My only experience with anime – ever – was with Pokemon in grade six, and the masterpieces from that Pixar of the East, Studio Ghibli. Other than that, I’ve just never really gotten into it, despite recommendations for various series from various sources. My girlfriend and her friends had been planning to go to Manifest, Melbourne’s annual anime festival, for months, and I was of the mindset that I didn’t want to go. But when MasterAbbott asked if I wanted to go along to write about it, I agreed, thinking of it as an interesting experience in a culture I’m not used to.
“Interesting” is just one of the words I’d use to describe my weekend…
It started Saturday morning at a friend’s place, a house so creepy that even it seemed to be cosplaying as the Resident Evil mansion. Apparently it used to be a doctor’s surgery of some kind, and the back rooms, where the actual surgery used to take place, have been bricked up. Freaky.
Anyway, we piled into a couple of cars and headed to the Melbourne Showgrounds, and my first glimpse of the attendees included a guy dressed as what appeared to be a peacock: he sported an open-chested purple spandex jumpsuit, blue hair and a big blue boa scarf, huge golden boots and peacock feathers arched over his shoulders. I was…confused, to say the least. I was assured this was a normal, albeit extravagant costume. So with an uneasy mix of excitement and dread, we headed inside.
We met up with the rest of the group in the car park, to put on their own costumes, and perform some quick maintenance. Four of the guys donned robes from Magicka, and another three went as the Heavy, Medic, and Spy from Team Fortress 2. The Magicka robes and clothing for the TF2 characters were handmade and custom-fitted to each wearer, made by Kaori (the one in the Medic costume – check out her blog for some costume development photos). All the props, including the Magicka staffs, the Heavy’s minigun, and the Medic’s pack and Medigun, were made mostly out of cardboard, to scale, by Maemon (the Spy).
The huge amount of effort over the previous weeks obviously paid off – it took more than twenty minutes for the group to move from the car park into the main area of the convention, due to constantly being swamped by people wanting photos. Some were polite, some waaaaaay too keen. One guy got down on his knees and screamed out “Meeediiiic!” The subtle speech bubble seen above the Heavy’s head seems a much more elegant way to request a health fix.
There were plenty of amazing costumes, about 10% of which I actually recognized. Some were iconic characters that even an anime virgin like myself could identify, like Ash Ketchum, Naruto, Link, and Sailor Moon. There was an abundance of Pokemon (specifically store-bought Pikachu costumes and Ash outfits of varying quality), but most costumes seemed like non-descript schoolgirls, robots, ninjas, and guys with big hair and big weapons. I’m sure they were from something specific, but with my untrained eye, they all kinda looked the same.
There were plenty of events across the weekend, most of which I had no idea or interest in. The guests included some of the guys who made the Yu-Gi-Oh Abridged series, and a couple of voice actors I’d never heard of. They were screening various anime as well, none of which caught my attention.
A few of us entered the Super Smash Bros Brawl tournaments, and while I was eliminated in the first round, two of our mates went on to place third in the doubles competition. And that was no easy feat for a couple of relatively “casual” players: while they were the type to play it with a few beers and a few mates for, you know, a bit of fun, the competition included some serious, “I’m gonna bring my own controller ‘cause yours are the wrong colour” type of players. So well done, guys. I get the impression your laidback attitude may have angered some self-proclaimed hardcore players.
The Trades Hall had a frankly ridiculous selection of everything anime and pop culture, including several stores, physical and online, that I plan on checking out at some point. Even I, immune as I was from the lures of anime merchandise, succumbed to the temptation to walk away with more loot than I could justify to my wallet. I snagged a couple of Simpsons and South Park figures, some Plants vs. Zombies plushies I haven’t seen before, and a T-shirt featuring an awesome representation of the Mushroom Kingdom. Apparently the guys from Manco were there on Friday, sold every bit of stock they had for the entire weekend in one day, and didn’t bother showing up Saturday or Sunday. Considering they sell the Valve store stuff, that’s no surprise.
It also seemed a great opportunity for artists to sell their creations or take commissions for pieces, and from what was on show, there are definitely some talented artists in the area.
While the afternoon was winding down, the cosplay competition began, and I felt obliged to have a look. I was disappointed to learn that my friends’ efforts didn’t fit the official competition criteria, due to not being from a product of Japanese origin. Nevertheless, we went along, and watched in a mix of awe/confusion/ mild terror as the event unfolded. Despite my confusion over the characters each of the costumes were supposed to represent, it was lost in awe of the effort and accuracy to the source material, images of which flashed up alongside each act. The mild terror came in response to the consistently grating, face-palm-inducing hosts, and the often bizarre, non-sequitur nature of the skits. For the most part, the costumes looked fantastic, but the creators should probably keep their efforts focused on their amazing handiwork rather than attempting to perform. Just sayin’.
All up, the weekend was an interesting first foray into the daunting world of anime. I learned that this sub-culture is a little frightening from the outside, but its enthusiasts are more than willing to accept pretty much anyone who gives it a chance. The amount of effort everyone puts into their work, be it costumes, drawing, painting, prop making, music, or who knows what else, is impressive, and none of this art goes unappreciated. Everyone loves to get photos with cosplayers of their favourite characters, and everyone is spirited and enthusiastic. And why not? This is the anime fan in their natural habitat, surrounded by others who share their passion.
Have a look at the rest of the photos below. Those tagged with (RM) were taken by Rowan Mahoney.
Also don’t forget: those tiny 2 and 3 tags at the bottom contain many more photos. WordPress apparently disapproves of images and likes to make viewing them as awkward as possible.