It had only been a month since the cancellation and resulting fallout of Universal Fan Con, and it was still on my mind. Not so much the actual event, but all the fans and vendors that had been let down. As a fan, it hurts when I see other fans being bailed on and having their good time ruined. Cons are supposed to be fun! Makes Auntie Tia just want to gather everyone up and give you a hug. (With consent, of course.) Oh, sweeties, I just want all fans to have a convention they can enjoy themselves at. Why is that so hard for conventions to do?
With that in my mind, Thursday I rolled up on Momocon (which took place on May 24 to 27) just in time for the first major event: a career fair, which is a cool as hell idea to do at a convention. Most of the groups present were geared toward artists and animators (I stick to writing as my artsy outlet) but I still got to do some connecting of my own. That done, I spent some time checking out the early cosplays. One of my goals at Momocon was to take more cosplay pictures, so I got a start on that:
— Tia RAGEFACE MCAVOY (@tiakall) May 24, 2018
— Tia RAGEFACE MCAVOY (@tiakall) May 24, 2018
Entering the con proper, one of the first things I’m greeted with is a large sign detailing Momocon’s harassment policies. This isn’t new—Momocon has had a specific policy in place for at least a few years—but in light of harassment issues at a con that had happened just a week before, the physical reassurance was nice. Taking a moment to browse through Momocon’s massive schedule, which included panels like “Cosplay with Chronic Illness” and “Diverse Voices in Comics,” I added a bunch to my potential schedule before going down to the Artist Alley to assist a friend who was staffing.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve leaned away from the dealer’s room in favor of the Artist Alley–I just don’t collect merch much anymore, and they’re usually for the newer shows I haven’t seen yet. Meanwhile, it’s always cool to see what kind of unusual stuff has come out of the minds of local and distant artists. This year did not disappoint—the ever-present selection of prints, a contingent of indie comics and zines, plushies, crochet, 3D printed models, and hula-hoops. Pride seemed to be somewhat of an unofficial theme; many artists were selling various merch in the colors of all variety of pride flags.
Thursday evening seemed like the best time to hit up the rhythm gaming section. One of the first was a new one to me, maimai, a game that involves both tapping buttons set along a large circle and swiping across the touchscreen in the middle. It was doubly enjoyable because it had music I actually knew—the game is by Sega, and thus features a load of music from other Sega games, like Sonic and Rhythm Thief. I also played some ridiculously fun classical music on Jubeat, a The World Ends With You song on Music GunGun! , and failed abysmally at Taiko no Tatsujin. I’m going to blame that one on not being able to hear the music, because I normally don’t suck at that game. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
Late Thursday night was my first panel, and perhaps my favorite of the con: Male Cosplay for Feminine Cosplayers, hosted by Kat of Angelic Daze Cosplay. Since I hadn’t quite gotten my Duo crossplay outfit together yet, I figured this was a good place to pick up tips. The entire panel was fascinating (and worth staying up til 1:00 a.m., which is a stretch for someone used to 6:00 a.m. days!) I especially found Kat’s tips regarding binders helpful, as I have two major obstacles to successful crossplay.
By the time I got up and broke fast on Friday, the dealer’s room line had already dwindled, so I decided to wander down and check out the other half. I wandered through the con tables and got ads from cons like the local Furry Weekend Atlanta and the more distant Blerdcon. While picking up some Ramune for my roommate, I also discovered one of the best vendors I’ve ever seen in the dealer’s room: chair massages from Massage Geeks. Why yes, I will gladly part with my money for fifteen minutes of bliss, thx.
My afternoon panel was another I was very excited for: LGBTQIA+ Representation in Anime and Games. Elizabeth did a great job covering more than just cis gay/lesbian characters and covering the series everyone already knew. I walked out with a new manga recommendation (that I’d seen on sale in the dealer’s room, no less!) and about four or five new queer friends.
After snagging the new manga rec, I wandered over to board gaming and video gaming. The livestream booths were sadly empty, but I found another new feature in video gaming—the handheld lounge, set up with comfortable lounge chairs and charging docks for phones and 3DS systems and… does anyone still play Vita? Of course, silly me grabbed the wrong 3DS case and left my multiplayer games at home, so I checked my phone games and chilled for a bit.
No late Friday panels because I was having dinner with the wonderful Annie Blitzen. Sorry not sorry 😛
Saturday started with another early panel about where you could legitimately buy or stream anime and manga online. I knew about most of the anime streaming sites, but some of the manga sites were new to me (Japanese companies apparently love putting out sites to buy English-language manga!), so it was pretty useful. It did confirm what I was thinking in that there really isn’t anywhere to stream manga a la subscription except Crunchyroll, and that 100% of the free sites are pirates. After the panel, the line to get into the dealer’s room/artist alley/game room was epic, so I decided to hang out in the manga library for a while and see what caught my fancy.
A few hours and several books later, I ventured out again, and finally found the gender neutral bathrooms! They hadn’t been labeled as such the first two days (possibly because there were other events in the building) so it was nice to see their return.
— Tia RAGEFACE MCAVOY (@tiakall) May 26, 2018
Three hours later, the dealer’s room line was finally gone. This wasn’t because of any issues or stoppage funnelling people down; there were just that many people. Despite the sheer numbers of Momocon, because of the spread of people through the convention center floors, hotel, and courtyard, the only places that felt crowded was spots in the dealer’s room floor. The lack of crowding I think contributes to a better mental energy all around and keeps tempers low, because there isn’t always someone jutting into your personal space. If the dealer’s room did get to you, though, the AFK room (a quiet room to catch your breath and just destress) was right by the exit to that floor. I kept meaning to check it out, but panels and the manga library gave me enough quiet to keep my mood great. The AFK room is run by Take This, and I made sure to stop by their booth and thank them for their efforts, both with the AFK room and their briefings to staff on how to assist congoers who may have panic attacks or other mental health issues.
In addition to more people, the dealer’s room floor had more service animals than I’d ever seen in one place–mostly dogs, but also one black therapy cat attached to an adorable Kiki cosplayer. Even with training for crowds, I was impressed these animals were so comfortable and chill around so many people. One service animal handler mentioned to me that Momocon congoers were very respectful to the animals, asking permission to pet or letting them be, so pat yourselves on the back for that one, y’all.
Saturday afternoon I got the chancel to finally see some of the Ancient Magus Bride anime, specifically the Those Awaiting a Star OVA. The voices acting (Japanese with subtitles) suited the characters and the animation itself did a great job bringing the whimsical, otherworldly nature to Elias’s Britain home. As for the plot… it was so weird, someone just insisted on cutting onions in the room while we were watching. After that, another panel, this time talking about video game believability and ludonarrative. I found the study Johnsensei did surprisingly enlightening, and also got to tell a roomful of strangers why the ecology of Pokemon is messed up.
That evening I stopped by the LARP rooms for my annual game of Werewolf, and here I ran into my first (and only) accessibility problem. The game was being played, along with another, in a high-ceiling room which was only partially closed from a third game by a divider. The bad acoustics of the room and the noise from the other games made it very difficult for me to hear the ongoing talk in our own game, which is a downside to a very discussion-heavy game. This was the only point I had a hard time hearing things, though; all the panels I was on, the panelists all made sure to use the mics, and the high ceiling in the dealer’s room floor kept outside noise from interfering with close conversations.
Sunday, in contrast to Saturday’s noise and bustle, was a quieter, slower day with numbers closer to Thursday and Friday’s attendance levels. I went to an early morning panel on Japanese/English translations presented by Kelly Kecaro, then crashed the dealer’s room floor one last time to check out the robot battles. Think BattleBots, but less carnage, as there’s only a railing between the arena and the audience. More than one person in the front row checking their phones got a surprise when one of the bots went haywire and rolled right off the stage and into the chairs. Also, I got to see a robot made from a lawnmower, so that was cool.
After I missed out on the Gundam-building workshop (because it reached capacity) on Saturday, I wanted to make something, so I went by the perler bead workshop. After seeing all the pixel art turned perler art in the dealer’s room, I had to admit, I was interested. $5 got me an open canvas, a few trays of mixed beads, and all the time I wanted to think up a design. I ended up freehanding a few smaller ones: the NaNoWriMo shield logo, a Bulbasaur, and a cat. What can I say, I’m on brand.
The end of the con saw me chilling with friends in Centennial Olympic Park, chatting about D&D and Pokemon Go, taking in the day. I felt satisfied. With the exception of a couple of things that filled up, I’d gotten to do everything I wanted. And it wasn’t even a drop of everything that was at Momocon—the photoshoots, the guest panels and signings, the martial arts panels, the blerd panels, AMV showings, and more. Someone I overheard during the con commented that Momocon was trying to become more like Dragoncon, with a bit of everything. I find it’s still fairly focused on the anime fan and related fandoms, but the scope within those fandoms is so wide, even those who aren’t caught up on the latest shows (cough me cough) or aren’t super-interested in animation could find something fun.
I can’t help but think that this was the kind of vision that Universal Fan Con was trying to achieve: something for everyone, in a positive, welcoming environment. Would marginalized folks find it inviting? I can’t speak for all marginalizations, of course, but as a queer enby with mental health issues who is finally admitting some hearing issues to herself, I felt not only welcomed, but noticed. From the first moment at Momocon where the registration form gave me a blank for my gender identity, I saw little proactive steps everywhere for all kinds of marginalizations. For the community that felt disappointed by the cancellation of UFC, I hope you’ll give Momocon a try if you can and see if it’s the kind of community you’ve been wanting. And if you see your Auntie Tia there, just ask for a hug. 🙂