Tekkoshocon, Pittsburgh’s anime convention, has been going on since 2003 and 7 years later it’s grown to a medium-sized con with about 3,500 attendees. My first time going was in 2004, and over time you can definitely see how it’s grown. Since this is my last year in Pittsburgh before graduating, I figured that I had to go one last time, so I met up with four of my friends at the con and had a lot of fun over the weekend. The David Lawrence Convention Center (which you may remember from last year’s G20 summit) is a great venue, and there was plenty of room for multiple events, lots of panels, plus open space for people to hang out. So here’s a look at the con as I experienced it, with lots of photos and a recounting of some of the events.
While Tekkoshocon ran from Thursday through Sunday this year (the first time it’s been a 4-day con), I only attended from Friday afternoon onwards due to my class schedule. I put on my 0083-style EFSF uniform cosplay, which was a last minute adaptation since the grey BDU jacket for my intended 08th MS Team uniform still hasn’t come in. Thankfully at least one person recognized it! First thing I did after meeting up with two of my friends was go to the Dealers’ Room to scope out what I might want to buy. Generally I only buy small stuff on the first day while I scout out what I’ll pick up on the last day when sales me be going on. Checking out the Gundam and Macross models was a priority, though sadly there were no Macross kits and the majority of Gundam ones were from 00 and SEED. I did however spot and keep my eye on a master grade Gundam Mark II (Titans color) version 2 kit. Right next to it were also two cool figures of Isara and Alicia from Valkyria Chronicles. I also found and bought a Macross Frontier uranai fortune phone charm and got the SECRET PRIZE Sakura-Hime Azuma Bunsho Alto-hime charm and fortune. Score! The fortune was appropriately kabuki sounding, and the special tip said to take the charm with you to hanami (cherry blossom viewing) for extra luck. By the end of the con I’d keep coming back for more, getting a total of 6 with only one double. Thankfully no Brera.
You can’t buy just one, or four. Sheryl with the military hat is a 5/5 on all the fortune ratings (love, work, health, and money), oooh, take that Ranka!
After hanging around for a bit I went with three of my friends to the Learn to Improv panel, since it was hosted by a friend of one of my friends and recommended. While it started off rather slow, after a little while it became a lot of fun. Basically the two experienced improv comedy hosts would talk about a type of skit and tips for it, then work with 3-4 volunteers to act it out. They went over and helped act out a couple scenarios, and for the hell of it I decided to volunteer and did a 60/30/10/1 second anime scenario where the three actors had to relate the plot of an anime in 60 seconds, then 30, 10, and eventually 1 second. My friend was also picked, so she, one of the hosts and I had to act out Bleach. While I’d only seen the first three seasons, really that’s more than even necessary. Made a bunch of jokes about endless squad captains, characters never dying, episode count, etc. At one point my friend was running around (in her Chiyo in penguin outfit from the school festival episode of Azumanga Daioh) so I knelt down with her grabbing on my shoulder to imitate that one huge guy with the pink haired loli who rode around on his shoulder. For the 10 second one I just called out “episodes 1-50! episodes 51-100″ and down the line while the other two acted out the repetitive fighting scenes. While I wasn’t the best at it, the panel was still a lot of fun to watch and participate in.
Dating Game-style improv skit where the three contestants all have something strange about them and the bachelor has to figure it out, from later in the panel.
I had plans in the evening, so I left the con for a couple hours and then came back late that night in time for True Tales of Con Horror. The event is an 18+ age limit-restricted panel of con workers, voice actors, and other con guests that talk about amusing stories from their time at or working on conventions around the US, and since it’s 18+ they can speak freely and share stories of some hilarious incidents of con-going and con-running. While repeating the basics of the stories here wouldn’t do them justice, in short it was a HILARIOUS panel. The con president, the chief of public safety, Uncle Yo (a comedian), and voice actors including Greg Ayres and Tommy Yune all participated and it was a great time. Afterwards was the MST3K-ing of Demon Beast Invastion, an old hentai series, done by Uncle Yo. Really, really funny for the most part, though evening making fun of the show was brought down a bit by just how incredibly stupid the original material was.
True Tales of Con Horror. From left to right: Christopher Smith (VA), John Preger (head of public safety), Jim Gogol (Tekkoshocon president), Tommy Yune (VA), Derek Stephen Prince (VA), Greg Ayres (VA), and Uncle Yo (comedian.)
For Saturday I thought I’d reprise my Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei – Itoshiki-sensei costume from the year before last. The hakama and yukata fit fine, the noose around my neck wasn’t a bother, nor the glasses, however I always find wearing the wig to be a pain, not to mention keeping the hair swept to the side with gel for appropriate SHAFT-iness. Nonetheless I enjoy the show and manga so much that I really wanted to wear it again. Got to the con and played some board and card games for awhile with one of my friends and some people he knows, which were cool. Shadow Hunters was a really cool multiplayer board game that encourages plotting, something I always approve of. Gloom was a decent card game, though I preferred the former game. A lot of Yugioh seemed to be going on in the CCG/boardgames room, but there was also Go, a D&D group, Apples to Apples, Magic: The Gathering, and other games in there. Later on we went to the AMV Gameshow hosted by Uncle Yo. And if I hadn’t gotten the one preliminary question I didn’t know I could have gotten to play, heh. Three contestants were picked, they would watch an AMV and then get quizzed on the contents. Fun to watch, though one of the contestants was SOOOO awkward when the host talked to him, and even had the gall to say it was “painful” when the other two were clueless about a few questions. Luckily he lost and the winner got a pretty nice prize pack to take home with her.
The AMV Gameshow, hosted by Uncle Yo. I used my noose prop to pretend to hang myself as I sat down after getting my preliminary question wrong.
Next up was the Gundam: Through the Ages panel. Initially I wasn’t sure if there would be anything for me since it was an overview panel, but the host Dan Pencoske did an excellent job following the timeline of Gundam series, manga, model kit development, and numerous other elements of the franchise (with the often repeated refrain of “why? Because Bandai wants your money”.) Even for a long-time and hardcore fan of Gundam like me there were new things to learn. Discussion time was a bit short at the end, but I got to talk with him and one of his friends after the panel. Trying to be all journalist-like, I asked him some questions about the panel and his love of Gundam. He started out like many in the US with watching Gundam Wing on Toonami, and from there he moved into the UC sidestories, then Gundam X and has continued on for 10 years or so. He’s also developed quite an interest in the evolution of mecha from super robot shows, and pointed out that many of the thematic elements that would later appear in Gundam started showing up in Zambot III. He is a man of good taste, for his favorite characters are some of my own: Emma Sheen, Graham Aker (first season), and Patrick Colasour. Beyond Gundam he’s also a big fan of other series such as Macross, all stemming from the initial thrill of ‘wow! giant robots!.’ It was a lot of fun talking with Dan and his friend, and his friend put forth such an argument about the merits of Gundam Wing’s plot and characters that I was almost convinced that it wasn’t a total failure at its politics and philosophy. Almost convinced.
Dan: panel host and Gundam fan extraordinaire.
After a bit more wandering around and talking, I met up with friends and went to the 18+ Voice Actors After Dark panel, where a coin flip would decide whether a person who raised their hand could ask the voice actors anything, or be asked anything. While anything was allowed since it was an 18+ panel, I had hoped that it wouldn’t descend into complete and total sex jokes and questions. Unfortunately I was disappointed. While the questions did produce laughs, only one guy asked a completely voice-acting related question (funniest moment being a VA), which got some really funny replies. At the start of the panel the audience was made to pledge out loud that they wouldn’t repeat what was said, so as to allow future panels like this to take place, so no specifics. All the sex-related questions just got to be overdone. Seriously people, is there any more obvious way to communicate “I’m not getting any” than to make EVERYTHING about sex? Bah, maybe I’m just too much of a “too pure-pure boy” as Takako from Kannagi would say.
Unfortunately I was too tired to make it back to the con in time for Resident Evil: The Musical 2 (the first one last year was pretty great), so I decided to hunt my prey in the Dealers’ Room. After two days of casing the environs, sating my hunger only on Macross Frontier uranai, the time had come to strike. Sales and perhaps other deals were in the offing, and I circled the Gundam Mk II, inquiring again about the price, then picking up on other possible targets. A figure of Lunamaria Hawke in her ZAFT uniform was a good deal at $25, and there was a cool witch outfit Yuki Nagato as well. But there was also the previously mentioned Isara one as well. Deciding was hard, so in the meanwhile I took advantage of a 20% off sale on manga and picked up two volumes on Initial D, before enlisting the aid of one of my friends to help me decide. Eventually I was between either the Gundam Mk II or the Isara and Lunamaria figures. But I had a thought: maybe the guy at the stand with the Mk II and Isara would make a deal with me if I was willing to buy both. I told him that I really liked the Mk II, but that it was just a little expensive, so if he’d take a bit off the price I’d buy it and the Isara figure. Aff, well bargained and done! Got both for a good price.
The total con loot, plus a 2002 history of the Gundam franchise book that I forgot to put in the shot.
I could make a Durarara ED-style chain if I bought them all.
My second ever proper figure. Have to keep the apartment looking tastefully nerdy!
Afterwards, despite having only ever seen three episodes of it, I went with two of my friends to the Ouran High School Host Club panel, led by Vic Mignogna and Todd Haberkorn. The crowd was big and enthusiastic, and the voice actors proved to be as much fun as they were in their previous panels, giving out fun and funny answers to questions and even acting out a scene from Empire Strikes Back at one point. The panel started running over time, and we left then. There was the Mari Iijima concert, which I had been looking forward to ever since I discovered Macross this past half year or so, so we headed to that. Unfortunately the crowd wasn’t very big for it, probably because it was Sunday and also the Ouran panel and others were still really full. She commented asking where everyone was, which made me rage for a moment that the visual kei bands the night before had gotten such a huge attendance but the famous veteran with around three decades of experience didn’t fill half the room. But she gave a very good, pretty personal style performance for everyone there, and the crowd was enthusiastic. Lots of stuff from her newest album, plus two covers and the obligatory Ai Oboetemasu Ka with some narration and background in between each song. Personally I was hoping for Ai wa Nagareru, but I realize that Ai Oboetemasu Ka is the big hit. Soon afterwards was the closing ceremony for the con, though compared to last year’s huge troll about there not being enough attendance to keep the con going followed by the rickroll, the ending was rather low-key and quiet.
Mari Iijima singing Ai Oboetemasu Ka while playing the piano in place of the original pop background. Very damn cool for a new Macross fan like myself. The whole set was really good, though many of the songs sad as the theme of her newest album is unrequited love.
Most of the guests of honor and the con leaders at closing ceremonies.
Overall the con was great fun, though it went by really quickly compared to previous years. Going to the different panels and events, interacting with other fans, seeing people’s cosplay costumes, and the cool stuff in the dealers’ room and artists’ alley is quite an experience. While I think that this may be my last con since I’m going to be graduating and will probably have increasing difficulty reconciling the extreme cosplay-wearing, con-going end of my ‘otaku’ nature with my ‘executive’ serious business international relations aspect as time goes on, it was a good one to go out on. There might be a chance that I’ll check out one of the huge ones like Otakon some day, but this is probably it. When I talked to some of the more veteran congoers, like Charles, one of the Kuroshitsuji cosplayers (Sebastian), it sounds like Tekkoshocon is only a fraction of the size of the biggest few cons. All in all it’s been a good run, going in 2004, 2005, 2008, 2009, and 2010 was a blast and I’ve really seen the con grow and change for the better over time. The first one I went to was pretty small in the rooms of a fairly small hotel, then moving to a larger hotel, then ExpoMart (my least favorite location) and finally to the David Lawrence Convention Center, a venue which really does the con justice. Panels and guests have grown steadily over the years, as has the attendance. Congoers have seem to have shifted to slightly more high school students last year, though this year it seems like the majority has swung back to the original college and older attendees, by a narrow margin (though I don’t have any legit statistics on this, just my impression between last year and this year.) Overall a great weekend, my thanks to everyone who ran the con, to the guests and panel leaders, and to my fellow fans for making it what it was.
Cosplay Pictures (click for full resolution)
Last two (apologies for the formatting) are my first and third day EFSF pilot uniform, Itoshiki-sensei on the second day as I played a quick round of DDR. Not playing DDR in a year has left me in despair! Last year I went as America from Hetalia, and my very first year I cosplayed Naota from FLCL (regular and airsoft fight episode versions.)