18 April, 2019

Tekko 2019

Tekko 2019 (Apr 11-14)

I'm going to try (no promises) to keep this con journal shorter than some of the others, which have a tendency to drag on (I actually typed "dragon" the first time, lol) through several pages. Not that my enthusiasm for the experience has waned, but I have been doing this for twelve years now. Also, I wasn't at 100% health this year. In God's cruelest irony, the first time in four years that it hasn't snowed during Tekko (in fact, the weather was very mild and spring-like, if occasionally a bit rainy), I discover in the days leading up to the big weekend that I'm coming down with a cold. The inevitability of it is most frustrating - I know it's coming, and there is nothing I can do to prevent it.

Still, I armored up with DayQuil, Cold-Eeze, and Hall's cough drops, and powered through. Luckily, it wasn't the kind of cold that kept me bedridden and miserable, but more of a general annoyance, albeit one that reduced my energy and enthusiasm during one of the most exciting weekends of the year.

We headed out earlier on Thursday than we sometimes do, and got to town with plenty of time to pick up our badges and take in the calm before the storm at the convention center before heading to our annual pre-con dinner at the Ramen Bar. This would have been an excellent opportunity for me to do a cosplay on all four days of the con for the first time ever, what with the mild weather and all, and the fact that I had three different backup cosplays in reserve, but since I wasn't feeling as festive as usual, I opted for plain clothes on both Thursday and Sunday (albeit with two great anime shirts - Sailor Moon, and the Chobits one I bought last year).

Before we begin in earnest, let me take down some notes about the convention that are unique to this year. The entire convention center was booked. That means no sharing it with other fandoms, and three exhibition halls available (one for the Dealer's Room, one for the Gaming Room, and an extra one that was used this year for a wrestling exhibition, a Beyblade world record attempt, and a flea market).

Registration was down on the ground floor again, with the bag check in an awkward position behind those lines. Being on the ground floor, this puts it in a slightly less convenient location for coming and going during the day, but, on the other hand, convenient for dropping stuff off and picking it up as you enter and leave the convention center. However, if you're bringing something you don't need to the convention, you could just as soon leave it in your car (or hotel room).

In fact, we only used bag check on one day, managing to acquire prime parking positions in the attached parking garage on both Saturday (with a stroke of luck) and Sunday. The other advantage to having the whole convention center booked is the conspicuous absence of badge checkers - once you pass the first one at the entrance, that's it. Lots more freedom for cosplayers taking pictures, and less bottle-necking at important points, like the entrance to the Dealer's Room.

Oh, and a note on the schedule. Tekko was advertising some stupid app, but we couldn't get it to work. We had better luck just checking the PDF schedule posted on their website. I still miss the days when they handed out booklets and paper schedules, but I guess I can't blame them for going paperless. It shows that I'm growing out of touch because it sounds to me like lots of people were coordinating their plans (e.g., photoshoots and such) online, via websites like Facebook, whereas I consider the weekend to be a vacation into meatspace, where I can step away from the computer for a few days. Of course, I also still use an actual desktop computer, and don't do all my online browsing on my phone, on that tiny screen, with that terrible "keyboard", and all those cringey mobile websites. "In my day..."

Friday was grey, but mild. I wore my "sexy schoolgirl" outfit recycled from last year (which was itself recycled from my second iteration "tentacle rape" cosplay from the previous year). It doesn't get a lot of attention, as it's not a recognizable character, but I did see one little girl's eyes go wide when she looked at me and squealed, "Sailor Moon!" Somebody else stopped me later to commend me on my cosplay, saying that she'd heard about somebody going around in a really skimpy sailor fuku, and wanted to see it for herself. I wish I could keep the tentacles attached to it, but they're extremely hard to wrangle. I'm sad to say that I might have to finally retire this outfit, as the skirt is getting pretty stretched out (it's the same skirt I used for my Sailor Stripper Moon Cosplay, so I've been wearing it for four years now). Yeah, it's sexy having my skirt ride dangerously low on my hips, but there's a point where you run the risk of it accidentally slipping off entirely, or even just drooping so low as to expose my underwear (which isn't as attractive as it sounds).

Saturday was even nicer, to the point of being quite warm in the sunshine up on the roof of the convention center. We took a leisurely stroll across town for lunch at Five Guys (I saw a car parked along the way with a Weyland-Yutani sticker on its back window). Dinners this year were split between Joe & Pie's on Friday, and Pizza Parma on Saturday (in its new location, although I didn't get to see it, as I was stranded at the con in my cosplay). In spite of all the years I've fangasmed over Pizza Parma (I have their magnet on my fridge), placed back-to-back, I actually liked Joe & Pie's pizza better. Maybe it was the crowds on Saturday night, running out their prime ingredients, or a change in their recipe with the move. I don't know. I'm not going to give up on them just like that, but Joe & Pie's has definitely risen up in the running for con food.

So, Saturday was the day for our sexy Pokémon cosplay - the second year we've had a group of three (or more - Ash didn't join us this year, although we'll hopefully have a Butterfree next year). I wanted to take advantage of the good weather and not wait until the evening, so I changed into my Pikachu costume right after lunch, and Charmander joined me (Poliwhirl arrived a little later). Right away, people started asking for our picture.

As an aside, while it's normal for people to ask "can I take your picture?", the way they tended to phrase it towards us carried a bit of a different connotation, as it was almost always, "is it okay to take your picture?" Like, because our costumes were so outrageous, they weren't sure we wanted anyone to document them. In the sense of "what happens in Vegas...", I suppose. Score one for the "cosplay isn't consent" advocates, but this isn't Burning Man. My opinion is, when you wear a costume to a convention, you expect people to want to take pictures of it (at least, you hope). If I didn't want a picture of me in this cosplay out in the metaphorical ether, I wouldn't have worn it in public, much less to a cosplay-heavy convention.

Anyway, as Charmander needlessly reassured me before we changed, the good reactions always outweigh the bad. And these are controversial cosplays - ones that tend to split the divide: people seem to either love them, or hate them. On the one hand, you get to absolutely make people's days with this cosplay. This is by far the most popular costume I've ever worn, in terms of people complimenting me and wanting to take pictures (and it's almost always "can I get a picture with you", and not "can I get a picture of you"). When else do you get people saying not just "I like your costume", but "thank you for existing!" (one of my favorite compliments)? A girl in a Playboy bunny version of Haruhi cosplay (with her own butt in fishnets hanging out of what was practically a thong) caught my eye and gave me a salute to body positivity. One guy spotted us and told us that he had wagered that whenever he saw us (proof that we're becoming an "installation" at this con), he'd have to strip down to his underwear for his own skimpy cosplay, and did just that. Pictures were taken all around.

On the other hand, you occasionally have people like this one guy who insulted us with a curiously friendly demeanor. He implied that we have no shame to be walking around in outfits like this, and while I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt and take that as a compliment (although I prefer when people tell us how brave we are), he then proceeded to compound that statement by telling us we have no dignity, either. To top it all off, when presented with our argument for equality (i.e., that women walk around half naked in skimpy cosplays all the time), he explained that, "but it's not sexy when you do it." Like, as if one person's subjective preferences should determine the rule? I could have put together a whole line-up of people (that I'd just met that same day) who would strongly disagree!

It seems, however, that most people that disapprove of the cosplay have less courage in confronting us than we have in wearing it. Instead, they go and whine anonymously to staff members. Here's my best story of this year's con. We were up on the roof, all three of us, taking pictures in the sunshine (or about to, right after somebody who'd taken my photograph mentioned that this was his favorite time to be "working for the paper"), when a staff member flagged us down, apparently responding to a series of complaints about "men walking around in speedos". He politely asked us to "put on some clothes", citing that this was a "family-friendly convention" (in an ironic twist, we had just half an hour earlier been approached in the Dealer's Room by a man with three or four kids, all about ten or under, who were over the moon about our cosplays, enthusiastically trying to guess which Pokémon we each represented - proving that bodies are just bodies, and it's all about the meaning you put onto them).

I was fully willing to comply with staff's demands - as I did four conventions ago when I learned about the unwritten rule on "padding" one's crotch to avoid revealing the vague outline of a part of anatomy that every fifth grader sees detailed depictions of in his or her health textbook, not to mention the half of the population that has one of their own - because that's just what you do, if you don't want to be ejected from the con. But not before being given an adequate explanation of exactly what rule we were breaking, mind you, so I would know how to keep my costumes appropriate in the future.

You see, in a free country, I believe in pushing the boundaries to a reasonable extent, instead of playing it safe, otherwise those boundaries have a tendency to collapse inwards, and society becomes more and more conservative. I like to know what the rules are, so I can follow them, knowing exactly what's prohibited and what's not. And whatever's not prohibited, if it is desirable (as wearing skimpy clothing is to me), should be exercised, otherwise it's as good as prohibited, if nobody ever does it. And our costumes, while shocking (which is part of the point, and not against the rules), are not criminally indecent, as you won't see anything you wouldn't see at the beach (or, aside from our chests - which is another argument that would only work in our favor - on quite a few female cosplayers at the very same con).

To staff's credit, they were very diplomatic with us - the staffer who stopped us didn't have it out for us, he was just doing his job. He offered us the opportunity to speak with a manager down at Con Ops. Personally, I didn't like the implications of being trotted through the convention, led by staffers, with everyone looking on thinking we'd been "busted", but I didn't think of that until it was happening, and it's not staff's fault anyway. At Con Ops, a manager took one very quick look at us, and determined that we were "fine". I think he was just checking to see that we were all sufficiently padded, which we were. He made a point to explicitly state (for some kind of verbal record, I suppose) that we'd had this review, and then we were free to go about our business.

It's a testament to the importance of standing up for yourself, because we were indeed not breaking any rules, and allowed to wear the costumes we were wearing, but if we'd bowed down to opposition at the first moment that a staffer had asked us to "put on some clothes", we'd have seceded a victory that by all rights was supposed to be ours. I'm happy with the way things turned out, proud of the way we handled it, and have to once again give Tekko props for their very reasonable approach to a cosplay dress code (assuming they don't add a new rule for next year; although even then, you can't blame us for taking advantage of a freedom we thought we had, for a freedom you can't take advantage of is no freedom at all). Still, I ended up adding a jacket to my cosplay before the end of the night (although it didn't cover anything from the waist down), merely for warmth and comfort.

With that story out of the way, let me try and finish up this con journal. I was somewhat under-impressed with the Dealer's Room this year. Maybe it's me, but the prices for those figures seem awfully high. I wouldn't mind smaller figures at more reasonable prices. I couldn't find either of the two figures I was looking for, the first being Demon Lord Milim, from the new hit series That Time I Got Reincarnated As A Slime. Maybe it's too soon, but I'm surprised there wasn't more merchandise from that series - I mean, come on, slime plushies anyone? I'd just finished catching up on Dragon Ball Super before the con this year, so the other figure I was on the lookout for was the alternate universe female Saiyajin Caulifla, with her dark hair, acid temper, and penchant for cropped tops (reminding me of someone I know). All those Dragonball figures (including several hot-to-trot Bulmas), and I didn't see a single Caulifla. I did see a very rare Serial Experiments Lain figure, but she was prohibitively expensive. There was also an amazing Femto figure, emerging from the cocoon of his crimson behelit, but it was hundreds of dollars, too...

So I ended up spending less than twenty dollars, on a cheapo Asuka figure in an outfit similar to one I've wanted in the past, and a small Berserk blind box that I thought would be fun to open, although all I got was a Blue Whale Knight whose name I can't even remember. I think the Dealer's Room is unfortunately losing some of its razzle and dazzle, in this age of online marketplaces, and with the kind of merchandise available at stores like fye and Hot Topic these days. Anime and geekdom has truly gone mainstream. Even the Japanese snacks have lost a lot of their allure, because you can pick the most popular ones up at your local grocery store these days. (I do think, however, they would stand to earn more business if they stayed open into the night, past when the Dealer's Room closes, because that's when I always get a hankering for something sweet, after dinner - although perhaps I should be grateful to be free from this temptation). There was an intriguing booth in the Artist's Alley where a vendor was offering to perform 3D scans to print figures out of actual congoers, but when we returned on Saturday to immortalize our Pokémon cosplays, the booth was mysteriously empty...

The panels were even less thrilling than the Dealer's Room. There were a few occurring too early in the morning for us to catch, including one Avatar-themed panel, the ever-impressive iaijutsu panel, and a classic Super Nintendo RPG quiz panel. I attempted to attend a panel on breaking the rules in Lolita fashion, hoping to get some ideas on how to do a Lolita outfit I would really enjoy, as my biggest gripe with the community - apart from the sheer cost of participating, and their ironic disdain for Nabokov's infamous novel - is their strict adherence to following arbitrary rules like how low the hem of your skirt must fall, or how little skin should be on display; but it was delayed due to technical difficulties, and the more I sat there doing nothing, the more I felt I was missing out on what was going on everywhere else.

The first of the only two panels we actually attended was a Godzilla panel on Friday night, that was fairly interesting. I didn't realize there were so many different Godzilla movies. The other panel was an Evangelion panel on Saturday night (that prevented us from viewing the Extreme AMV contest this year, not that I'm too concerned about that), which was appropriate, as I'd just recently finished re-watching Evangelion for the first time in many years, while also introducing it to a new viewer. The panelist really knew her shit, so even though it was an hour and a half long, we stayed for the whole thing (minus those of us who hadn't gotten enough sleep the night before, and needed to find a corner to nap in). By then, it was after midnight, we were all tired, and me being sick as I was, I didn't mind hitting the road before close, after one last walk-around, without much more than a glance at the "rave" (although as my partner pointed out, there wasn't a lot of rave gear going on this year).

Sunday was leisurely as usual. We half-caught the AMV contest winners, although I can't say that anything there was really able to catch my attention (aside from the overabundance of judge/staff awards, and an overuse of the song The Greatest Show). After a final sweep of the Dealer's Room, we had our departing pow-wow at Olive Garden on the way out of town, listening to the last of my con weekend playlist in the car - aside from a few Evangelion soundtracks and my trusty Tak Matsumoto CD, I put all the anime (and J-Pop) songs I've collected over the years onto my phone and hit shuffle.

But before I finish up this journal, I have to tell you about all the great cosplay I saw at the con. I didn't take very many pictures, for better or worse, but that doesn't mean there wasn't a lot to admire. There were a few really good Negans, including one female version that I liked a lot, and another in zombie form, dragging his bat along the ground - excellent adaptation (this isn't actually a spoiler, because the Walking Dead compendiums have these really cool covers where they envision main characters in both living and, if you flip them around, undead forms). Avatar Aang put in an appearance, hanging out with an impressive Khal Drogo and his Khaleesi, and there was even a Toph on the premises. On Saturday, we were treated to the spectacle of a dino fight, as a gigantic T-Rex and Triceratops brawled on the con floor as a crowd of people formed a circle around them, pointing their phones and all but taking bets on the winner (hint: I was surprised by the outcome). Only at a convention...

I was blown away on Sunday by an unexpected Dread Pirate Roberts cosplayer, complete with a plush ROUS (Rodent Of Unusual Size)! There was a really great Dumbledore wandering around throughout the weekend - actually, quite a few Hogwarts students, too, which was exciting, as I've recently started rereading the Harry Potter books. I even saw one girl with Luna's Spectrespecs, but my favorite was a note perfect, even age accurate (about first or second year) Hermione, from the bushy brown hair right down to the wand. I really wanted to get a picture of her, but it's awkward, to say the least, approaching kids in this hyper-paranoid society - especially when you're walking around in a speedo (something something "family friendly"). On the subject of chibi cosplay (and there were plenty of kids at the con this year), I also saw an adorable Sailor Chibimoon. I know cosplay is about imagination, but I always love it when cosplayers play up their natural assets, and it's fun to see young characters portrayed by actual children.

Then again, on the other hand, you have novel twists like this one male Slave Leia (led around on a chain by his Jabba the Hutt) that I saw. There was, in fact, a second Slave Leia I spied - this time a female with lots of tattoos. There's never been a shortage of Star Wars cosplayers at Tekko - always a few Jedis (and occasionally some Sith Lords) wandering around - but this reassures me that, even though this is an anime convention, if I ever manage to get the homemade metal bikini I'm currently working on finished, I'll have somewhere to wear it where I won't be out of place. And talking about future cosplays, I think it's time I finally evolved my sexy Pikachu. Doing Raichu would actually be a downgrade, ironically, so I've settled on the idea of upgrading to a shiny Pikachu. The plan is to remake the costume in gold instead of yellow, with sparkling heels and glittering makeup. I think it sounds fantastic, and I'm really excited about it, so you'll have to join me next year to see if I can pull it together!

Edit: Apparently, there was a really kickass Guts cosplayer at Tekko this year, as DeathCom Multimedia's footage of the masquerade attests to. So sad I didn't get to see it in person. I wish there were a more systematic way of chronicling people's costumes, similar to the DeathCom booth but like having everyone in costume take a picture for the "census" as they walk in the convention center. And I wish there were a better way of sharing pictures afterwards, too. Whenever I have lots of people taking my picture in a popular cosplay, I see very few of those pictures later. Maybe some of them don't get passed around, but a lot of them are just scattered across a dozen different sites - Facebook, Instagram, YouTube (I've talked about how annoying it is having to scan through cosplay video slideshows before).

There needs to be a central database where everyone puts their pictures, and they get tagged (communally) for easy reference. Like a Cosplay.com, but not for cosplayers to post their own cosplays, but for everyone who's ever taken pictures at a con to upload their pictures of other cosplayers, to be tagged by costume/character, convention, year, and cosplayer (by whatever handle they use on the site). I feel like there's a vacuum here in the cosplay world, and if I had any business sense at all (as well as better people skills, and a good web developer), I'd capitalize on this missed opportunity. As it is, it frustrates me that nobody else has done this, because there's a very real need going unfulfilled. And I know I'm not the only one, because I've seen other people lament that "lots of people take my picture and I never see any of them".

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