Gab expresses how I feel about crowds
Screenshot: Gabriel Dropout

In 2016, I attended my first anime convention, with wife and son in tow. We returned to the same convention in 2017 and again this year. While not the largest of conventions, it’s still a pretty nice con not too far away, that will be celebrating its 15th year next year. It’s put on by the anime club of a nearby university, and I was turned on to it by a friend who attended the university and who’s been to all but one of the years it’s been held.

(A reminder: This is part of my 12 Days of AniTAY 2018. Big thanks to Zarnyx for suggesting to go ahead and do it in mainline-TAY, and RedStripe118 for putting me on to the 12 Days of Anime idea in the first place.)

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The convention, Tora-Con, is held at the Rochester Institute of Technology every spring. We get weekend passes for all of us, and come up Friday evening for the badge pickup, then attend panels and events Saturday and Sunday.

Our first year, we didn’t quite know what to expect, and spent a lot of time walking back and forth to hit as many possible panels as we could Saturday. We lightened up a little on Sunday, especially as we realized that packing panels so tightly left little time for food (and we hadn’t brought much of our own). Last year, we lightened up a bit, and had an easier time.

This year was probably our lightest on panels attended, but for 2 reasons. First, I’d broken my ankle a month and a half before the con, and while I had a walking boot, I was still normally on crutches. Since I knew I wouldn’t be able to do the crutches all over up and down all day, we borrowed a wheelchair, and my wife and friend took turns pushing me back and forth, which took extra effort, and more time to navigate around. Secondly, this year they had guests from Studio Trigger for the weekend doing several panels, so we had to line up early to make sure we got in, missing some other panels on the way.

The first Studio Trigger panel of the con. The guests were Wakabayashi-san and Koyama-san, who’d been working on the then-airing Darling in the FRANXX

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(Above: A tweet from Wakabayashi-san about the convention. The guy standing next to the doodle of him is my friend.)

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Over the three years, my wife and son have done various cosplays, ranging from my son’s favorite characters of Takanashi-kun from Working!!, Kirito from SAO, and this year as Robin from Teen Titans Go!. I meanwhile, go as “that dad in anime tshirts”, including my Cowboy Bebop one. (Steve Blum was a featured guest our first year, but we had to skip his signing for other panels after he was running way late, so I never actually got to see him. And I forgot my blu-ray set for him to sign anyway.)

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Despite being predominantly college kids (or possibly as the result of?), there’s a pretty decent amount of cosplay. This year’s “big” thing seemed to be Kanna-chan from Kobayashi-san chi no Maid Dragon.

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We’ve certainly enjoyed our trips, and while we’re still discussing whether to return for next year’s convention (they’ve had to move the date significantly), I definitely hope, if not this convention, to try and attend more in the future. Possibly even some bigger ones, although in larger crowds, I do feel like Gab in the top image.

If you’ve never attended a con before, I hope you get the chance to. Even if it’s a small local show, maybe give it a chance. A few suggestions if you go:

  • Bring snacks if allowed. And scope out the nearby food options either way.
  • Be prepared to make sacrifices on what you’ll see. Whether it’s because you need to line up for something else, or would have to go too far from one panel to another back to back, or just need to have a break to get real food, you might have to miss out on some things.
  • If you don’t line up early on signings (especially for big names), you may miss out, even in line. I don’t usually do them myself, but the signings seem to be the worst, slowest parts of the con.
  • Bring plenty of money, or stay away from the vendors. (Also, have an idea of what things should cost - you don’t want to be paying a ‘con premium’ for something you may be able to get online for significantly cheaper.)
  • Don’t be afraid to try new things. Meetups, anime screenings for stuff you’ve never seen, whatever.
  • While I didn’t ask names for the cosplayers above, I did ask permission before taking their pictures. Especially if you just see someone passing by, it’s always nice to ask - and besides, if you ask, and they agree, you’re likely to get a better picture instead of trying to get something while you’re both in motion!
  • And finally, I don’t recommend breaking bones 6 weeks before your convention. I mean, sure, handicap parking was useful, and being in the wheelchair a couple times let me jump the queue when they decided they wanted to get me in early to make sure it worked out okay, and general sympathy is nice... it still really sucks ;p

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Feel free to share your experiences, tips, tricks, dos/don’ts of conventioning below.