It's great to be an otaku today, though I’m certainly not as hardcore as some fans. My shrines to Tenchi Muyo have been packed in boxes, but my dining area still features a beautiful Vampire Princess Miyu poster, and action figures are scattered around my house. We grow up, we get new interests, but we’ll always be otakus at heart. We’ll see someone with a Naruto t-shirt and give them a smile and a nod, that is, if we don’t have time to start up a whole conversation about the inherent coolness of ninjas.

When I started doing columns here at, it was great because suddenly I was in touch with my audience. People from all walks of life, all demographics, could give me input, correct my mistakes, and point out something I forgot to factor in.

I’m excited about Version Vibrant, and I can’t wait to try out my columns again. I do plan to put in more information and news updates about topics I find interesting, as well as focus on my columns about aspects of otaku life. I plan to set up a tagging system to identify different topics, so if you’re only interested in one thing, you can just check on that.

Some of the topics I’m planning to cover are:

Anime Conventions, AMVs, Otaku Socialization, Cosplay, Dealing with Parents, Writing, Publishing, Artists Alley, and Making a Difference in the Anime World

As always, check out the site at

Conventions *Are* Run by the Fans :: Otaku the World P2

Conventions *are* run by the fans

Anime conventions started out of a combination of fans getting together to watch fansubs and anime related panels at science fiction conventions. They have always been fan run and continue along that path. Sure, some of the big conventions have to answer to sponsors and need a lot of rules and by-laws to keep the peace when they have 20K+ attendees, but most of your local conventions continue to be fan run. Even the big conventions do not pay their staff, convention chairs, or board members (to the best of my knowledge), with the possible exception of a stipend to cover gas, hotel, or food.

So, what this means to you, the average attendee, is that there is a lot you can do to affect how conventions are run. First off, most panels are run by fans who know something and want to teach others, so if you think there is a topic that is lacking, then next year volunteer to lead that panel. Leading a panel usually requires no more commitment than volunteering (or filling out a panel request) to show up at the correct time and have something to say.

The other more direct ways to affect a conventions, besides leaving feedback on websites and with staff, is to participate at the convention as a staff member or volunteer. Most conventions are set up with a hierarchy that runs along the lines of: Convention Chair -> Department Heads -> Staff Members -> Volunteers. All of these people are crucial to making the weekend enjoyable and run smoothly. Now, volunteers often only participate during the actual weekend (though local ones may be asked to help stuff bags, assemble name tags, etc. before the convention) and they are the ones checking badges, handing out water bottles, etc. They are the grunt labor that frees up staff members to take care of bigger problems and to make sure that everything else is running smoothly. Most conventions allow you to sign up as a volunteer on-site without a prior commitment. If you have a few hours to kill, it’s a great way to do some good and meet new people.

Art by Nightambre
Volunteers for everything from badge checking to guest wrangling are needed to make sure a convention runs smoothly.

Staff members have a higher level of commitment usually. They tend to work most of the weekend and are in charge of individual areas or tasks, often working under a department head. Working as staff will get you a lot more exposure to the inner workings of an anime convention, as well as allow you to network. Typically, staff need to attend meetings occasionally (every few months to once a month) in the city that the convention will be held. Still, if you want to work as staff and know you can’t make most of the meetings, you can talk to the department head that you want to work for and see what can be worked out. Some jobs don’t require a lot of prep ahead of the convention, but need lots of knowledgeable helping hands at the event itself.

Age is always a concern with these kinds of things, and you’ll have to check with the convention itself for their policies. Some allow volunteers as young as 13, whereas others don’t let you until you are 18. Staff ages vary as well, and some conventions don’t mind kids volunteering with their parents. If you can’t volunteer yet, just remember, it’s not because they think you’re too immature or don’t want you to volunteer, it’s almost always an issue of liability risks.

How does being staff/volunteer help change the way a convention is run? Because it’s the staff and volunteers who are running it. If you’ve gone to the same convention for a few years, you might notice a major difference between two years in how an event is run. Each department head that comes in depends on their staff to help them make decision and give them feedback on what works. Staff are needed before the event to generate ideas and strategies to help it run smoothly. Just being a volunteer or staff member also puts you in touch with the people who make the upper level decisions and they depend on you to be their eyes and ears at the event. The head of cosplay may be stuck in the back room making sure that everyone lines up correctly, therefore they might never see for themselves that people in the back row couldn’t hear or see very well with this year’s set up.

So remember, conventions are run to give anime fans a fun place to hang out, learn, and meet guests at. But, it does cost them a lot of money. It can cost just 10K alone for the hotel, 20K for a convention center, money that quickly adds up. As I said before, the people running these conventions are not making money any profit for themselves, they are running it because they are fans too. Keep in mind the costs when making a suggestion to a convention. Very few can afford to bring over Japanese guests, so don’t be surprised when they ignore your request for that. On the other hand, you might be able to suggest some great low cost event that they can run or help them find a way to ask a more unusual guest to attend. The more details you can give with your request, the more plausible it becomes for them to fulfill it.

I’m also going to address a few common complaints now: space, noise, and food. These three things are most often the biggest problem (or at least most noticeable) at a convention. Unfortunately, due to extremely complicated contracts, they’re also issues that the staff has the least control over. Every space being used costs the convention money, and there’s no perfect set up plan. It seems like no matter how hard the convention tries, there is always something wrong with the placement of events. Maybe the video rooms have crummy soundproofing or the artists alley is off in an undisclosed location, and if you point these things out to staff members, you may get grumbled responses or excuses on how it’s not their fault. Chances are, by the end of the convention they’re very tired of hearing this complaint. A good convention staffer probably figured out the problem half an hour after opening ceremony, but there just wasn’t anything they could do.

Food is another issue that gets hotly debated with the hosting location. Most contracts prevent the convention from selling refreshments, and any food will be provided through the hotel/convention center. So food is going to vastly depend on the location. I’ve seen some conventions work out great buffets and others where the best they could do is the give attendees maps to local restaurants. You might think conventions have great bargaining tools, but they don’t. Most cities only have one or two venues that can support an anime convention (due to the number of smaller rooms a convention needs available for a multitude of programming), and hotels don’t really care about hosting conventions. A hotel would much rather have a wedding on Saturday and Sunday than a convention, because a wedding involves catering, which is where the hotel makes a good portion of their money.

And one last note: The way to change your local conventions is *not* to start your own. Most of the country is oversaturated with conventions and starting your own is not the answer in most cases. If you do study the situation and still think that your convention is the answer, then you need to staff at at least five different conventions, preferably one for multiple years and then a few different ones, so that you get a full taste of what it entails to run a convention. I’ve helped start one that is going into its fourth year now, and the two years that I staffed/ran/lived it consisted of a lot of conversations with the two other people in charge that went along the lines of “I slept 5 hours last week.” “Okay, you won, I got seven hours.” Trust me, it takes a lot of money, time, energy, and sanity to start your own.

If you are looking for a local anime event, try having some kind of one day festival. If you have an active anime club, that is the perfect place to get volunteers. This is also a great way to make local businesses aware of the anime related interests in town. If you're still considering starting up a local convention, a one day event can also help you test local interest and build up some starting capital. Thats how my convention got started and thats how we kept out of the red.

Otaku's Influence on Anime Companies :: Otaku the World Part I

reprint of earlier posted column A lot of teen otakus don’t know how vital they are in determining the current fate of the otaku world. Or at the very least, they don’t know how to go about making a change. So, I’m going to t...

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Attending Your First Covention P4 :: Helpful Reminders

Reprinted from previous column on

So now that you have some idea how to spend your weekend (in between the sugar rushes and arguing who could kick who’s ass in Naruto), I’d like to point out some common courtesies and important reminders. Don’t get too caught up in going into debt in the Dealer’s Room to remember these crucial things.

Con Etiquette

Any time you are dealing with other human beings, there are some basic rules to remember.

Be Polite
Everyone has the right to be there, and being polite really will get you further in life. With long lines and crowded events, making friends can be very useful. They can hold seats or watch your spot while you run to the bathroom.

Don’t Glomp
Glomping is running up and tackle-hugging someone. And while you might do it to your friends, there are simply too many people around at a convention. Even if they are your friend, you might startle them and push them into the person behind them.

And never glomp a cosplayer. They put a lot of time and energy into their costumes and many props are delicate. If you need to give Sesshoumaru a hug, ask and be gentle.

Artist – Stefanie
For the sake of all those around you, please shower regularly. Please. Or we will be forced to get the Febreze.

Remember Personal Hygiene
Cons can get overwhelming, but don’t forget to take a shower. With so many people crowded in a small place, the smell begins to set in. So remember, wear deodorant, take a shower, brush your hair, and just do the things you would normally do for school.

Listen to Staff
The convention staff are there to help. They have also probably not gotten a whole night of uninterrupted sleep in the last two weeks. Don’t get snappy with them when the line is too long or they need to ask you to follow the rules. Most cons still require them to pay to enter the event, and they do not get enough out of the con to make up for all the hours of work they put in. They do this because they love anime and they want to make the convention experience better for everyone.

Don’t Complain About it, Volunteer.
Going home to bitch on your LJ isn’t productive for the con. Try volunteering and offer your services next year. That’s the only way to bring about change. I’ll talk more next month about what exactly you can do to help out. But no matter your age, there are things you can do.

Important Reminders

EAT and DRINK WATER. Silly, I know. But so many people forget these two little things. Most cons try to keep jugs of water around, and at the very least there are drinking fountains. Save a little room in your bag for a water bottle.

Don’t just eat in the con-suite (a room at some cons where the con provides food to the underfed masses), unless they provide a good range of nourishment. You need to remember your fruits and veggies now more than ever. A good diet will help you make it through the weekend without a Sunday sugar crash.

Wear sunscreen as well: you never know how much you are going to be outdoors. I’ve had to stand outside for hours to register, or travel between buildings at a con that has outgrown one hotel.

When you leave your hotel room, make sure you have everything you need. Keep in mind though that you might have to leave a backpack at the bag check when you enter the Dealer’s Room. So have your money in a separate wallet or small bag that you can take inside of crowded rooms with you. If you are wearing a costume, make sure to build in pockets or carry a small bag.

Remember, the full print guides are available at and feature lots more information and humorous illustrations.

Sterotypes of Women in Anime

I just found a paper I wrote a few years ago for a class on Women in Pop Culture. I wrote about the depiction of women in anime, done as a magazine with multiple articles. Here is the -full pdf- and below is an excerpt of my section on stereotypes. I wrote this a few years ago, so don’t judge me on my design skills… or writing for that matter. But the info is still good.

Anime Women: Common Role Models and Stereotypes

Anime was once seen as a boy’s past time. An anime convention consisted of a bunch of guys getting together to watch anime and not shower for a weekend. These days though, girls have taken over the anime scene. Women have always been a crucial part of anime itself, shoujo making up a large percentage of manga sales in Japan, but over the last ten years in America, the female otaku has come to dominate the marketplace.

With this influx of female viewers, it’s important to look at the women on the screen, the women that young otakus are seeing and relating to. Are the women of anime only the hentai school girls that are being raped by tentacle monsters? The ditzy bimbos who follow a guy around to fulfill his every wish? No. The women of anime are much more than that; they represent a broad spectrum of women and types, from the smart best friend, the ditzy but world saving magical girl, to the head of a vampire hunting organization. Women in today’s anime are taking a dominate role in their stories, both in anime aimed at women, and that aimed at men.

When looking at the women of anime, we see a variety of types. There is the passive girl who only lives for a guy. This type of girl most usually shows up in shounen anime, usually as a member of the main boy’s harem. A few shoujo mangas might get close to this though, with a main girl who seems incapable of doing anything without the male's help. In a shoujo manga though, the main girl will usually learn to stand on her own by the end. In the same stereotype of shounen harem girls, we have the aggressive girl who goes after the boy and won’t let anything stand in her way. Ryoko from Tenchi Muyo is like that, and as shown on our reader survey, women have a very mixed opinion about her for this. Some respected her for the way she goes after Tenchi, while others thought her love for him made her weak. Because of her multi-facets though, she is a good role model for girls. Many of these women can be either a positive or negative role model, and it’s up to women to know *why* they like or dislike a chosen girl. Through analyzing our responses, we come learn a lot about ourselves.

Because of the many different types of anime, shoujo and shounen, we will stick to some of the basic groups below, and some of the stereotypes of women that appear in them.

Shounen Harem
Centered on a nice guy who is a klutz around girls, some circumstance always conspires to surround him with women. These can be action series like Tenchi Muyo where there is a galactic sub-plot or high school dramas like Oh! My Goddess and Love Hina but the central plot is the relationship between the guy and the girls. Here we mostly either see the very passive girl who gets shy and quiet around the main guy and the aggressive girl who either pursues the guy or gets violent when (often accidentally) pursued by the boy. Misunderstandings are often major plot devices and the other girls around the guy and main girl(s) tend to push the main pairings together, while getting crushes on the guy.

Shoujo Harem
Somehow or another, the main girl finds herself forced into saving the world. And along the way, she needs the help of some incredible hot guys. Like the shounen harem, usually at least one of the guys is aggressive in pursuing the main girl, and the girl is always forced to choose from at least two guys. Typically, this choice is between the rogue and the prince. One who she feels passion for and the other who she knows will treat her like a queen. Fushigi Yuugi is a central example of this, with Miaka the priest being protected by her seven male guardians. Her rival and best friend Yui has some females in her guardian group, but Miaka only has males, two of whom actively pursue her and a third that seems intent on doing so also, until circumstances get in the way. Miaka’s downfall is that she tends to be rather weak without her male protectors, as is usually the problem for girls in these anime. At the end, they always get themselves together when the lives of their friends are on the lines though, but these women are often seen as weak and helpless by the fans. This isn’t helped in America by the fact that the dubbing is usually done by very high pitched girls, one of the quickest ways to turn fans off of a female character.

Another less offensive girl is Himeno from Pretear. She is better role model because she takes a larger part in her own role, refusing to just be slated as the new Pretear. A retelling of Snow White magical girl style, her seven dwarfs are replaced by seven hot guys (well, three are adorable kids). As a magical girl, she actually has power, thought it is reliant on “merging” with one of the guys, to create a more ultimate form of his elemental power. Still, she is an active participant in her destiny, unlike Miaka who only exists to be the priestess and let the guys do her work.

Magical Girls
The above shoujo harem series can also be seen as magical girl series, in which an ordinary girl finds out she is the inheritor of great power, or sometimes she makes it for her self. Sailor Moon is the most classic example, being extremely popular around the world and the first female oriented show brought to America. In this, Serena finds out that she is the Moon Princess, and along with her four sailor scouts she must protect the world from the evil of the Negaverse. Spanning around 200 episodes, it is a tale of love and friendship. Serena resonates with a lot of teenage girls because she has flaws; she is clumsy and scared, yet willing to stand up for her friends and do the job when it’s needed. She doesn’t get the hang of things right away, but has to learn how to take over her new role. For girls just entering the new world of high school, she and other magical girls are great role models for how to take on the scary aspects of life.

Along with the main girl, if the anime contains a group of magical girls, then we have another set of stereotypes. Someone always has a fiery temper, while another is boy crazy, and yet another can’t be dragged away from her books and actually reads the instruction manual before trying out a new magical item. This is another reason why the magical girl genre connects with so many girls, because there is usually a character for everyone to connect with.

High School Drama
Just like American high school drama books, the manga and anime ones deal with the trials and tribulations of being a girl or guy in high school. Filled with tests and love, friends and betrayal, these women must struggle with growing up while still being treated like a kid by their parents. The typical shoujo high school drama centers on either a “normal” girl or a very shy girl. If she is a shy girl, she typically ends up falling in love with the school bad boy, who of course has a heart of gold, and he transforms her into a self confident woman. This can be both a negative and positive role model, since she needs the man to help her make the transition, but at the same time she accepts the transition and finishes it herself, the man usually is only the instigator. The other kind usually involves an average high school girl, who like in shoujo harem anime, must choose between two guys. It’s usually pretty easy to tell who she will choose, but some books are very good at keeping the reader in suspense. These are popular with women readers because they tend to be the most similar to their lives, and many high school girls like to read an idealized romance.

Adventure anime and manga tend to cross gender lines more than anything else. Shows like InuYasha, Slayers, and Fullmetal Alchemist blur the line between shounen and shoujo, but the closest way to tell is to look at the gender of the main character. Even then, these shows are enjoyed by males and females a like and usually contain many strong women.

Every adventurer needs a best friend or traveling companion of the opposite gender. This person usually works to be their love interest, though the adventure genre doesn’t usually spend a lot of time pairing them up. Shows like InuYasha are more obvious that by the end the couples will be together, but other shows like Slayers require the fans to read between the lines. This is why fan fiction is so popular for these types of show, the fans want to finish the romances since the authors won’t finish them before the series is over. And these series can run for years.

The strong and wise female is another stereotype, typically not traveling with the group but necessary to give them advice and courage. Often a teacher like Izumi from Fullmetal Alchemist she can serve as a surrogate mother since adventures seem to rarely have living parents.

The strong sidekick woman is another necessity, like Sango in InuYasha or Amelia in Slayers she is there to help with the fight and fulfill the role that the main girl can’t cover. She can be a fighter like Sango or a healer like Amelia, but she usually has talents that are opposite to the main girl. These women are usually strong, like most of the women in adventure anime, and while they might face some trials, they will get through them better than ever. Family trauma tends to follow them, with lots of reasons to angst and feel sorry for themselves, yet they battle through and don’t spend nearly as much time as they could justify on angsting.

There are many other anime styles, mecha, apocalyptic, horror, etc, but most of those women fall under the styles listed above, especially within adventure. Most of the women in anime begin in these models, but break out of them with careful characterization and carry-through by the authors. Overall, anime is an excellent place for young women to see female role models and learn to respect their characteristics.

Attending Your First Covention P3 :: People to See

Reprint of older guide, previously published on

Where would we be without the people that populate the convention? The guests, the cosplayers, and the AMV makers.

Varying from American voice actors to Japanese manga-ka, guests can be the big draw of a convention. Some people might underestimate the influences and information that American guests can bring to a convention, but they tend to know the industry and are great people to listen to if you want to get into voice acting, translating, or any other aspect. Most are friendly and won’t mind you saying hi when you see them walking down the hall.

Remember though, guests are not always “on duty,” and they need their rest time as much as you do. Always be polite to them; they are giving up their weekends to be here talking to you. Typically, they are reimbursed for travel expenses and given a hotel room, but they certainly don’t make money off of conventions. So treat them with the respect they deserve.

Dressing up, and it’s not even Halloween yet! This is why many people go to cons, to the extent that there are even cosplay centered cons these days.

Anyone can dress up, and you do not have to enter any cosplay contests. As far as contests go, cons will vary, but there is typically one onstage contest (often on Saturday evening), and then a hall contest or some kind of roving contest that is less formal and takes place over the entire weekend.

If you want to go to the cosplay contest to watch, keep an eye on the line or ask a staff member how it is being run. Some cons will give out tickets ahead of time, while others simply have you line up. The skits are the main draw of the contest, but if you’d rather just see the costumes, most of the time the cosplayers will show off their costumes in the hall outside.

Always ask before you hug your favorite character or if you want them to pose for a picture. Technically, you are not allowed to take someone’s picture without their permission, especially if you plan to print it or post it somewhere. While most people don’t follow this rule strictly at a con, be careful if you plan to use this photo for anything other than a “Look, I went to a Con!!!” web page.

Art by Zeda
Never glomp cosplayers without permission! They put a lot of time and energy into their costumes, and a surprise glomp could ruin their work.

AMV Contest
This event seems to grow in popularity every year as more and more people have access to the software needed to create an Anime Music Video. AMVs are created with video editing software, such as Adobe Premier, combining anime clips and music. Creating these can seem intimidating, but they are sanity-sucking fun. For more information on creating one, check out

In order to enter this contest, you typically need to send in the video by a deadline. Check the convention website for more information on guidelines such as format and length. Many cons now can accept the video on a CD, but that is not always the case.

All right, this ends the overview of what goes on at a convention and who you are sharing your space with. So next week, let’s talk just a little bit about how to best share that space and to keep from being one of those jerks that everyone gossips about later on the con’s message board.