The 3rd annual Marysville Anime and Art Convention, hosted by the Laughing Lotus, drew community members from all around the Yuba-Sutter area and beyond. The event emulated some of the larger and more famous conventions dedicated to the genre such as Anime Expo or Comic-con. Our local MAACON featured costume and drawing contests, panels (where published art is showcased), as well as vendors hocking their Japanese-esque baubles, trinkets and other polished novelties.
Lisa Caldon is proprietor of the Laughing Lotus. Besides catering to boutiques, comedy clubs, weddings, yoga and even tea parties for little girls, MAACON is very close to her heart. Years ago, but much too soon, her son Evander met his tragic death. October 12 is his birthday; thus, the event is held on that day to celebrate his memory and joy of anime. Indeed, the Laughing Lotus exists as a center of happiness and healing, an establishment to facilitate therapeutic laughter. The shenanigans put on by fans of anime are nothing short of hilarious. Costumes worn by fans included hairdos that defied gravity!
Fans of anime are generally referred to as “otaku.” However, the label is not only used to describe fans of anime. One could be an otaku for collecting figurines, playing tabletop games or viewing magna (comic books and graphic novels). Otaku are marked by their obsessive compulsion regarding their interest. They are fanatics in every sense of the word. The over-saturation and popularity of anime programs broadcast in America such as Bleach, Cowboy Bebop, Dragonball Z, Fullmetal Alchemist, Gundam, Naruto and Pokémon point toward the ever-emerging Japanophilic trend within the Millennial generation.
Otaku may sometimes carry a negative connotation. The term is comparable to that of “geek” or “nerd.” It may be used as an ironic insult or as a slur to refer to one is inept at socializing or is a dreg of society. Despite these blasts upon their character, a gathering of okatku can be a pretty fun place to find yourself. People from all walks of life dress up like characters from their favorite shows, impossible gravity-defying hairdos and all! It is from one group of fans I had heard three cardinal rules one must follow when going to a convention: take a shower, use deodorant, and put on clean underwear!
Having mingled with several self-proclaimed otaku and professional artists at the Laughing Lotus, I gained an appreciation for their craft and medium. Blake Krause was one of the presenters that day, giving an insider’s view on how to publish your art and how to develop artistic styles and techniques. Going by the moniker “Squidblake,” he spoke passionately of the process on which he channeled inspiration for his art. “Don’t just watch anime,” he advised. “Watch LIFE itself!” “Be tenacious,” he continued. “Draw for eight hours a day, meet other artists, make business cards and don’t be afraid to put yourself out there!”
Heather Jaeger, known better online as TheSpyderDuster, followed Krause’s segment. Jaeger is the creator of “Legends of Katainia: The White Dragon Warrior.” Having been an artist for over twenty years, she shared a few words of wisdom. “Show off your work,” she said. “If someone says it sucks, ask why! If they actually give constructive criticism, learn from it. If they just say it sucks and you agree, you’ll be in self-doubt and the haters will win!” Jaeger went to say that social media “is king.” Web traffic associated with her pseudonym usually goes to her Facebook account. She mentions that having a personal website is merely a legal formality these days. Reflecting upon Krause’s message, she ended with saying, “You are your biggest obstacle.”
John Lee, a former writer for Dark Horse Comics, followed up Jaeger’s appearance. He is the creator of “Once Upon a Time in Japan,” a comic steeped heavily in Japanese culture and iconography. Most proceeds of his work goes to helping humanitarian efforts in Fukushima. Currently, he is involved with Elk Grove High School’s theater arts program, as well as serving as an educator and coordinator for Fairytale Land’s theater in Sacramento. Rather than building upon topics presented by Krause and Jaeger, Lee engaged the audience directly, asking them if they had any projects going on in their lives. Specifically, he asked them about that thing in their pants. You know, that thing in your pants that unlocks a world of infinite possibilities. Of course, that thing in your pants is a smart-phone! A big secret John Lee shared was that the best way to find success in the art world is to do it for the love and to network with other artists using technology.
Nearly all of the guests attending MAACON were from the local Marysville and Yuba City areas. Additionally, this was the first convention most of them had ever gone to, in part because of its locality. Despite taking place just once a year, it gives a chance to meet others sharing similar interests as you. Perhaps you may find a collaborator on your next piece of art, or one with a talented voice that best suits a character in your anime. Or perhaps you may just find that quirky oddball sweetheart you’ve been waiting for all your life: the one who actually understands what the hell you’re talking about when you mention the death and rebirth of Neon Genesis Evangelion.
All photos by Collin Stahl
Note: This article was featured in the Prospector Winter 2013 Print Editon