Students and passersby taking the T this past weekend were likely baffled by the high number of folks in strange costumes; they were here due to the arrival of two conventions in town. Cosplayers flocked to Boylston for Anime Boston, and to south Boston for the Penny Arcade Expo (PAX). I split my time between the two cons, though I spent considerably less time at Anime Boston than PAX — I was there only for Saturday morning. This is Anime Boston’s 10th year since its inception in 2003, when it was created by the New England Anime Society Inc.
I’m not quite sure how this scheduling conflict arose, but its effect was obvious in the convention hall. It felt like there were less people at Anime Boston than last year, though that might just be the effect of jumping from the behemoth Boston Convention and Exhibition Center where PAX was held to the considerably smaller Hynes Convention Center. It also seemed as if there were fewer events than in previous years at Anime Boston.
“You could definitely feel the effects of Anime Boston and PAX East being the same weekend,” said Benjamin L. Shaya ’14, “Anime Boston had fewer, lower quality panels than last year. I really hope the two cons don’t end up on the same weekend next year.”
Despite the seeming drop in attendance, Anime Boston still had a strong showing of cosplayers, and a solid artists’ corner (known as “Artists’ Alley”) where local and national artists could sell their art to excited fans. The fan art varied from crocheted Pokémon to prints of reimagined video game characters and watercolor portraits of popular anime characters. Fans looking to spend money could buy local at the Artists’ Alley or go to the dealer room, which had hundreds of vendors peddling everything anime, from posters and figurines to DVDs and stickers.
Jennifer T. Fu ’11 was in the Artist’s Alley selling some of her artwork, which ranged from prints and buttons to iPad decals and dojinshi (fan comics).
“I started [selling work at conventions] when I was 15, and I’m 22 now,” she said, “I’ve been doing Anime Boston since I was a freshman, so this is my fifth year.”
“I like interacting with people,” she explained, “They are generally really nice. … I can leave the table unattended and people won’t steal anything.”
It’s also fun to do this, she said, because this way she “is able to find people for the more niche anime I’m into. If I find one person, that makes it worth it to me.”
Rui Wang ’15 was at the table with Fu, selling her homemade plushies. She “had a lot of fun people watching” and talking to vendors at adjacent tables, she said.
“The main reason I go to these conventions is to see what other people do,” she elaborated, “you see some really amazing things.”
The Artists’ Alley is often a good indicator of what shows are popular at the moment. The number of My Little Pony merchandise made it seem like the series has stayed strong this year, and Pokémon remains a fan favorite 16 years later. A number of people were also dressed up at characters from Homestuck, an online adventure game.
Besides the merchandise portion of the convention, there were a number of fun activities for attendees. As usual, the panels ranged from the expected (“Evangelion Deconstructed” and “Cosplay Makeup for Beginners”), to the thoughtful (“Judaism and Anime” and “Gender and Nerd Culture”), to the downright weird (“Dick and Buster’s Hentai Dubbing Extravaganza“). Like last year, there was a formal ball, The Phoenix Ball, which had attendees dress formally or in cosplay, along with a masquerade and a charity auction, among a number of other events I didn’t get a chance to attend. An Anime Boston tradition, the AMV (anime music video) contest drew hundreds of entries this year, and con-goers got to vote for the finalists.
“I follow several entrants year-round online, so it’s exciting to see which one of their videos end up winning,” said Jennifer Wang ’14.
Next year, the conflict between the two cons shouldn’t be an issue — Anime Boston will take place on May 24 – 26, while PAX will be on March 22 – 24. Check out The Tech this Friday for our PAX East coverage!