So, we went to the Anime Convention; it was a surreal experience I have to admit. I thought there wouldn’t be many people there and even less would be dressing up. Just goes to show how wrong someone can be – there were hundreds of people who were dressed up.....and that’s no exaggeration, honest. Not just Anime characters either; gaming characters such as Assassins Creed, manga characters (a form of Japanese comic book) like Black Butler and Death Note to name a few.
I thought, as my daughter was dressed as Rin Kagamine from the Vocaloids Anime she would be easy to find – again, shows how wrong I can be. There must’ve been around sixty Rin’s and a lot of them sort of....flocked together. At one point I saw ten of them all run up to each other, point, smile and get someone to take their photo. There were a lot of pokemon fans – a few Ash Katchums <sp?> , his friends and even one lone girl dressed as Pikachu (at least her family wouldn’t have trouble finding her in the crush).
However, there were also steampunks, a group of Ghostbusters, some Star Wars stormtroopers, a few Stargate soldiers and the entire lead character list from the original Pirates of the Caribbean movie – including Jack Sparrow. A few Doctor Who regenerations also bobbed about and, to be really honest, I spent the day trying to work out where these renegade characters fitted in to the genre. But I decided in the end it didn’t matter; it was just a group of like minded people – kids, teens and twenty somethings all getting together for a laugh. The cross dressing young men I’m still trying to fathom out, especially the guy dressed as Cinderella from the Disney movie of the same name; but whatever floats your boat I reckon at these things right? But the fifty something lady dressed as Wonder Woman in an very skimpy costume I never want to think about again.......ever.
The stars that were there – Warwick Davis (star of many, many films including the Harry Potter franchise), Tom Hopper (from the BBC's Merlin), Adetomiwa Edun (his fellow castmate) and Hironobu Sakaguchi (the critically acclaimed creator of the Final Fantasy games) were all incredibly nice and friendly to the scores of people that wanted their autographs (from what I heard, but could not see - more on that later) and a chat after their talks and Q&As. Though, from personal experience of my daughter and her friend, Warwick Davis has to take the prize, along with his family, as the kindest, nicest, chattiest man at the whole convention. Chatting, signing autographs and taking photos even as he and his family were packing up to leave (and who were equally as nice as he was) spoke to me of a man who truly cared about his fans.
A lot of the visitors outfits, regardless of the character portrayed, were certainly homemade with varying degrees of skill. As I pointed out yesterday, they’re very expensive to buy and so many fans make their own or get family/friends to do it for them or help them to do it. However I was shocked at the ones that'd obviously been bought that were on display; knowing, from my own hunt, that to buy them outright was horrendously expensive. I guessed that, for the younger teens that had them, there had been begging and pleading for every Christmas, Easter and birthdays for the rest of their lives.
The older ones had probably done the same and got a Saturday job for theirs – as the older teens/twenty-somethings that weren’t wearing homemade outfits, had bought ones that cost – with shoes, wigs, et al – into the hundreds of pounds. Indeed I know where one young girl had got hers as I’ve visited the website myself when I was spitting pins about the sailor collar and was almost ready to rob a bank to buy the cursed thing, and the shoes alone for her character cost over £150 ($238). Overall I think her entire outfit cost around the £320 mark ($506) – that’s a lot of Saturday’s stacking shelves, delivering papers or sweeping floors. Others were very inventive to make their outfits themselves; and it was those I found the most interesting to look at.
The staff were friendly, helpful and chatty (I thoroughly recommend a visit to the International Centre in Telford if there’s an event there you're interested in). However, my main criticism was the way the visitors were packed into the hall; I wasn’t the only wheelchair user there, and there were parents with small children walking with them and also even younger ones in pushchairs that would never have got out if there’d been an emergency. I was genuinely concerned at one point that, if there was a fire how many would get trampled in the rush to escape.
The trouble was, and I hate to say this as overall it was a really great day out, that – as nice as all the visitors were to each other - to those of us in wheelchairs they were particularly dismissive to (and 99.9% were children and young teens; I was only one of three adults that I saw there in a wheelchair).
I lost count of the amount of times people fell over my wheelchair, backed into my wheelchair, climbed over my wheelchair; pushed past me to see the stage (thereby blocking my view) even though they’d looked down at me as they did so, barged past me to get to the trade stalls and generally treated me as if I were so completely invisible to them that I began to feel genuinely and utterly unseen.
I understand that it was packed to gunnels, I understand that the stuff on sale was all from the font of trademarked originality for the genre (Japan) and that this was the only opportunity for them to get it (until the next convention in March and of course they might not go to that). But, really, do they have to treat the disabled as if they don’t exist to do that?
I’ve said before, repeatedly, that when out shopping generally – even at Christmas – that the younger people, teens and children, were the nicest, kindest and most helpful. So what happened today? Why did the people from these same age groups suddenly become – frankly – complete jerks? Who had not only no patience, but little consideration for those that were – basically – on a level with their navels. I know that you don’t need to be at their eyeline for these youngsters to treat you with respect in the greater world because I deal with them every weekend and they’re always really nice.
So is it just that the cosplayers are merely generally less compassionate and more selfish than the rest of their age groups are outside the cocoon of their fantasy world? To be honest, I’m not sure – a lot of them today were just as they always are to me; kind youngsters. But the greater majority were not; and there were children there in wheelchairs that I felt really sorry for as they were treated the same as I was and who looked even more upset than me – they loved it all as much as the able bodied fans did, though they weren’t dressed up either, and yet they were just as forcefully excluded.
I doubt the lack of dressing up was the issue; though it did cross my mind, as many weren’t and were able to hold their own in the scrum. I think it was just that – in the crush of bodies, people lining three deep in places, not being able to stand up (quite literally) and fight for your place there was our failing......well, not ours obviously but you get the idea.
Just because I, and other disabled people, didn’t look like a cartoon character, a game character or comic character doesn’t mean we don’t exist. The cosplayers might want their fantasy to be reality – but it’s not, and treating real people with little more than general apathy won’t help them get on out in the cold, hard existence of the real world. Thankfully there were some that were as nice as always and that was a Godsend.
Will I go to another one? Yes, but next time I’m fitting Boudicca blades to my wheels and carrying a football rattle........
This is Simi, thanks for reading.........