A Nerd Reborn at Anime Boston

I was a bit apprehensive about attending Anime Boston this year, for a few reasons. The first one was how everyone I told reacted when I told them I was going – shock, concern. As a small, Asian, assigned female at birth and female-presenting individual, I’m certain that they conjured up the worst possible images.

Normally, it wouldn’t concern me so much. The only thing was that this was the first convention I would ever attend alone. I’d always had a friend or two with me, maybe even an adult. This time, I was the adult. The second was that I’m simply not as into anime as I used to be as a middle or high schooler. Then, a convention was part of my wildest dreams. Now, as the weekend approached, I waffled over whether I should go or sign off the pre-registration ticket as a waste of money and dedicate my time to finals. The few shows or movies I did watch weren’t really the ones that would be popular, and vice versa; what would be the point of going if I didn’t recognize any of the characters, couldn’t get excited about the references? I finally split it halfway and decided I’d spend the full Saturday at the con, but not the whole weekend.

It didn’t take me long after walking into the con for my first fears to be assuaged. Sure, I was an awkward teen/young adult on my own, but so were plenty of other attendees. Not to mention the con-goers were diverse in every way possible – maybe there was the occasional stereotypical white guy, but there were also little kids in costume running up excitedly to older cosplayers of their favorite characters. I saw two parents dressed up as Team Rocket taking a break next to their stroller. Plus, the convention itself is an opening, welcoming, and kind environment. I walked around with my bag hanging open for a good twenty minutes and nothing, not even my fancy tablet, got stolen. There were gender-neutral bathrooms available. The television screens throughout the convention center flash reminders that cosplay isn’t consent, to ask permission before taking pictures, and to not be a creep in between displaying event schedules and maps. The guide even gently reminds you to get at least five hours of sleep and two meals for each day of the con (I myself was guilty of running off coffee and jumbo soft pretzels for the day, but the con organizers don’t need to know that).

My second concerns were also dismissed rather quickly. Sure, it’s an anime convention, so the focus is going to be anime. But within that, the focus isn’t just on the big shows of the season; you’re always going to get acknowledgement of long-time favorites like Fullmetal Alchemist and Hunter X Hunter. And with any convention, especially with one as big as Anime Boston, you’re going to get plenty of fans for other media too. There were plenty of videos, cosplayers, and booths referencing Western cartoons, K-pop, podcasts, and pretty much every kind of media a nerd could dream of. Some names will be familiar to almost everyone – Avatar: The Last Airbender, Pokemon, Teen Titans. Even if none of that is in your wheelhouse, there’s always the huge video game room where you could DDR your heart out. And of course, Artist Alley. Most artists are selling fanart and merchandise, but plenty are also selling their own art and illustrations. I walked up and down the aisles, awed by some of the beautiful artwork. Some artists weren’t displaying anything anime-related at all; instead, you could appreciate their indie comics, watercolor paintings, and hand-made prints. And if you want to ask questions – “What did you use to paint this? Is this risograph? How’d you get started making art?” – they’re more than happy to respond.

What’s more, the convention reminded me why I liked anime so much in the first place as a kid. Some of the events were movie screenings throughout the day, so I decided to attend one of A Silent Voice. The premise is that years after elementary school, a former bully sets out to make amends with his victim, a girl with impaired hearing who eventually transferred. I won’t spoil it, but there are some extreme emotional peaks.

There were definitely things at the convention that I realized I had outgrown or was just no longer interested in – certain workshops, dealer’s tables, and events just didn’t appeal to me anymore, and that’s okay. Still, I enjoy anime for the same reason I enjoy any book, movie, or show; it tells a good story, one that affects me and makes me feel something. That’s really all you can ask.