”Sorry, we’re sold out.” the registration guy told me. “What do you mean you sold out? How many people showed up for this thing?” I asked in shocked response. “Dude, we have at least six hundred people this year. Last year; we had two hundred.” Tripling your attendance numbers in one year can overwhelm any convention. Then again, those are the type of problems you want to have, right? Still, their runaway success does leave me with the issue of how do I get in? Or it would, if I wasn’t representing 91.8 The Fan. “I believe my credentials will convince you to make an exception,” I stated as I handed the man one of my business cards. A few moments later I was given a wristband and was sent on my way. And that’s the story of how I got into Tanoshiicon.
Tanoshiicon is a small scale multi-genre convention that takes place in West Chester University around late April. If you’re a second year convention with six hundred people, you’re small scale. That means a shoe-string budget and being largely composed of people in the local area. Think of it less as a convention and more of a giant geek party. Note that I did not use the term “otaku party.” Tanoshiicon bills itself as a multi-genre convention. If you have strong interest in any type of pop culture, you’ll find a place in Tanoshiicon. While anime isn’t the primary focus, I will say it’s a major one. With all the cosplayers and maids running about, any anime fan will feel right at home. Another way to describe Tanoshiicon is an anime convention that’s very open to experimentation.
This all takes place at West Chester University, my alma mater. West Chester University (or WCU) is a state college located about thirty miles west of Philadelphia. It is generally known for it’s educational program (as in teaching people to be teachers), reasonable financial costs, and an active “social” scene. Frankly, I rarely stepped foot in it after I graduated. Once I was done, I didn’t want to linger around unnecessary. While I pay little attention to it, it’s hard not to notice all the construction going on. WCU isn’t immune to the arms race of construction to attract the next generation of students. While many buildings are tributed to summon higher level buildings, some classics still stand, like the Sykes Student Union. One of the reasons colleges are hosting conventions these days is that they already have the facilities to accommodate large numbers of rowdy young people. They’re probably happy to get the extra foot traffic into their concession stands.
I hate to say this, but being at Tanoshiicon just feels right. It’s not because it’s a bad convention and I’m lying to be polite. Overall, it’s quite good. It’s just that a reviewer needs to describe things in concrete terms and just saying it feels right is a disservice to the art of critiquing. What I’m trying to say is that Tanoshiicon has an atmosphere and mood similar to many other conventions that I attend. If you like cons, you’ll like Tanoshiicon. There were a good deal of cosplayers hanging around and singing karaoke; strangers playing Cards Against Humanity with each other; and random convention games were being played.
I need to take a moment to describe one convention games in particular. There were a bunch of people gathered around in a giant circle. One person in the circle who was “it” would run around until they picked another person. While you would normally pick another person in the circle, it wasn’t rare to run outside of it to try to rope a random stranger into the game. You would then do a short dance with the other person, and then that other person would be “it” and repeat the process. All the while everyone was singing the same five line song over and over and over again. Despite being entirely repetitive, they keep at it for at least two hours. I have no idea what the game is called or what inspired it in the first place. My gut instinct says it’s Hetalia; or maybe Homestuck. If anyone can explain this to me, it would be greatly appreciated.
If standing around in a giant circle for hours on end isn’t your thing, Tanoshiicon boost all the conventions activities you know and love. Panels are a given, and they ran the gambit from how to cosplay to dishing about bad movies and even dancing. It’s a solid offering that should satisfy most people. There were video game areas that held a Smash tournament and even a room for table top games.
There’s a dealer’s hall too, and it was open until 7:00 pm. 6:00 pm closings are always too soon for me. It felt more like an artist alley though, composed largely of local artists selling their wares. I purchased a children’s book called Ivan the Hamster Knight. Though the art is cute I am constantly nagged by a giant plot hole. Despite the fact that the hamsters have magical powers, they have no ability to defend themselves against invasion. If you have enough magical power to make yourself a castle yet are unable to defend it, you deserve to lose it. The book could mention that the invaders are immune to magic or maybe we’re supposed to assume that most hamsters are just too dumb to know how to fight.
The night was capped off with the Pleasant Nightmare Burlesque cabaret and tea party. While there’s a whole bunch of other stuff involved, it basically boils down to cosplay striptease. I was generally underwhelmed by the whole thing. I seen Cosplay Burlesque, and they the bar pretty high for me. The bar was not jumped over that night. It didn’t help that I couldn’t really see it either. The performers were on the same floor as the audience, so it was hard to see the action over everyone else. They should have held it in the auditorium where there was an actual stage but but I guess Sykes’ movie night has precedence over them. I will give them credit for having an actual musical number though.
I said earlier that Tanoshiicon is small scale, and I would like to take the time to reiterate that. The guest list is unimpressive at best, the video game section didn’t much going on besides the smash tournament, and the tabletop area was purely token. As a person who goes to a lot of conventions, I got to say that Tanoshiicon is bare bones in many aspects. If you go to a convention for big events and spectacle, skip Tanoshiicon.
When criticizing something, you need to understand not only what you want, but what the maker is trying to do. Tanoshiicon isn’t trying to be some big impressive convention (which is a good thing because trying to go large scale too early is frankly dumb); they just want to gather a bunch of geeks together and have fun. And on that level, they succeed brilliantly. Despite the fact that they were probably overwhelmed with people, things went smoothly and everyone had a good time. And it’s was all done by charging just eight dollars a head (that’s a really low price by convention standards)! Tanoshiicon is perfect for a local person who wants a convention experience or a hardcore con goer just looking for an excuse to pull that cosplay out of the closet.
Tanoshiicon’s issues are of scale and resources. They can be solved by simply growing out of it, and they are growing. Tripling your size in one year and outgrowing your venue in two is proof of that. They will grow but I wonder how they’ll handle it? Will they choose the path of Kotoricon and decide to grow it just enough to ensure they can have a fun time? Maybe they’ll expand through out West Chester University and start pushing into some of the other buildings? They could just leave entirely and find a whole new venue to call home. Whatever they decide to do, I’ll keep an eye on them. Tanoshiicon has what it takes to go to the next level, and I like to be in on the ground floor.