If you’re sixteen years old, and have been brutally socially rejected from your respective small-town Florida high school; have no fear. There’s a place you can go. And, we promise, you won’t be the biggest freak, or tool, or weirdo, or creep. It’s called Anime Supercon, and there are rooms full of teenagers just like you.
You’ll see them. They’ll be dressed in costumes crafted to look like big-eyed Japanese children, mythical furry animals, or ninjas (Halloween or not). They’ll be crouched intensely over a Dungeons-and-Dragons-style card game, or engaged in a die-hard sparing match, using samurai swords made of foam.
But there’s a catch: All that joy happens but once a year in Miami. This weekend, self-proclaimed “misfits,” and “nerds” of the pubescent persuasion headed to the conference at the downtown Miami Hilton, where we got briefed on what’s so great about low-budget, melodramatic, Japanese animations.
A tubby, sheepish kid named JP -- who looked like he should have been cast in The Goonies -- explained that, to him, Anime is like drugs. “It’s an escape,” he says. “It’s the ultimate fantasy.” His buddy Matt, a tall, glow-in-the-dark-bracelet-touting 16-year-old broke it down this way: “I get panic attacks at school,” he says. “A panic attack is when you can’t breath and you think you might die.” But, among anime-lovers, he says, everybody else is so weird, he doesn’t feel like an outcast. (Nerd power!)
He pulled up his mask, and with a serious expression, offered us a word of warning.
“Just watch out for the furries,” he says, nodding toward an older girl in a rabbit costume.
“Yeah,” he says. “They dress like animals and mate with each other.”
“Whoa. In costume? Don’t they get hot?”
“Probably.” His eyes don’t move from the glow stick he’s playing with. “Most of us think it’s weird. Hentai is better.”
“Yeah, anime porn.”
The conversation went on like that for another fifteen minutes or so -- the way we suspect small talk on Jupiter might sound --with every other word calling for a definition, or supernatural explanation. Then, as we were getting ready to leave, he offered his foam sword as a sort of “I-like-you” gesture. We blushed.
“Try it,” he says. “Hit me as hard as you can.”
We whapped him in the chest. Hard.
“Ouch!” he says, looking impressed. “Niiice hit.”
We gave him back the sword and left smiling -- because we, like totally, fit in.