ETSUCon 2014: Getting Into Character

The more I delve into the “convention scene” of my area, the more I realize just how much I live from con to con.  After the aptly-named large convention ColossalCon I attend in the summer, I spend the next six months prepping for Yama-Con in December, which I wrote about previously.  After that con comes another favorite local convention of mine, ETSUCon!  This particular Japanese animation and pop culture convention is unique in that it is run and organized by various student organizations of East Tennessee State University in Johnson City, just a few hours from LMU.  I attended this small con last year and was incredibly impressed by not only the many wonderful attractions and guests of the event, but also the organization and smoothness with which it ran.  This convention is organized almost completely by college students – if that doesn’t show that we’re capable of amazing things, I don’t know what does!  Needless to say, the second year of the con was just as amazing, and perhaps even more so, than the first.

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Me on the left as Petra with another cosplayer as Levi, a member of the main cast of Attack on Titan. Hugs all around! (Is that an Assassin I see in the right background?)

One of the main things that made this con stand out to me was the character I chose to dress as for the day:  Petra Ral, a soldier from the ultra-popular and fairly new anime series Attack on Titan.  The show is one of the few animated series that I have followed from its beginning; this makes it a series that I hold very close to my heart and am extremely invested.  Because the anime and its characters were so dear to me, I wanted to be sure that I did the character of Petra justice.  One way I did this was by pouring a good bit of time and resources into the costume’s construction – the cosplaying hobby can get quite expensive and time-consuming, believe it or not!  I made sure everything was as perfect as I could get it within my time frame and budget, from investing in the sturdiest parts I could find to ensuring that my wig was styled perfectly.  I attempted to emulate my character in abstract ways as well: getting inside her head, so to speak.  I tend to cosplay characters who have personalities similar to my own, so this part wasn’t too difficult!  Petra is very kind, caring, and respectful, all traits easy for me to emphasize in my interactions with other at the con.  I remember as I was posing for one picture with three more cosplayers, one said “Petra! Don’t worry, we’ll protect you!”  (I’d tell you why this offhand comment was actually very touching, but I wouldn’t want to spoil anything if you decide to check out the show…)  “Getting into character” and interacting with the many other cosplayers from my series was one of the most fun parts of the convention!

My best friend's little sister wanted to get in on the action too - here she is borrowing my cloak as we salute together!

My best friend’s little sister wanted to get in on the action too – here she is borrowing my cloak as we salute together!

In a way another aspect of the con matched up with my choice of persona for the event.  At the last convention I attended, I was the co-host of a music panel officially hosted by someone else, and had so much fun that I knew I wanted to do something like it again.  This time around, I took matters into my own hands and decided to plan a panel of my own.  Given that my current obsession is the series I cosplayed from, it only made sense to plan my panel around that show.  Titled “Attack on Titan: Rise of a Fandom”, it focused on analyzing the anime’s various literary and artistic aspects and deciphering how exactly it gained the popularity it did in such a short time after its release.  Knowing that I probably wouldn’t be able to handle running a panel discussion all alone for an hour without freezing up or running out of things to talk about, I asked a friend (a member of the anime club at my high school that I used to run) to co-host with me.  Thankfully, he agreed, and we had a ton of fun corresponding and getting our plan for the panel together!  When our hour finally came, there were some complications (our designated room being accidentally locked and laptop malfunctions), but once we got rolling, all was well.  We were able to keep the conversation interesting, bounce off of each others’ points well and include the audience at points; we managed to incur some laughter as well!  I’m incredibly proud of our success; even more than that, I’m so happy that we got to share our passion about something that we both loved with people who held the same interests.

My best friend just before we departed for the con. We've known each other and have been traveling and cosplaying together since high school!

My best friend just before we departed for the con. We’ve known each other and have been traveling and cosplaying together since high school!

After my panel was over, I found that I had more time to socialize with the rather group I had traveled to the con with.  Together, we perused through the dealers’ and artists’ room fawning over all of the awesome and nerdy wares (and buying some of them), went to whatever panels captured our interest, and sometimes just wandering about the student center, hanging out and talking.  One friend and I even got into a “who’s a bigger Naruto nerd” trivia contest – which tragically ended in a draw.  While the costuming and acting in-character, technical panels, and grand-scale events are certainly fun, it’s the little moments like hanging out with my group, making fandom jokes and showing off what we found in the dealer’s room, that help me remember why I love this lifestyle so much: not only because of the con-going itself, but the people I do it with.

If you’re curious about the con-going or cosplaying lifestyle, or about the “nerd” scene at LMU, drop me a comment!  And of course, feel free to follow my blog for more coverage of my adventures!

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