Even though the pandemic has ensured that every traditional anime convention has to be canceled for the foreseeable future, that doesn’t mean we can’t still have some fun! The Virtual Crunchyroll Expo is taking place this weekend, and you can easily tune in for all of the festivities by registering for a free pass on the V-CRX website.
Make sure to check out the Cosplay Cup, a fantastic display of international talent hosted by renowned emcee Mario Bueno and decorated cosplayer Vampy Bit Me, taking place Saturday, September 5th from 7:00 – 9:00 pm Pacific Time at the Crunchyroll Stage. We had the opportunity to pick the hosts’ brains a bit prior to the event, so let’s hear their thoughts on what brought them to the anime community, the future of event hosting, and even mecha toy lines!
What drew you to the anime community and convention culture?
As I’d realize when looking back on how I got to my starting point, it was clear I’d always had an affinity for Japanese popular culture, though in my younger years I’d never really recognized it was what it was (outside of video games which had VERY explicit Japanese influence stamped on them…being born in 1985 and named “Mario” basically guaranteed this from birth I’d say, hahaha). My earliest brushes beyond requisites like Godzilla and other tokusatsu were the 1991 Ultraman series (Ultraman: Towards the Future), Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers, and so forth. Even Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie didn’t fully register to me as “anime”, though it didn’t help that it was not quite accessible to me at the time either, so it felt “exotic” and unreachable until I’d get into anime and properly watch it. But it wasn’t until my early teenage years when the “Japanimation” thing I kept seeing advertised at local video stores (as well as via indie theaters advertising Ghost in the Shell and the SyFy channel back when it was actually spelled properly, hahaha) began to pique my interest and show up in popular culture more because of the rise of Pokémon’s popularity and the “Toonami Boom” circa 2000.
I also regularly attribute my first girlfriend for being the one to inspire me to give anime a proper chance at that time, and thanks to a combination of her love of Revolutionary Girl Utena (which I recognize as my first “proper” anime that I knowingly sat down to watch) and being introduced to Gundam Wing (which led to me discovering Gunpla and, by proxy, the rest of the Gundam metaseries that’s become my all-time favorite), I jumped headfirst into the fandom and never looked back.
My old convention guest bios used to start by saying I was “[a] fan of Japanese Animation since 2000, convention attendee since 2001, and cosplayer since 2002,” because that’s more or less how things went in that EXACT sequence: once I knew about anime and learned about the first-ever Big Apple Anime Fest in 2001 (which ran for three years and would later be followed by ReedPop’s New York Anime Fest and now LeftField Media’s AnimeNYC...each either organized by or heavily prepared by many of the same key members!), I’d attend that and cosplay for the first time at the following year’s iteration, which was a joint show with Anime Expo. While I was no stranger to “conventions” in general (I’d been to tech/auto shows and other “nerdy/sci-fi” events before), I treat my initial steps into anime convention culture as something entirely different because of how it was fed by a desire to be exposed to more of the culture and forge new friendships (as well as have new outlets to perform at, once I learned about cosplay masquerade)... as well as how much it’s tied directly into my growth both as a person and professional.
Mario, how do you think hosting/emceeing will evolve to fit the socially distanced world we live in right now? Have you been able to stay involved with the community?
I’d posit that thanks to the expanded regularity and accessibility of streaming/casting (due to the rise of Twitch as a widely adopted broadcasting platform and the popularization of Esports and such), there’s a good template to build from. Fortunately, I’ve been able to get my feet wet with livestreaming thanks to the work we’ve been doing at Digital Era Entertainment since we officially launched our Twitch channel with the first episode of our Esports/gaming podcast DEE CODE on New Year’s Day 2018 (I personally started actively streaming there on a regular basis in 2019...also on New Year’s Day, no less, haha), and I think that anyone who’s hosted live events before and will be hosting remote events until further notice would benefit from that experience if they don’t already have it!
There are certainly challenges to this version of hosting (for example, the lack of a live audience to “feed” off of or know how to adjust a performance based on visible/audible reactions versus text in an ongoing stream of chat), and it honestly does intimidate me a bit going into this particular situation because of how many more variables there are from the audience AND the production end of things, but I’m glad that I’ve at least had the opportunity to regularly stream for close to two years now in order to know how best to adjust!
Linda, you’ve mentioned in a 2013 interview with AsiaOne that you’d like to create your own line of costumes and toys one day. Could you elaborate on your vision for that?
Thank you so much for your time! We’re looking forward to seeing you online this Saturday for the Cosplay Cup!
Both Mario and Linda are lovely, creative people who have adored the anime community for many years. They’re sure to bring tons of energy and excitement to the Virtual Crunchyroll Expo’s Cosplay Cup this weekend, even though all of us are scattered to the winds. Let us know in the comments if you’re planning on attending, and thanks so much for reading!