Halloween has come and past. For many people that is an opportunity to dress up as a favorite ghoul, superhero, tv personality, etc.
For those with interests in sci-fi and anime and are convention attendees, it’s another opportunity (among many) to dress up as a favorite character. So, I did.
Work had a Halloween costume contest. Prizes were involved. I asked my boss: “Does this mean I can come to work dressed up as a magical girl?” His response was an emphatic “YES!”
So, of course, I did. I wore my “Man-doka” cosplay that I have worn to conventions this past year.
I will tell you…doing receiving in this outfit is no easy task…the heels are a killer after a couple of hours.
A bunch of my co-workers and friends already know about this cosplay I do, but to see it in person was a blast for many of them. Co-workers who I am not friends with on social media, and didn’t know I dressed up like this for cons, were taken aback and quite amused. It made a lot of people happy.
After a week or so, I found out that I did win the contest. That was awesome. Beyond the contest it got me thinking about cosplay and why I do it (to the limited degree I do), and the benefits of cosplay.
When I started going to cons, I was a newbie. I went for a day, then two days, then the whole weekend. Then I looked at cosplay and thought to myself: “why not?” It was another way to connect and immerse myself in an experience. At first, I did a few that were more “normal” for me to do. Older males, etc.
After a time I got to thinking, Puella Magi Madoka Magica is one of my favorite shows…Maybe I should cosplay something from that.
The idea amused me…for a couple of reasons. I make a horrible looking magical girl and it would embarrass my boys being the primary ones. I played around with the idea, pitched it to a couple of friends, and finally bit the bullet. My first magical girl cosplay was Mami Tomoe, I called my version “Manny Tomoe” and I spoke in a gravelly faux East coast (USA) accent. It was a lot of fun. After that, I did Madoka Kaname, or “Man-doka” where I walked around talking like a version of The Tick. Loud, confident, and superhero-ish.
Do I feel loud, confident, and superhero-ish? Absolutely not. I have to psych myself up to dress like this. It’s takes me summoning a combination of courage and an attitude of not giving a fuck. And then off I go. I’m happy I do it. If for no other reason than this:
It makes (some) people happy. People smile. Get excited. Want to take a picture. It brightens someones day just a little. A lot of people outside the con-going community might not understand this. For some people, Halloween is the only socially acceptable time to dress up in a costume, and that’s too bad. I think sometimes, as adults, we forget the power of play. Of simple ridiculous fun.
I’m not a good cosplayer. There are many who are absolutely awesome. They make amazing outfits. They are artists. I have a great respect for that. There are people who just want to dress up to represent their favorite shows, video game, movie, character, etc. This is also awesome. It connects and bonds you to others who share your interests. There are people like myself who like a show, and just like making people smile a little. And all of us are out there to forget about life for a little while.
That’s why I like to dress up on days beyond Halloween. That’s why I love the cosplayers, each doing their own unique thing. And that is why I will keep doing it. Beyond work prizes, I made some people smile and brightened their day in a small and silly way.
This subject has been in the back of my mind for a while now. I originally started this draft as just a title over a year ago, but here it is again, ever present in my thinking. And that is on the importance of conventions.
We (my two boys, their cousin, and best friend) just attended our first (of 3) anime conventions this year, Anime Milwaukee, a month ago.
There are all the regular trappings of conventions: the merch room, artist alley, video and tabletop gaming, guest panels, and cosplayers. These things alone set it up for an interesting weekend to be sure…but I perceive there to be a greater impact.
I was reminded of this during the “LGBTQ+& Anime Cultures” panel. I attended this panel out of curiosity and as a dad of a gay teen I sometimes feel it important (for me) to get a deeper perspective into things that affect his world. It was presented by the Milwaukee LGBT Community Center. It was a good panel. But one of the most things I walked away from the panel was the message of inclusion and having a safe space where individuals, no matter how they identify, feel like they can be themselves.
I made sure to thank them afterwords. As a dad it makes a great impression and means a lot to me. While my son has a supportive family and group of great friends, not all people do and many struggle with being accepted and loved by those around them. Panels like these are important and I appreciate them.
It’s not the only place I have heard messages like this at a Con. Anime Midwest is the first place I encountered this. Voice actor and D.J., Greg Ayres has been doing his “It Gets Better- Con Edition” panel there (and at other Cons) for the past several years. Greg’s panels include much of the same message, but is expansive beyond the LGBTQ community, but to those who are different (in the many ways we can be). But the overarching message is to be good to one another, be accepting, one of inclusion.
(Go see this panel and say hi to Greg!)
And as I walked through Anime Milwaukee I reflected on this. I saw all spectrum’s of race, gender, sexuality, size, and age. I saw all levels of fandom, from casual to hardcore. Anime otakus and gamers. People had a place to unite.
It gives me hope.
In a time when there is increasing division and the politics of hate is prevalent. Where cynical politicians and intolerant, angry people are trying to legitimize racism, sexism, and homophobia, there is something else.
The Importance of a Convention.
It is there to help you realize, not all people are like that. That you can have a diverse community. That you can, and should, celebrate and love those around you. That we are better than the hatred that streams through our media filters daily.
Conventions give me hope…and I love that!!!
Go to a con near you and get some hope. See something new. Celebrate that there are people different than you and know that this is okay.
Then let that inspire you and take it outside the con. Give to your time or money to something that you care deeply about. Stop getting in fights on social media and spread love and inclusion where you can.
Just some thoughts from dadwatchesanime…
Some of people I saw at Anime Milwaukee.
Oh yeah, I met Vic Minogna. That was cool. I got a FMA Brotherhood scroll signed for the boys.
Anime Milwaukee 2016 was a fun time for me this year. This convention has grown over the last several years and this year topped over 9000 (yes I know) attendees.
Highlights for us (my younger son and I) this year was the Sgt Frog panel with Brina Palencia and Todd Haberkorn (and later Cherami Leigh). Winning some Blue-rays in a Sentai Filmworks industry panel. A Funimation panel. The dub release and showing of 4 episodes of Monthly Girls Nozaki-kun. And my son finally getting Kerero (Todd Haberkorn) to sign his Kululu cosplay head piece.
The time taken to get Todd’s autograph: 2 1/2 hours. We also did get to meet Lauren Landa (voice of Sayaka in Puella Magi Madoka Magica) which was cool for me, being the Madoka fan that I am.
We also tried, and failed, to get Christopher Sabat’s autograph for my son (Chris voices Giroro on Sgt. Frog). We waited for 2 hours in line on Sunday and the line was cut and we were turned away.
I know this is a risk at conventions while trying to get autographs, and it is why I am personally kind of against it, but my son really wants to get as many Sgt. Frog characters as he can so I indulge that for him.
The Sgt Frog panel was probably the best experience of the convention for us both. The guests were very funny. They really all seem to be fans of Sgt. Frog as a show and I have always heard good impressions for those who worked on it. The bonus was my son raising his hand at the “wrong” time and as a result was being picked on (in a silly way) by Todd. It was hilarious, my son was in heaven and couldn’t stop laughing.
I didn’t get a ton of pictures, but I will share with you some of the many talented cosplayers we came across.
There’s a thing about teens…you can’t leave them to their own devices.
But at Anime Milwaukee I did just that.
I set him loose with his best friend and his cousin and gave him some money while I went to enjoy the convention with his little brother (who is not old enough yet to wander by himself).
I come back to the room for a break and a snack at some later point in the day and what do I find?
I was speechless.
I wasn’t mad, or annoyed, or anything. I was somewhere between amused, slightly disturbed, and wondering what his mother was going to think when I dropped them off after the convention (she thought it was gross).
He was not in the room. His best friend was however. She laughed her butt off and texted him my reaction much to her glee.
So the moral of the story is: Teens are not to be left to their own devices with money, if they are: they might end up with a dakimakura.
Cosplay: Literally “Costume Play.” Dressing up and pretending to be a fictional character (usually a sci-fi, comic book, or anime character).
Cosplay is often a fun way to express your fandom. It helps show others what you like, escape into a character, and bond with other fans be it characters from sci-fi, comic books, or anime.
I have cosplayed. My sons have as well. I have done Kensei Ma from Kenichi The Mightiest Disciple and Yuugo Tennouji , aka “Mr Braun” (Steins Gate). My son has done Kululu from Sgt. Frog.
It’s fun. And I have had nothing but good experiences, as has my son. In fact, earlier this year at Anime Milwaukee, my son got invited to participate in the Masquerade (Cosplay competition) where everyone was very welcoming and supportive to him.
This, however, is not everyone’s experience.
I became aware that bullying was a thing in the cosplay community last year at Anime Midwest while attending voice actor, Greg Ayres’s panel: “Why Your Fandom Sucks”. He told a few horror stories where some fans take things too far and ruin the experience for others. It was through Greg Ayres’s Facebook page that I became aware of the documentary: “Cosplay With Kindness”.
The film maker was inspired to do this documentary after attending Greg Ayre’s “It Gets Better” panel at Anime-Zap. It is to address, and hopefully combat, bullying in the cosplay and convention going community.
Cosplay and conventions should be fun. I remember when I saw the “Why Your Fandom Sucks” panel Greg saying (and I paraphrase): “There is no wrong way to cosplay. If you are not the same size, race, or gender as the character that you are cosplaying as: Who cares? You are being a fan. If your outfit is not professionally perfect: It doesn’t matter. You are being a fan and sharing your love of something with others.”
That struck a chord with me. As a parent, and as a bit of an outcast myself, I appreciated this message. Support this project.
And more than anything else: Be kind!
-As a side note. It was my experience at Anime Midwest and seeing the Greg Ayres panel in 2014 that inspired me to start this blog.
Anime Midwest has come and gone. I am tired, but really happy. It was a blast and is my favorite Con so far. I packed up my two sons, their cousin, and my older son’s friend (my best friend’s daughter) and headed out early for Chicago. A nice option from the con: this year they started mailing badges for pre-registered attendees. However, I forgot to click the box for my boys to get their badges mailed so we had to pick theirs up at the con. Since we got there early, there was no line: no problem. We checked into the Hyatt Regency O’hare, got our badges, and brought all our stuff in to get ready for the con. The first panels, merch room, and other events began at 12 noon. My younger son and I went to see the opening ceremonies and the teens went their own way. It was a packed weekend and I had a hard time figuring out how to divide it all up to explain it, so here I go.
Panels and Guests
As I said earlier, the first panel that we attended was the opening ceremonies. This is where the convention staff do a little intro and introduce the many guests in attendance. It was running a little behind so we did not see the entire thing.
We left to see the “Meet Billy West” panel. Billy West is the voice actor known for Futurama (playing Phillip J. Fry, Professor Hubert J. Farnsworth, Dr. John Zoidberg, and Zapp Brannigan), Ren and Stimpy, and a host of other roles. A great speaker and seemed to be a genuinely humble guy who really enjoyed talking with the audience. If you ever have the chance, go and see him.
We also caught the tail end of “Meet David Matangra”. He has a much larger catalog of anime credits than I was aware of but some of his more notable roles are: Bertolt on Attack on Titan, Daichi on Say I Love You, and Tomoya in Clannad. We only were able to hear about the last 10 minutes of his panel where he was talking about theater and some upcoming work he was doing. One thing you find is that a lot of the American voice actors have a background in theater.
Most of the other panels we caught were on Saturday.
We started off with “Reviewing 101”. This was an interesting panel, but more focused on You Tube style reviews. It was put on by a person who was a My Little Pony reviewer (among other things). It was informative anyways and a good slow way to start out the day.
We also caught part of the “Meet Caitlynn French” panel. I found out from that she has serious nerd cred being not only a anime fan, but a video game player, and table top gamer. She was recently announced as the voice for Shiro in No Game No Life (which she was very excited about). My son’s main reason for wanting to meet her was for her roles in AKB0048 (Suzuko) and Girls und Panzer (Hana). She is also a pre-school teacher in her non-voice acting life. My son spoke to her briefly after the panel and she was very cool to him.
The highlight panels for me on Saturday were the Greg Ayres panels: “Why “Your Fandom Sucks” and “It Gets Better- Anime Con Edition”.
“Why Your Fandom Sucks” is a panel on how fans can go off the rails, take their fandom a little too seriously, and how this can ruin things for others. Greg told horror stories of where fans did dumb things, outrageous things, and sometimes downright hurtful things all kind of tied to their various fandoms. It is a panel well worth attending if you have a chance. Greg is a good storyteller and the over-arching message of the panel is a good one: Be a good fan, don’t be a jerk, make a supportive community of fans, and that as long as you’re not hurting yourself or anyone else there is not really a “wrong way” to be a fan. As a parent I can get behind this kind of message and find it to be important.
“It Gets Better- Anime Con Edition” is based off the “It Gets Better” project which was started in response to a series to teen suicides where kids were being bullied for being (or perceived as being) gay. Greg hosts this panel to talk about bullying of LGBT teens and bullying in the fan community as well. Being the parent of an openly gay teen, this is another panel I truly appreciate.
The only other panel attended that weekend by my younger son and I was the “Boxers or Briefs- Multi Guest Q&A” on Sunday morning. This was a rapid fire Q & A panel where any silly question was asked. Many of the guests were recovering from heavy partying the night before and it got pretty raunchy. Oh well…I knew there would be some questionable parenting moments at the con. I have come to accept this will happen.. he did find the repeated answer of “three dicks” to be hilarious (best in context I guess) as any 11 year old would. Guests : John Swasey, Caitlynn French, Greg Ayres, Chris Rager, David Matranga, Joel McDonald, Chuck Huber, Sonny Strait, Spike Spencer, Chris Cason, Blake Shepard, DC Douglas, and Eric Stuart.
There were many other panels I would have loved to seen, but only so much time in a weekend to see it all.
Anime Midwest really shined in the amount of musical guests they have…really quite a great line up of acts. I saw more than I planned on seeing (which was great) and wish I would’ve seen more.
Face Time Police
We wandered on this performance on the mini stage off of the Con Sweet ( a place for con-goers to get free rice, ramen, and soda). The duo does songs inspired by anime and video games. They had a lively acoustic set which was pretty enjoyable.
A comedian and musician who has a popular You Tube channel where he does video game music “With Lyrics” put on an entertaining performance. We ended up in this show thinking we were coming to the end of the Mega Ran and K-Murdock concert so we could be early for Steam Powered Giraffe, but everything was behind schedule so we saw most of Brentalfloss’s set. He was very fun and my son liked the “Mad Libs” song he did (a largely inappropriate version of “Let it Go”).
Mega Ran and K-Murdock
After Brentalfloss these guys came out and..damn! I am thrilled I got to see them! I had no prior experience with Mega Ran, but he was awesome live. He is considered to be the best known video-game influenced musical artist out there and is licensed by CAPCOM as their official rap/ hip hop artist. They ended their set with YT Cracker coming up on stage with them: it was awesome! I have gotten a couple of his recordings since the con and really like his stuff. Check him out!
Steam Powered Giraffe
We saw them last year and had to go see them again. The steam punk inspired robots putting on their show that is both music and comedic performance. They put on an excellent, entertaining show and are well worth a watch. My boys and myself were all looking forward to seeing them again.
There were Rave dances on both Friday and Saturday nights. The teens attended the rave on Saturday until around 1:00 am and I checked it out a little as well. While I don’t really dance to rave music, I could appreciate anyways. I like what I saw of Greg Ayres set more than the first and my older so liked his more as well. The downside of curfew for teens: they happened to leave right before $1000.oo in small bills was thrown into the audience. They weren’t happy to hear they missed that.
There are always so many great cosplays, so many that I don’t know, and I always mean to take more pictures, but never seem to get enough.
Holy Madoka! There were a lot of Puella Magi Madoka Magica cosplays at this con. I got so many pictures since my son was stopping everyone to take his own pictures of them. I have thought it would be hilarious/ disturbing if I cosplayed as Mami Tomoe sometime, but not shaving my beard and walking with an exaggerated “man” walk while complaining about the other magical girls and about getting older…
Zapp Brannigan cross-play and a minion.
Not sure who they all are, but video game related I think. They all did great jobs on their costumes.
Nudist Beach (Kill La Kill) and Mekakucity Actors
Clannad (Tomoyo and Tomoya) and Full Metal Alchemist (Lust and Greed)
Danmachi (Hestia), Ouran High School Host Club (Tamaki), Dragon Ball (Master Roshi)
Nisekoi (Chitoge and Onodera), A Spiderman, No Face, Winry Rockbell (FMA), and Stein (Soul Eater).
A few more pictures I took. A Jon Snow, some colorful people, and “Kawaii-Vader”.
It wouldn’t be a con without a couple of furries…
My favorite photo I took. A cross-play of Death The Kid (Soul Eater)
My son finally got Chuck Huber to autograph the headpiece for his Kululu cosplay, which was awesome.
Lesson: Never leave a horse mask unattended..
A ramen lunch at Mitsuwa is always a good idea.
Exhausted kids on the way home means a job well done.
It’s time to pack up the kids and go to another convention! This time I am taking my 2 boys, their cousin, and a friend all to Anime Midwest in Chicago this coming weekend. 3 teens and a pre-teen. When I tell most people this, they shudder. However, the 3 teens will probably ditch me for most of the time and so it will just be me and my younger son.
We attended this one last year and really enjoyed it and I have been looking forward to this con more than any this year. There is a ton to do: concerts, panels, gaming, raves, a maid cafe, and much more.
A truly enjoyable steam punk inspired musical act that are a lot of fun!
Voice actor ( Clannad, Ouran High School Host Club, Deadman Wonderland, Free! Eternal Summer), DJ, and Project Beck. I saw Greg’s “Why Your Fandom Sucks” panel and really enjoyed it due to it’s (despite the misleading title) message of inclusion and trying to maintain a supportive community of fans. As a dad I can get behind this message.
A voice actor known for roles in: Full Metal Alchemist, Soul Eater, Black Butler, One Piece, and most importantly, Sgt Frog. As some of you may have read before, my younger son is a Sgt Frog fan and cosplays as Kululu. Chuck Huber was the voice of Kululu and so he (my son) wants his head piece autographed badly.
A voice actor who has been in several shows including Attack on Titan, but more importantly for me: Clannad. My first real show that drew me into anime. I’d be interested to see a panel with him.
The voice of several characters on Futurama including the role model for all men: Zapp Brannigan. Also known for tons of other American voice work ( Jimmy Neutron, Ren and Stimpy). ” Brannigan’s Law is like Brannigan’s love, hard and fast.”
Samurai Dan & Lady Gillian
They know martial arts. They teach you a few things. They are hilarious. Enough said.
There is so much more going on, many more talented voice actors and other interesting guests attending. Check out the website to see all of what they have to offer. I will post some updates about the convention sometime after.
-Most images are from the Anime Midwest website. I do not own them.
A night of poor sleep and breakfast (tip: bring as much of your own food as possible. You will save money which is a good thing at a con) we headed out to see a panel.
The first panel of the day was of interest to me: “Parents Guide to Anime”. This panel was presented by Mr. David Rothman who is author of a book of the same name as the panel. He was a knowledgeable presenter who guide d the audience through a background in anime, it’s influences that western (American audiences) may find objectionable, and how to screen for things as a parent. He had a scholarly approach, but it was also very evident that he is a fan as well. It was an enjoyable and interesting panel. I had spoken to him the day before and I will be reviewing his book at a later date.
After that it was time to wander and go to the merchandise room.
Of course there were cosplayers of all sorts.
Like from Devil is a Part-Timer.
Dragons from Yona of the Dawn.
Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn.
Eruka and Blair from Soul Eater.
And of course Soul and Maka.
Mayoi Hachikuji from Bakemonogatari.
No convention would be complete with out Deadpools.
My younger son and I decided we were going to go out for lunch at Mitsuwa Market, but on our way back to the hotel to get the car we did see these guys.
Mitsuwa Market is a Japanese supermarket chain that have a few locations throughout the USA. Each features a food court with several restaurants featuring Japanese foods.
We had planned on going there for their ever popular ramen, but decided on something different. We instead opted to go to the place serving rice bowls. My son got Katsudon and I opted for the garlic pork rice bowl. The wait was long…very long…probably 1 1/2 hours to order and get our food. It was good though. Very tasty!
And for desert from Releaf: Chocolate for him and a Matcha Parfait for me.
After the long break we returned to the con to see The Funimation Industry panel followed by the Noragami dub premiere with a voice actor panel after featuring Micah Solusod, Bryn Apprill, and Alexis Tipton. It was a good dub and the voice actors were amusing.
We encountered a few characters before and after our panels of course.
Monthly Girls Nozaki-Kun
Edward Elric from Full Metal Alchemist.
These two from Kancolle (I did not envy them trying to maneuver through the crowds).
La Muerte from Book of Life.
It was a long day and we headed back to the hotel to get some rest before a short day at the con on Sunday and a long drive home.
Sunday we hit the merch room one last time, watched part of a Anime Tearjerker panel and saw the Samurai Dan panel/ performance. If you get a chance: go see Samurai Dan and Jillian, they are a lot of fun.