By James Robert Shaw (The Wind up Geek)
Comparing now to then it is still easy to spot a nerd out in public. They have changed little since the 80’s and can still be associated to their exaggerated predecessors of the 1984 movie Revenge of the Nerds. That’s not to say this is a bad thing, their jock counterparts can still be compared to the members of the Alpha Betas fraternity. Others are harder to notice until it comes to convention time. On the bus rides over to Tsukino-Con, Vancouver Island’s local anime and cosplay convention, they were easier to spot. Their costumes are this tribe’s version of war paint. They show their true colours. One example was the man dressed up as the tenth Doctor from Doctor Who, wearing a TARDIS backpack and holding a small pizza (even several billion years in the future, Gallifrey Pizza still delivers in 30 minutes or less). Or perhaps it was his female companion wearing an Elsa wig from Disney‘s film Frozen that gave it away. No matter how one spots a nerd (or geek), bus rides to Tsukino is the one of the best ways to make new friends.
Once you reach your destination at the University of Victoria (UVic) campus, unless you are in a rush to register before the opening ceremonies held this year in the David Lam Auditorium of the MacLaurin building (I missed them again), it’s a good idea to eat something if you haven’t dropped in at Kuma Noodle Japan (shameless plug) beforehand. The UVic Student Society’s (UVSS) Student Union Building (SUB) is a good place to start. Rather than take a lot of time and eat in at Felicita’s Campus Pub, I filled up on sushi at Bean Around the World (across from Felicita’s). But while in the SUB, if you are old school like me, seek washroom facilities elsewhere if you are uncomfortable with the thought of using the two unisex bathrooms that are available. Not all buildings on campus have been converted to reflect the views of the modern student.
Three years is a long time between daily reports on Tsukino-Con. The differences between 2014 and 2017 is that Tsukino has grown in the number of people attending this event. That has forced the powers that be to make some changes by expanding to four buildings (Elliott, Clearihue, MacLaurin, and Cornett) on campus. No matter what one says, this is definitely a blessing and a sign of greater things to come as the con continues to grow.
Registration this year has moved from the Engineering/Computer Science (ECS) building to the MacLaurin, a more accommodating site. No more queuing in the rain, now one can seek shelter from the elements under MacLaurin’s roof. And should it get too stuffy, no problem, doors can be opened on all sides to vent. There was a registration line for recent arrivals and a pre-registration line for those who took the time to register early and for those buying gold passes. Comparing pre-registration to registration was like comparing broadband internet to dial-up. I spent roughly 45 minutes in the registration line, the longest I’ve experienced at Tsukino. I heard an attendee counter claim the line was quick this year. They’re probably right. My last con was 2015 and I can’t make comparisons between 2016 and 2017 to judge accordingly. But 45 minutes flew by viewing costumes attendees wore, having conversations with friendly volunteers and staff, and the sheer amusement of watching a knight walking into a wall.
But if you want to avoid such an experience I highly recommend pre-registering for the con through Tsukino-Con’s website or bump yourself up from a weekend to a gold pass (which moves you to the pre-registration line). The gold pass allows one to cut to the front of the line at panels (among other benefits) for $90. The price can be lower if purchased months before the con. My adult non-student weekend pass was still a low-cost of $35 (you can also purchase individual days).
Once registered there was nothing to hold me back. I was outside MacLaurin ready to enjoy what Tsukino had to offer. My decision to stick to the dealers’ tables at the Elliott building was due to lack of interest in day one’s panels. In fact, many of the panels listed failed to set off even a spark. The panels appear top-heavy with improv in mind. Perhaps Tsukino should change their con to one that includes Japanese culture and history. Doing so would create more contacts, make different guests possible and offer up new ideas for panels. Victoria already has the annual Japanese Cultural Fair hosted in Esquimalt by the Victoria Nikkei Cultural Society, but imagine the society’s involvement in Tsukino Con. One can dream.
For a first day, it appeared merchandise and artists were the way to go. I was astounded again this year with the work on display. With two floors of dealers’ tables, there was much to choose from. The artists Jelly Ultra, Shiroi Room, Vanilla Cherie’s Little Shop, Dylan & Kieran (of Bowbee Crowbee and Weeaboo Trash Babies), Scarlette Art, Dino and Panda Inc, and Puglie Pug are considered the best in show this year. These artists are so talented. I almost want to scream when good artists like these go unnoticed by the masses. And it’s a shame when a handful disappear from the con scene forever. Perhaps a separate article spotlighting them is warranted.
Tsukino had an added bonus this year of a prize draw card. To my understanding, for every $5 you spend at a dealer’s table, you get a stamp. For every $25 spent you qualify for a draw for a door prize with a maximum of 4 door prizes to qualify for. Filling the whole card allows one to enter not only the draws for the door prize but a chance at winning the grand prize as well.
Filling the card was an easy task. There was so much to buy and I parted with my money like it was the last day it was to be in legal tender. I replaced my old Sword Art Online wallet bought in 2014 with a new one for $20. Although not as impressive craft wise, I was happy to have a replacement as the old one was falling apart. Three years isn’t too bad of a life span from a product that is a Chinese knock-off. My wallet was always a good conversation piece. For $7 I bought FUNimation‘s release of the complete series of the animated teenage romance Sazuka from the former proprietor of Beth’s Treasures. For a relative I picked up a previously owned Nintendo DS Pokemon White Version game from Epic Games & More for the sum of $40. I spent extra time at Epic Games’ table as it seemed to be the place where people were socializing.
From the artists I made a purchase of hand-made hair bows from Bowbee Crowbee for another relative. they come in different designs and an assortment of colours (blue, red, pink, etc). I purchased two bows for $5 each (ED – bows are not depicted in photo). My favourite talent at Tsukino has to be Vanilla Cherie’s Little Shop. Angel, as she calls herself, is a very talented artist. She has two styles that serve her well. On one hand she has a cute super deformed anime style that is very marketable and on the other there is her style that is more true. This true style is deserving of an art exhibition. But the work I purchased from her was not her art prints. They are beautiful but I have too many prints at home from other artists with little room to display them. The items I purchased from Angel are mobile phone charms that can be used everyday. Popular in Japan phone charms can, like Angel and her super deformed anime work, be cute and very girly girl. But I couldn’t resist buying a My Neighbor Totoro charm for $10. To further support this artist I bought a Madoka Magica charm for my sister at a nice package deal of two for $18. If you visit the con this weekend, find her in the basement of the Elliott building, her merchandise is definitely worth a look.
After night approached that was my signal to leave Tsukino for home. Day one had been a success and with a stop for dinner at Little Thai Place in Royal Oak, I was as happy as Porco Rosso in his plane. I know as I get older I have encountered less interaction from the younger generation of anime fans at cons or in everyday life, even though I stay current (quite happily I might add) with the anime scene. But it is nice to see a growing number of older anime fans attending Tsukino-Con. This means there is still hope for those of my generation or older to return actively to the anime con scene and take part in what was once lost to us. And for the new generation, they have a chance to learn about older anime and the early days of anime fandom from those of us who were a part of it.