Tuesday, 28 June 2011
Misadventures in cosplay and the perils of the generation gap By Mark 'The Bad Man' McCann
This year we at FTN were lucky enough to get to go to Q-Con, Belfast’s annual Gaming & Anime Convention hosted by QUB Dragonslayers, the Queen’s University Belfast Gaming and Anime Society and with fellow Nerds: Michael, Paddy and Kieran having been on the previous days it was down to me and my news broheim Karol to go down and cover the cosplay/anime events on Sunday. Trouble was, we forgot the camera, somewhat instrumental as you might imagine in capturing what is mostly a visual affair, with fans having turned up in hordes dressed as their favourite anime/manga characters, games characters, you name it. And even if you could, we didn’t get photo’s. Which is we admit; a bit of a bummer!!
Heading downstairs to the Madella Hall auditorium we pulled up a Pugh at the back and watched as the contestants for the best Cosplayer began to fill the reserved rows in front of us and the spacious balcony that circled about overhead. A security guy informed us that the event would start at 2.00PM and enthusiastically asked would we be filming it? ‘No’ I replied, trying not to look at all suspect and mumbled something about ‘having forgot the camera’ while Karol winced and pretended he wasn’t there. The security guy seemed slightly unconvinced, looked incredibly uncomfortable and promptly left us to it, as row after row seemed to fill with vibrant colourful anime/manga characters and Console heroes and heroines just beyond.
While this was happening it soon occurred to me in a panicked eureka moment that I didn’t have a clue who any of these people were supposed to be, and would be in no way equipped to report on it. The camera was out, and a head shake from Karol said he was in the same boat. The inability to recognise anyone parading around in front of us however, was only the start of our problems and our shabbily informed attendance resulted in three things happening, and none would serve to redeem us:
1) 1) Karol and I, instantly aware that we didn’t know who any of these characters were, began to feel older than a pair of pensioners picking up their grandkids from the crèche. We felt past it, a wee bit ancient (just like Ent legend Treebeard), and began to wonder if in our long years of hard earned sagacity and cynical nerd elitism, had we also completely lost touch with what all the cool kids were watching on the anime scene these days. Scratch that we thought, these kids weren’t cool, but did anyone remember Fist of the North Star or Akira anymore? It seemed not, as no one even bothered attempting to hit my bodily pressure points and make my head explode!!
Aware of our shortcomings as latter day anime fan’s we basically didn’t know our Naruto’s from our Full Metal Alchemists and it soon felt like being at a party with all your relatives when you were in your nineties. We felt like we SHOULD know all these people, but couldn’t for the life of us place any of them. Where we cried, was Rachel Sinnamon when we needed her?
2) 2) Being at odds with what was going on was bad enough, and feeling a bit out of place was at least tolerable, but the worst was yet to come. And no amount of thinking about chunky sweaty hairy guys covered in lard could save us (It’ll all make sense in a minute). Because with slews of 16-18 year olds in outfits that would make a stripper blush, we became increasingly paranoid of being caught tripping over our gaping jaws and our tongues flopping forth like cartoon red carpets. And yes, the stigma that once attached will never wash off: being thought of as a pair of dirty old men. Because the reality is: we are in fact a pair of dirty old men (or more dirty middle aged men to be entirely accurate, but that’s besides the point).
The point is: suddenly the idea of being ousted as creeps, at a cosplay event no less, was a horrendous prospect of unique and terrifying proportions. Haunting images of being ushered into the back of a Police wagon while on looking parent’s tutted and hissed, with their brood hugged close; attired in belt like mini-skirts and Betty Paige suspenders and innocently enquiring “are those the bad men mummy” began to flood my brain as a cold sweat wept over me. ‘We had to get out of there’ I thought looking around for the nearest exit as the show began to start. But by then it was too late as we became penned in by some parents with their phones on record and at the ready sat right beside us. ‘Damn!’ I conceded and looked over to Karol was taking it all in his stride, nonchalant about the whole thing in fact. How could he be so calm. Being from Maherafelt clearly gave him some sort of psychological adavnatage I surmised. So I took his lead, bit my tongue and tried to chill like Arnie in Batman and Robin. Retrospectively however, I needn’t have worried about being called out as pervs at all, because:
3) It was about to get worse. As contestants strode out onto the stage, sat way up front, from partially screened isles at the side It soon became apparent that the event, which was composed of a quick skit (in some instances almost to Glee style specifications) that showcased a bit of acting, dancing or just the costumes was going to be a bit mad. So mad as to free our minds from anything other than an insane delirium and hopeful prospect of getting out of it alive. As Karol and myself sat awkwardly on stools at the back of the Mandella Hall auditorium trying desperately not to look suspect, like a pair of naughty school kids on tour, we decided that getting kicked out for perving had just become the least of our worries. Laughing like hyenas and falling about beside the row of parents who’d joined us in the cheap seats however, was.
The cosplay event in short, was like nothing we had ever experienced before, and may never again. Human sized Pokemon performing choreographed moves to Dance music (an absolute show stealer as it turned out), badly acted excerpts from anime and some plain off the wall humour from school kids in enormous wigs, had the combined effect of a school play on acid.
Poor sound quality that meant contestants had to shout to be heard only added to the surreal happenings in the three quarters full auditorium, as Karol and I began to slowly break, wandering further away from reality in a hazy dream sequence not so far removed from the end of Apocalypse Now. At one point I began to question if someone had spiked my Yazoo Milkshake on the way in and two thirds of the way through the acts, having had enough of the mind bending proceeds, Karol and I limped out unnoticed (disgusted that we hadn’t stuck it to perv on Chun-Li, but prepared to make that sacrifice) before we both suffered a massive anime inspired nervous breakdown.
Struggling against the muggy heat of what had turned into a sweltering day outside we went back upstairs to the main forum of gamers and traders, and after meandering for a while came across old friend and artistic legend Paul Holden. It was nice to come back to reality to some quality art work from a man with a skilled hand in creating it, and we yakked for a while and talked about old times, his current projects and getting him onto the show. Our temperatures dropped, we reacclimatised to reality and for a while all seemed normal and fair.
Turning to leave Karol and myself met another friend of mine, who was teamed with some of the cosplayers from earlier; two young ladies who when I timidly asked told me they were Unicorns, pointing to the tiny pink horns that were clipped to the front of their heads. Unicorns who dressed like pussy cat dolls however were a far cry from the My Little Ponies I’d envisioned, and relapse threatening this seemed as good as any cue to leave (before we even had time to have a go on retro classic: Mortal Combat 2 and pull each other’s spines out).
Re-caffeinated in Clements, Karol staring heavily into his tea, he summed the event up quite adequately with: “that was wild trippy man”. I concurred as I put away my filter coffee and conceded one simple truth that I had learned from my misadventures in dress up: Q-con’s cosplay is an event for the young and fashionably dangerous. And we, it seemed were neither.
Til next time
Peace out: The Bad Man McCann