12 April, 2018

Tekko 2018 (Part 2)

A bad hair day for cosplay...


Friday was a bit of a last minute cosplay for me (to coordinate with a cosplay Doug's been wanting to do for a year or more). He was toast Rei, and I was yellow sundress Asuka. Casual versions of two of the main characters from Neon Genesis Evangelion. In spite of this series' pedigree, its popularity seems to have waned significantly. Most people just wanted to inform me that they didn't recognize me as a member of the Straw Hats (from One Piece) >_>;. One girl even thought I was the trainer Yellow from some version of Pokémon I'm not familiar with (the only yellow-adorned Pokémon trainer I'll acknowledge is Misty :-p). We did happen across a Misato and Kaji, with whom we took a picture - that was an unexpected surprise. Aside from that, the only recognition I got was when Doug pointed out a figure in the dealer's room (I'm sorry, Exhibition Hall) of my cosplay's namesake in the outfit I was wearing.

Asuka (yellow sundress version)

A perfect demonstration of the difference
between "crossplay" and "gender bending"

Asuka with "toast" Rei

Featuring Misato and Kaji!

I have more to say about both the cosplay we saw this year, and the Exhibition Hall, but let's do these things one at a time. As for panels on Friday, there was one earlier in the day that I was interested in - NEETs in Anime, but we (unsurprisingly) didn't make it to the con early enough for me to catch it. I did catch the tail end of the fashion show after dinner (Pizza Parma), but I have to admit this is becoming less of a priority for me. You just see so much great fashion among the crowds - and you can get much closer to them - it hardly seems worth it to sit around watching people walking out on stage in samey Lolita outfits (as much as I love them). But it's something to do.

Not that there aren't plenty of things to do at the con. I always feel overwhelmed - like the first time I step into the Exhibition Hall, and I can't even fathom where to begin. There's so much going on at any given time. Surging crowds of people. Panels and main events and the Exhibition Hall (can I call it, like, Xib Hall for short or something?). And then you have cosplays to change into and show off, and then change out of so you can go and grab lunch or dinner. Running back and forth between bag check. It's madness, but I think that's part of the appeal - you just get so wrapped up in the whirlwind of excitement and activity (even when you're exhausted and resting in the corner as the con continues on all around you), and you can't keep up, and you have no choice but to just submit to the experience. There's definitely such a thing as a con high (and it doesn't even require alcohol or other drugs, although I do know some who like to "enhance" their experience that way), and there's definitely a come down at the end of it all. But let's not get ahead of ourselves.

Magical Girls

Come Friday evening, I made it to one of the many panels about the mahou shoujo subgenre of anime - a Tekko Gakkou panel (which means more educational than usual) on the Genealogy of the Magical Girl. It was actually the panelist's thesis that she was presenting. It was informative - she identified seven waves of the subgenre (and did you know that Japan's magical girls were directly inspired by Bewitched?) - but I was not without certain criticisms. For one, she did not have a proper appreciation for Puella Magi Madoka Magica - treating it as an "intrusion" into the subgenre, rather than the intelligent deconstruction it is. Her stance was also too dependent upon gender politics - anything pandering to a male audience (as one of the earliest magical girl series, Cutie Honey, did) was similarly considered an "intrusion", rather than an expansion of the subgenre. Yet, at the same time, hyper-femininity (as presented in Sailor Moon and its derivatives) was considered "problematic".

I would have enjoyed more discussion of some of the most popular titles during the subgenre's heyday, delving into what makes a magical girl show tick, and a comparison of how different shows approach those things (e.g., transformations, costumes, magical artifacts, pet familiars), but this panel was focused more on a historical perspective, than an analytical one. It wasn't a debacle like "My Cosplay Brings All The Boys To The Con" from all those years ago (there was a panel this year titled "Cosplay is Not Consent is NOT Enough", but I wasn't going to touch that one with my ten inch pole (giggity)). I even got wind of a couple titles criticized for "inappropriate sexualization" of "very young" girls (Majokko Megu-chan, and Magical Angel Creamy Mami, welcome to my anime list!) - yet there was no mention whatsoever of Moetan, which does this in a very clever and self-aware manner.

The Parking Garage Fiasco

By around midnight on Friday, I was anticipating making a compromise on leaving early (yeah, anything before midnight is "early"), but my crew was surprisingly gung-ho about staying later (considering that one of them isn't used to staying up late, and another's schedule was all out of wack due to adjusting from working the night shift, and having already been up since the morning). So I was able to catch a late night panel on Crossplay. It was informative, and much better than that one we attended in a previous year. Then it was time to go home and rest up for another day of excitement. But that's when things started to get weird.

Let me start by explaining that it's hard to find parking on weekdays in Pittsburgh. Weekends are usually better (except when there are sports games or concerts going on). We always look for vacancies in the parking garage attached to the Convention Center (and I think it violates some kind of cosmic logic to purchase a badge for a convention and not be guaranteed a parking spot in the attached garage), but we didn't find a single one this year. On Friday, we ended up parking at some place a few blocks over. So we had a bit of a hike at the end of the day, through the snow, all of us exhausted. And me in the pair of thin ballet flats I wore for my cosplay!

So we eventually made it to our garage, with a little hesitation as to the block on which it was to be found. But when we went to the pay station to insert our ticket, the machine wouldn't take it. We tried it every which way, but to no avail. So eventually we queried the parking attendant on duty. He took one look at the ticket and said, "wrong garage." Which is weird, because I could have sworn, walking in, that it looked exactly like the garage we drove into earlier that day. But, assuming this guy knew what he was talking about (and, it turns out, he sort of did, and sort of didn't), I figured there must just be different parking garages with identical layouts. So back out into the cold and snow we went, to wander up and down the streets looking for a mythical parking garage that we wouldn't know even if we stumbled across it.

Normally, I would have been more game on this adventure, but I was seriously concerned about the lack of protection for my feet. My shoes had already been hurting me from a day of walking around (apparently the largest size of ballet flats they have still crush my feet), and now I was adding to that moisture and freezing temperatures. I seriously did not want to end up having to get my feet amputated. So I picked the nearest garage (which we were sure wasn't ours), and went inside just for the relative warmth (although there wasn't much of it, as this one wasn't underground), and shelter from the elements. I decided I'd wait there while the the other half of my crew kept searching for the right garage. Doug stayed with me.

At this point, even in our consternation, we were laughing about the absurdity of our situation. It reminded me of the time at Burning Man when Doug and I had to walk back to camp after the Temple Burn while it was snowing (in the desert!). Visibility was poor. The beacon we'd been using as a landmark kept moving around. People had stolen all the street signs. And somehow, in an art festival in the middle of the desert, we managed to stumble into a construction site. Standing in the parking garage waiting, Doug kept talking about how cool it would be if we were in the midst of a horror movie. I would have agreed, except that I recognized that I'd be the guy who tripped and broke his ankle, and ended up being the first one picked off by whatever killer or monster was stalking us. I also couldn't help thinking about how everyone watches horror movies and then shouts at the screen when the group splits up, saying it's a stupid thing to do, when I had done just that, thinking it was a good idea (and I stand by that). Turns out real life isn't like the movies.

Finally, the car pulled up. The other half of our crew had found it! Turns out, we had the right garage all along, just the wrong ticket. Reassured (after walking up and down the block) that there was no other garage in the vicinity that could be the one we'd parked in, Rhonda had gone back to the first one and decided to look to see if our car was actually there, ticket machine be damned. And, sure enough, it was! The correct ticket was inside the car. The one we'd had with us was actually the one from the day before. (It was prepaid, so we never had to turn the ticket in when we left). Madness. We got home by about three o'clock in the morning, making for an exhausting Saturday waiting for us over the next horizon.

To be continued...

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