Anime Banzai: Why it’s Different

This is my first year at Anime Banzai and it has been a learning experience for me. My exposure to anime and manga is minimal at best. I’m familiar with “Black Butler,” “Attack on Titan,” and of course “Pokémon” but most of the cosplay and references at the con have gone over my head. Banzai has been an opportunity to immerse myself in a culture that is alien to me and find out if there is anything that interests me.

The thing that has stuck out most over the last couple of days has been the level of excitement and engagement the fans have exhibited. It goes above anything I’ve seen at any other convention. Perhaps it’s an element of this fan base or maybe it’s just a characterization of a niche market. Either way, the fans here are more energized about their collective hobby then at your more generalized geek related conventions and that’s refreshing.

The other thing that has become apparent is that I’m overdressed, in as much as the average amount of body coverage has been at about 22% give or take (except for the furries). Anime characters apparently have a bad relationship with garments.

Perhaps the most notable thing I’ve learned about this niche is that unlike other geeky subcultures, they have incorporated video games like no one else. The game room is the hoppingest place in the joint and for good reason. Where else can you see Ash and a Titan (I’m showing my limited character knowledge here) face off in a “Dance Dance Revolution” battle?


Obviously not Ash or a Titan but you get the point. 
Photo by Brandigirlio

The game room is like a miniature arcade filled with a couple dozen cabinets all set to free play. This is worth the price of admission alone. It’s like ten year old Neverbot’s dream to walk into an arcade and not have to worry about how many quarters are left in my pocket. Aside from the three variations of DDR there are classic games like “TMNT” and “Dr. Wario.” Not to mention the fact that the Nintendo DS to attendee ratio is off the charts. You could do nothing else but collect street passes all day if that’s your cup o’ proverbial tea. You could drown in a sea of portable gaming consoles.

I wonder what it is about anime that so seamlessly incorporates video games into the culture. Is it the fact that there are more “Pokémon” games than stars in the sky? Maybe. More probably it’s the fact that anime fans seemingly enjoy all things related to Asian culture and they have absolutely had their hands in gaming from the start.

Whatever the reason, this weekend has offered an experience more different from your average con than I expected, and different is good. Today is the last day of Anime Banzai so if you haven’t made it down yet, start packing your things and meet me there. I’ll be playing the weird hand version of DDR… badly.