I’d been planning this post since November, but had no idea how I was going to deal with the subject. It’s about OTAKU, and my city, CIUDAD JUAREZ. It’s complicated, but I was missing a crucial component, one element that would show how FULL OF SHIT things are here.
I found it in December.
But before dwelling in how a little trip gave me the tools needed to make this evil, mean and decidedly poignant post, it’s
Ciudad Juarez has a long history of Anime “Conventions”. The one that set everything in motion, CONFRONT, started in 2004. In a couple of years, countless copycats emerged, some more “successful” than the others. One that has been able to keep going uninterrupted for 5 years already is Mangacom (Poster pictured on right).
The interesting thing about the Juarez Otaku is that they’re the biggest consumers of (counterfeit) Otaku goods I’ve ever seen. They HUNGER for it, and are willing to accept all kinds of trash in exchange of it. They even like (LOVE, even!) the fact that these events are essentially all the same shit over and over again. And when you have one of these events per month, the shit not only becomes apparent: It begins to stink, badly.
Let me tell you how these events are structured:
- Get a bunch of merchants, who mostly trade on counterfeit goods, charging them US $50 per table.
- Get a bunch of Anime clubs, charge them US $50 per table, but convince them they can sell food and make videogame tournaments.
- Get a distinguishing factor. A special tournament, if you don’t have the budget, or a special guest, if you do have some budget. Most of the time, you will only be able to get one (1) Mexican Voice Actor, if you’re lucky.
- Get some local bands, especially if these bands can play Anime theme song covers. This is the easies step, there’s just like 2 or 3 of those and they play in almost every event.
- Make posters, like the one on the right, and distribute them amongst everyone you know.
- On the day of the event, place the stage right next to the merchants right next to the food-selling clubs. Make sure that you use the same space all the other events have used! A library’s multi-purpose big-ass room that has poor ventilation and no AC.
- Relegate artists to the back, but make sure they don’t stand out in comparison with the other people.
- After the event is over, post on the net on how successful your event, regardless of how successful it really might have been.
- PROFIT!! (NOT REALLY!!)
That’s the way it goes.
One of the most important factors is the location. Most of these events take place at the Biblioteca Publica Central, located within the Parque Central Hermanos Escobar.
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It’s a beautiful place… Outside.
Not so much.
Why was I there, then?
Well, for starters, my friends were there because they wanted to play Super Street Fighter IV with some people from the area.
But setting aside all fun things that might or might not have happened in the event, I was, once again, surprised at the HUGE amount of this:
Okay, not really. It’s a common issue with these events in a country that is so used to unlawfulness it’s no longer funny.
Still, this is what you will find most at these events, and possibly the Number 2 Reason Juarez Otaku Go To Cons (Number 1 is, hypothetically, Cosplay).
I mostly ignore this stuff, nowadays. Nothing you can do about it except NOT contribute to it, which means I ignore it.
But there are things you CAN’T ignore.
Things like… Well…
HORRIBLE UNSANITARY CONDITIONS.
You see, apparently the Food Court is essentially the Shopping Area and also the Concert Area and the Gaming area, which means that everyone who had bought ANYTHING to eat had to dump it in the former-paint-bucket garbage can. That, and no one in the staff bothered to…
- Get bigger garbage cans.
- Get garbage bags.
- PICK UP THE FUCKING TRASH.
I was there, staring at this shit, when it dawned on me:
This garbage bucket, this mess, is… The Juarez Otaku culture.
It’s the conventions, the events, the people.
One event a month, almost always in the same place, with the same programs, the same ideas.
It’s like dumping all garbage in a single bin, a single way-too-small bin.
But nobody bothered to look at it and DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT.
Now this is the perfect chance for you to ask, “But, Anatole, why didn’t YOU pick up the trash? What have YOU DONE ABOUT IT?”
Well, first of all, I came to that event as an ATTENDANT, not STAFF. I was provided a venue of observation, a service. My contribution was to NOT dump my garbage in that pile of shit and put it somewhere else.
And I have done A LOT about it, just not in this event. Also, everything I’ve done has been a failure:
- One year I made all the floor planning for CONFRONT, as well as writing letters for sponsorships. The original venue was kind enough to turn their back on us late into the game, which meant I had to improvise a new floor plan for the new venue, which was promptly ignored by everyone else. FAIL.
- One year I had drafted a set of rules, and even an expositor sign-up form which was used ONCE, never to be talked off again. FAIL.
- For various years, I proposed that the CONFRONT be held at someplace other than shopping malls or similar venues. My proposals were certainly ambitious (Hotels, Convention Centers, et all), and were met with almost immediate dismissal. FAIL.
- Last year I decided I was NOT gonna be staff anymore, and decided to sell drawings and prints at an event called Jutsu-Me, organized by a local college. Only a couple of people bought sketches, only a couple of friends bought prints, and I spent the most part of two days re-learning the hard way how different I am from the local Otaku Culture.
So, YES, I have been part of the solution…
Except, there is no solution.
No one wants to change.
It’s a vicious cycle.
And it makes me real sad, and real angry!
Because Juarez is full of GREAT people that COULD do and get more!
There’s a long list of events in this city, the largest city in the state and the first in the region to organize events aimed at Otaku, and yet none have the quality, passion or even organization that makes you take them seriously.
Then you have cities like Chihuahua, the capital of the state, with a smaller population and whose first Otaku-centric events were inspired by Juarez’s, making events that look like this:
Yes, it was this past December. I went there with my friends, because I had gone to the 2008 Winterfest and it had been quite an experience.
Now, you may be thinking, has it improved?
The best thing about this Con is that I can buy INDIE COMICS from ARTISTS I DON’T HANG AROUND WITH OFTEN! Even ARTISTS I DON’T KNOW! Some are even COSPLAYING AS TOUHOU CHARACTERS! It was awesome.
So I can’t buy all comics, but I can and did take a look at all the local arts stuff that gets made here, and it’s AMAZING. Pretty much all the area in the back of the second picture is all tables for ARTISTS and CRAFTSPEOPLE. The first pic, left side, is all the commercial stuff, with essentially/almost no counterfeit chinese shit.
First huge difference: Lots of artists and craftsmen, and they DO sell stuff relatively well.
Second huge difference: No food was allowed in this huge hall. If you wanted food, you had to buy it and eat it here:
Yes. The Food Court. At peak hour, you could find anything here. Maybe even food! And not bad food, either, but a variety of food.
But that’s not all… It also housed the ONE element, the ONE thing that made all the difference, and the ONE SINGLE OBJECT that reflected how good things are at Winterfest:
Yes. A big garbage can, with a garbage bag on it. Not pictured: All the full, closed and set-apart bags from all the garbage the Chihuahua Otaku dumped IN THIS CAN before going into the Convention Main Hall.
Can you see it?
Can you FEEL it?
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SHIT AND NICE?
I almost cried. As I was taking a picture of THIS GARBAGE CAN at a Chihuahua Anime Con, my eyes teared up. It wasn’t the smell, it wasn’t the OCD in me wanting to get away as far as possible from the garbage.
It was the me who remembered the MangaCom, and realized that the Otaku in Juarez were like their MangaCom garbage bin, all spread out, without preparation, without order, and without anything good about them, while the Otaku in Chihuahua at least had the decency to DEPARTMENTALIZE and USE GARBAGE CANS AND BAGS in order to avoid polluting the CONVENTION FLOOR.
So, to all of you FILTHY JUAREZ OTAKU who are HAPPY with your SHIT CONVENTIONS: Do you want to improve? Do you want to get out of the FUCKING DUMP and DO SOMETHING POSITIVE? Look at what Chihuahua is doing, and DO IT BETTER.
And you, Otaku from Chihuahua: Congrats! You have a great con. I had a lot of fun, except for that one time some guy was being a total dick to Eidan, and Eidan had to contain himself so he wouldn’t rip that jackass’s head off with his teeth. That was kinda scary, because I wanted to kill the guy too. Such a dick.
And if you want to know more about the WinterFest, visit their website, right here!
Next time, I’ll review ALL THE COMICS I bought at MangaCom. There’s good, there’s bad, there’s ugly, but, fortunately, there’s always ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT! So I will talk about that kind of thing, too.
Because this blog doesn’t have to be BITTER all the time, right?