Monday, October 24, 2022

Anime Weekend Atlanta 2022

Back in 1995 when we were preparing to cut the ribbon on our first Anime Weekend Atlanta, the expectation was that we'd have a fun little gathering of the local anime fans, and that would pretty much be it. We'd watch some videos, we'd buy some VHS tapes, we'd judge some costumes, and then we'd go home, and maybe we'd keep having one of these things every year, and maybe we wouldn't. Anime fandom was a niche of a niche, a subset of nerds clawing their way out from under a pile of Star Trek cons and comic book shows and gaming festivals, and the idea that Japanese animation would become not only a sizable chunk of the fandom world, but would claw its way into the highest echelons of popular culture - I speak of course of hip-hop themed Sprite ads - that idea was just wishful thinking. 

Vendors Hall at the first AWA

Well, wishes come true sometimes. In the 27 years since that first show, Japanese animation has boomed and busted and boomed again in North America, sending generations of cosplay kids, figure kings, and wanna-be influencers  to roam the halls of many a confused downtown convention center. AWA swelled into a swirling mass of fandom filling the parking lots and hotel availability of a variety of facilities, eventually winding up in the Cobb Galleria Center/Waverly complex, which, little did we suspect, would wind up being next door to the new Atlanta Braves stadium.

Crowds at AWA 2021

And of course nobody except science fiction writers and epidemiologists expected a new and deadly virus would sweep the world, shut down gatherings, close borders, and make 2020 a blank spot on the convention calendars of many a city. AWA was no exception and the convention took a year off to play with Zoom calls, experiment with online spaces, and figure out how things were going to work when things got back to working again. The 2021 show climbed that learning curve, and the unheard of Thursday crowds, the parking lot COVID tests, and the commendable masking discipline of the staff and attendees meant not only could AWA return to physical spaces, but that the crowds would also return. Once the dust settled and the convention was over, we'd find not one reported case of COVID coming out of AWA, which certainly seems, to me anyways, that a vax and mask mandate answers the questions many of us were having about how we were going to hold large events safely. 

AWA returns this week. Along with guests and musical acts and the vendors and Thursday's Super Happy Fun Sellers and cosplay and video games and tournaments, AWA's vax and mask mandate has also returned. Some 2022 conventions have dropped those guidelines, and unsurprisingly, some COVID came home from those conventions along with the attendees. This is not a great outcome, and I'm glad AWA is trying to avoid those outcomes by sticking with best practices this year.


What am I up to? Thursday is the big favorite of fans and collectors and bargain hunters, the Super Happy Fun Sell, a garage sale of pre-loved anime merch rescued from closets and crawlspaces. Bring cash.


Friday night at 11:30 it's time for Neil Nadelman to unleash Totally Lame Anime to wreck eyeballs and tickle funnybones with the lamest Japanese cartoons ever made. Neil is the guy who translated Chargeman Ken, so he knows of what he speaks. 


Either later that night or earlier the next morning, take your pick, it's time for Anime Hell at 1:00am Saturday. Can the wee hours stand the short-form video nonsense projected using state of the art equipment and featuring Japan or anime or hell or neither or all three? It's up to you to find out. 


Later Saturday morning at 10:30 I'll be presenting a presentation all about the Japanese animation of 1972, a year that turned what was then still called 'terebi manga' onto its ear, grabbed the steering wheel of the dominant paradigm, popped the animation clutch and told the world to eat its super robot bird ninja dust.


Sunday it's time for me and ANN writer Darius Washington to investigate the anime of forty years ago, the miracle year of 1982 when Japanese animation birthed worldwide franchise successes, international collaborations, fairy princesses, space pirates, transforming robots, and cellists. 


All this plus food trucks all weekend long! See you at either the 27th or 28th AWA, depending on how we're counting! 


-Dave M 

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