Noisy, joyous, full of life. Reading old radio plays with Kyle Hebert at the helm. Hanging out with Jan Scott-Frazier. Dinner with the Brothers Ayres. Meeting Lea Hernandez again for the first time in sixteen years. Rubber ducky racing. Host and maid cafes. Judging the Masquerade and gaping at some lovely cosplay (including my first-ever sighting of someone cosplaying the Seventh Doctor.) Chef Pug and his EZ Japanese Treats. ABJDs. Tea ceremony. Martial arts and learning how to fight safely. Comedy. Chilling almost to the bone in the air-conditioned conference rooms and basting myself in my own heat the moment I set foot outside the hotel. This was AnimeIowa 2011. But it wasn’t all of AnimeIowa 2011.
A convention is almost impossible to describe, because you’re only ever going to see a tiny fraction of it. Trying to sum it up is like stuffing a magical being into a bottle – a complete waste of energy, and not nearly so much fun as letting it all out and watching what happens. AnimeIowa is a small convention by American standards, around 2,500 people: almost intimate after the seas of souls flooding through A-Kon or Anime North. But just like the big beasts of American congoing, the convention that matters isn’t the one in the reports and statistics. It’s the one that you experience.
Hearing Lord Zedd‘s huge voice rip out of Robert Axelrod’s slight body; talking about Satoshi Kon with Kyle Cardine and an audience that really cares about great film-making; loving every minute of a Manga Cross-Stitch panel (and admiring the work produced by the stitchers there, crafters and novices, male and female) – that was my convention. So was talking about Osamu Tezuka with a Peruvian girl dressed as Saphir in the front row. So was never having enough time to properly thank the amazing convention staff. So was missing so much: History of Samurai Weapons, Cats in Japan, Japanese In An Hour, The Digimon Panel, the art appraisals, more Black Butler fans than I could shake a feather duster at. What you miss defines your convention as much as what you see. It’s about choices.
And it’s about the little moments with friends old and new, sharing a chat, or a joke, or a disaster story, eating locally-crafted chocolates that are almost too beautiful to bite into, out-of-con time stroking ferrets. It’s about the rustle of a silken eighteenth-century French court gown, the slither of satin and the snuggle of fur. It’s about a dealers’ room packed with commerce and craft, artists making their own characters side by side with people selling mass market merchandise, and somehow finding treasure in the mayhem. Or at least, that’s what my AnimeIowa was about this year. And I loved every minute of it.