New day, new blog, new convention?

Anyone who’s seen me mooching around internetland may already know that I’m an old fan of anime and manga, and it struck me that there’s no better way to start a new blog than to begin with something completely different.

Luckily, serendipity struck in the form of an anime convention, and not just any old gathering of the weird, wonderful and downright hilarious, no, this particular convention is the first of its kind to be held in my hometown, and it was a hoot to say the least.

Nemacon is the name of the beast, and it is the brainchild of one James Adams, who decided that the North East of old Blighty needed a new anime and manga convention, one that was unique to the area. In a surprising move, he managed to score the backing of the local council for the event, and after many trials and tribulations the doors finally opened on the 19th June 2010.

And lucky old me was in to see it from the beginning 🙂

In all honesty, I was surprised when I first saw an advert for the event in a local comic book store, as I’d never thought an anime and manga convention would ever be held in this town. even though I’m a fan of anime and manga, I regard conventions as a place for the younger generation, so I went to one many moons ago in order to show willing (I even dressed up, although it really only amounted to me buying a new hat), and then left it at that. Then Nemacon comes to my door and I figure I may as well have a gander and see what shenanigans take place.

I have to give credit to James and his committee as even though they had a fair few problems bringing this event  to the public, they managed to achieve a number of their goals, and one look at their Facebook page hints that many of the people who attended one or both days had a great time. The traders section made for interesting browsing, and I noticed a fair few people were somewhat bemused at the wares on offer as much of the merchandise is of the kind that first timers (dare I say, convirgins?), have only really seen online.The traders themselves were downright friendly, and very approachable. For some, this was their first convention too, and in all honesty, I was really pleased to see that it wasn’t just James and the commitee finding their feet with Nemacon. A number of attendees and some of the traders were also finding their way, and in that respect Nemacon really worked well.

One of the nice things about Nemacon is that it has a far more “personal” atmosphere than many other conventions, or so I’ve been told anyway. Having only been to one convention in the distant past, it’s a little more difficult for me to make a comparison, but since a number of more experienced attendees, and even some of the traders, commented on this during the two day event, it’s more than likely true. Even cynical old me felt that air of friendliness that seemed to permeate the Town Hall, Central Library and underground bar that formed the sites for the event.

As with anything new like this though, I did notice that a number of the attendees were a little like the proverbial “rabbits in the headlights” when they first arrived, however as the days progressed the seemed to relax and get involved in proceedings. Being a fan myself, I know that liking anime and manga isn’t something that many people understand, so attending a convention for the first time takes a lot of courage and love for the mediums, especially if you go in costume.

Speaking of which, while I didn’t attend any of the fashion shows, I did see many characters from games and anime, and I have to say that some of the costumes were absolutely stunning. From Goku to Vocaloid, from Link to a fox in a police uniform (The Fantastic Mr Fox in disguise?), and rather a lot in between. I even noticed someone wearing what looked like an outfit from Rozen Maiden, although given that Nemacon also had a “Lolita” event (the Japanese street fashion, not the book by Nabokov), I could be mistaken on that front.

Still, it’s nice to see people actually care about an event like Nemacon, especially as there was a possibility of it not happening at one point.

While I wandered the convention, I did manage to poke my head into some events that interested me the most, in particular the manga and anime masterclasses held by some of the attending artists. I have to admit that while I’m somewhat jaded in my views about art styles and animation, I found these particular events were not only informative, but geared towards beginners as well. The artists (Sonia Leong and Emma Vieceli of Sweatdrop Studios, Jenika Ioffreda of Neptune Factory, and Alice de Ste Croix (is that the correct spelling?), who is also known as Destiny Blue were running the classes I dropped in on), were very open and friendly, although Sonia does come across as a schoolteacher at times. I’m not sure if Chie Kutsuwada held any classes, however I did watch her working on the trader’s floor for a while, and I have to say I’m impressed by the talents of all the artists. While I may not draw manga or anime, I know enough about art and design to recognize the talent these artists have, and to appreciate the efforts they have made to get to where they are now.

Aside from these classes, there were certain events that I had a particular interest in, and these were the lectures and demonstrations on Japanese culture given by Akemi Solloway. Unfortunately I missed her first lecture, but I did manage to speak to her afterwards and I found her to be extremely polite and very approachable. Her demonstration of tea ceremony was excellent, but once again I couldn’t attend her final lecture on language, which is a pity as I’d hoped to catch all three. There’s always next year though 🙂

Okay, you kind of get the point that I enjoyed the event. The crowd, the friendly atmosphere, the interesting classes and lectures, Nemacon had something to offer everyone, and was, on the whole, a grand two days out.

There are a couple of buts though, however these are mainly caused by inexperience amongst other things. While I wandered, I did notice a number of people haring to and fro doing one task or another, and it struck me that while there were people enjoying themselves, the event staff, including the gophers, were run off their feet. The main reason for this is because there simply weren’t enough volunteers to run the event, so everyone helping out really had to give 100% to make the event a success. I know that there were originally around 50 helpers, but in the days prior on twelve of these remained for one reason or another. This particular criticism is aimed at those who promised helped but backed out at the last second for no good reason – don’t agree to do something if you aren’t willing to commit to it, as you all came very close to ruining it for everyone who attended. It’s because people decided they didn’t want to help that James and the rest of the staff were run ragged for two days, and I have to thank them all for putting in such a heroic effort.

The other “but” is planning. Any plan is only valid until the first shot is fired, and in the case of Nemacon I noticed that some of the time the staff conversations centred on the whys, wheres and hows. Now some of the problems on the days could not have been helped, however others were the result of inexperience and thinking ahead, partly because the turnout was much better than expected, and partly because James and the committee could really have done with an experienced event organiser to provide advice and assistance. What they achieved is superb, but I can’t help but wonder how much smoother things would have been if there was someone on board who had the experience of organising large events, and the foresight to make contingency plans.

Be that as it may, Nemacon was a wonderful event, and I have to say that I feel privileged to have attended, and to have met such sterling people as James, Moley and the rest of the staff, as well as the artists traders and the esteemed Akemi-sensei. And let’s not forget the fans, for without them the event would not have been as lively as it was.

To everyone, I thank you all for a wonderful two days, and it’s my sincerest wish that Nemacon becomes an annual event to rival the Mela.

[NEWSFLASH] I’ve just been told that a local radio station is holding a post Nemacon competition. Apparently some lucky person can win a stack of goodies from the event. That’s a pretty good coup for a first time event.

Oh, and here’s a few links about Nemacon, the artists, and Akemi Solloway if you want more information about them.

The event:

Nemacon’s Website
Nemacon’s Facebook page

The artists:

Sonia Leong
Emma Vieceli
Jenika Ioffreda
Alice de Ste Croix
Chie Kutsuwada

The cultural expert:

Akemi Solloway

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