It feels crazy to me that its been a week since Ayacon 2013 ended. As my first big summer anime convention, I’d been really building it up in the weeks prior to the event – thinking about staying in a sizeable chunk of a University campus with anime, manga, Japanese culture, games, friends and weeaboos as far as the eye could see. I’d even spent a couple of weeks beforehand finally finishing my very first homemade cosplay.
And it was all over too quickly.
It’s a fucking ridiculous and cliché thing to say, and I frankly hate myself for not only thinking it but actually typing those words down here. Ugh. What a jackass I am. I should have expected it, but at least I didn’t really leave the con regretting not making the most of it.
My Ayacon journey started the day before – Thursday. Convention tradition with my good buddy Stephen is to meet up, get some food, and then head out from one of our places to the con. While I wanted a bit of a relaxing day to get myself prepared for some late nights, I was still creating cosplay stuff the entire day. Crafting armour, taping together cardboard, even buying some wellies. This was my first con attempting to cosplay for three days in a row – and it showed. I ran out of spray paint before finishing, and still had to draw a bloody robot lady face for my cardboard cosplay. It’s a thing, trust me.
I definitely don’t regret doing it, it was fucking fun to make a suit and play with thermoplastics, and even better to walk around with the odd person wanting to take a photo. It was a learning experience.
Then came the fabled day. Friday, the start of Ayacon.
My Dad once sat me down, which he never usually did, and told me a tale. A tale about the fabled “A34” between Winchester and Oxford. He said: “Look, Rob, don’t drive on the A34 if you don’t have to. It gets gummed up at the drop of a hat.”
I never understood why he’d made a point of telling me this in such a manner, I think I was 20 at the time. I’d frankly forgotten this advice though, and after sitting in a half an hour of traffic coming out of Bournemouth, we sat in another hour more leading up to Oxford. What should have been a two and a half hour trip was quickly over four hours. And I still had to draw that face thing for my cosplay that day. And assemble it with duct tape. Long story short, I missed a good portion of the stuff I wanted to see and do that day, including the karaoke I had made the cosplay for. Oops.
However, I still had a great day. I got to see friends and acquaintances and awesome cosplays, and we shot some photos in a car park in the dead of night. The Warwick Uni campus is great for cosplay photoshoots – there’s wide open fields, wooded paths, foresty bits, whatever. Most nights were spent taking pictures of our different costumes, and it was really fun scouting out the locations and setting-up some great shots.
Saturday was the big day for me, finally debuting my M. Bison costume after I finished it in the morning. I’d sprayed the rest of my shoulder pieces the night before, and all I had to do was attach them to my costume. That obviously did not go well because I was trying to quickly attach armour to fabric in five minutes and I’d never done it before, so after some fun morning panels I could be found sewing velcro to my costume in the Cosplay HQ.
The Cosplay HQ is possibly one of the greatest things I’ve seen done at a con. A fully-stocked costume fixing area for most simplish/common issues. I.e., a shit load of glue and a sewing machine.There were other tools in there though, as well as experty folk handing out great advice. And photographers taking professional pictures of your costumes.
I did, unfortunately, miss a panel about making armour while trying to fix mine. The irony lays thicker, as the type of material I used for my armour is the speciality of the woman that gave the talk. Again, all part of the learning experience, and it was awesome walking around and people yelling Bison-y things at me. I was in a Jeopardy style quiz where one of the categories was “Of Course!”, which I made the most out of.
The rest of the day was great, with an awesome masquerade of great costumes ending with an eight-foot tall Blood Angel Space Marine that won a qualifier event for a European cosplay contest. Then more photos, SPOOKY GHOST STORIES (which were sometimes spooky) and me awkwardly dancing to Sakura Kiss from Ouran High School Host Club while trying to get drunk enough to not care that I was doing it.
Kiss Kiss, fall in love!
That didn’t really work out so I went to bed early at like midnight.
Just like that, it was the final day. I rolled up to breakfast on my own, and met up with some friends as we discussed Power Rangers and Anime. Only at a fan convention could I start the morning with a breakfast buffet, the best type of meal ever conceived, while talking about next year’s Power Rangers series and the current line-up of Anime.
Sunday I was wearing a much simpler cosplay, a modified version of one I wore before that was more practical than Saturday’s. Mainly because it had pockets. It was much more relaxed day: I got to see Kamui, the armour lady from the day prior, talk about making awesome looking props; HIM from the PowerPuff Girls fight Captain Falcon, Catbug and Loki in Cosplay Chess; and videos about Kickstarters, Weeaboo Police and ANIME.
More photos, awkward dancing and a midnight finished ended the con for me. Having breakfast with everyone on the Monday was a nice way to sort of cool down the convention, but the long drive home just reminded me about how quick it had been, and how I’d never be able to go back there. It was almost heartbreaking to think it was the very last Ayacon, especially as it was my first.
It made me think though about how different anime conventions are from other fan conventions. Comic book conventions are full of dealers, celebrities, and promotional panels for upcoming films. Games conventions are all about playing upcoming games and maybe the odd announcement. Anime conventions are, for the most part, not industry driven. Fans put on talks, shows and quizzes about every aspect of Anime fandom, involving everyone and making them all welcome. Maybe that’s why the gender balance is much better as well.
To a degree, this report does seem a little pointless and more than a bit self-serving. I can’t convince you to go to the next Ayacon as there won’t be another one. However, while there won’t be another Aya, there are still plenty of other UK Anicons that are well worth checking out, such as Amecon, Kitacon and Minamicon.
I took away a few things myself from the convention. Firstly, don’t learn how to use a sewing machine one week until a convention. Secondly, by extension, don’t rush cosplays a week before the con. And lastly, I need to go to more bigger conventions. They are awesome.
Also I can walk around as M. Bison and try and buy things with Bison dollars.