and anime culture within their respective fandoms.

The anime fandom definitely has more of an emphasis on cosplaying. It was a major part of the convention, if not the main attraction itself. I saw about five thousand cosplays of Attack on Titan and Madoka Magica, as well as Sailor Moon, Soul Eater, Steins;Gate, Pokemon, Final Fantasy, Fire Emblem, and so many more that I have lost count. Many of them were quite good, too! There was a particularly impressive Elfen Lied cosplay of Lucy and Mariko that I really liked. The cosplayers were really nice as well. You could ask any of them for a photo and they were more than happy to strike a pose. I only wish I would have ran into a really good Saber cosplay….

In contrast, there are generally very few cosplays at PAX East, and none of them are from anime. Cosplaying seems to be more of an anime thing. By experiencing Anime Boston, I definitely have more of an appreciation for cosplaying as a form of expression. It really is incredible how much time and effort are put into those costumes.

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The anime fandom also tends to be a lot more passive than in the video game fandom when it comes to the main exhibition hall and panels. The exhibition hall at PAX East is absolutely insane, with everyone scrambling to get in on all the excitement and fun. The exhibition hall at Anime Boston, as well as the Artist’s Alley, were much more chill. Everyone was just geeking out together. It was not as much of a rush. I am sure this is partly due to the smaller amount of attendees, but it also felt like everyone was just generally more relaxed. In other words, gamers these days may get just a bit too excited over League of Legends.

Besides the main halls, panels, the cosplaying, the Artist’s Alley, and the inevitable lunch break at the nearby Prudential Center (which is way cheaper than buying convention food at PAX East), there were also the main events, the first being the LiSA concert on Friday night. I waited almost four hours in line for a good seat. It was worth it:

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And another picture that totally was not taken by someone else with a much better camera and angle:

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LiSA was awesome. She sang Oath Sign from Fate/Zero, and Ichiban no Takaramono from Angel Beats!, so I was satisfied. The concert hall was less than stellar for a concert of this sort, but I still had an enjoyable time. At the end of the concert, she encouraged everyone to cram as close to the stage as possible and someone on the stage took a picture of her with us.

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I was in the fourth row, so I am pretty sure that I am in this picture, but I cannot actually find myself in the crowd and blurriness from the low light.

The main events on Saturday were the AMV contest and The Masquerade, a fashion show and series of skits performed by cosplayers attending the convention. The AMV concert was at 10am, but I and about one thousand other people slammed some caffeine and piled into the hall to watch all thirty finalists and put in our votes for each category: Drama, Action, Romance, Upbeat, Other, and Fun/Comedy.

I did not think that I would like the AMV contest to be honest. I have always though of AMVs as essentially being clip shows from an anime with subpar pop music thrown over it. There are certainly AMVs like that out there, but that was not the case with these finalists. These were pro-shit AMVs. They are the some of the best I have ever seen. The editing styles really gave the AMVs a sense of character and personality. It was mesmerizing to watch them in a room with one thousand other people on a huge screen with high-definition digital projection and an overly expensive audio system. Being a part of this massive audience made the drama even more dramatic, and the comedy even more funny. Everyone was in awe, or laughing, or crying, together. Then we got to vote on our favorites. It was actually really fun! Besides the LiSA concert, it was one of the highlights of Anime Boston for me. When I attend future anime conventions, I will definitely keep the AMV contests high on my list of priorities.

My favorite AMV overall (Drama):

My favorite AMV aesthetically, both in terms of visuals and musical selection (Drama):

My favorite AMV in the Upbeat category:

My favorite AMV in the Fun/Comedy category:

These are just some of my personal favorites, but all of the AMVs were stunning. I wholly recommend checking out the full playlist of all the finalists: Click here

The Masquerade, on the other hand, was a bit of a disappointment. The skits were not very funny or well produced. It became clear very quickly that the main point of The Masquerade is simply to have fun cosplaying and geek out over cosplaying, not necessarily to put on a high quality show. I have complete respect for anyone who wants to do something like this, but I was expecting more of a show, so I personally got a little bored. There was a really cool Black Rock Shooter cosplay, though. Also, the winners of the AMV contest were announced at the end of The Masquerade, so that was nice.

Overall, I would say that I had a fantastic time at Anime Boston. I now have a deeper understanding of the anime fandom, I have gained several pounds from over consumption of Pocky, and I love anime even more than I already did. I can’t wait to attend more conventions in the future. By the way, while I was at Anime Boston, I made a contract to become a magical girl. All the cool kids are doing it these days. わたしはかっこいですね?

LiSA and cosplay photos courtesy of The Boston Globe.

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