Week of Geek: Reporting from the front lines of my first Anime Con

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Hiya Geeklings!  How’re exams going?  Ready for summer?  We all are!

I’m just popping in to report that, in my ongoing mission to seek out new fandoms and experience the full roster of feels, I just experienced my first Anime North, which, as their website states, is “Canada’s premier fan run Anime convention”.  As I’ve mentioned before, my relationship to manga and Anime has always been part-time, rather lukewarm, though Yuri!!! on Ice recently fanned the flames somewhat.  I thought I’d try out an Anime convention and see what it’s like.

What did I think?  Just…wow!

It was quite a bit different than other conventions I’ve been to.  It was over several buildings, which is new for me.  The main building was the Toronto Congress Centre near the airport, and then four of the nearby hotels.  I only went to 3 out of the 5 buildings due to things that interested me (ie.  one building was strictly for BJDs, and I had no idea what those were until I looked them up).  We found out that the Conservative Party of Canada was choosing it’s new leader the same weekend and in the same building while we were running around getting our geek on.  Small world.

I went to a great panel on Yuri!!! on Ice and participated in some Black Butler related fun.

BTW, not all but a lot of programs were 18+.  And they carded.  Just forewarning.

Another thing I hadn’t expected was the HUGE LGBTQ component to the proceedings, courtesy of Yaoi/Yuri North.  They had a lot of LGBTQ themed panels and programs.  I learned about the history of Homosexuality and got an introduction to Yaoi fiction.  I went to panels where people who identified as asexual, and then people who identified as bisexual, answered questions from attendees who wanted to learn more about those orientations. The info desk there even sold buttons you can wear that state what pronouns you’d like everyone to use.

I learned a lot about myself, I learned a lot about Japan (especially the food, there was a great panel on that).  I learned a lot in general.

And my goodness, the cosplayers were in top form.  I wasn’t in costume myself (just Anime-related tanks, tees and hoodies), but the cosplayers I saw roaming the floor and out on the lawns were really putting their all into it.  Brava!

Am I a hardcore Otaku now?  Nah, still not there yet.  BUT I have a broader appreciation for the genre.  I’ve recently read my first manga, and got a lot of great suggestions for things to read and watch.  I’m glad I went, and I may go again.

In the meantime, you know we have you covered.  Our pal Guillaume (you know, the French Guy?) made a couple of great lists full of suggestions.

First Manga…

Then Anime films…

Then Anime series…

Give ’em a try and see what all the fuss is about.  I know I’m going to keep going.  Here’s to new (or new-ish or ‘new to me’) things!

Have a great week, and until next time, End of Line.

One Response to “Week of Geek: Reporting from the front lines of my first Anime Con”

  1. BNuts Says:

    While I can’t speak to the convention experience and lack the skills necessary to do cosplay justice, I CAN speak to the experience of collecting certain items as a fan of specific genres and franchises — with a focus on poseable plastic models (plamo).

    Like BJDs, poseable anime figures are aimed at adult and other collectors, not children. As such they are more expensive (but not as expensive a the linked BJD’s), more detailed, and more fragile than most toys on the market. But they are fun to pose, and some of them have enough playability to be toyetic themselves. Some of the most popular lines of these premium anime figures are S.H. Figuarts (Bandai), figma (Good Smile Company / Max Factory), and for mecha, Robot Tamashi Nation (Bandai).

    There are people who enjoy fixed-pose, pre-painted anime figures too. They tend to be larger, and often come with optional parts for changing things up. If you look at YouTube reviews, favourite companies become pretty obvious fairly quickly. I have one of the Apple Magician Girl from the recent Yu-Gi-Oh movie, just because there’s no figma of her yet (and with recent prices, if a figma is made of her it would probably be a bit more expensive).

    But my main anime-related fascination is Gundam plastic models (gunpla).

    ‘Mobile Suit Gundam’ is a ‘real robot’ mecha anime franchise (as opposed to ‘super robot’ series like ‘Voltron)’ that started in 1979, with new series coming out practically every year since. Not all of them are on the same timeline, however some mobile suit designs look very similar. At the same time, the variety in the plamo based on the shows’ MS designs vary greatly, from humanoid to beastly to monstrous to bear-like to human… ish.

    The HGBF Super Fumina is by far the strangest model I have assembled to date, as it is a middle school girl clad in an MS’s armour and a maid outfit that the character it’s based on never wears in the series. I got this model for the same reason many others did: to see how far it had to be modified before it became serviceable and not an embarrassment to display.

    Gunpla come in various grades for varying degrees of detail, difficulty, and size. The more plastic is included, the more expensive it tends to be. All modern kits, however, are engineered for snap build assembly and moulded in colour, with stickers included for smaller details and some parts separation — which means it is possible to assemble the kits without a drop of glue or paint. This is called ‘straight assembly.’

    But you can also take it further if you so desire, by painting on different details, giving your model entirely customized paint schemes and even mixing and matching parts and accessories. Many experienced builders even scratch-build their own parts for modification. At my current skill level, I can only do custom paint jobs with gundam paint markers and combine kit parts using plastic cement (this is called kitbashing). But if you can build up the skill and experience, you can basically create the model you want. My favourite custom gunpla is one someone did of Ruby Rose from ‘RWBY’ using the Super Fumina as the base unit. It is also my favourite use of a model that has creeped out basically every YouTue reviewer there is.

    Now about those grades, the list is long and exhaustive. The main ones are SD (Super Deformed), HG (High Grade), RG (Real Grade), MG (Master Grade), and PG (Perfect Grade). Of these I have built SDs, HGs, RGs, and MGs.

    SDs are the smallest and least complex, being designed to look cute. The heads are twice as big as the bodies, and generally they use simple joints. The biggest advantage is their simpler assembly and the fact that you can twist and pull the parts off the runners with your fingers, no nippers required — a fact I have used to engage two of my nephews in build days at my place. While my younger nephew cannot decipher the instructions, which show what to do mostly in pictures, my older nephew has no problem building these models on his own. The biggest disadvantage an SD has is the amount and size of the stickers, as most details and colour separation are achieved this way. But there ARE some awesome-looking SDs, including the SxDxGs that we built (3 together combine into a 3-headed dragon)! They often have gimmicks involving their weapons. SDs can run from under $10 to around $30 depending on what’s in the box.

    HGs strike a balance between detail, price, and articulation. Most gunpla are these, however their quality can vary — watch reviews to see what fits you best. These and RGs are both 1/144th scale, and an average one comes in at around 5 inches tall. There are also lots of variants as these are the easiest kits for Bandai to make. HGs range from $15 to $30, but you really should not pay more than $25 for any one model.

    RGs are very detailed, but also very fragile. They include their own partially-assembled inner frames instead of using the softer plastic polycaps that most HGs and SDs are known to use at the joints. Since some of the HGs from ‘Iron-Blooded Oprhans’ also have inner frames, RGs are now more known for the detail and more realistic rendering. This is one of the smaller lines.

    MGs are 1/100 scale, nearly twice as large as HGs and RGs. You assemble the inner frame, building the MS up around the gimmicks. The larger size allows for greater detail, and at the same time the larger pieces can mean easier assembly if you have shaky hands. I only have one, the ‘Gundam the Origin’ version, but another will be on the way once prices are good ($25-$50).

    PGs are 1/60 scale, with the Mega-Sizes being 1/48. They’re massive! From reviews, some articulation may be compromised for detail and to make the model solid enough to work with its own considerable weight. If assembling an MG might take a few days, a PG might take a week or two, so definitely pace yourself. I have heard people swear by the line as the best, but they also take up the most space, and at a couple hundred dollars even for the simplest one, they’ll take a fair chunk out of anyone’s bank account. PGs are currently out of my range.

    Unfortunately getting these models can be tricky. Prices vary wildly on both the American and Canadian Amazon sites. Local shops often do not have stock, and inflate their prices anyway. I prefer online shops (AmiAmi and HLJ), which require a credit card and PayPal to use, so caution is always advised: only buy from reliable sources, and don’t ever overreach your budget. Make sure you’re getting as much value as you can out of what you’re buying.

    Plamo are more than just objects to pose and look at, they are an experience. This is especially true of gunpla, which I enjoy building, an experience I find therapeutic, like meditating. And I have gathered added value by using it to bond more closely with some of my family. And they look awesome once completed. There is nothing better than that.