Sunday, January 1, 2012

IkkiCon

 Hey kids!  Want to know the least amusing way to piss away $20 or more on New Years Weekend?  Go check out IkkiCon!

 IkkiCon is the slightly more bloated and pretentious older brother of the other Austin "anime" convention, Anime Overload.  Many of the vendors, local sponsors, and volunteers are the same at both conventions, but IkkiCon brings with it an overly commercialized feel.  Anime Overload is cobbled together each year by local folks who love Japanese Animation and Pop Culture.  It may not be as pretty as IkkiCon, but the vibe is far more personable.  I got the feeling from nearly everyone I dealt with at IkkiCon that the only aspect of me that was welcome at their convention was the greenbacks in my wallet.

 As I point out in the Anime Overload blog, there are two types of people patronizing these conventions; people who are really interest in Japanese animation and pop-culture in some manner and people who are just fans there to be seen in their costumes.  The conventions are designed for the first kind of people.  There is a full boat of seminars presented by a wide variety of people; animators, voice-actors, clothing and costume designers, models, toy-designers, artists, writers, etc.  IkkiCon has a far larger draw than Anime Overload, bringing in talent from all over the world to share with Austinites their skills and insights.

 Unfortunately, the majority of the patrons are there to be seen, not to see.  They have a cursory knowledge at best about the culture and the industry.  They just like to dress-up as their favorite cartoon (yeah, I said cartoon... that drives anime-geeks NUTS) character and mill about with other shallow morons pretending to matter for the weekend.

 Let me provide for you an example.  My daughter was dressed-up as a particular character, Cos-playing, but just walking the vendor alley with her sister and I.  Someone she met at Anime Overload saw her from down the hall, and ran up squealing about how she had missed my daughter and wondered were she had been (the convention started on Friday).  Now, here's the thing, during their hugging and cavorting, neither girl even attempted to call the other by name.  In fact, despite the advances in modern technology that allows each of us to stay in contact with one another, I don't think either of them had spoken or typed a word to one another since the Anime Overload convention some 6 months ago.  None of that mattered.  What mattered was the spectacle they were engaged in for the benefit of those who might be watching.  Each would be able to say that they were "connected" because they "knew" yet one more nerd at the cartoon-geek round-up.  

 This was the norm.  

 I overheard another couple of bloated sponge-funguses who managed to find a clean t-shirt and crawl out of their mother's basement discussing with a vendor their self-defense and survival skills.  These two man-boys had mistakenly convinced themselves that A) things learned during days of video-game playing would translate to the real-world when mommy finally kicks them out or dies and B) that the vendor actually cared about the bravado of yet another couple of dateless wonders.

 Sadly, IkkiCon saw fit to give these kinds of nerds some power.  First of all, let me say that it is a damn shame that you would have to pay $20 to see the vendors.  THE VENDORS, people, are the folks who have paid money themselves so that they can sell their wares to convention-goers.  IkkiCon saw fit to divide the vendors into two classes; amateurs who are in my opinion the heart-and-soul of the convention circuit and who are the featured vendors at Anime Overload, and professionals who have come all the way from China to sell their mass-marketed gear at a 2000% mark-up.  To see what the high-end vendors were pushing, you had to have paid for your pass.

 Now, there was one entrance to the main vendor room, and at that entrance was a hapless lass with a speech impediment who volunteered for this gig and was trying to get her hours in (otherwise she would lose her free pass).  At the back of the room were two exits each going into the same hall, and each doorway had posted a teen-geek that reminded me of the fry-cook from the Simpsons.  We walked out one of these exits, realized there was nothing to see there, and turned around to go back in to the vendor area. 

 "You have to go around to the entrance." the geek said.  "This is an exit."  There was no one around.  There was no crowd who's entrance and egress had to be carefully managed.  There was just a little nerd on a power-trip.  We walked back around and through again.  This time, I made clear in a load voice just how lucky we all were that the doorway-nazis had been posted, otherwise the ensuing chaos might have doomed us all.  

 IkkiCon could learn a few things from the smaller, friendlier, and better Anime Overload.  However, I have heard from those on the inside that Anime Overload is striving to be more like IkkiCon.  That would be a shame if it were to come about.  IkkiCon has the advantage of drawing in more talent, and therefore having more to offer those really interested in Japanese Pop Culture, but if it means having to wade through a crowd of idiots and to deal with assholes at every door, it simply isn't worth it.