Last weekend, I returned to the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center (BCEC) for my second convention of the year, after the Penny Arcade Expo (PAX) in March. As I stepped from the cab so graciously paid for by The Tech, I was surprised to see no one outside the building in costume or actually, anybody at all. I approached the doors and peered inside to see … no one.
Turns out the convention was in Hynes Convention Center. Fast forward 45 minutes of taking the Silver, Red, and Green Lines, and I suddenly found myself in a crowd of brightly dressed people with colored hair, strange hats, and elaborate costumes — Anime Boston!
For three days this past weekend, the Hynes Convention Center was home to the biggest anime gathering in New England. Nearly 20,000 fans attended the convention, which has been running annually since 2003. Anime and manga merchandise dealers from around the country, as well as a number of New England artists, showcased their wares to the thousands of fans.
I was only able to attend the show Friday afternoon and Saturday morning and spent the majority of my time wandering around the show floor and admiring the cosplayers and various stores. Sadly, I missed both the Melody Ball and Masquerade, two special ticketed events, due to poor planning and too many p-sets. The Melody Ball is a formal ballroom dance held each Anime Boston, and the Masquerade is a show where cosplayers act out skits for the audience.
There was an incredible number of people in costume — it was my first real convention with this magnitude of cosplaying. PAX and WonderCon — a mini Comic-Con held in San Francisco each year — don’t have anywhere near the number of costumes as Anime Boston. I’d say one in three people were dressed up as anything from Sakura of Cardcaptor Sakura and characters from Bleach, Naruto (I counted over 20 Akatsuki costumes on Saturday), Pokémon (I saw at least a dozen Mistys on Friday), and Inuyasha all the way to Harry Potter and Link. It didn’t matter that a particular character was not actually from an anime — the spirit of the convention seemed to embrace everything.
I attended Anime Boston with a friend and his mother, who was on her first visit to a convention. “It seems like a very safe place,” she said of the convention, “where people can go, and it’s OK to be weird and dress strange.”
Indeed, the number of cosplayers and the variety of costumes seem to show that people did not mind looking different. Here, different was the norm. Costume quality ranged from the “I-just-bought-this-downstairs-at-the-dealer-tables” to “I-have-spent-more-time-making-this-costume-than-breathing-in-the-past-several-months.”
I’ve always been a fan of costumes that look “authentic,” like real clothing — even if it means sacrificing details of the costume — over those fashioned from craft-store felt that include every facet of the fictional character. The convention boasted a number of such costumes, such as the large number of people dressed as Minecraft creepers; they were sufficiently blocky.
Besides the spectacle of staring at all the cosplayers, there was plenty to do. Videos of the best and latest animes were shown. Workshops were held for everything from plushie- to costume-making. Panels ranging from the best anime theme songs to hentai cluttered the schedules of each day to keep convention-goers busy. By the time I was done with the floor on Friday, I only made it to one panel, “Cross-dressing for Girls,” which gave girls tips about looking like an effeminate anime boy. The two women leading the panel — both dressed rather convincingly as men — warned against ever trying to use duct tape to bind chests. “I have a friend who decided to use duct tape before a con a few years ago,” one of the presenters related. “She still has scars on her back,” she continued to horrified groans form the audience. “When she went to take the duct tape off, her skin came right with it.” She recommended “crossplayers” use Ace bandages or a compression vest instead.
The speakers also cautioned against “glomping,” a common practice at anime conventions where one person tackle-hugs another in costume. One presenter related being “glomped” by someone running into an elevator with her who accidentally thrust her against the back handle bar of the elevator, both breaking her costume and cutting her back. Another friend, she said, who had a bird-Howl costume from Howl’s Moving Castle — complete with over 1000 feathers and several hundred hours of work put in it — had his costume broken within 30 minutes of being at a convention because someone glomped him without warning.
“Don’t glomp without asking,” she said firmly.
Besides the number of cosplayers and cosplay-related events, there were the dealer tables to explore. The first floor of Hynes was full of merchandise dealers of everything from Totoro plushies to hentai bedsheets (I know, I know). Figurines, key chains, posters, manga books, art books, DVD series, T-shirts, and anything an otaku could ever want were all available. Not everything was anime related either; there was plenty of Nintendo-related merchandise, along with other video games, including Portal 2.
Setting a budget is an excellent idea for Anime Boston if you don’t want to walk away from the show floor with an empty bank account and more knick-knacks than will ever fit in your dorm room. The dealer tables have an incredible array of cool things that make it easy to spend more money than you intend if you don’t plan ahead. Think beforehand about what you could potentially want to buy at the convention (do you really need that sixth Pikachu plushie?) and how much it will all cost. If you set a generous (but doable) budget and manage to come in under it, you’ll feel good about yourself.
I ended up leaving the dealer tables with a few original Legend of Zelda posters done by a local artist before going upstairs to the Artists’ Alley, where most original artwork was displayed.
The Artists Alley is a place for New England artists to display and sell their work. Just like the dealer tables, most things were anime related, but there were plenty of video game and Japan-related items that weren’t necessarily from anime. One vendor sold giant plush sushi pieces, while another sold earrings that looked like traditional Japanese fuurin wind chimes. Many artists advertised 10-minute portraits of you and a friend in full color. Some artists sold only original, premade artwork, while others had vast collections of art based on anime characters. The skill of the artists and the diversity of the artwork displayed was really stunning — I saw not only some wonderful, traditional cel-shaded anime art pieces, but also a variety of lovely anime-inspired watercolors. Most 8”x11” pieces sold for $8–15, while larger pieces ranged from $20–40. I bought a few prints up there, too, and plan to get all the artwork I bought laminated at CopyTech so it stays in the best condition possible.
Anime Boston will return next year in the spring. Students looking for a convention to attend can try to weasel their way into Boston Comic-Con, which starts today at Hynes Convention Center (not the BCEC! If you go there, you’ll end up at the Oncology Nursing Society’s 36th Annual Congress, along with a produce and floral convention!).