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The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society
Miscellanea and Ephemeron

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09/16/2007 Archived Entry: "Kumoricon 2007"

Kumoricon 2007

By Tom Good

Imagine a bottle spinning on the brickwork of a park on a summer day. Above it stands an anime fan, dressed in costume. Zoom out to a circle of people, similarly dressed, surrounding this center point, waiting. The bottle slows to a stop, indicating a point on the perimeter, and the person in the center delivers a "glomp" to the one on the outside, and then they change places and the process begins again.

A glomp is more or less a hug, often executed with a running start, and sometimes including a jump at the end or some other flourish. The word supposedly derives from the sound effect of one anime character tackle-hugging another, and according to one fan on the Kumoricon message boards, a glomp circle like this one "showcases" the various "styles of glomping." There were indeed different styles in evidence, with calm walks followed by polite hugs on one end of the spectrum, all the way to long-distance flying leaps on the other. One group of three girls glomped as a team -- when the bottle pointed to any of them, all three would receive the glomp simultaneously, then all take over the center together.

One might assume that all this glomping would only take place among a close-knit group of friends, wary of outsiders joining in, but this was not how things worked. Participants called out to passers-by, inviting them to join. The circle changed its composition as fans came and went, but it persisted for hours. When the bottle seemed to favor one quadrant of the circle, people rearranged to make it more likely that everyone would get a chance. And if there was some doubt about who exactly the bottle pointed too, standard procedure was to include both people.

To ask why they glomp is probably the wrong question. Obviously, it is a fun thing to do. A more interesting mystery is why glomp circles only exist at a few places like Kumoricon. People with some common interest gather at other public events, and they have a good time, but without this element. The Portland Auto Show, for example, had no glomp circle. Neither did last year's Stumptown Comics Fest, though it may have attracted similar people to those at Kumoricon.

Being in costume may have something to do with it. Once someone takes the step of going out in public dressed as an anime character, he or she has probably already overcome the sort of shyness that could inhibit joining a glomp circle. And the costume itself may reduce self-consciousness in social interaction, in that the wearer symbolically represents a character and not just the everyday self. At one level what takes place is a performance where perhaps Inuyasha glomps Naruto, which is a fun and funny thing to watch.

The glomp circle may not be the most important or most popular part of Kumoricon, but on the other hand it shows what kind of gathering Kumoricon is. Society at large tends to be suspicious of youth culture. Once comic books were blamed for turning young people into juvenile delinquents. Today our culture seems to fear that violent video games will create a generation of trigger-happy criminals. But if any conclusion could be drawn from a single event like Kumoricon, it would be that anime, manga, and video games encourage interests in art, music, writing, voice acting, other cultures, and being nice to people.

This year, the percentage of fans in costume seemed greater than ever before. Naruto and Bleach costumes were everywhere, Death Note showed increased popularity, but Fullmetal Alchemist cosplay (which was big in previous years) seemed to be declining. Still, there were some good FMA costumes, including an impressive Major Armstrong with real muscles.

A small group wore satyr-like outfits with amazing jointed artificial legs that made them incredibly tall, but allowed for a fairly natural walking motion. Even the hotel staff, jaded from seeing hundreds of costumes, were impressed by these.

One costume that may have been a first in the Northwest was the rollerblader from the Jet Set Radio video game. There were also at least two people dressed as characters from the Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney games. They even had "word balloon" signs with phrases like "Objection!" written on them.

At one point a group of women outside in period costumes looked as if they must belong to some anime. But actually they were dressed in mid-19th-century clothing as part of the celebration of the 150th anniversary of the city of Vancouver, Washington. This event happened to be going on the same weekend as Kumoricon, in the park across from the convention's hotel. The timing was great, because it made Kumoricon feel like part of a larger party.

The convention's location at the Vancouver Hilton also paid off when it came time to find something to eat. A farmers' market was conveniently situated a block away, with plenty of fresh produce, various hot foods, and very short lines. The mellow locals hardly even reacted when ninja, pirates and other characters stopped by to check out the produce stands.

Back at the hotel, convention guest Kirk Thornton and his wife Julie presented a panel on voice acting to a packed room, and gave the audience a lot of opportunities to participate. They took the crowd through vocal warmup exercises, then had everyone practice delivering lines using different variations. A few people got to come up to the front of the room and read some lines into a microphone. Then Mr. Thornton demonstrated how he would direct the person to produce a different kind of performance of the line. The amount of improvement between the first attempt and the final result was really striking, and it gave a glimpse of how a good director can shape a performance.

Other panels included a talk about the influence of The Tale of Genji on anime and manga, and a discussion of "lolita fashion" such as the Elegant Gothic Lolita style from Japan. The latter group emphasized that lolita fashion is a modest look that should not be too revealing, and also mentioned that many people who wear these styles do not consider it cosplay, but just a fashion choice that they might wear in everyday life.

This year the convention added a manga library, which was a great new feature. Hundreds of books were available for fans to read for free within the designated reading room. This was a great way to relax between events, and a good chance to discover some new manga. All in all, it was another good Kumoricon, and the fans came out in record numbers. Officially, attendance was over 3,000 this year, up 33% from last year. Growth like that is great news for the future of anime culture in the Pacific Northwest.

Replies: 1 Comment

I was hoping to get a press invite to Kumoricon, since I got one for Mikomicon. I love the cosplay and was planning on writing about it. It looks like Kumoricon got a lot of good costumes. Maybe next year... /sigh

Posted by collinevan @ 09/17/2007 11:04 AM PST

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