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Anime convention 0

I’m Starving (Or How Anime Weekend Atlanta Left Me Wanting More): Chapter 2

Chapter 1

Chapter 2:
Visual Novels (Part 2)

I arrived at my hotel.  I went over to my table where my crew’s bottles of liquor and mixer were.  I took two shots of my friend’s E&J (sorry Rath!). After that, I grabbed a glass and specific bottles and mixers: Vodka, Captain Morgan Apple Smash, Midori, Pineapple Juice, and Sprite.  One-by-one, I pour the liquids in the glass. Thanks to the efforts of the Apple Smash and Midori, the drink gave off a lovely green color. Perfect.

Just Monika  I said to myself.

Just Monika is a cocktail I created for a party that I was going to throw at another hotel I had reversed  (which was canceled due to unforeseen events).  Initially, I was going to debut it at the party to celebrate DDLC’s first anniversary, but shit happened and I decided to do it for a friend’s party I was bartending for.  I started sipping on it, letting the alcohol enhance my dark side and get me further in my zone (more on the dark side and “the zone” at the end of the chapter)

I hopped in the cold shower (cold showers help me stay awake when I’m tired) and kept Saiyan Pride on repeat. All my focus was on being the best genderswap Monika I could be (and in the world). I want people to recognize me.  I want racist DDLC cosplayers to be mad at me for being a black man cosplayer a white/Asian character. I wanted to install fear in any other males doing a genderswap DDLC cosplay at the con.  My aim isn’t to compete with other Monika cosplayers: Most are either women or dudes wearing skirts. I want(ed) to stand out (which I will explain in about five paragraphs below)
(Also, not gonna lie: There was a Monika cosplayer – who knew she had an ass and wasn’t shy about showing it off in a very short skirt who walked past me as I was returning to my hotel.  I lowkey was thinking of shooting my shot with her in my cosplay if I saw her again.

Thank God for Atlanta.
Thank God for thick women.)

shrug_monika.png

 

I got out of the shower, put on my Monika cosplay, and hit the con floor.  And of fucking course, my legendary bad luck in cosplay had to hit me hard.  I was the only Monika on the con floor.  Awesome! But there weren’t any other DDLC cosplayers about. This always happen to me: Whenever I decide to put on a cosplay from a fandom, nobody is around.  But when I am in not in cosplay it’s like everyone wants to wear their shit (hell, back in 2016 at Anime St. Louis, there was about 3-5 Umineko: When They Cry cosplayers in a group; a year where I decided to not wear my Goat Butler cosplayer, but I digress).

Shit.
Maybe I should do my cosplays in the morning instead of in the late afternoon/night.

Not only that, nobody knew who I was cosplaying as or from. I had this problem at Anime Expo when I first did my Monika cosplay and I was doing it solo.  I figured that the reason why I wasn’t being noticed was that I didn’t have her ribbon. To fix that mistake I went ahead and ordered one on Amazon for AWA…expect it was small as hell and wasn’t the size of Monika’s gigantic bow.  Now that I think about it, I think I might just forego the hair ribbon and get a white headband without a bow and wrap it around the ponytail of my wig (imagine Ryu’s white headband from the Street Fighter Alpha/Zero series). Plus, I refused to wear a skirt for reasons.

The thing about these types of cosplay as a male is that every male fucking wears a skirt. If I was to wear one, I would be no different.  Sure, I have my race as an advantage, but that is something I was born with that I can’t control: easy mode. I rather work smarter and harder to be different. I much rather have a blazer tailored made to fit my body type than to get a generic DDLC school blazer off some cosplay site.

I also am not a fan of competition.  There are more female Monika cosplayers than male.  I can’t compete against them: they’ll win. The average male Monika cosplayer wears a skirt as previously mentioned.  Again, won’t compete against that.  I rather dominate by taking a different route; making you Monika cosplayers study my style once I master that cosplay and get in known on a global scale.

You male Monika cosplayers can wear a skirt and be like every other males.
You guys can get your Monika cosplay outfits off ebay and Amazon.
I’m going to stand out – like Monika herself.

(My version of Monika is inspired by the Business Casual fashion look, so that’s why I wear jeans instead of a skirt. The example pictured below):

Jeans-should-be-avoided-unless-approved-by-management.jpg
What my Monika cosplay is based off

 

 

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My Monika cosplay.  I really need a brown beard dye  and wig freeze spray lmfao

After being disappointed that nobody knew who I was cosplaying as, I headed back to my room out of discouragement (plus, a friend of mines told me he could smell the alcohol on my breath [I had taken more shots with a friend in his room prior] and advise me to get rid of it, rest up, and sober up.  Thank you, John, for being real), a Froppy-Chan (My Hero Academia) cosplayer along with two of her male friends spotted me. “Are you Monika?” she said with a smile. I took off my sunglasses to make eye contact with her, replied with a smile, and said “yes”. We started talking about the game, the themes of it, and our favorite characters – although short because I was drunk as hell.

Man, she was cute. Maybe if I wasn’t drunk I could have more of a deeper conversation with her about the game’s themes. Maybe shoot my shot with her and make her male friends jealous at and hate on me.

Is it horrible for me to be inspired to sober up in order to either take somebody’s else woman or make her male friends mad at me cuz we were vibing a little bit? Yes. But it did awaken something deep inside me: What if I just not use a strong substance like liquor and have fun cosplaying as Monika and talk to women naturally who know the character?  Even if I don’t get “physical activities” at the end, I still had done these things:

1. I made somebody happy that I was cosplaying as their favorite character and that would have brightened their day.
2. I could have made a female friend that was based on mutual, platonic interests and learn what makes women click and get advice on women by women.
3. It’ll be on some self-improvement shit. One Percent Better.

Maintaining my smile, I held my head up high and marched back to my room to recover and freshen up for the night. Even if one stranger knew who I was cosplaying as; that was it for me. Well, not really.  I wanted more people to know me for my cosplay. It was motivation for me to keep doing it. Keep improving.  Find flaws and errors in my cosplay and work on them.  Always seeking to better myself.

This time around, I was going to do and act better.  Don’t you fucking dare drink any liquor tonight, Benjamin.  You don’t need that shit to talk to women or anyone else. Be you even if you’re cosplaying tonight.

Let me tell you guys something: This worked in my favor.  More on that in a later chapter.

Way later in the night, I was walking around in my Monika cosplay, scanning the scene after the late night parties ended and the “secret panel” proved to be a bit boring for me without my friends around  (who had retired to the hotel after a few conflicts and bullshit among us). I am about to leave when I hear a girl with a few male friends say “Hey Monika, come over here!” I walked over to her direction and she was all smiles and giddily about seeing a Monika cosplayer.

We started talking about DDLC and about our favorite characters.  I remember her saying like how she likes Monika because of how it looks like she sticks her ass out when she talks to you (in her sprite) and how she wanted to select Monika but she didn’t have a  route.  I wanted to chop up some game with and spit but I didn’t proceed for a few reasons:

1. She looked underage. Which, now that I think about it at the time of this writing, she probably wasn’t; Given her and her crew were sitting outside the 18+ secret panel room (and the area the blocked off for anyone under 18) and they had beers. I blame myself for being an idiot who didn’t take a power nap to regain my mental focus after being up for 17+ hours with only 5-6 hours of sleep the night prior.

  1. She had about three guys with her. It’s not that I’m scared of any dudes around their female friend(s), but given my mental fatigue, there was no way I could have an advantage for myself to spit game with her and beat out the competition (this is going to sound pretty fucked up but trust me; usually if a woman has a few dudes around her, they’re trying to get in her pants. This isn’t always true, however).

Oh well.  A lesson that I had to learn to apply in the future (but at least I’ve gotten over my fears of talking to women and  I accepted the fact I don’t need liquor to talk to them and be the best version of myself when I’m interacting with them)


Going back to the visual novel panel, I remember Chris saying how the Fate series completely dominated the visual novel anime genre (as it is the most popular VN anime of all time with how strong it’s going). Which is funny, because last year, I was attending a panel ran by Kana Ueda – the voice actress for Rin Tohsaka from the fate series.  She talked about how for her, attending Anime Weekend Atlanta with her fellow voice actors and reuniting with a veteran Japanese voice who was once her mentor was “fate” (for them meeting there).  Hearing Chris words on the VN scene, seeing people who still have a passion for it, and cosplaying as Monika, I couldn’t help but reflect on Ueda’s statement on fate.

Perhaps it was fate for me to go to that visual novel panel, network with him (being unaware that of his work Anime News Network), talking to people about how visual novels made them happy and being upset that the genre is on the decline.  Was it fate that I saw that Hanyuu cosplayer after having two When They Cry related dreams?  I guess.  Did fate lead me to that Floppy-chan and that girl who was happy that I was cosplaying as Monika and made me want to do better with it and inspired me to not throw in the towel? Who knows?

As I am finishing this chapter out, I am reminded of a Facebook post I made about how I remember when the fate series was a bit of an obscure VN series that was popular in Japan, but didn’t get much traction in the Western otaku market beyond your hardcore VN fans.  This wasn’t on some hipster, “I knew about the series before it was popular” shit: It was me being in awe that a game made by people of humble background reached heights that nobody could imagine for the genre or in anime fandom in general.

Some dumbass accused me of being a hipster and stated that “nobody gives a fuck about shitty visual novels”. I laughed. A week later, I was in Los Angeles for Anime Expo.  I was walking around the Downtown area where my eyes met this massive Fate/Grand Order poster hanging over a bank.  I was with my friend (whom I told him about the dumbass saying that bullshit) and we laughed.  I wanted to post a picture I took of the poster and replied to his comment saying If nobody gave a fuck about shitty visual novels why they got this poster out here?  on some petty shit.

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To the dumbass who said that here’s something for you:

gohan_chill!.png

My unforgiving pettiness aside,  I really do hope the visual novel genre does make a comeback.  I’ll do more cosplays from it.  Hell, even if it doesn’t, I’ll keep doing it  – no matter what.

 

Continued in Chapter 3.

NOTES:

In the book Relentless by Tim Grover, Tim speaks on two accepts of the human’s psyche: “The Zone” and “The Dark Side”.  The Zone is the dark, quiet lonely place within your mind.  You shut everything in the world out to be in your own. It’s a  calm, relaxing, and focused place.

The Dark Side is that: The darkness part of your mind where only you know your deepest, true desires – your true self (Persona lol). Rather than let your dark side control and ultimately – destroy you – you control it. You use the darkest parts of your personality to push yourself towards you end goal(s).

JUST MONIKA COCKTAIL:

1oz Light Rum
2oz Midori
1oz Captain Morgan Apple Smash
4oz pineapple juice
Top with Sprite

Combine Ingredients sans Sprite in a shaker. Shake vigorously. Pour mixture in a Collins glass.  Top with sprite. You can also rock the ingredinets with sprite and then pour the mixture into a Collins glass.

(The only reason why I used vodka in this story because my dumbass left my light rum in a homeboy’s hotel room the night before)

Business Casual image source:
https://www.gentlemansgazette.com/business-casual-men-attire/

Anime convention 4

I’m Starving (Or How Anime Weekend Atlanta Left Me Wanting More): Chapter 1

Chapter 1

Visual Novels (Part 1)

 

Anime Weekend Atlanta (AWA) left me starving. Starving for more.  More networking opportunity. More ways to get my name out there. More ways to improve myself. On the final day of the convention, my crew and I went to smoke a blunt on our hotel’s garage parking rooftop before leaving our city for an eight-hour trip back home to St. Louis.  As we smoked, we spoke about our successes and “failures”. Wins and losses.  Triumphs and disappointments.  Out of my team, I had the most wins; since I set my sights to hit the majority of my goals (such as making money bartending at a friend’s room party, networking with people within the industry, etc.).

They congratulated me for success and were happy for me.
But I wasn’t.

Sure, I hit a few goals. I went out and did what I was supposed to do build my brand. You’re not supposed to be praised for doing your job like everyone else.  I wasn’t happy that I didn’t do more. I was disappointed at myself for allowing myself to get sidetracked and play myself. However, these disappointments, combined with my success started to fire me up.   Disappointment turned into desire.  Desire turned into drive.  Drive turned into action and planning.

For once in my life, I was excited to go back home after a vacation.  I needed to go back so I could plan out the next year con season, write about my adventures. And of course, work my ass off for the next con season and come back completely dominating it.

Anime Weekend Atlanta left me starving.


On Friday, I went to a panel that caught my attention weeks prior: “Whatever Happened to Visual Novel Anime?”.  I have a slight interest in the genre and was wondering why visual novels and anime based on the niche have been on the decline for the past 3-7 years.  I went; seeking knowledge from somebody who was much wiser than myself.

The panel started.  The host introduced himself, spoke about his passion for visual novels ,and revealed an amazing fact about himself: The panelist – Chris Adamson  –  is a writer  for Anime News Network.

I had to network with him; no matter what.

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Note to self: Let the camera autofocus before snapping a pic.

 

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I was in awe by the deep knowledge Chris dropped on us about the history of visual novels anime and why they were not as popular as they were back in the 2000s. The answers were “simple”, yet layered with complex facts.  The facts included the following: the lack of effort and innovation from VN creators. Long-time fans losing interest. Animators struggling to add every minor detail form the visual novels into the anime version. There were also the lack of sales of products relating to the anime and visual novels.

Chris broke down every little detail with graphs, pictures, videos, audio, cited sources, sales figures, you name it.  He was armed and prepared to attack us with knowledge and education. Clearly, he studied this genre with depth.  Clearly, he was passionate about visual novels and wants it to see it recover from its slump.

At the end of the panel, he left the floor open for questions.  I shoot my hand up high in the air before anyone else (if you’re ain’t first your last) and asked him this question:

Do you think there will a renaissance of visual novels and anime based on anime, and if they the VN industry does crash, do you see it rising from its ashes?

I’ve since forgotten most of Chris’s reply (thanks to smoking weed all weekend and being an idiot for not recording the panel), but he brought up an interesting point: He does believe that visual novels could come back, thanks to the success of the American visual novel Doki Doki Literature Club (DDLC) with its innovating meta-narrative (he even suggests that a DDLC anime could work through streaming services with Monika going through your watch history, fucking with the audio/video, etc.). Chris also mentioned that with more Americans entering the VN fray that could lead to the niche revival from a Western’s standpoint.

After the panel, I was completely floored and astonished by his wisdom.  I had to network with him.  Deep down in me, there was a fire building up.  The fire of craving more knowledge. There were other guys with me who also had that fire in them. Out of the 20-30 people in attendance, only five of us stay after the panel (to speak with Chris).  Two were working on their own visual novels, two were fans of the genre and also hungry for more knowledge, and of course, me; who was moved by this.

As we were finishing talking, a Yuri and Natsuki (DDLC) cosplayers walked past us. We all smiled as we were just talking about DDLC earlier.  I smiled even harder; as it got me excited to rock my Monika genderswap cosplay the next morning on Day 3.

And by the next morning, I mean I decided to have shots of rum for breakfast and plotted to wear my “No Coonin’!” shirt to The People of Color (I fucking hate how black people us that term as a black man) Photoshoot in hopes of offending any self-hating Uncle Toms/Coons/Nergo Bed Wench nigga nerds with it at the shoot instead of cosplaying as Monika at the shoot.

Which,  said plot was used against me.

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Coon train is coming!

I arrived at the shoot. Since it was a multi-media shoot, the host had people take group photos by genre (movies, anime, comics, etc.). Of course, you had cosplayers from comics, video games, and anime. Mainstream shit.   However, nobody was cosplaying from any visual novels series (a testament of the decline of interest towards visual novels).  I was sad and angry. Sad because there aren’t many Black nerds who are into visual novels.  Angry at myself for deciding to (unsuccessfully) troll people with my shirt and not going to the shoot with wearing my Monika cosplay.

This is me being utterly arrogant, but I don’t give a shit: If I would have gone with that Monika cosplay, I would have been the only Black cosplayer in that group doing a visual novel character cosplay.  Is Doki Doki Literature Club a normie tier meme visual novel?  Yes.  But it’s still a visual novel.  And I would have earned that honor and respect of doing something out of the norm. A black man. Doing a gendswap cosplay. Of a visual novel character. A piece of media which black people don’t really fuck with.

I could have spoken good game about the visual novel niche and get my fellow Black nerds hip on it.  I could have introduced people who never played a VN before into a new world; which in turn could have gotten people into playing them.

But I’m a fucking idiot.

(By the way, there’s going to be more of my arrogance later.  Please leave if you’re offended by people having pride in themselves and their passion).

 

 

I left the POC shoot and decided to take a few pics inside the convention center.   As I’m wandering around I spot a black woman wearing a shrine maiden outfit.  Red pants, disconnected sleeves, white top, and purple hair.  For a split second, I thought she was cosplaying as the PC98 era Reimu from Touhou (Highly Responsive to Prayers, Lotus Land Story, etc.) and I was smiling from ear-to-ear at the “fact” that there was a black woman cosplaying as the old-school version of Red Sanae.

Upon further inspection, she wasn’t wearing Reimu’s trademark red bow, but rather black horns with cracks in them.

Wait, is she cosplaying as Hanyuu from Higurashi I asked myself.

I poked her on her shoulder and asked.  She smiled and I started to geeked out.   Somebody still has love for Higurashi and is cosplaying at the con; (to my knowledge) she was the only Higurashi cosplayer at the con. Either way, I was just fucking happy to see somebody cosplay as a character from one of my favorite visual novel anime series.

I took her picture of course and told her that her cosplay was lovely.  My only regret is that I didn’t tell her  I appreciate her for cosplay as a Higurashi character and that it made me want to do a When They Cry cosplay again (I used to cosplay as Goat Butler from Umineko for a while).  I should had left my friends behind and let them go back to the hotel while I chopped up some game with the woman.

It’s funny because days prior to AWA, I had two When They Cry related dreams.   The first dream was of me at Anime Weekend Atlanta.  I was cosplaying as a genderswap Bernkastel, but I got kicked out from the con for being too drunk  (Bernkastel drinks wine and gets drunk so I had to play the role you know even in my dreams),  not wearing my badge, and telling con staff that I don’t give a fuck about having a badge.

The second one was of me at Anime Expo. I was wearing a way better version of my Goat Bulter cosplay. As I was walking out and about there was a group of Umineko cosplayers. A Bernkastel cosplayer spotted me and asked if I wanted to join them for a few photos, which I agreed to.

And then I woked up.

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The Hanyuu cosplayer.
Back to reality.  I marched back to my hotel.  I started listening to an interview with Tim Grover (author of Relentless, the trainer of Basketball icons such as Kobe Byrant, Dwayne Wade, and  Micheal Jordan). I was trying to think of a plan as I prep for my Monika cosplay.  I was overanalyzing and overthinking.  I remember in the first chapter of  Relentless Grover stated the best don’t think,

They act. On instinct.  And let their instincts do the work.

From that thought, I turned off the interview and started to listen to Saiyan Pride from Dragon Ball Super on repeat.  The echoing piano notes.  The percussion building up to the arrival the horns, strings, and bells.  I was entering my Zone.  I was inviting my Dark Side to do the work. Tunnel vision and laser focus.

I wasn’t going to allow myself to fuck up further.

I’m going to win. I said to myself.

(Continued in Chapter 2)

WHERE I COPPED THE “No Coonin’!” SHIRT:
https://shop.spreadshirt.com/theunapologeticblackman/