Dallas A-Kon 26: Did That Really Happen?

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Three years ago, I attended A-Kon 23 with my friends as college was ending. It was my very first convention of any sort and I had a lot of fun in the atmosphere, especially considering that one of my online friends decided to fly in as well. We all had a lot of fun, and I was left feeling that it would be difficult to top such an experience. Indeed, when I later unexpectedly found myself with free time, I volunteered at a different anime convention and the event passed by in a fairly nonchalant manner; it was all stuff that I had seen before. My recent trip to Awesome Con was only notable to me because I got to meet some of the Star Trek cast, but I still found the pop-culture oriented event to be more or less similar to the anime conventions that I had been to.

During the Fall of 2014, I unexpectedly found myself with near boundless free time. I did not have anything to unequivocally keep me busy and I soon began to seek out something that could occupy me over a longer span of time. One day, I was chatting with my friend when the topic of cosplay came up. While I cannot recall the exact progression of the conversation, we eventually began to talk about Pokémon trainers as well. At the time, I was on a mission to breed a shiny Espurr in Pokémon X (one that I was eventually successful in accomplishing) and had around 5 full boxes of Espurrs in-game. I believe at one point my friend jokingly stated that my entire team would consist of Espurrs if I were a Pokémon trainer. As I typically did while talking to her, I decided to intentionally twist and misinterpret her words to mess with her. “Understood. I shall become an Espurr.”

It was a hilarious thought, and I wasn’t sure how much longer I would be in the DFW area anyways so I thought that I may as well make an amateur-quality costume for A-Kon 2015. It would certainly present me with a unique challenge — I had never sewn clothes or created anything vaguely similar to a costume in my life. I had no knowledge about what materials to use, how to measure things properly, or even what the “width” parameter referred to on a bolt of fabric. I was someone who did not own any sewing instruments and had zero idea as to what could or could not be practically done in costuming. I was a blank slate with a background in scientific experimentation — this was going to be interesting.

… and experiment I did. Paradoxically, I think that sometimes having no clue about how to achieve something opens up possibilities that one may not otherwise explore. Persona!While I will be posting how I created Espurr at a later time, I must say that I was happy that others were at least able to recognize my cosplay; I started the project fully aware that I was a novice and had only a singular hope that people would at least be able to somewhat tell that I was supposed to resemble Espurr.

Again, this project was conceived near the end of 2014. A-Kon would take place June 5-7, 2015. I had no idea at the time whether my plan would actually come to pass — there was a lot of time for obstacles to crop up. When I told my friend Balance about my idea however, he decided that he would visit me again, just as he did three years ago during A-Kon 23. At this point, I decided that I may as well attend the convention whether my cosplay would work out or not and purchased a badge. Last week, at long last, our group outing finally came to pass.

Balance’s plane flew in from Seattle on June 3rd. After picking him up and making a mandatory stop at Fas Taco right next to my apartment, we hung around a bit at home before going out for gelato. The place I took him to happened to be located on 7th street, one of the many artsy open-air districts found in Fort Worth. The shop’s location also allowed me to take Balance along the typical commute that I would make to TCOM every day, which was located close by. The day was not particularly special, but we had a lot to talk about despite having talked so many times on Skype. Just as I had felt when he visited before, I was stricken by how normal it felt to have him stand next to me despite the fact that this would only be the second time in my life that I have seen him in person. Online friendships are funny like that.

In general, the logistics of Balance’s trip were a little tricky since I am now working and the drive from Fort Worth to Dallas is less than optimal, but things worked out. Balance took a train to Dallas the next morning and I joined him afterwards once my morning shift ended at work. In the evening, we traveled to the Hilton Anatole to pick up our badges for the weekend.

As most people would figure, going to a convention is a lot more fun when there is a friend present, and Balance had become rather familiar with them over the years. Since our last visit to A-Kon, Balance had also begun to use his fancy DSLR camera to explore his photography hobby so it was nice to have a competent photographer during the trip as well. (Of course, in typical Balance fashion, something had to be under-accounted for and his camera only lasted about one convention day before running out of batteries!) Nevertheless, the convention itself was incredibly fun. Seriously — I was surprised at how complete the days felt owing to the hilarity we experienced throughout the weekend.

The first day of the convention, June 5th, was the debut of Espurr. While I had tested the viability of my cosplay a few times at home, I never gave it a proper “shakedown,” so to speak. DSC_2863I was fully expecting something to be broken halfway through the day and constantly asked my friends whether everything looked fine with the cosplay. Not only did everything work as intended, the result was absolutely hilarious. I truly (honestly) do not know how I arrived at the costume’s final appearance; as I said before, I worked on my first-time cosplay aiming for a nebulous semblance of Espurr’s appearance knowing that I would likely be too inexperienced to create something better. During the convention however,  I was so surprised by the amount of people exclaiming “Espurr!!” and stopping me to take my picture once they saw me. I honestly had thought that only a handful of people would want to take my picture the entire weekend.

Due to the way the cosplay was made, it suffered from some of the typical drawbacks that “fursuit” type costumes have to contend with. Most notably, such costumes have decreased visibility to the point that they require a guide of some sort to help the cosplayer move around (think of the mascots at Disney parks). The lack of peripheral vision made stairs especially cumbersome, but Balance proved to be an excellent guide and came up with a system to navigate stairs by employing a Rhythm Heaven styled beat which culminated in a “3, 2, 1!” as I would reach the floor. Amusingly, I saw some of the professional masked cosplays in the Cosplay Contest having similar difficulties with the stairs located at the end of the stage. Other than that, mobility was something that I quickly got used to, though I would occasionally need help in brightly lit areas that would obscure my vision due the way my eyes were made.

Spending the convention as Espurr was a lot of fun though and the costume’s furred material proved to be only mildly uncomfortable thanks to the abundance of water coolers around the venue. Over the course of the weekend, I got money thrown at me, people petting me out of nowhere, people hugging me out of the blue, and a general array of reactions that only an anthropomorphic Espurr could garner. One guy told me that he ate all my Poké Puffs which I reacted to by visibly shaking in anger. He whimpered as he darted away, “oh no… the children are on fire again… :(“

Most of the weekend consisted of comical interactions like that; Espurr’s piercing gaze instantly made interchanges with others humorous. One of the photos of me sitting on a couch looked like the Espurr was inviting the audience on a tour of its house. Amused by the prospect of such a scenario, Balance and I played a game of sorts where we pretended that the Hilton Anatole was my house and the con-goers were random intruders using my furniture. Of course, my cosplay would not be complete without having a Pokémon trainer present either, so eventually Balance sought out a trainer cosplayer for a mini photoshoot. DSC_2929The trainer was a really good sport and seemed to have fun as we reenacted a scene where she accidentally prompted Espurr’s rage by touching its ear. Espurr was later sent to jail by Balance for this encounter.

After a day of Espurr-ing all over the place, we retired to the DS Lounge in the game room upstairs to sit amongst what happened to mostly be Pokémon gamers. Messing around, I detached the tips of my arms so that I could play my 3DS without removing the rest of my costume. Because of the way the eyes were positioned on the head, I held up my console in a manner that made the girl sitting across from me constantly question why I was showing my 3DS to her. “I see it! Why do you keep showing it to me?!” I actually did not hear her speaking to me, which only added to my disconcerting Espurr demeanor. See, I was busy playing Pokémon X — I was constantly trading the people nearby spare Espurrs and challenging them to Pokémon battles with a lone level 100 Espurr. Though I once again was unable to hear it happen, at one point someone stood up in response to my actions to demand, “WHO’S NIGHTMAREN?!” He then slowly shifted his gaze to the Espurr playing a 3DS and sat back down.

On the final day of the convention, though we were perfectly happy doing more of the same, Balance and I had the fortune to stumble upon a Pokémon photoshoot. While going down some stairs (again), a cosplayer dressed as the gym leader Erika stopped me and told me that I should go to the Pokémon photoshoot that she was helping organize. I was a little unsure at first, but decided to stop by since I had never been to a community-organized photoshoot. The manner in which the shoot was conducted was pretty interesting — it was organized by game generation, followed by “requested” shots. In the sans-trainer shoot, in full Espurr character, I decided to slowly reach towards one of the Pokémon Breeders’ Dittos and drop it on the floor. In subsequent shots, with the cosplayers’ permission, this escalated to Espurr full-out throwing the Dittos on the floor. The trainers later decided to punish Espurr by simultaneously throwing Pokéballs at it.

Like I have mentioned numerous times already, I had a lot of fun by the time A-Kon 26 concluded — despite me not taking as many pictures of others’ cosplays this time around, the weekend certainly topped our adventure 3 years ago. Cosplaying was a brand new undertaking for me and it subsequently breathed new life into my experience at conventions. By interacting with the community on a whole new level, I was able to further appreciate the love some people showcase for the games and characters they adore. Especially surprising to me was the fact that some of the people at the Pokémon photoshoot were older than me; I am sometimes a little wary that, as I get older and frequent more professional work environments, I will get nudged out of enjoying such things, but it was nice to see others demonstrating to the contrary.

Nevertheless, with the changes taking place in my life during the coming months, I do not think that I will be going to or participating in another convention any time soon. But… with the right people by my side, who knows? I echoed my thoughts on the matter to Balance as I drove him back on June 8th; I spoke about how some people are just fun to spend time with. From time to time, one hears how someone is “fun to hang out with,” but it is a different distinction to actually feel that way when hilarity ensues without fail in the presence of another. As I pursue my career and eventually settle down, I certainly hope that I will have with me someone who would also enjoy participating in something as fun as the convention we experienced this year.

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It’s so weird with Nightmaren. [weird things] just always freaking happen with Nightmaren. [Nightmaren has] already told us all [these] stories and it’s like “You MUST be making some of this up. That’s just too coincidental.” But then I was there in person. and it’s like I FINALLY UNDERSTAND THAT IT’S NOT.

— Balance on his second visit to Texas

Still quiet here.sas

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