Is it just me or are Otaku constantly getting younger? When it comes to an online presence, the young’uns are always gonna have a step up on everyone else, because besides school, homework, and maybe an after-school job, they have an insane amount of free time. I remember those carefree days, hitting up the video store (yes video a.k.a. VHS. Wiki that if you have no idea what I’m jabbering about.), wandering over to a friend’s house, popping in the latest hard-to-find anime and sitting back chillaxin’ when those kanji credits rolled. Afterwards, we’d talk about it while playing some street hockey and then getting on an AOL chatroom to further that discussion with dorks from other states. If you have to ask what a chatroom is, then Wiki that, too. The point is hardcore Otaku talk used to be few and far between for many. That is, until we could convince Mom to let us go to a con. We wouldn’t know anyone other than who we came with, but soon made friends over common interests like what we were watching, how we figured out how to make a cosplay outfit from stuff we found at a thrift shop, and what bands from overseas we got a bootleg of at the last anime club meeting. Thank goodness for cons.
Like I said though, being Otaku is very much a young person’s game. Not because we don’t want to be, but adults have less disposable time and money! Under 18 Otaku have amazing resources these days (*cough* internet *cough*) to check out the latest of everything online, from shows to merch to music, so on, and so on. This is where cons come into play for the full-time job crowd. It levels the playing field and gives a crash course on what the hell is coming out of the Land of the Rising Sun. Pittsburgh gets the one they call Tekkoshocon.
April 5-7, 2013, brought on Tekkoshocon X-2, the area’s largest con spreading the joy of everything both hardcore to kawaii. Held in the insanely huge David L. Lawrence convention center in downtown Pittsburgh, Tekko is massive when it comes to space. What was great was having 3 opportunities in 1 big room to blow my paycheck. As soon as you went in and paid your admission, right across the hall was what I affectionately refer to as “The Vacuum.” That place will suck the money out of your pockets like a Dyson on high. Not to say it’s forcing you to, but you shell out cash like Monopoly money in the dealers’ room, because you see things you wouldn’t normally without specifically looking for them. Sure, they’re overpriced, but you’ve never seen this Figma and it’s right there!!! Besides the bevy of usual con dealer room dreck, Tekko has a space for game dealers to not only roll your 20-sided die and tap the money you were saving for lunch, but the host of the game section also held instruction sessions to introduce gamers to new games and instruct people how to play ones they were interested in, but didn’t want to shell upwards of $50 on before they saw a demo. Smart move. My favorite in this room, though, has always been where you can find local creators pedaling their wares. Artist Alley. It’s always great to see original pieces available at cons, things you don’t see on websites, but those you have to get out of the house to discover. You get a feel for the hard work and dedication to their craft that goes into their products. One merchant table I’ve seen at a few cons that always blows me away is “The Able Sisters.” They make a few different things I love, in particular are their themed teddy bears. From old and new anime series to Doctor Who and Star Wars, you can never go wrong with one. It’s like Build-a-Bear, but you don’t have to worry about the putting it together part, and it’s much less expensive. Speaking of old and new anime series . . .
Where the hell have I been? Shows that I loved a year or two ago had very little, if any, presence as far as merch was concerned. Moreover in the cosplay. Almost like using a barometer, you can gauge the popularity of a show by how many people are dressed as those characters. A great way to get an overview of how out of touch someone can get over the course of a year is attending Tekkoshocon’s Masquerade and Fashion Show. The fashion show is a way for people who are really proud of the time and effort they put into their outfits to show them off. Not just a walk out and wave vibe, it reminds you more of a proper venue to sashay and shante. Afterward, the masquerade is held. A bit of a misnomer, the masquerade is actually a skit competition. Performers have 4 minutes to show off their talents, be it working out a prepared skit or lip syncing to a popular j-pop song or anything else that fits the criteria. Like I said, a crash course.
Tekko also brought in some industry mainstays. Many have made previous Tekkoshocon appearances, especially comedian Uncle Yo and transplanted Pittsburgh resident David J. Fielding, a.k.a. Zordon from later episodes of The Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers. Other guests included Tommy Yune, Tony Oliver, Chris Cason, Initial-P, and my crush Christina Vee. So lovely! Falling into the kawaii category as well was Chii Sakurabi. Performing her J-POP idol music dressed in Lolita fashion and backed by similarly dressed dancers, you’d be hard pressed to find someone in the city cuter that night. Also performing that weekend were CANTOY and Dazzle Vision. Both bands are hardcore, not just for musical style, but for their onstage chops and the sex appeal of their lead singers. Fronted by fashion model miri-pow, CANTOY gets the blood boiling and raises it higher when they really get into their own on stage. Dazzle Vision has been on the scene in Japan for over a decade and know exactly what they’re doing when it comes to being a musical force to be reckoned with. Transitioning from sweet to gritty in a breath, the vocals of many a Dazzle Vision song cover both emotional and vocal range without batting an eye. In 2012 they were chosen to open for Evanescence in Toyko and Nagoya. Not too shabby.
Tekkoshocon tries to bring a taste of everything to the table. Gamers of both table and video variety, manga readers and creators, viewer, singers, costume designers, hell, even the occasional parent are welcome. The space was a bit too large for what they had to offer in my opinion, a few more guests on the anime side of things, both in front of and behind the mic would be welcome, but as a whole it’s put together very well. From covering this event for a number of years now, I’ve gotten to know some of the people involved with putting this thing on; Jeanie and Jim do an amazing job. One great addition to this year was the mobile Guidebook. A downloadable app for smartphones, it allows you to have a copy of the schedule, floor layout, and even allows you to customize a schedule for yourself making sure you don’t miss out on an event you need to check out.
If you’re in the ‘Burgh the next time they put on event and know a nagiri from a Naruto, make sure you check it out. You can follow them on Facebook or keep tabs on the website, www.Tekkoshocon.com. Sayonara!