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Matsuricon 2015: I Want to Go to the Festival!

... and dance before the prince? Nah, I'll dance after him. It's okay.

The Festival Row

The Festival Row

Matsuricon 2015 took place at the Hyatt Regency in Columbus, OH and the Greater Columbus Convention Center August 14-16. The convention’s name comes from matsuri, the Japanese word for festival or holiday. The theme for this year’s Matsuricon was “Back to Festival,” and I could not resist a good Into the Woods joke. I should have cosplayed Cinderella!

For their tenth year as a convention, they had an area called Festival Row, which was created to resemble a Japanese street festival, with booths for games and cultural arts. One booth was set up for Ikebana, the Japanese art of flower arrangement, another for origami, and others for various games and charity donations. This area was in addition to the regular Artist Alley, Vendor Hall, and panel rooms.

I attended a panel on Saturday at 1pm called, “Are You a REAL Nerd Girl?” I was drawn to the panel because the description read:

“In a world where men are no longer the majority of cosplayers, a new social trend has arrived! “fake” gamer girls. Join me in an adventure to debunk this ridiculous assumption, and find out if you’re a “REAL” gamer girl with our almost-a-little-bit accurate test, using questions from actual basement dwellers!”

I wanted to know if it would be like the “Men in Comics” panel from Indy PopCon – conducted as a satire and pointedly hilarious. The idea was great, and the execution, while not as polished as the panelists from PopCon, was good. I do worry a bit about the “basement dwellers” line – it seems a little bit unnecessarily pointed – I know some people, male and female, who live in basements, who are nothing like the stereotype. ;-) The panel was derailed by technical difficulties (the powerpoint did not work), which made it harder for the panelists to stay in character in their satire, but I feel that given the circumstances, they did an admirable job. There were a few times when I wasn’t sure that the entire audience, especially some who came in after the panel was in progress, understood that it was satire, but overall, the panel did its job of calling out societal expectations of women and highlighting how difficult that line of “acceptable” behavior can be to walk.

Some examples:

  • “Women are a product.”
  • Makeup = “false advertising”
  • Panelist asked for the “meanest person” present to define a nerd girl. One answer she got:
    • “Anything a boy thinks.”
    • Kanye West.
  • “Cosplaynious is the god of disappointing your parents.”
  • Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. If you show tits, you’re a whore, if you don’t, you’re a prude.
  • “This panel is satire! Even if people don’t get it … real nerd girls understand satire!”
  • “I need feminism so waifus get the same respect as real women!”
  • Dating advice: “Well, there’s this website with these body pillows …”
  • “Name three other animes besides King of the Hill and SpongeBob!”
    • Audience members called out, “Avatar! Simpsons!” and other non-anime shows, keeping in the spirit of the satire panel, and it was pretty funny. Some guy did leave because he seemed to think the panelists really thought that, but he came in late and I don’t think he was paying much attention.
  • “Do we have anyone here who is, like, eight years old? There’s the door!”(The panel was rated T for teen)
  • At one point, a panelist asked if there was anyone in the audience who was offended by cussing, and one guy said that he was, but he was clearly not serious. She then said, “Well, there’s the door! Who’s going to vouch for this guy if he reports us? No one? Ok!” It was pretty funny, and the “heckler” was really just playing along, so it was fairly entertaining.
  • You can be a nerd about anything. Someone in audience called out, “Gardening!” The panelist shook her head and said, “No one likes that.”
  • At the end, the panelists gave serious advice: How to be a real nerd girl? “Be yourself. Except for you.” (points at a random audience member. “And unless you can be Batman. Be Batman if you can be Batman.”

I thought that given the disruption of the technical issues, they did a good job, and the end message was the best, most important part.

A Steven's Guide to the Universe Panel, Matsuricon 2015

A Steven’s Guide to the Universe Panel, Matsuricon 2015

I also attended the “A Steven’s Guide to the Universe” panel, where radio personality Dennis Daniel filled the panel room with con-goers eager to talk about Steven Universe. I attended the panel because Steven Universe is really popular with cosplayers right now, and because I’ve meant to watch it for a long time and haven’t had time to get into it yet. I thought that attending a panel on it might get me excited enough to take the viewing plunge. It did. The panel was entertaining from the very beginning. Daniel came dressed as Steven and stayed in character for a lot of the panel. He asked for any audience members who were cosplaying characters from the show to volunteer to help him out, and got a Garnet, Pearl, and Amethyst to come up front and share the panelist table with him. The cosplayers were, I was told after the panel, truly randomly chosen, but you would never have guessed it from the grace and confidence they exuded. They were delightfully in-character along with Daniel, especially the Amethyst cosplayer. That girl had personality for days!

The panel addressed the show, introduced the characters, referenced the extensive online fandom, and included audience singalongs of the popular music from the show. The panelist’s enthusiasm for the show was infectious, and the surprise panelists and audience alike ended up getting a lot more out of the panel than anyone would have guessed. He would ask each panelist questions, which sometimes were to be answered in character and sometimes not, and it worked out really well.

  • Daniel: Why do you think Garnet is so cool?
    Garnet cosplayer: How calm and collected she is. Finding out she’s a fusion.
  • Daniel: Why do you like Amethyst?
    Amethyst cosplayer: I relate to her on a spiritual level. (She went on to explain that Amethyst inspires her to have confidence and that cosplaying a character like Amethyst helped boost her confidence.)
  • Daniel: Why is Pearl so fascinating?
    Pearl cosplayer:  So many levels, so much to her. Aspects of love and caring and relationships …
  • Greg: “My dad is not a phase!” (In character as Steven)
  • Rose: “I bet she was really great.” (In character as Steven)
  • Played Greg’s “Let Me Drive My Van Into Your Heart” song. Audience singalong.
  • Addressed the fandom questions regarding the possible same-sex relationships normalized by the show. Explained how the gems are not gender-based, but brought up The Legend of Korra and how the same-sex relationship in that show is definitely canon. Discussed how shows like Korra and Steven Universe that normalize same-sex relationships are important and hopes for more development of the show’s relationships in the future. “Everyone being represented is important.”
  • Pearl and Rose’s bond: His theory is that she is one of many Pearls, possibly a defective Pearl, and that she was likely treated badly on the homeworld.
  • We like that the characters have problems because that makes them relatable – we get jealous, make mistakes, etc. and so do they.
  • Rose Quartz cosplayer leaves panel: “I lost my mom again!” in his Steven voice.
  • “I love that Pearl is so bitter. If this is romantic love, someone stole her lady! People can relate to the desire to hate on the ex of an ex.”
  • Two Jaspers and a Peridot cosplayer in the audience: Garnet cosplayer on panel says, “Quit hiding, you clod.”
  • Rise of the Gemsonas: Fans of SU are getting creative.
  • Audience singalong: “Stronger Than You.”
  • Steven’s final thoughts: “It’s a big task when the Universe is in your name!”

After the panel, Daniel took a selfie with the attendees of the panel and took pics with the cosplayers from the panel.

The Gems and Steven, after the panel.

The Gems and Steven, after the panel.

The third panel I attended was “How to (Not) Conquer the World 80s Cartoon Villain Style.” It was run by Matt Lauffer and Alex McClean.

The panelists, Matt Lauffer and Alex McClean.

The panelists, Matt Lauffer and Alex McClean.

The antics of Skeletor, Cobra Commander, Hordak, Prince Lotor, Megatron, etc. were examined to hilarious effect. Some of the best things I learned during this panel:

  • Cobra Commander once tried to shoot G.I. Joes into space in a nightclub.
  • Cobra Commander hid rockets in a restaurant? And … people rode them? What the -?

    Someone help me. Is this real? Did they ... ride the red rocket? Lord.

    Someone help me. Is this real? Did they … ride the red rocket? Lord.

  • Prince Lotor from Voltron tried to invade the world with robo-frogs.

    Space robot tadpoles. Really.

    Space robot tadpoles. Really.

  • There was a My Little Pony character named Night Shade who was based on Michael Jackson. For serious.

    Is not best pony.

    Is not best pony.

  • In Robotech, the Invid created dinosaurs to observe evolution. To be fair, Jurassic Park(s) hadn’t happened yet, so this probably seemed like a good idea at the time?
  • Hordak from She-Ra created a death zeppelin, stole She-Ra’s voice, used a shrinking potion, and tried to give Swiftwind to Horde Prime as a birthday present. Because birthdays are a big deal when you’re a planetary despot.
  • Skeletor from He-Man used a mustache as a disguise to get into the castle. A. Mustache.
Skeletor ... I mustache you a question!

Skeletor … I mustache you a question!

  • Skeletor also turned Prince Adam invisible … so he could kidnap him? How is that helpful?
  • Megatron from Transformers tried to turn Optimus Prime into smaller robots.
  • Megatron also tried to hypnotize people at a dance club. Because the 80’s.

    ... 'cause your friends don't dance and if they don't dance, well, they're no friends of mine!

    … ’cause your friends don’t dance and if they don’t dance, well, they’re no friends of mine!

  • Megatron also tried to carve his face into the moon and melt the ice caps. Ahead of the global warming curve, that one!

This panel was highly enjoyable and pretty hilarious. I mean, I love a good villain, and Skeletor has always had a special place in my heart. It’s okay, guy. At least you tried!

He's not a quitter, that one!

He’s not a quitter, that one!

This brings me to the final part of my Matsuricon coverage – the cosplay! Lots of great cosplay this year:

Bat2

These guys looked so cool that I saw them going down an escalator while I was going up, and I turned around and went down to go after them for a photo!

Kikyo and Kagome

Reincarnation and mortal enemies aside, Kikyo and Kagome from Inuyasha totally hung out at Matsuricon!

Royalty

She’s royal. So royal. So royal that Lorde would probably sing about it. :-)

Nightvale OC

Welcome to Nightvale original character cosplay.

necromancer daycare

Necromancer Daycare. Nice.

steven and pearl

Steven Universe!

rogue and gambit

Me with a really great Rogue and Gambit!

Gurren Lagann

At least one of them is cosplaying from Gurren Lagann, but I’m not sure on the others.

Princesses

You can find more of these fabulous ladies’ Cinderella and Fairy Godmother cosplay at: http://intothemirroronthefloor.tumblr.com/

twisted aurora

Twisted Aurora cosplay, based on a fanart composition.

Saruman

Sorry he’s blurry. :-( I asked him if he was Saruman or Gandalf the White, and he answered, “I am Saruman as he should have been!”

Pearl

Pearl from Steven Universe.

tuxedo mask

A genderswapped Tuxedo Mask! :-)

Rainbow kimono

I don’t know what she’s cosplaying, but she’s gorgeous. Lovely rainbow kimono lady!

Steampunk back

The back of the coolest Steampunk Dad cosplay! He and his daughter built the cosplay together.

steampunk guy and daughter

This young lady got her dad into steampunk and they worked on his cosplay together. I love it! She did his makeup, too – he’s got gears coming out through his face. It’s cool! She’s doing a Kingdom hearts cosplay herself.

steampunk guy

Cool Steampunk Dad’s makeup was done by his daughter. :-) They’re an unstoppable team of cosplay magic, this family!

captain marvel

Captain Marvel!

hot ice hilda

My favorite cosplay of all – she’s playing Hot Ice Hilda, a character from Outlaw Star, one of my favorite animes!

baymax

Baymax!!!

castiel

A male Castiel cosplayer. These are a rarity in the wild! He did a great job!

cat

Cosplay kitty. This cat … was the chillest, sweetest, friendliest beast! She was at an Artist Alley table and modeled the merch! And loved on people.

Sara Goodwin has a B.A. in Classical Civilization and an M.A. in Library Science from Indiana University. Once she went on an archaeological dig and found awesome ancient stuff. Sara enjoys a smorgasbord of pan-nerd entertainment such as Renaissance faires, anime conventions, steampunk, and science fiction and fantasy conventions. In her free time, she writes things like fairy tale haiku, fantasy novels, and terrible poetry about being stalked by one-eyed opossums. In her other spare time, she sells nerdware as With a Grain of Salt DesignsTweets, and Tumbls.

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