Sunday, June 11, 2017

The Fangirl Experience: Attending Colossalcon 2017

The Fangirl Experience is a column suggested by Jaime Heller, featuring contributions from both our staff and our readers. Everybody has those moments when being a fangirl feels like the world has become perfectly balanced. It's those moments when you feel a stir in your heart that maybe you've made the right decision in falling down the fandom vortex. When, in the words of my good "friend" Zachary Levi, your "unbridled passion for something, or things, defines who they are as a person without fear of other people's judgment." It's that moment you want to share with the whole world, scream to the rooftops, about what happened. Maybe it's a small moment, maybe it's a big one. But every fangirl has one--or will have one--and we would like to share ours with you.
Because our Initiative would be nothing without the Experience.

Deadpool in a Little Mermaid outfit at the Kingdom Hearts shoot. My life is complete.

Just like last year, I ended up attending Colossalcon, an anime convention in Sandusky, Ohio. What's special about it is that it's one of the largest cons in the area and is located in Kalahari, an indoor water park. This year, I decided to go back and had the privilege to go with Jaime from The Fangirl Initiative. It was her first time at Colossalcon, so I couldn’t wait to see how she’d like it.

Colossalcon welcomes fans who appreciate a variety of fandoms, including anime, video games, and even book series. It's also a place to meet amazing people and have grand and, quite frankly, interesting adventures. So, without further ado, I introduce our 2017 Colossalcon adventure.


Finally! A Kingdom Hearts panel.

When I wrote this post last year, I ended up going to a ton of panels, but this time I was only able to attend a small amount. However, what I did see was quality stuff.

Thankfully, Colossalcon had a Kingdom Hearts panel (which made sense since everyone’s hoping to see KH 3 at E3) that, rather than delving into the heart of Kingdom Hearts (that was intentional), they took the theory route and touched on what to expect in future games. I appreciated all the speculation. It was fascinating, yet it should be noted that it wasn't a panel a beginner should attend.

Johnny Yong Bosch in all his glory.

I also ended up going with Jaime to two Johnny Yong Bosch (the second Black Power Ranger and voice actor for several anime series) panels. Both were beyond entertaining. He just had a presence that was hilarious and charismatic, a certain something that I couldn’t help but love. Besides, I fangirled pretty hard when he was telling one story and just said the word dollars, which reminded me of a character he voiced named Izaya Orihara from Durarara!!. It took me a good solid five minutes to get over myself.

There was also another panel called Shall We Dance? and was all about ballroom dancing. Jaime and I had the guts to try it and, even though it was nerve-racking, it was extremely fun. I thoroughly enjoyed swing dancing and meeting the random partners we had to pair up with. 

Quinton Flynn enlightening us with his wisdom.

One of the last panels I went to was also one of the most exciting for me. It was a panel where Quinton Flynn (voice actor of Axel from Kingdom Hearts, as well as a ton of other characters) answered questions from the audience. He was outstanding and just as wise and charming as Axel. Everything he said was quotable, one such saying being, "You are all creative. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise." He elaborated on that by adding that we all have the capability to create, it's just dependent on a person's motivation. 

Photo Shoots

"The princess of MY heart"

This year I was able to actually cosplay, which meant that I had the opportunity to attend many photo shoots and engage in a plethora of interesting and entertaining conversations.

If you didn’t know, Colossalcon has a variety of photo shoot slots that passionate fans can sign up for to give those who’ve cosplayed in one fandom an opportunity to all get together and take pictures. My con was mostly spent attending shoots, and though some were poorly organized and executed, others were handled with loving care and consideration. 

"I looked everywhere for you, Riku!"

The Kingdom Hearts photo shoot this year was outside, unlike last year’s which was held inside (due to rain and such). Though I still adored the KH shoot and thought it was handled well, it wasn’t my favorite (more on that later). The character shipping suggestions were quite amusing. 

Directly after the KH shoot was the Percy Jackson one. I was beyond excited for this, though truthfully a little nervous, since I wasn’t sure how many people would be attending said photo shoot. I had my friend Joey Harker from Joey Render Industries come with Jaime and me. We arrived in the outdoor waterpark and didn’t see ANY Percy Jackson characters. Getting a tad worried, we decided to swiftly scope out the park and look for orange t-shirted cosplayers until we saw the comforting sight of demigods emerge from the water park entrance (and even a Hawaiian shirt clad Percy). The organizer never showed up, unfortunately, but we did take charge and headed to a secluded area between two sides of the park. It was perfect! I even met another Annabeth! 

Sweet! Found a Tuxedo Mask.

Another one of my favorites was the Sailor Moon Swimsuit Shoot, which Joey, my friend Reeka, and I organized. Trust me, cons are rife with cosplayers in bathing suits, especially when you’re at a water park, so we managed to gather a good-sized group. Though we had most every main character, Sailor Mars never made an appearance! Perhaps, she was too busy with her shrine maiden duties. However, we did see a Black Lady, Mini Moon, and even a Prince Diamond!

Now for my favorite shoot of the entire con. Surprisingly it wasn’t the Kingdom Hearts one or the official Final Fantasy shoot, which did happen and was quite pleasant (there was a Ravus!). Instead, my favorite turned out to be the Final Fantasy XV campfire shoot, which had the absolute perfect place for a FF XV campground. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to get my hands on the photos from that shoot, but if you're interested in seeing them or any other photos from Colossalcon, pictures should be posted soon at Joey Render Industries.

Ardyn from Final Fantasy XV

If you’re unfamiliar with Final Fantasy XV, in the game, in order to level up, one must rest by either checking the boys into an inn OR camping out under the stars. Usually, campsites are marked by a dim glow on a hill or rocky incline, far away from any danger, so when we found out that the shoot was on a hill, surrounded by a crop of trees, it made my inner fangirl happy. It was even more amazing when I realized that the organizers had an actual Coleman camp set (which is the camping set that the characters use in game)!!

Believe it or not, it got better.

For one, everyone was super nice and looked professional-level amazing. We had an array of characters. Heck, we even had an Ardyn (the main villain) and a stellar older Noctis. Though we didn't see King Regis or Luna's brother Ravus, I was quite impressed by the variety.

To begin, everyone had to take a group shot with some characters sitting in a few fold-up chairs while the rest of the characters gathered around. But even better was when a Prompto (whose actual character takes pictures of the main cast throughout the game) took a selfie with the entire group, thumb in lens and all. 

Plus, the photo suggestions were wonderful. Some were refreshing and fun, others were as heartrendingly breathtaking as the actual game. I was even able to take a lovely picture with two cosplayers, one older Noct and the other younger Noct, both of whom looked like they had been pulled straight from out of the game.

What was most interesting about the shoot was that our photographer ended up getting a few shots that brought us to tears! Literal tears!! I kid you not. Everyone did a fabulous job. Oh! And I even was able to take my picture with older and younger Noctis. Young Noct embodied the character perfectly, down to the character's exact mannerisms. Older Noct was just as fortifying and grand as he would be in-game.


(taken by Joey Render from Joey Render Industries)

The best thing about the con was that I was able to see old friends and meet new ones. There’s some kind of unexplained fellowship and affability when attending a con, as seen by all the amazing people I met. Everyone was polite and kind when asking to take a picture, complimenting people on their hard work, or helping out someone. 

I'm seeing double! TWO Lunas.

New friendships sprung up from such simple interactions. Even if it was as easy as meeting another Luna (dressed as Noctis), it was a way to introduce myself to another person, it was a way to show them that I had something in common, and it made it possible to begin a friendship. I’m overjoyed that I had the opportunity to meet such talented, such kindhearted people. 

Cindy, Prompto, Iris, and Luna from Final Fantasy XV

Conventions are a way to express yourself and your interests, to get to know other people who are just as enthusiastic. They are a way to see that you're not alone in what you care about. You can share in your love of particular fandoms and connect because of shared "fangirl experiences."


The first anime convention I went to (if it could be called a convention) was a one-day event at a fairly large university three hours away from where I live. It had all the typical highlights of a convention: panels on various topics, cosplayers from all across the fandom spectrum, and lots of geeky, nerdy, exceptionally fandom-y conversations and activities. It was small, but I was still overwhelmed. There seemed to be no end to the amount of people, the cosplayers and the fans, and it was tiring to sit in panels all day. I didn’t think I would much enjoy attending other anime conventions let alone something as huge as Comic-Con (as awesome as that would be). But last weekend, I attended my second anime convention (though I would argue it was my first “real” convention since I now think one has to participate in multiple days of panels, cosplaying and more with little to no sleep to truly understand the convention experience).

My cosplays for the weekend: Nico di Angelo (and apparently Thalia Grace), Wonder Woman, Hipster Peter Pan, and Hipster Rapunzel with Flynn. 

Colossalcon is exactly what it’s called: colossal. In 2015, there were over 17,000 attendees, and I’m sure it’s only grown in the past two years. It’s one of the biggest anime conventions in America, and it was, to say the least, overwhelming. However, it was definitely worth it.

On the first day, I spent most of my day wandering around the Kalahari Convention Center with wide eyes and a mind buzzing with too many thoughts to process. First, there were so many people. So many. Each corridor was overcrowded with people trying to squeeze through, waiting in line, or taking pictures. And they just kept coming. From every direction! There were so many cars in the parking lot, some people had to be a little creative to park. I knew, based on what I've seen from Comic-Con pictures, that many people are willing to admit their love for some kind of fandom without shame, but to witness it is a whole other experience. It was bewildering to realize this many people share the same kind of feeling about movies, TV shows, books, and video games as I do.

Second, there were so many amazing cosplays! There are a lot of talented people out there who make costumes from scratch, including detailed weapons and props as well as wigs and other accessories. I was amazed. I continually was pulling out of my phone to snap a quick photo of someone passing by. It was also cool to see everybody being nice to one another; if you asked for a photo, they would usually say yes. They didn’t mind stopping for a pose, and everybody was quick to give compliments. I had one guy hug me simply because the character I was half-heartedly cosplaying as needs a hug in the books! It was interesting to see all the different types of people who attended the convention as well. Anybody, no matter who you are outside of the convention center, can come together for a shared experience because you simply love a specific story or enjoy this or that character. It was an amazing thing to witness throughout the weekend.

Cosplays from the weekend: Dinosaur with Keyblades, Toothless, Sophie and Howl, Sly Cooper, Newt Scamander, Ms. Marvel, Lego Batman, Green Arrow, Elvis Stormtrooper, Eleven, Dread Pirate Roberts, and Tiny Spider-Man. 

Third, there was a lot to do. From panels every hour or two to the arcade and video game rooms to autograph signings and the waterpark, the convention was packed full of events and activities to participate. It was incredible. Sometimes it was hard to choose which panels to attend, and oftentimes, I was too tired from the day to pay attention during the late-night panels. Still, the panels I attended were a mixture of absolutely fantastic to mediocre, but they were all interesting and fueled my love for fandom. I continually think about what I’ve experienced and just smile to myself at how much fun the whole weekend was.

Of course, the whole weekend wasn’t completely "the best thing ever." I was tired a lot. It was hot outside when we did photoshoots, and sometimes I was just tired of bumping into people. (I need a bubble; don’t touch my bubble.) Of course, eating schedules were all wonky, and sometimes we went a while between meals. But I think overall it was definitely worth all the yawns and jostling for the rest of the experience.

There were a few highlights of the weekend that truly made the experience memorable. Samurai Dan is freaking hilarious, and I enjoyed learning about ninja fighting. I wish I would have gone to more of his panels because it was intriguing and entertaining. Maybe next year? I attended a Kingdom Hearts panel, and while I didn’t understand everything they discussed, I could tell the panel leaders truly loved what they were discussing, and I think it was cool they have the opportunity to share about what they love. I also learned how to ballroom dance, which was fun. There was a Star Trek panel, a space pirates panel, and more! Most of the panels I went to I enjoyed; a few were too long or disappointing, but not many. And of course, I enjoyed my time at the waterpark, although at first I was absolutely terrified of the slides!

The biggest highlight of the weekend, however, was Johnny Yong Bosch. Johnny is a voice-actor for a ton of different anime series and video games, and he also played Adam Park, the Black Power Ranger in Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. I’ve only seen one anime series where he voiced a character (and a few episodes here and there from other series), so I didn’t really feel like a fan. But after his first panel, I swiftly fell into fangirl mode and was already making a list of which anime series to watch when I got home (and of course, Power Rangers). He had three panels throughout the weekend, and each one was hilarious, fun, and awesome. He told stories, answered questions, and even made a short video with volunteers from the audience (and the rest of the crowd making sound effects). It was freaking ridiculous, but I love it.

I went to one of his autograph signings in order to get my boyfriend’s DVD signed, but I also wanted to get a picture so I bought a print. I was so nervous the entire time in line, and I didn’t even know what I should say or do when I got up there. Unfortunately, I didn’t say anything. I couldn’t think of anything to say. He signed the stuff, we took a picture, and I walked away… completely mortified with myself. I was probably full of nervous anxiety for about an hour afterwards. I have this problem, apparently, where I meet semi-famous people and say absolutely nothing to them. It didn’t matter, however, because he was still cool and funny. And it didn’t hinder my experience, just sitting in the panels was enough.

His stories, I think, were the most important part because it just made me realize that all these celebrities, whether they’re super famous or only semi-famous, whether they’re popular now or were popular in the past--they’re all just people like me and you. They make mistakes. They have struggles. They have families and friends. They’ve overcome obstacles to get where they are today. And it’s just kind of cool to think they aren't so different, despite having pictures of their face on giant posters or their autograph sprinkled across hundreds of souvenirs. And the words Johnny spoke just kind of gave me hope: about life, my future, my desire to be creative in my work. Nobody is perfect, and sometimes it takes a while to get to where you want to be.

Overall, despite being tired and overwhelmed by literally everything, the experience of Colosslacon was so fun. It gave me a new perspective on what it means to be a fangirl or fanboy, what nerdom has done to our world, and what it’s like to function with little sleep and not enough food. (Just kidding!) It reminded me why I love being part of fandoms, why I love stories, and why I love being a fangirl. 

Have you ever had an out-of-this-world fangirl experience? The Fangirl Initiative wouldn't be complete without the help of you, our readers. We want to hear and feature your stories and tales. If you have a fangirl experience you'd like to share in this column, let us know!

For more of the Experience, check out our Instagram for daily Fangirl Experiences.

All photos, gifs, and videos were taken by Kelly Chaplin and Jaime Heller unless otherwise noted.


Post a Comment