Anime-hem! What's That David Bowie Song?
Last weekend I attended my very first anime convention. .
head and another really long head to take up lots of space
When I was in the anime business, the excuse I gave for not attending was that I didn’t want the attention. And actors are more amenable to that any way, so I was more than happy to shove them to the forefront. There are also horrible examples of people who go to conventions as guests. You can see their hunger for fan worship from a mile away, so the whole affair seemed like a distasteful exercise. I was in anime for 16 years and had a rather storied career and, after some distance away from the industry (four years, an eternity in the media cycle), I started wanting to find a way to say thank you to those anime fans who supported me throughout my career and, maybe even more importantly, made my favorite show I worked on, the one that was most “me” into the smash cult hit it is today. It is often even said to be the best dub ever produced. No small achievement. Somewhere, a Dragonball is jealous.
The truth of the matter is I shunned going to conventions, not because I was afraid of getting met with a contingent that hated my work—and there were those that did, believe me—but because I was uncomfortable with the idea that anyone, anywhere, would care to hear what I had to say or, even more unfathomable, seek out my signature on anything that wasn’t a check. To have someone place value on just my name was beyond comprehension to me. And when I came to admit that, yes, some people would be thrilled to meet me, I was back-broken humbled by the fact that I could have made some people happy just by showing up. But my warped sense of humility kept me from doing that. And I felt bad. Throughout my career, several fans have chased me down and friended me on Facebook or whatever social media outlet they could get a hold of me on and I accepted their friendship. They’ve been nothing but kind and considerate to me. So finally, after all these years, I decided I would make this situation right and go thank the people who needed thanking.
And I was a nervous wreck about it.
I worked up a presentation on Keynote and designed it within an inch of its life. Nearly 100 slides, making for a tight 45-minute presentation. That would leave me ten minutes of questions and then wrap up with five minutes left for me to grab my computer and get the hell outta there before I embarrassed myself any further.
Now to the average viewer, anime conventions can be somewhat startling affairs. People are really into it, about a third of them come in costumes, and they can all tend to be, well, obsessive, as all people can be when they get around their favorite thing. Nobody bats an eye when a football fan paints his face and chest in team colors, but you put on a samurai costume and a fright wig and all of the sudden you’re a weirdo. But this is the one time of year these people get to express their love for a cultish medium that has millions of likeminded fans all over the world. The convention I attended had— get this—40,000 people coming. Incredible. For four whole days downtown Forth Worth (a charming little municipality, I found out) was turned into a movie set, with angels, demons, imps, princesses, sword fighters, elves, sirens, goddesses, gods, heroes, and all manner of Pokemonsters on parade, walking the streets like it was the most normal thing in the world, going into bars and ordering drinks, standing in a mile-long Starbucks line (these people dig their coffee), and waiting at crosswalks with other “normal” citizens. It was a blast and a half. And I have to admit that I had a warm, fuzzy feeling inside watching these people fearlessly let their freak flag fly. For a few days, it was their town. You were just living in it. It was a weird, wild, wonderful world full of color and enthusiasm and there were several moments when I preferred their world to this one. Or at least wished some of their world could spill over into ours with more regularity.
But I was nervous to be in front of these people. Of course, I had all the usual jitters that go with presenting a talk. Would anyone come? What if everyone came? What if I sucked? What if I talked so fast (as I tend to do) that they all missed every word I sped/said? What if the slide show wouldn’t work? What if I was up there for 45 minutes without visual aids, making shit up as I went along?