Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Con Artist

Next time, pre-register, dumbass.
I had all sorts of great things I was going to write when I got home, but once I finished my farewell to Mongolia posts, reality set in.  I was supposed to be taking an IB MYP training - it was too late to get a refund, and I didn't feel like throwing away that kind of money - and somebody (ahem, me) left some work unfinished at her last job.  The rant that was may still be...we shall see.

Instead, let me tell you about my con.  Last summer I wrote about attending AnimeIowa, the anime convention closest to my permanent address.  In April I found myself seriously considering whether or not I could be a professional nerd.  The positives are that I would be awesome at it - I have tons of ideas, and am enthusiastic, particularly (at the moment) about anime.  I don't have much street cred (at least, not outside of Mongolia), but when I arrived at our moms' Peeps Bunco Night,* Baby Chicken Wing (my aforementioned high school rival) exclaimed, "Oh good, now I'm not the only weird person here!"**  On the negative side, I'd be getting a late start and...oh yeah.  I hate people.

But, you know, it takes all types.  Right?
Last year, as I was walking around the exhibition hall, I found myself thinking, "Maybe when I move to Japan," and realized that, for me at least, this was a realistic thought.  One year onward, that's exactly what I'm doing, and it was hard not to feel a little smug and wonder if I was wasting my time Stateside by coming to AnimeIowa.  Why should I shop the exhibition when I'll actually be an hour from Akiba?  I'll be living the dream, after all.  Well, if you are one of my six faithful readers, you know I've spent the last year honing my skillz for what I personally consider to be the main event - the Mini-Festival.

This event started last year, and was one of the things I most enjoyed about AnimeIowa.  If you are one of those people that finds dolls creepy, you'll probably want to skip it.  There's a lot of lore in Japanese culture about dolls, and if you want to learn more, this video will tell you all about it, but the TL;DR version is this: dolls have souls, which may explain why so many people think they are creepy.  But the Mini-Festival involves more than just dolls.  Gundam model kits are also a pretty big part of Japanese culture, and are also a part of the contest.  Last year, there was just one category, with awards given for first, second, and third place.

This year there were four categories, and with probably three times as many entries, mostly in the doll costume and doll customization categories.  There was also a category for plushies - my specialty.  If you haven't been following my descent into madness, I started sewing because nobody was making the things I wanted to buy...and then it got fun.  But since last year's con, I've also had the goal to create a plushie that was capable of competing with the OP level of some of the entries from last year, while still retaining my kawaii aesthetic.
I decided he had to be a bishie, and have a pretty ornate costume, and who fits that bill better than Sesshoumaru-sama?  (Okay, actually I was a little torn - I came up with another character who would work, but decided I should stick with Sesshoumaru this year).  Almost from the beginning he was a pain in the ass.  He has a pattern on his face, which I first made with Sharpie, which promptly smeared all over his ears and hair, so I had to re-do his entire head, making the stripes with an airbrush instead.  I also decided to make him with only one arm, since early in Inuyasha his brother cuts his arm off - and that threw the body shape off.  During the last year I've made a couple of plushies with kimono, so I knew the basics.  However, Sesshy's has a pattern on the sleeves and shoulder.  I considered painting or printing the pattern, but when I found it on a handkerchief I bought in Kyoto last fall, I decided to applique it on instead.  But the true challenge was his armor.  I had silver Sculpey, and thought that would work perfectly, but I had the hardest time attaching the arm pieces to the breastplate without it breaking, so in the end I had to remake them by needle felting.

It was a huge pain in the ass...but guess who won the plushie category?  And when they announced my win, the judge who was the most supportive a year ago said, "You've really upped your game."  All the prizes were fantastic***, but I think that meant even more - she's next level.
Last year she also encouraged me to offer a plushie panel at this year's con, and sometime this spring I decided to go ahead and do it.  I'm not entirely sure what I was thinking - probably that it would be a good way to build up some of that street cred I'm lacking.  Suffice it to say that by the beginning of July, when I realized that if I ever got finished with my curriculum maps and IB training I still had to put together a presentation, I was a little panicky.  And when I went into the room where my panel would be, I was kind of terrified.  Here's the thing: I'm a teacher, and getting up in front of a bunch of people and showing them how to do something is kind of what I do.  But usually those people are less than half my age, and there are 20 or so of them.  When my panel started, every seat in the room was full - 10 at each of 8 tables, plus some around the sides.  I put together a presentation, and that worked alright, but there were things that I would have done better to demonstrate.  I probably should have taken my document camera when I left Mongolia...next time...  This is not to say that it was a catastrophe - lots of people told me how much they enjoyed it, and it was definitely something different.  But I know I could do better.
Before the Mini-Festival a couple of guys did a presentation on Gunpla (Gundam plastic models - that word-shortening-joining thing is very Japanese).  It was really interesting to hear them talk about the different kinds - AND I got a small kit out of it as a door prize.
This year's theme was the Dark Carnival of Pigs.  After taking my first look at the exhibition hall, I had a little over an hour before I was meeting my mom for dinner...

...yes, my mom took me to an anime convention.  Negative one million adult points.

Anyway, seeing that their haunted house was about to start back up, I decided to wait in line and check it out - I mean, who doesn't love a haunted house?  After an hour I'd made it to the front of the line, and was ushered in.  And was a little disappointed, but I'm still trying to sort out why.  AnimeIowa is a family-friendly con, and I'm sure that they could have made it scarier, but it was okay.  I guess it just wasn't enough, and I think that's my problem more than theirs.  I think my expectation is that a convention should be the most amazing thing ever, but after traveling around Japan, I have pretty high expectations for "the most amazing thing ever."  To make me happy, it would probably take an art show by Akane Yano, special guest seiyuu Kamiya Hiroshi, and an exhibition hall reminiscent of at least Denden Town (although I wouldn't give up all the crafty goods, it would be nice if they at least focused on anime).
Or, you know, these weirdos.  A year after ASU's first anime night, they put on another activity focused on Naruto.  Every Wednesday during their lunch, they met in my classroom to plan it out, calling them "Weeb Meetings."  On the road back to Glenwood, I found myself thinking next year, we'd have to take the best events from AnimeIowa and make a mini-con...and then I realized that my little weebs weren't moving to Japan with me.  I'm incredibly excited for everything I'm going to get to see and do when I get to Yokohama, but it's a little hollow because I know exactly what I left behind - a good school, great admin, and the best damn students in the world.

*Bunco = some kind of fast-paced dice game.  For the Peeps, it's a monthly excuse to one-up each other, showing off their culinary skills and homes.

** Babysis was offended by that statement, as she had been talking to Baby Chicken Wing when I walked in, but she and I have spoken before about where she falls on the acceptable range of normality, and that is firmly in the middle.

***I came home with a new Nendoroid, a Fullmetal Alchemist cup, a Charizard plushie, and a figurine from Jojo's Bizarre Adventure, plus a medal for me and a little one for Sesshoumaru-sama

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