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.
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.
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.
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: