The first weekend in April brought Pittsburgh the 9th Annual Tekkoshocon, a gathering for all things otaku. You may find some of the words about to be laid before you unknown and foreign to your eyes. I suggest a visit to Urban Dictionary to define those pesky terms you can't wrap your head around. While you're there, I suggest looking up "blowsage," submitted by yours truly.
"They have Yaoi Bingo. I wish I was of age." - Overheard from an underage Pokemon wrangler.
As I waited in line to enter the main stage area of the Wyndham Grand Hotel, where this year's Tekko was held, I heard this teenage lament. As fanboys and cosplayers trickled into the hotel, checking bags and Keyblades, those who have already done so lined up to attend the opening ceremony on March 31st, 2011. A kickoff to the weekends’ events was delivered by the convention’s President/CEO Jim Gogol. Jim introduced his staff, brought up the Japanese band RAMPANT, a female lead rock band making their American debut at Tekko, and then went over the finer points of the convention rules. My favorite, but, unfortunately, the most broken over the weekend, was rule #6: "Remember that your body is a temple. Do your best to keep it and your mouth clean by showering and brushing your teeth." This is what happens when teenage excitement, free reign from parents, and Pocky mix. This brings me to...
"Yellow (lanyards) mean jailbait." - Overheard from a gentleman at the hotel bar.
I'm not sure if that's true, but that lovely bon mot brings up a good point for you creepers out there. If you're trolling for love at a con, no matter how revealing or risque the outfit someone's wearing, be sure to ask for I.D. The costumes this year were stellar, with the gamut being ran from Robocop to Tron, Bleach to Soul Eater, Pokemon to Pedobear. One of the many panels available this year was Cosplay 102, a discussion of where to best get supplies, ideas, and inspiration for making your next costume. Lead by Avonworth H.S. students Rika, Makenzie, Mandi, Amy, and Evie, they went over the finer and more economical points of Goodwill shopping, the importance of practicing sewing or knowing a great seamstress, and the most important point, go as something you love. Cosplayers have been known to bring upwards of 5 or more costumes for a weekend event and spend hours dedicated to perfecting the exact look to bring about a complete character. These costumes are made and worn for a variety of reasons, ranging from love of a certain anime to escaping into a different world, if only for a few days. Evie, age 16, let me know what she loves most about cosplay is that, "It takes you away from the real world, and you don't have to worry about what people think." Which, in a world of real and cyber bullying, is a comforting thought that, for at least a few weekends a year, you can turn into anyone you want and become a total rockstar for the passion you put into your costume. Gerri, a 19 year old A.I.P. student dressed as Spike Spiegel, went on to further that sentiment. "I love looking in the mirror and seeing the character come alive." You can see in the eyes of cosplayers that the money and time invested is well worth it. Why spend hundreds on video games where you can only be the character until you beat the game? That same $60 you shelled out for a game that only loses value the moment you walk out of the store could be spent on raw materials that can be transformed into memories and years of replay value.
The staff and minions (volunteers) at Tekkoshocon go out of their way to make sure that the safety and security of each attendee is paramount to their priorities. None so much as shown when entering the bigger events such as the concerts and dealers room. The dealers room exemplifies what made this country great. Consumerism! Imagine if the merchandise booth at a rock show did a speed ball of Redbull and Vegas, had circus babies, and those each set up a table from which to purchase their wares. That's kind of what we're looking at here. Dealers from all over shilled, haggled, and bargained to the complete satisfaction of their clients and coffers. As I've stated in a previous article, your best friend in this arena of titans is the smart phone. A little knowledge goes a long way when going back and forth over the cost of a Gundham. The dealers’ room is also a great place to interact with the weekends’ musicians. RAMPANT, lix, and Reni Mimura all had booths set up to meet and convert the curious into ardent fans. Rock, visual kei, and pop idol respectively, they all took the time to press a little flesh and snap a photo or two. If they got to sell a t-shirt or a CD, so much the better.
The one downside of the dealers’ room was and will continue to be the ever changing market place. Trends with teenagers (i.e.: those with the most disposable income and therefore the most catered to) shift quicker than the mood of any "Real Housewife." As an older otaku, this can become disparaging. I've discussed this with fellow Fanboy Comics contributor Sean Foster, and he agrees that, unless you want something from a show that's only been out for a year or two, you're basically boned if you're trying to find merchandise for it. Even uber popular shows from a year ago have seen there popularity wane. I couldn't throw a stick last year without hitting something for sale from Deathnote, and, this year, I couldn't find more than a handful of items. If you're looking for something from a show that's ancient (more than 10 years old), I have two words for you: good luck. Your best bet is to search the internet if you need something from Ranma, Kimba, or even a show that's still popular with the post-puberty crowd like Cowboy Bebop. Speaking of Bebop...
Ladies and Gentlemen, Mr. Steve Blum.
Every year the Tekko staff tries to get the best the anime industry has to offer. Previous years have seen the likes of Greg Ayres, Stephanie Sheh, Johnny Yong Bosch, and many others. This year brought us Tommy Yume and Kevin McKeever from Robotech, husband and wife voice over tag team Ellyn Stern and Richard Epcar of Bleach, and many others and anime voice over big wig Steve Blum.
Having done hundreds of voices over the past 20 years in the business, Steve has worked on such epic endeavors as Cowboy Bebop, SOCOM, Samurai Champloo, and Naruto. He can also be heard more recently voicing Wolverine, Kyohei Kadota in Durarara!!, and Starscream in Transformers where he gets to work with voice over legend Peter Cullen (a.k.a. Optimus Prime). When asked how his family took to him getting into voice acting, his dad told him to "get a back up plan." Fortunately for the anime community, he never did, and, these days, his father drops his name for street cred. He also went on to give some hard to hear, but important advice for those trying to break into the voice over world. "It's cliquey. Directors know who they want and there are a lot of time constraints. Patience is important. Take acting classes. Have a second job." Which is all good advice for the acting community in general, let alone voice over work. Most working voice over actors are also, when they can book jobs, screen actors. Some just have a face for radio. When the potential Cowboy Bebop movie was brought up, Steve said he was surprised but excited to see if it comes to fruition. "I think they could pull it off. I actually met Keanu, he was really cool, and I think he'd do a great job. Though he said the script was so expensive he wasn't sure if they'd be able to afford to make it." To both Steve and Keanu I say, if the speculation is so big that it starts trending on Twitter, I think the studio will see a healthy return.
As the sun sets in the west while I finish writing, my thoughts turn to the land of the rising sun. Recent earthquakes and tsunami damage has devastated millions of lives. The toll it has taken on Japan is immeasurable, but Tekkoshocon has shared in helping there as well. Proceeds from this non-profit convention went to relief efforts to help families rebuild and begin anew. Donations are still being taken by many charities, and any amount you can give is greatly appreciated. Until next time, boys and girls, I bid you a fond farewell and hope your days are full of fun. Many thanks to the staff of Tekko, and I look forward to the next event!