As a regular on the convention circuit, I was expecting the same old things at the London Film and Comic Con, but as I quickly learned sci-fi fans are a different kind of otaku. The most striking presence were surprisingly not the alien cosplayers, who looked like they had walked straight off the set of Stargate but the huge number of grownups wearing, ‘I am Sylar’ t-shirts with one mission in mind: autograph hunting. Add some fairytale princesses, Transformers girls turned robots and FMA cosplaying DDR champs and the day was packed with a varied mix of fans and novelty fun.
Convention reporting is a bit of an endurance test, there is a lot of standing around and observing, but some of the more impromptu moments happened by chance. While waiting to interview Vic Mignogna, I had a quick chat with fellow voice actor, Spike Spencer, on the ups and downs of being Shinji from Neon Genesis Evangelion. He said:
“It was one of my favourite roles. It’s a love/hate relationship because it was a difficult role to do but it was a good acting role to play. I really enjoyed doing it but it was difficult to do because he’s nothing like me. He is a little girly boy who saves the world in a bio-mechanical friggin’ robot and to be known as that character as the pre-dominant character that I have done, is kinda a pain in the butt! People don’t realise I do other voices and different characters.”
This prompted me to enquire as to who he thinks he is really most like. Spike went on to say:
“I’m more like the psycho, the crazy one’s who do all kinds of crazy stuff. Who would be like me? I’d say Go in PreTears is a little closer to me. Maybe Little Boy in Spriggan, you know, without all the killing (laughs manically) I don’t know, I’m nothing like the little girly boys myself, which is weird.”
Despite what he says about Shinji, Spike has recently revived the role and completed Eva 1.0 along with a part in Code Geass. I asked Spike about who he played in Geass and in a somewhat comical moment he turned around to look at a sheet of paper stuck to the wall, which lists some of the characters he has played as a reminder, quickly replying, ‘Rolo.’
Apart from the signings, mixed in with the sci fi sellers were anime and manga stalls, not on the same scale as the London MCM expo, but Pocky was in abundant supply, along with melonpans and yakisoba style sandwiches courtesy of the Japan Centre. Other delights included the manga drawing workshops and the DDR machines which were promptly hijacked by alchemists. Later on in the day, the anime cosplayers huddled outside the venue, doing that Haruhi dance, that you know will end up on You Tube before the day is out. But as this was a sci-fi expo, the sci-fi fans did look on with bemusement wondering who the heck was this Haruhi chick anyway? When you hang around with cosplay kids as often as I have, all this passes of as somewhat normal. I kind of forgot that there are people who don’t even know about Naruto.
While queues of fans lined up to meet stars of yesteryears small screen, a number took a much more cheeky approach. And hey, if you can’t meet the stars why not have your picture taken with a life sized cardboard cut out. On numerous occasions, I spotted wide-grinned sci-fi fans posing with a Darth Vader cut out, flashing a remarkably cheesy peace sign. By the exit, I saw two gun-toting sci-fi cosplayers contemplate that normal convention dilemma – where to get more cash. His friend murmured by the gates, “Are you crazy? You really think I’m going to go on the high street with two (fake) guns.” Hence the long queue for the one NatWest cashpoint I saw within the grounds of the complex.
It was a busy day, but it was interesting to see two different kinds of otaku. Anyone who has seen Genshiken will know the anime fans dilemma when faced by all sorts of merchandise. What do you buy? The answer is well… everything! Convention goers left with bags brimming with goodies. Jovial autograph hunters cheering after getting that long awaited signature, which is promptly followed by the challenge of keeping prints smudge free. Whether it’s intricate Gundam figures or Star Wars robots, the two fan cultures are surprisingly similar. But sci-fi just like anime creates wonderful worlds beyond our imaginations. Towards the end of the day, I spotted a Heroes fan picking up a volume of the Death Note manga. He asked the stall holder what the book was about. I stood there quietly smiling. As he left with the book in his hands, he had no idea about the world waiting just in front of him. After all, when you take one step beyond the looking glass, there is no turning back.