Anime convention tips
Whether it’s marvelling at Alucard the vampire politely ordering a sandwich, sewing a Magic Knight Rayearth outfit in two days or making friends in the longest queues known to man, your first anime convention holds unspeakable joys…
1. If you plan on cosplaying, be prepared.
Keep in mind your level of experience – trying to create a full Magic Knight Rayearth outfit when you’ve only used a sewing machine once or twice in Home Economics class is asking for trouble. If you really want to try something complicated, though, go for it! Just be careful to allow yourself enough time first make a mock-up in cheap fabric, like muslin, and then to make the final outfit.
There’s also the option of buying a ready-made costume. While that saves a lot of energy and, sometimes, looks nicer, self-made tends to get a lot more respect.
Also, try walking around in your full costume several days before the con, so if something’s uncomfortable, you have time to fix it. And if you plan on wearing heels, bring a pair of comfy shoes with you as well. While you might cringe at the thought of wearing trainers with your fabulous elfin gown, after twelve hours in stilettos, you might think differently.
Taking photos: If you pull together an impressive or simply adorable costume, be prepared to get photo requests. Most cosplayers I’ve talked to are flattered when people ask for their photo, and nearly all of them enjoy posing with people. But if you don’t feel comfortable with being photographed, don’t be afraid to say ‘no’. And if you feel threatened at all, ask a staff member for help – that’s what they’re there for.
2. When it comes to weather, assume the worst.
I live outside Baltimore, where Otakon is held for one weekend every year. And, inevitably, the humidity level is over fifty percent for those four days – even if, like this year, the weather was perfect the week before. So make certain to bring your favourite de-frizzing spray, as well as hairspray should it be windy, sunscreen (and lots of it) and an umbrella. Depending on your plans, you might not have to carry all these things around with you, but at least keep them wherever you’re staying. The golden rule here is ‘better safe than sorry’.
3. Know where you’re going to stay
The difficulty of obtaining hotel rooms is directly proportionate to the size of the convention. Supposedly, the hotels in San Diego are booked full just a few weeks after the official Comic-Con dates are announced. However, snagging a hotel room doesn’t guarantee a good night’s sleep (which, after a day of nonstop fan girl excitement, you will need). It’s very possible that a room near yours could be full of con-goers who want to party all night. And if you want to hold a rave, staying in a hotel would be a bit inconsiderate (unless, of course, it is to be a silent rave). If you live within driving distance, staying at your own house and driving to and from the convention each day is an option. If you live too far away to drive, and don’t have any family or friends willing to host you in the area, couchsurfer sites might be able to help you out. If you’ve got a little bit of cash to splash but not enough for a hotel, then checking out hostels is also an option.
4. Go with a friend(s).
If it’s your first time at a convention, definitely take a friend with you. If your friend has some experience with cons, even better. Friends are very useful things: They help you with your make-up, they take photos of you posing with members of Organization 13 and they can loan you money. If you’re lucky, they’ll even agree to cosplay with you. (Though if you’re planning for your first con, maybe you’ll be the one putting on a hot-pink wig for the first time.) And there is some truth to ‘safety in numbers’. Stick with a buddy, especially if you’re going out of the main convention centre, or into an area where there aren’t many staff members.
5. Budget your money
Anime conventions are the easiest way to go for broke in seventy-two hours. The dealer’s room, where vendors can sell their wares, is overwhelming for a first-time con-goer – there’s simply so much stuff. From kimonos to chain mail, paper fans to plushies and rare yaoi to Pokemon DVDs, it’s all there. There’s also the artist alley, where people sell their art – usually visual art such as prints and sketches, but also clothes, jewelry and plushies, most of which are handmade. One of the best things about the artist alley is that many of the artists are willing to take commissions.
6. Budget your time
While your ticket into the convention gives you access to most, if not all, of the events, be prepared to wait in line. There are lines for nearly everything. Getting a ticket in the morning of the convention can take over four hours, so it’s a good idea to pre-register for the convention. Then you’ll either get your ticket in the mail or be allowed to pick it up the evening before the first day of the con. Concerts and autograph signing sessions at anime conventions also require immense patience and if you want to get into the dealer’s room before it gets crowded, you’ll probably have to wait in line for at least an hour or two. Of course, all this is relative to the size of the convention. Nevertheless, keep a deck of cards in your bag. An impromptu Go Fish tournament is a great way to make friends and if you’re going to be waiting with the people in front of you for another hour, you might as well be friends.
7. Eat real food. Drink real drink.
While there will be vendors selling pretzels, sodas and the like at most conventions, living off of cheap burgers and pocky for two or three solid days is a Bad Idea. Eating only a quick breakfast and huge buffet-type dinner each day is also a Bad Idea. Try to eat a substantial breakfast or if, like me, you aren’t very hungry in the morning, at least some fruit or yoghurt. Pack snacks like whole-grain crackers, rice cakes, dried fruit or granola bars. The ideal snack isn’t messy and can give you a solid energy boost. Also, try to avoid things containing nuts or peanut butter; accidentally giving the person next to you an allergic reaction is no fun for anyone.
Since most conventions take place in cities, all sorts of restaurants will be within walking distance. When my friends and I go to conventions, we usually walk to a sandwich-place for lunch. That can be an event in itself; at the bigger conventions, con-goers will be everywhere in the city, and there’s nothing quite like watching Alucard, allegedly the most powerful vampire in existence, politely order a garden salad. Taking a lunch break also gives us an opportunity to regroup and plan our afternoon attack. Making lunch the main meal of the day seems to work because there tends to be a lull in activities during the afternoon; sometimes we have time to grab another sandwich in the evening, but more often our supper will be a snack potluck (another bonus to having friends – more food choices!) eaten picnic style while waiting in line or walking to a masquerade.
Some conventions will have water stations set up, but don’t count on it. Bring water, and lots of it, especially if you’re going to be wearing pleather boots, a wig and a trench coat in the middle of the summer. I’ve yet to hear of an anime convention that didn’t have air conditioning, but it can get pretty warm when so many people are in the same area. Putting your drinks in the freezer the night before will help keep them cool and they’ll also act as ice packs if you want to bring fruit or cheese or something as a snack.
8. Don’t be afraid to talk to other people at the anime convention.
I’ve found that the vast majority of people at anime conventions are more than willing to help out a noob. Staff members are your best bet, but if you can’t find one, try the nice-looking group across the hall. Confirming times and directions with other people before an event can save you a lot of difficulty. You can also learn a lot by talking to people. One thing I’ve noticed is that most of the people with really nice outfits enjoy explaining how they put their costume together. My friends and I tend to avoid the gaming rooms, but I wouldn’t be surprised if people didn’t trade tricks like mad there, either. Just remember to use common sense and be polite. Manners and basic social skills, combined with the tips above, should guarantee your survival at your first anime convention – and you’ll probably even enjoy it, too!