“People don’t understand, cosplay saves lives. I am so thankful for this community.”
The Anime Expo was located on the outskirts of Manhattan. The construction wasteland was not known for attracting tourists, but for this one weekend, the streets of Manhattan’s construction zones were bustling with superhero’s, furies, and teenage girls dressed in kimonos. Hundreds convened at Javits Center the weekend of November 17-19, 2017 showcasing their intricate costumes for me and thousands of others to see. “I’ve been coming here since I was thirteen,” gushed a petite girl in a Dolls costume. She went by the cosplaying name, Rain. Now in her 20s, she hails from neighboring New Jersey, and it was clear that she was a veteran of the anime scene. “My uncle got me into it!” She exclaimed, “He was really into anime – and he just started to take me – it just sort of became like a family thing, you know?” Our rendezvous soon came to an abrupt halt when a girl in the exact doll’s costume approached; a chorus of squeals echoed from the lungs of both girls, and I took that as my cue to leave.
Rain’s story was not unique to those who ventured to the outskirts of Manhattan to attend this year’s anime expo. Families were a common sight amongst the diverse demographic of attendees. The forums were all family oriented and diverse in the topic of animation. Only one event was age-restricted, the peep show that was supposed to be held at night. The forums ranged from how to take a selfie to chats with people in the anime and sci-fi field. One popular forum revolved around a material known as Worbla. The thermoplastics modeling material has become popular in the cosplay community for its flexibility and its resilience.
The most moving forum I attended was about how to successfully be a cosplayer with disabilities. The forum attracted a tentative handful of event-goers. It was hosted by an organization called the Magic Wheelchair. Magic Wheelchair aims to provide costumes to cosplayers who are wheelchair bound. During the question and answer session, many stood up to tell their stories of how they got involved with the cosplay community. From one young man struggling with Autism to another family’s daily hardship with their sons cerebral palsy, it was hard not to leave the event without feeling moved. The stories were all tearjerkers, but they were diverse as the people owning them. “I have Ausbergers,” said a young man in the front row. Beaming with confidence he continued on to say, “With conventions, everyone is just here to have fun! I am not judged, like how they judge me in the outside world. I am just myself and that feels amazing!” Another young man took to the stage tearing up as he addressed the forum, “People don’t understand, cosplay saves lives. I am so thankful for this community.”
Outside the forum rooms, vendors enticed eager shoppers with trinkets and posters of their favorite anime characters, but most event-goers were too focused on what forums to attend. Individuals started to line up for Yen Press an hour before the event was scheduled to take place. The American manga publisher was one of the most popular forums hosted. They started off the forum with a guessing game. The audience was asked to guess a poster before it was completely unraveled. Those who guessed correctly won the poster. Yen Press then advertised a book box set known as the Pandora box. The box set was a limited edition Pandora Hearts Manga collection that housed 24 stories by Jun Mochizuki. The most popular part of Yen Press’ forum was at the end when people were able to ask questions. The most popular question was how one would be able to get a job or an internship at Yen Press. “Firstly, know your niche,” said Senior Editor JuYoun Lee. “Have a passion for what you do and write, and read everything you can get your hands on – not just manga.” She continued by saying that they look for people who have a strong grasp of English, and knowing Japanese is always a plus but it’s not required. And for those who were curious about submitting their work to Yen Press? Lee listed the following three: Relatable characters, solid plotline and good cartoons. But, most importantly, Lee said, “Have passion for your work and be confident in it. If you believe in what you are doing, you will find others who will believe in it as well.”
I enjoyed my time at Anime NYC. I was scheduled to chat with TappyToon but was unable to due to the extra flow of people. Hopefully, I can provide you with an interview with them soon. They are doing amazing things!