A-Conning We Will Go
I've never really gone to an anime convention before. Truth be told, I've never gone to any convention before aside from the occasional auto show here and there (especially if there was a DeLorean present).
So, at the suggestion of one of my best customers, I decided to cross the mighty Mississippi river into the dangerous realm of mystery and danger that some people call Illinois. Armed with nothing more than my '88 Trans-Am, a new cell phone, a useless map, and my younger sister, I set out on a comfy sunny day in September to try my luck at Royalfest 2003.
The relatively young 350 powering my K.I.T.T. wannabe rumbled in harmony with my own excitement--or my stomach from my smallish breakfast. In either case, we were rumbling together, and life was good. Danielle, my anime/video game-infected sibling was probably saying something about the bumpy ride of my old shocks as the wind drowned her out.
Sometimes, it's not altogether bad when your AC is on the fritz.
We arrived without incident, which actually wasn't a good thing. You see, the incident I was hoping for was the discovery of the Gateway Center - the location of the comic book con. Yes, without incident, we drove right past the damn thing and only admired the exciting farmland of our neighbor state long enough to find a spot to turn around and pay more attention to our surroundings.
It's not like there are a lot of surroundings in Collinsville, anyway. The nice thing about getting lost on a beautiful day is that you can always say, "I just wanted to enjoy the weather a bit," to your companions, impressing them with your love of nature.
However, my companion for the day was Danielle, who wasn't impressed by my gas-guzzling vehicle heading the wrong way as I "enjoyed" the weather. Ah well.
We actually tried calling the numbers on the show's brochure, but we only reached some guy's personal voicemail. Much as we'd like to think that "Gus" could've helped us, he was probably at the con already, having a grand old time. Bastard.
Eventually, we got there. Step one in our master plan for the day complete (arrival), I locked my doors even though the convention center's parking lot seemed safer than a Timex watch in a heap of Rolexes (or is it Roli?).
We paid the happy little $7 entrance fee (they didn't believe us when we said we were under 12 and worthy of a free entrance), got our hands stamped (with the Batman logo!) and entered, ready for the world of joy awaiting us.
Now, I didn't know exactly what to expect at the con. The flyer mentioned comics, games, trading cards, "anima", manga, and weapons. I suppose the weapons were there to throttle the person who didn't know how to spell anime.
Instantly, we spotted a booth with three bins stocked full of wall scrolls. Danielle's been forever searching for a particular Battle Angel (one of the best manga series of all time, incidentally) scroll and it's my personal goal to own an acre worth of wall scrolls.
I think I actually reached that goal last year, but I'm not totaling it so I can justify purchasing more. Don't tell anyone, especially my girlfriend, Lauren. She's under the impression that I spend too much money. Ha!
I eventually bought $66 worth of wall scrolls, and Danielle actually found her Alita picture along with a few other cool images, including one particularly creepy Alucard (from Hellsing) wall scroll. I'm sure her roommate will love that one. Nothing like a bleeding leering Anglican vampire flashing his fangs at you.
However, I checked out the remaining contents of the booth and couldn't help but be a bit disappointed. For some stupid reason, I can't justify buying bootlegged CDs or DVDs, and that's all there were. Sure I could've gotten every Ghibli film ever made packed onto six DVDs for the low price of $72, or the entire Cowboy Bebop collection of soundtracks for $30, or bootlegged Pocky (it's called "Docky" and tastes funny), but the cost to my soul would've been more than I could afford.
I love fansubs, but the idea of paying some guy $12 a disc for something he got illegally from Taiwan is not very appealing. Buying that stuff wouldn't help the anime industry in America; it would just help that one guy. In the end, I'd rather support anime - screw the guy.
Meanwhile, a little voice was saying "They had Azumanga Daioh you nitwit! It's sooooo cute - buying something that cute cancels out any evil acts you must perform to get it!"
So, we wandered around, checking out the various comic book booths. We met the original Batgirl (a really nice person, by the way) and John DeLancie (Q, from Star Trek, and not an especially nice person, by the way, though he was in Illinois for God's sake).
Danielle had her own sort of fun at the con, being one of the three female humans in the crowd (there may have been other females...but I couldn't tell) and an attractive one at that. As her brother, I love her to death, but she can be really mean to others sometimes.
Shy geek seeking some lovin': (to Danielle) "So, do you like comic books?"
Danielle: "Yeah. Why do you think I'm here? This is a comic book convention, right?"
Shy guest comic book penciler: (to Danielle) "What do you think of these drawings?"
Danielle: "Japanese comics are much better."
Ouch. I've trained her well, but...ouch.
I'm not really much of a comic book collector. I have a few hundred comics, but they're mostly cheap comics and copies of The Tick - I never could afford purchasing monthly comics. If I spent money on American comics, I could never have built up my insane video game, manga, and anime collection, and I prefer the latter three to the former one. It's simply the way the cookie crumbles.
Seriously, though, it was a nice little affair, and for $7, I can't complain. I have nothing but the utmost respect for any person working in a field of creative expression, and I've always admired comics if not quite frequently purchased them. Now I can say I met Q and I can justify all sorts of other crime because I didn't buy bootlegged merchandise.
That's how it works, you know.
I also finally learned precisely how to get to Collinsville, so I can start leaving St. Louis and visiting the quiet little town more often.
Though realistically, I probably won't.
So, as I wait patiently for a local anime convention, I'll just have to look forward to next year's Royalfest. Who knows what wonder it will contain?
I can't wait to find out, and if I have to, I'll make my sister go with me again. While she can be mean, it's darn funny most of the time.
Oh, and I made up that part about Docky. Sorry if you were searching for it online already. It might actually exist…but not that I'm aware of. Everything else is 100% true. Honest.