Tokyo in Tulsa
First con review.
One of my big goals for this summer was to check out my first pop culture convention, and thanks to my lovely friend Tara over at Spaghetti on the Wall, I got to check that off my list this past weekend at Tokyo in Tulsa!
First Encounters With Anime
When I was growing up in the '80s, anime wasn’t nearly as mainstream as it is today, and I really had very few encounters with it. Of course, like every '80s girl, I adored Sanrio.
My first experience with Japanese animation was a show that came on late at night called The Flying House. It’s kind of a surreal mashup of sci-fi and religion that follows the adventures of some kids in a time-traveling house with rocket capabilities alongside a robot that sort of looks like a creepy tin toy doll-shaped Christmas ornament. The children travel through time and witness the events of the Bible in various order with no concerns for the butterfly effect whatsoever. It’s super weird, but I fell in love with the strange storylines and enchanting animation style. As a Baptist kid, I loved seeing Bible stories reimagined as sci-fi and drew a lot of inspiration from that.
Favorite Family Mangas and Animes
I was the wrong age to get into Pokemon, so that passed me by altogether, although I recall being fairly amused at the Pokemon card kiosks at the mall that kids seemed to go bananas over. My next anime adventure didn’t happen until I was an adult. Arthur was (if you can imagine) just as precocious at 6 as he is now, and he got me into watching Sword Art Online on Netflix. It was the first anime I got really sucked into, and we both became huge fans (we even named our cats Kirito and Asuna after the protagonists). Between Arthur and the high schoolers I met working at Union (shout out to QJ Ransom), I’ve added a few animes to my list of favorites.
Here’s a handful of my top anime picks:
- Black Butler
- Death Note
- Fullmetal Alchemist
- Fairy Tail
- Sailor Moon
- Red Data Girl
We also check out tons of library books, where Arthur and Lucy read loads of mangas, and Lucy recently got me into Kilala Princess, which is a super cute manga that exists in the Disney princess universe. All that is to say that while we are really more of a sci-fi pop culture family than we are manga/anime fans, we have plenty of faves and really appreciate it.
Whether it’s a Star Trek Wholesomeposting group on Facebook or a 12 Monkeys Fan Theory sub on Reddit, I’ve learned that fandom is really about taking something you love and giving yourself full permission to completely enjoy it as fully as possible, and this encourages amazing creativity. For me, that means exploring literature analysis of my favorite fandoms or writing a fan fiction where I am mashing up Disney, Borderlands, and Nintendo characters in an epic sci-fi tale. For my kids, that means expressing their passion through art and creativity.
One of the things I was most looking forward to with Tokyo in Tulsa was getting my kids and I firsthand exposure to the world of fan art. Lucy has been DIYing her own cosplays since she was 6 and following FNAF [Five Nights at Freddy's] fandom performance groups on Youtube avidly. I’ll never forget the day I came home to find she had painted her face yellow and created her own Chica cosplay–not too shabby for a first grader.
Arthur is a prolific doodler, leaving a trail of sketches across the house. He has created Twin Peaks fan art, hundreds of new Pokemon evolutions, Daleks and TARDISes, and loads of surreal art (think wormholes with monster pieces poking through or melting plushies). For Noah, creativity comes in the form of LEGO tributes to Battlestar Galactica or the starship Enterprise.
I also wanted to encourage the kids to delve deeper into fandom because, in my experience, kids who are passionate about fandom tend to make deep connections with other kids who share their interests and have a positive, creative outlet for their feelings as teenagers. Fandom is a wonderful confidence builder, and it helps kids to feel a sense of belonging and grow into healthy adults.
Our First Con
If you’ve been reading my blog, you know we are the kind of family that loves to dress up for every possible occasion. I didn’t have a cosplay to wear, but I have a deep and abiding love of Japanese-inspired fashion (my Pinterest feed is a spread of fairy kei, mori girl, pastel goth, festival fashion, colorful hairstyles, and altered couture), so I took the opportunity to dress as funky as possible. I was practically bouncing Lucy-style when I first walked into the convention on Friday night.
Lucy as Playtime from Baldy's Basics
I had expected to see amazing costumes, but to see them all mingling about together was absolutely thrilling. I passed a Natsu, a Sylveon, a row of people with beautiful costumes and TVs for heads. There were furries and warriors galore. I am going to break down some of the awesome things we saw for all the normie moms and dads out there reading my blog:
*LARP Costumes: I met quite a few people who were cosplaying as their own characters from LARPing. What is LARPing, you ask? Live action role playing. It’s like the more complex version of getting dressed up and using your imagination, but it’s so much more than that. For you Supernatural fans, there’s a really great episode where Sam and Dean go LARPing with Felicia Day’s character Charlie. My friend Olivia’s fella Wil heads up an amazing LARP event called Dystopia Rising that I am dying to go to. For an entire weekend, players create and live the experience of a fictional persona in a post-apocalyptic story. It’s an 16 and up event, so it’s one of those things I’m saving for when I either have free time again or more likely, they’re old enough to go with me.
*DisneyBound (Semi-Cosplay) Style: I fell in love with this style of semi-cosplay back when it was lurking in the dark corners of Polyvore. If you’re a Disney World fan, you may know that you can’t cosplay at Disney Parks, no matter how many amazing full-color Disney Princess tats you have. This is a quality control issue. They can’t take a chance you’re going to break character in front of the kiddies or drop a PG word. DisneyBound is a blog that pieces together Disney-inspired outfits that fit the park code–think hipster Ariel or real-life cowboy Woody. It’s a great way to experience the fun of cosplay without investing tons of money or learning advanced sewing skills. It originally appealed to me because it was a way to dress funky while I rocked my requisite business casual at work. DisneyBounding is an incredibly creative form of expression, and it is now pretty common across the fandoms. I saw quite a few well done semi-cosplayed Pokemon at the convention.
*Genderbent Cosplays: Genderbending is when you take a character and interpret it as the opposite gender, like if you were to cosplay Lucia Malfoy or Captain Jackie Sparrow (if you do, please please please send me a pic). I saw tons of beautiful genderbent cosplays. These are amazing because there is so much room for creativity and interpretation.
*Crossplay: Crossplay is cosplaying a character whose gender is different from the cosplayer’s. I love this because it shows that when you really love a character and relate to it, your love of this character doesn’t have to be limited by your gender or the character’s.
*Mashups: I love a good mashup. A couple of years ago, my friends Teresa and Jeremy Marler made a Rainbow Dash dalek for their daughter Arilynn. This year, I was completely bowled over by a Sailor Moon Totoro mashup. Of course, Lucy was flipping out over Narwhal Deadpool, who she developed a bit of an obsession with. But probably the best mashup was a trio of cosplayers: Morticia, Wednesday, and the wrong Cousin It.
The wrong Cousin It.
Vendors and Artists
I can’t be the only person who went to Tokyo in Tulsa and immediately wished I had been stashing back savings for months. I was simply googly-eyed over the gorgeous plushies, crocheted cthulhus, handmade Pokemon pillows, gorgeous graphic art, beautiful Lolita dresses. There were loads of just incredible artists, and I can’t even begin to cover them all. I grabbed some cards so I can snap up some prints from my favorites when I get the chance.
I bought a couple of geeky essential oil pendant vials from Majikah Perfumery–a Minecraft vial filled with dragon oil for Arthur and a lilac-filled painted TARDIS vial for me. There were too many gorgeous vials to choose from, and I want about 6 more. The price was fabulous–2 oil-filled pendants for $20. There were too many dazzling vials to choose from, each with a charm or some other lovely detail–fairies, butterflies, Supernatural, Black Butler, Pokemon, Harry Potter, mermaids–swoon!
We also picked up a handful of beautiful kawaii buttons from Miss Octopie. I was completely enchanted by the artist’s fairy-kei-inspired shop and crazy about her aesthetic.
Here are a few of my other favorite vendors and artists:
- Tasty Peach–Deliciously sweet little Japan-inspired boutique with darling plushies
- Jonathan Miller Art–Incredible art
- Star Glazed Delights–Delightful anime charms
- Kristin Kemper–Simply gorgeous comics and animation
- Pretty Pastel Studios–Dreamy art
- Trav McDan–Beautiful, colorful illustrations
- Princette Party–Gender neutral kawaii accessories
- Mecha Qden–Kawaii resin cuties
- The Naptime Nerd–Custom fandom and nerd pillows
I ran into some of my favorite people while I was there, including my friend Laz. He had the coolest costume idea–a tribute to Tim Curry including elements from all Tim Curry’s films–think the horns from Legend and pirate attire from Muppets Treasure Island, for starters! Laz took me into the game room, which was set up with round tables for tabletop gaming. Dozens of games were available that you could check out, including Star Trek Catan. This would have been a great chance to check out some games without having to drop a ton of cash, but Laz had something else in mind.
He brought me over to the Dystopia Rising table, where we made friends with a couple of brothers who were decked out in their LARP gear. They joined us in one of the Dystopia Rising escape rooms. It was my first time in an escape room, so I must admit, I was very stoked and got a little carried away. Laz had to tell me to put my phone away because you’re not supposed to snap pics in an escape room–oops! The back story was that we were psions and had been rounded up by the normies and had to escape. It was lots of fun working through the puzzles, and using great teamwork, we finished in good time. Ever since then, I’ve been obsessed with DIYing my own escape room for the kids.
Lucy and I visited the video game room, which was full of all kinds of gaming systems and computers. Virtual reality looked fun, but the line was heckin’ long. There was also a laser tag game set up in one end. I let Lucy take a Minecraft break at the Microsoft station, where I learned that Microsoft offers free STEM workshops and camps for kids all the time at their store, so I signed my kids up for a robot programming class.
The other Rosie the Riveter by Jeremy and Teresa Marler.
The big cosplay contest was on Saturday, and it was awesome. I didn’t know a lot of the anime characters, but you really don’t have to in order to appreciate how amazing everyone is. There were cute little sketches and lip sync numbers afterward, which I know Lucy loved because I have watched her follow Five Nights at Freddy’s skits of a similar nature on YouTube. And then the best part–the couple cosplaying Kirito and Asuna got engaged onstage.
Between all of the events, it was a blast to see all of the incredible cosplayers and let the kids meet them and take pics together. Lucy got to talk to a couple of professional cosplayers, who encouraged her to continue to pursue cosplay and to live the experience of art every day.
Do you want to build a snowman?
There were loads of things we never had time to do. I would have loved to have gone to the other two escape rooms, checked out the Supernatural LARP session, hit up the karaoke with Lucy, and spent some time doing tabletop gaming and possibly even finding someone to help us learn how to play Dungeons and Dragons.
Tokyo in Tulsa absolutely did not disappoint. It was everything a first con should be. We left inspired to create and to live the experience of fandom every day in our lives. And that is, after all, what the experience of a convention is really all about.