From One Fan to Another, a Retrospective on 2013

Me and my big ugly mug cosplaying Fiona from Adventure Time AWA 2013

Me and my big ugly mug cosplaying Fiona from Adventure Time AWA 2013

“2013 was something” might possibly be the understatement of the year. As I sit here on this frigid January night, my muse has finally struck me to write on the flurry of activity that has marked the past 12 months.

It’s been over 3 months since Anime Weekend Atlanta, and I am just now sitting down here to write my thoughts on it. “Why has it taken you so long?”, one might ask. Well, to be honest, I wasn’t in the right mindset to give it justice. This was more than merely one person making a state-side appearance, this was more than just my first foray in press in a subculture I have become hopelessly lost and attached to. This is more than just a simple write up of an interview, along with a couple of photos of the convention and its happenings. No, Anime Weekend Atlanta represented a milestone, a culmination of a now massive movement that had much humbler beginnings, not unlike the works the fandom celebrates. To merely write about ZUN’s visit and the happenings at Anime Weekend Atlanta would underplay the massive achievement this fandom has both become, and achieved.

I did not wish to write it right after Anime Weekend Atlanta as I wanted to give it as much of an unbiased treatment as possible. Emotions ran high that weekend for various reasons, and I admit I do have a tendency to run my mouth from time to time. While delaying writing might seem to detract from the excitement of the moment, and seem like a lost opportunity, there was hardly a lack of fan reaction to what happened that weekend. There were people far more skilled and talented that gracefully handled coverage for those who could not be there, than I ever could. My job as a reporter covering this event, I felt, was to observe and reflect, and convey the atmosphere and excitement in my report, than to just merely ape back what happened. I felt I wouldn’t have been able to convey that properly, without some of my own personal biases flowing in.

On that note, I wish to personally thank the staff of Anime Weekend Atlanta, for not only hosting ZUN, and giving all of us the wonderful chance to meet and interact with him in person, but for their tireless efforts in arranging such a wonderful convention. The heroic efforts of their staff to handle such an unprecedented event along with the absolutely unfathomable turnout (attendance shot up 5k from 2012!) was nothing short of amazing. Any and all frustration that I expressed that weekend, had nothing to do with the staff nor their handling of the situation. I did not want to reflect that in my writing as well, another reason I held off until now to write this piece.

I, on behalf of the entire Western Touhou Community, wish to humbly thank all of those at Anime Weekend Atlanta for their hard work and dedication. I especially thank Faisal Ahmed, CEO, for interceding on our behalf to not only take care of our concerns, but to secure us a personal interview with ZUN after he had respectfully declined (which I will post in a separate article don’t worry!). I also want to personally thank the wonderful staffers who came to our aid and helped out so much. If I come to Anime Weekend Atlanta next year (which I absolutely would love to), I will definitely buy you guys a drink. I admit fully this was my first time officially as press, and a lot of my frustration came from being completely unprepared in a lot of ways to what I was getting into. I greatly appreciate the patience shown to me and to my crew, despite my flailings and completely stressed out demeanor. I apologize completely if I showed any hostility, or otherwise appeared short to anyone staffing. While I am normally a very calm and chill person, I do have my moments.

Overall though, it was a blast, and it left me feeling overwhelmingly proud to be part of such a magnificent experience. I got to meet wonderful people and share wonderful experiences, and would do it again in a heartbeat. I mean, without the people, this fandom wouldn’t exist would it? To see, to be able to interact, and to be able to speak in front of thousands, when I recall not even half a decade ago a tiny IRC chatroom of 20 odd persons, was astounding. To meet fans from around the country, and in many cases, around the world, was both exciting and deeply humbling. But Anime Weekend Atlanta wasn’t the only success story of this year. There was the Hakurei Shrine Festival held at Otakuthon 2013, the first of its kind in the West. 2013 was merely the start of what looks to be an absolute explosion of activity in the fandom, and not just its climax. I can’t wait to see what this year brings!

And on that note I’d like to touch on someone I had only just met at Anime Weekend Atlanta but had touched the hearts of many within the fandom. For those who didn’t know Victor, he passed away in a car crash a few weeks after Anime Weekend Atlanta concluded. He was more than just a “member of the Southeast Touhou fandom”. He was a best friend, a comrade, a lover, a cherished person to many. I feel this tiny blurb could not possibly bring justice to the efforts he gave, and the meaning he gave to others. Victor, I may not have known you very well or very much, but I do know how much you meant to those around you. May you rest in peace.

For those friends we have, for those friends we gained, and for those friends we lost, we hold precious memories of. And now we look forward to 2014, at the new experiences we look to build.

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