Each year, I take some baby steps toward Animazement, the annual convention for fans of Japanese animation in downtown Raleigh. See, in my day, you had to buy bootleg videocassettes with two episodes of some cartoon, max, usually translated by some white boy in a dorm room. And comics? Sheeeit, they were $17.95 a volume, mail-order. You didn't have $10 volumes in every Barnes & Noble, never mind that right-to-left jive. Yes, I was left behind in the great community of fandom that emerged in the early 2000s, though I take comfort in actually recognizing some of the projects associated with this year's guests: Yoichi Kotabe helped design Super Mario Bros. for Nintendo and worked on such anime classics as Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind and Grave of the Fireflies (and, sigh, helped design Pikachu of Pokemon fame), and Trish Ledoux was founding editor of the magazine ANIMERICA, which helped me figure out which shows to track down on VHS in those dark days.
The convention also features games, a massive dealer's room, screenings, Japanese culture stuff and more costumes than Halloween. Last year an estimated 8,000 animaniacs attended, and this year looks to top even that—though if you're not into this stuff, you might have no idea who these fans are supposed to be dressed as. In the meantime, I'll be waiting a few weeks for Heroes Con in Charlotte, which focuses on comic books, and therefore my element. There's stratification in nerdery these days. —Zack Smith