Deanne and I were riding in a shuttle bus to our hotel the first night of ACen 2016. We had gotten our badges, wandered around the vendor hall, and made plans to change outfits before heading back out for some panel sessions. We eagerly waited for our shuttle bus driver to pick us up.
Deanne and I were dressed fairly “normal” in comparison to many convention goers that day. Shortly after getting in the bus, we drove past many ACen attendees wearing various cosplays from their favorite anime and such. Almost immediately after seeing these cosplayers, the bus driver turns to us and says: “What scares me, is these kids will be running the country in 20 years.”
Deanne and I sat in silence for the remainder of the shuttle ride. When we returned to our hotel room, we both talked about his statement and how it bothered us to hear that. Although we looked normal at that moment, we were those attendees too. We are cosplayers. We are fans. We are “the kids who will [run] the country in 20 years.”
Why were his words an insult to us? He was scared of a community he did not understand. I so badly wanted to explain to him how loving and accepting our community is. I wanted him to know the talent, the kindness, and the hospitality of our community. I wanted him to understand our love for anime, for gaming, for cosplaying and how it brought us together at ACen 2016.
Deanne told me how the driver made her uncomfortable and how she was saddened that there “are still some people out there who still view people like us at some kind of social stigma. It only motivates me to continue spreading a more positive image of people in the geek and otaku culture.” Deanne has always loved going to ACen, and although our experience with the shuttle driver was a depressing moment of the weekend, Deanne said that ACen gave her “a sense of belonging.”
I was present at ACen 2016 as press, and something new and exciting that I have never done as press before, was attend press sessions. This was an exciting opportunity to ask some of the guests of ACen 2016 their impressions of our community, because I truly wanted to know what they thought of their fans.
The first press session I attended was Eir Aoi. Eir Aoi is a singer who is well known in the anime community for her songs in various Anime. For her press interview, she had a translator, and from the little Japanese I know, I noticed she was a very polite woman. When asked about her happiest moments at conventions in the United States, she told us how impressed she was with our community, our love for anime, and our love for Japanese culture. Although the “spontaneous energy” from the fans is overwhelming at times for her, Eir Aoi expressed how she admired our community as a whole.
I also attended a press session for Monica Rial, a well-known voice actress who has been in the industry for 17 years. I was very inspired by what she had to say about the community. When asked about her impression of her fans, she immediately said she loved her fans. She loves going to conventions and having fans appreciate the work she does. One thing she said to me that I really admired was: “I love this community, and I think that’s why I’ve been going to conventions for so long and I will continue to go to anime conventions for so long.”
She is especially impressed with the kindness of strangers at anime conventions. She also said that “the good outweighs the bad” at conventions. She joked of how she’s been in the industry for 17 years and how she has had a couple of weird instances, but everything had been mostly positive in this community. Her favorite interactions are with kids and how over the years she’s seen fans grow up and now bring their own children to the conventions. She loves the community and all the positivity she sees in it.
As I left my last press session, I wandered through the vendor hall, admiring and purchasing some artwork from some of the artists. After purchasing a piece of artwork for my sister, I wandered back towards the panel session area to sit and wait for my friends. As I waited, I noticed the artist whom I just purchased a piece from walk down the hallway I was in. He must have seen the disappointment on my face, knowing that the convention was coming to an end. He approached me and asked “are you doing alright?” In that moment, I remembered how lucky I was to be a part of the community, and how loving and caring we are. I smiled and thanked him for asking me. He certainly had a booth to return to, but he took the time to approach me to be sure I was alright. A fitting end to my time at ACen 2016.
Although ACen 2016 has come and gone, I look forward to the next 20 years, just to see how great of a world we can make.
-Sarah Greer / D20 Xyston
Illinois Manager of the D20 Girls Project