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Opinion: Tekkoshocon delights with atmosphere; organization lacking

March 30, 2012
By JEREMY KINS - Staff writer (jkins@heraldstaronline.com) , The Herald-Star

Friday evening I sat outside the Wyndham Grand Hotel in Pittsburgh on a black, grated bench near a nice patch of newly sprouted pink tulips and watched two people in pink, hoop-skirted, back-laced dresses prance and pose for photos.

One was a man and one was a woman, and from what I could surmise they were an item. The sun was setting gloriously against the late March sky and more in handcrafted armor and dyed wigs walked by and entered the side doors of the hotel into a sea of thousands just like them.

A few more put on a fake fight with foam weapons and their stitched jackets ruffled from the movement and light breeze. One more came over and asked my girlfriend, dressed as a Japanese schoolgirl, for her picture.

Inside, lines formed for a concert and people walked out of the ballroom carrying bags of merchandise laughing and generally being obnoxious, even if well-intentioned.

This was the 10th anniversary of Tekkoshocon, an annual Japanese animation and pop culture festival with an emphasis on fan-catering and spectacle.

If there is one thing the convention had in spades, it was atmosphere.

"It's a fan convention done by fans for the fans. We have anime viewings, panels, workshops, industry voice actors and Japanese and nerdcore bands. That's the high level of what we are," said Jim Gogal, president of Tekkoshocon Inc.

Katie Ellenberger of Mount Lebanon said she started attending conventions two years ago with her boyfriend and now she just finds it fun.

"Now that I've been coming, my interest in anime has become a lot greater. My favorite thing is just coming, dressing up and being silly," said Ellenberger.

"I've always had an interest in costuming, so cons (conventions) are really a fit for my personality. I love meeting new people," said James Bicknell of Indiana.

Myself, I don't do all that much at the conventions other than people watch and attend the concerts. I attempt to avoid the dealers room until Sunday or my money will vanish quicker than a regular hotel guest when they walk into the lobby.

Miniature figurines ever beckon my wallet.

Tekkoshocon, despite the number of vendors, panels or concerts, will always remain about the people who attend it, however, and while some may be immature and disrespectful toward their surroundings, most make it worthwhile.

Just as Tyler Durden talks about "single-serving friends" in Fight Club, the same applies to Tekkoshocon. No where else can you so easily find a group of people to pal around with for the day. No where else are so many willing to stop everything they're doing for a photo. While I don't participate in much of that anymore, it builds an atmosphere unlike most you'll find.

"I've been coming for around six years. I started coming with a friend of mine and I had a blast. The people are my favorite thing. Everyone is just really relaxed and we're all here to have fun," said Candace Deyarmin of Indiana.

"My favorite thing is getting to meet up with people I only get to see at cons," said Ed M. Ryan of Indiana.

This year's convention wasn't without fault or frustration, however.

For two years now the convention has been held at the Wyndham Grand after moving from its previous location at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, and that's caused a lot of problems and discord among attendees and staff.

"All I know is that our staff and fans will revolt if we return to the Wyndham next year," said Gogal.

The Westin Hotel, which is connected to the convention center, requires a set number of booked rooms to use the convention center. Gogal said they are working hard to return there since enough rooms were booked at the Wyndham this year to meet that requirement.

It's not confirmed where next year's Tekkoshocon will take place, but it has been confirmed it will not be at the Wyndham.

Problems arose in a number of areas: Crowded stairwells, troubles with hotel night staff and management, unorganized events and scheduling and more.

I understand they are understaffed, but never receiving interview scheduling for the press was a bit of a disappointment.

I also can understand waiting in lines for a concert, a guest autograph and even for the dealers' room when it opens, but 10 minutes just to get up the stairwell to the other floor of the convention? Unacceptable.

Some of the fans didn't help matters, either.

Late Saturday night during the dance/rave a breaker blew out, effectively shutting off the music.

A bit later, attendees were notified by convention staff that noise complaints were filed, which made them erupt into cheers of defiance and supposed awesomeness.

Really?

It didn't help that staff was pandering to the crowd. Granted, I understand the riotous nature that would have ensued had operations been ended, but it didn't help matters.

Even later that night, around 2:15 a.m., convention officials were asked to end programming 45 minutes early by hotel staff and to have all attendees evacuate to their rooms by 3 a.m.

The list goes on as to why not only the convention itself needs to change, but the location as well - not to mention the level of attitude and respect of most of those who go.

I'd be remiss, though, if I ended the column on such a sour note. Tekkoshocon this year was redeemed by the indelible sense of community that permeated from the hotel's pores. Whether it was the remarkable attitude of the vendors in Artist's Alley or the smiling face of nerdcore rapper Megaran freestyling while standing among the crowd, it was hard to deny the feeling and I can't wait until it rolls around again next year.

With that being said, who's going to Sangawa Project?

 
 

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