||home / august 2002 / feature
By Dillon Font
As anime fandom grows in the US, more and more small cons sprout up all over the continent. Fans, no longer limited to the major cons such as Anime Central, Otakon, and Anime Expo, have come together within the past few years to provide anime fans more ways to have a blast and spend their money in the convention arena. As the American side of fandom is changing and diversifying, the anime convention field is opening up. We have been seeing more cons that are not just limited to your general anime convention format, such as the Big Three. The first sign of these niche conventions is Shoujocon, the small anime convention supporting all forms of shoujo media both in Japan and abroad. The conís humble beginnings started on a mailing list dedicated to shoujo media about four years ago, culminating in a very small, albeit incredible first convention, taking place in a Newark hotel in the summer of 2000. From here, the con has grown considerably to about 1,200 attendees, and into a new, more expansive, convention space. Each year, the convention brings an incredible experience and an excellent location for those who are specifically interested in the many nuances of shoujo media.
Shoujocon really stuck to its policy of having an all-shoujo convention. The video rooms were filled with many excellent examples of shoujo anime, from the great classics up to the newest, most exciting anime just released in Japan. The staff took an amusing approach, separating the video rooms into three distinct categories based on age, putting all the all-age anime into one room while putting the more adult and mature anime in the other ones, marking their separation by naming the rooms as different forms of the popular Japanese snack, Pocky. The conventionís video rooms gave the opportunity for new fans to acquaint themselves with classics such as They were 11 while exposing everyone to such new shoujo anime like Super GALS! Kotobuki Ran and Pretear.
All of the panels were focused on the many aspects of shoujo fandom. Without having panel space taken away by Guest and Industry panels, it opened up the floor for more varied and focused topics of discussion within the shoujo field, even in some sectors with painfully little representation or information available, such as the panel dedicated solely to the discussion of shoujo videogames. Highly attended were panels that focused on the new creative forms that have grown in the American side of fandom, such as the discussion groups about Adult Fanfiction, Yaoi and Yuri, and the American growth of doujinshi. Even having panels that focused on Japanese norms and ideals was a departure from many anime conventions, which seems to have a lack in discussing such issues that are presented in anime and manga.
The Games Committee went all out this year, providing a large and expansive list of interactive activities for attendees to be a part of. Rather than run a lengthy LARP, which requires a lot of time for attendees to dedicate towards the game, this year they replaced it with the "Parliament." This ingenious event, which had two two-hour events during the con, let attendees come in as group representing a certain "anime universe," such as the Evangelion cast or the people of Cephiro. These groups would then discuss the issues of their world, such as why Mamoru probably shouldnít be with Usagi, or reasons why Sana will lead to the destruction of the Universe.
The Games Committee also brought back such favorites as the Whack-a-Thon, which allows fans to beat the living crap out of a papier-m‚chť doll of certain annoying anime characters (The highlight character for me this year was Akioís car from Utena). This year also saw the first successful event of Bobbing for Bishounen, an egg hunt game based around the idea of fangirls (and boys) rooting around for all the hot anime boys. Finally, the convention offered a unique twist on the standard of conventions; the video game room. The video game room, brought to the convention by the gentleman who runs Assembler, put together a shoujo-themed video game room, replete with many dance simulators, old school Sailor Moon games, and other examples of shoujo video gaming.
Shoujocon this year also brought with it a varied list of workshops that fans could be a part of. This year, fans were able to take workshops in creative fan endeavors, such as a plushies workshop, ones that focused on putting on comic tones or working with Prismacolors, and ones that focused on writing fanfiction. Also offered were workshops on sake tasting, as well as the late addition of a tea and pocky tasting workshop (definitely one of the odder combinations, but no one can refuse free pocky and tea). These interactive events were an amazing part of the convention, and the amount of workshops, in comparison with many other conventions, was both surprising and an excellent addition to this yearís Shoujocon experience.
Some fans at the convention expressed a bit of frustration at this policy, wishing that the convention wouldnít be so rigid in enforcing this shoujo-only policy. However, its rigidity is what makes Shoujocon unique. The strong focus on this genre opens up a large amount of discussion and thought on this genre that is at many times ignored in the larger convention arenas. This policy also does a great deal in advocating the presence of women in fandom, as well as a solid celebration of female creators within animation and comics, in America, Japan, and the world over. The presence of North America based, all-female doujinshi circle "Umbrella Studios" and the excellent organization, "Friends of Lulu," at the convention, are solid testaments to this conventionís drive to both enjoy and promote female-driven works.
In short, the convention this year was probably one of the best convention experiences Iíve been a party to. This is probably due in great part to its relatively small size in comparison to other cons like Otakon, since the atmosphere that is promoted is one of community and of closeness. This convention made it easy for me to randomly find myself in conversations about many topics, and thus, able to meet a lot of great fans of shoujo manga and anime. I donít have enough words to convince you, oh great reader, that everyone should consider Shoujocon next year in their convention plans, for itís truly a unique and insanely fun experience for those who become a part of it.