So this weekend I went down to Baltimore and for the first time in four years attended Otakon, the convention of the otaku generation. It was, all in all, an excellent time, and I have to give my friend Alex Leavitt, blogger and aspiring anime academic, thanks and acknowledgment for organizing the hotel room in which I and three of his friends crashed, and especially for getting me on the "Anime and Manga in Academia" panel.( Otaku unite! )
All in all, Otakon continues to be a paragon of a well-run con, and it's managed to retain, if not amp up, its fannish vibe, which makes it appealingly different from AX. The things I really disagreed with were statements made by attendees themselves, such as the bizarrely sexist statement that fujoshi are otaku (particularly out of the mouth of an older white man) and recurrent ableist language of the "that's so lame" variety (and let me just give a shout out to coffeeandink
for raising my consciousness on that one). Fujoshi are fans, but as a group they insist strenuously that they are different from and are not otaku, and for many reasons I think there's no reason not to accept their self-definition at face value. Certainly comparative studies of otaku and fujoshi would yield rich results, since they are both highly gendered paradigms of highly involved fandoms, but saying that fujoshi are otaku and they're in denial is just more of "those silly wimmen don't know what they're doin" crap. Some guy also tried to take pictures up Rachel's skirt (she was cosplaying some schoolgirl character or other), which proves that there's always a couple of bad apples, even if the crowds were remarkably well-behaved and polite on the whole.
At the start of her panel Trish Ledoux described how she initially got into anime, in the dark ages of the 80s when "Japanimation" had one room at any given science fiction convention and you watched a hodgepodge of whatever you had, since it was copied from copies of copies of whatever servicemen could tape off the TVs in Japan. In 1991 the first exclusively anime convention was held, the sff people having gotten nervous about "that stuff" not really being scif, and I can't help but think that this Great Divorce may have been a forward echo of the death knell of sff as it was and as we know it. It's no accident that most sff con crowds are majority graying, white, and male; their natural successors have largely gone into anime and media fandoms, since that's where they feel comfortable, for obvious reasons (side note: demographics are also why the Hugo shortlists are mediocre). WorldCon has been around since 1931, but after only 16 years Otakon's annual attendance is larger by a factor of three (and that's with a dropoff this year due to the Great Recession), even though I'm sure there are far more sff fans in the world than anime fans. The San Diego Comic Con, which doesn't actively discriminate against manga and anime afaik, regularly draws more than 100K people. What about these facts does not constitute the writing on the wall, and why are the organizers of sff cons persistently illiterate?
No thanks to the Greyhound bus company, I made it back to Philly in time to meet my sister to head to the TLA to see one of our favorite bands, VNV Nation. The concert was amazing
--Spike and I wound up roughly one person back from the barricade in front of the stage, and we shook both Ronan and Mark's hands at the end of the concert! We as a crowd also were video'd for possible inclusion in the video for their new single, which is ironic considering that we weren't even sure if they were touring in support of a new album until we walked in past the merch booth and saw it for sale. They played three or four tracks off the new album, "Of Faith, Power, And Glory", and it seems to promise a possible synthesis between the slightly mellower sound of their previous two albums and their older, somewhat harder-edged approach--certainly the concert itself delivered that, beginning with the first song of the set, "Joy," which was so loud that my arm hairs vibrated, and the lyrics of which Ronan delivered in a more melodic style than is heard on the actual album cut. I'd like to get their new CD/DVD set, it has a live CD with some of their best songs on it, and probably records the new approach. Bands at smaller shows regularly cite Philly crowds as some of the best they play for, and sure enough we brought Ronan to tears at least twice, and even managed to help the band recover from a girl fainting onto the stage during "Darkangel." As they've been doing since the "Matter + Form" tour, which was the first time I saw them (this was my second; I don't know why I didn't see them on the "Judgment" tour, but my sister did), they ended with "Perpetual," and it was amazing.
I liked the first opening band, Ayria, a Canadian industrial group with a female vocalist--definitely more on the mellow/melodic end of the industrial spectrum, but I've been looking to expand my horizons in the genre, and female vocalist! The second band, War Tapes, sounded like a cross between J-rock and The Editors--it seemed fitting that their guitarists were an Asian dude and a white woman even before they said they were from L.A., which explained everything. They should tour Japan, they'd make a mint. Side note to the dude selling the VNV merch: I am not unsympathetic to student loan debt, as it is the only way to get an education these days and I certainly have my own financial cross to bear, but if you have $110K in student loan debt for a degree that prepared you to work the merch booth at an industrial concert, I question your decisions.