Alibi V.25 No.48 • Dec 1-7, 2016 

Culture Shock

Four Years of Fandom

Albuquerque's anime convention is all about finding connection

Cosplay at Con-Jikan 3
Cosplay at Con-Jikan 3
XYZ Snapper
“Even if you've never seen an anime in your life, you recognize when people are passionate about something [and] that energy is contagious,” said Justin D. Brough, the founder and current chair of Con-Jikan, Albuquerque’s anime and gaming convention. “And at conventions, people wear those passions on their sleeves—literally! They're in cosplay!” Brough had appeared for our interview almost magically—walking across a crowded storm-lit parking lot under the auspice of a double rainbow. Not only did he make an entrance with the same gravitas as Mamoru Chiba transforming into Tuxedo Mask (regrettably the anime references are going to stop right here, because that's about as far as my knowledge extends) but he was incredibly amiable—earnestly speaking on each of the many components of Con-Jikan, which encompasses a celebration not just of anime, but also of tabletop games, video games and cosplay.

The inception of Con-Jikan came more than three years ago on a long drive through the vast desertscapes between Albuquerque and San Jose, where Brough and other members of the UNM Anime Club had attended FanimeCon. Prior to that outing they had endured a different long drive to go to a convention in Dallas. “And we started wondering: Why isn't there anything like this in Albuquerque for us to go to?” For the remainder of the 16-hour drive, the group started to brainstorm what they would need to pull it off. A year later, the first Con-Jikan was held at the Student Union Building on UNM's campus. The convention has happened annually ever since, this time around—Con-Jikan's fourth year—it will be held at the MCM Eleganté Hotel (2020 Menaul NE) on Saturday, Dec. 3, and Sunday, Dec. 4, and is slated to be just as expansive as ever.

Guests this time around include voice talent artist Lauren Landa—whose credits include anime like “Attack on Titan” and the Viz Media Dub of “Sailor Moon,” as well as video games such as Soulcalibur V, Street Fighter V and Super Smash Bros.—and cosplay all-stars Dustbunny and Junkers, both from LA. Others in the mix will include the likes of Gamers Anonymous, Game Night Every Night, Geekon LLC, Duke City Pinball and Awaken Maid Café, to name just a few. “Since [Con-Jikan] is relatively small, a lot of our fans get more time to know the guests as a person … to engage with them, learn about the industry,” Brough posited. Not only will Con-Jikan attendees have the opportunity to engage with guests from around the country, but they also have the opportunity to engage with one another, which is what's at the core of the convention for Brough.

Anime
“I suppose it's reassuring to some people,” Brough explained. “A lot of anime and gaming fans might not always be the most social types, so one thing that Con-Jikan focuses on is being a safe, welcoming environment for people no matter their fandom, no matter how shy or outgoing they are.” Brough himself, an avid gamer growing up, found it to be a largely solitary activity. It wasn't until his first year of college, when his roommate introduced him to anime (via “Bleach”)—which he took to enthusiastically—that he discovered a community around his nerdier tendencies. In turn, the people he connected with exposed him to all sorts of new anime, as well as things like tabletop board games—a newer passion for Brough. Beyond his immediate experience, he sees a large intersection in the interests of gamers of all stripes and anime fans. “The problem is there aren't a lot of events like ours where the community can come together and see each other all in the same place,” he emphasized. “Everyone engages with anime and gaming … on their own terms, so what we want to do is bring that enthusiasm for the subject matter and give people a specific weekend to come nerd out and see just how many other anime and gaming fans there are here locally.”

Much aligned with the idea of connection that is so inherent to Con-Jikan is the tradition of wearing identifying badges, indicating one's interests and fandoms. “When people see each other, the first thing they look at is the other person's badge. If that person's badge shows a common interest, then that's an excellent jumping off point for conversation, connection and potentially a new friendship,” Brough explained.

And the good news is, it's easier than ever to join the party. “There has been a growing acceptance of anime as a legitimate medium over the last several years,” Brough explained. That, coupled with the rising popularity of simulcasting (the release of anime simultaneously in Japan and the US) has made accessing the medium painless—no suffering through fan subs or plundering the deep web for bootlegs. “I think as a result of that, the anime community here in the US has grown considerably and anime conventions, too. … There's now common-ness to watching 'Yu-Gi-Oh!' or 'Pokémon.' There are a lot of fans, they want to meet other people who are into it.” Brough paused before adding, “And people who are into it, are into it in a big way, right?” I nodded in agreement, because, even to these rather uninitiated eyes, this seems to be true. This enthusiasm is largely evidenced by the proliferation of cosplay, and at Con-Jikan, there are plenty of opportunities to, as Brough said, “wear your heart on your sleeve.”

Cosplay is just one more avenue to finding community rallied around the medium, and ultimately to enjoy yourself with those newfound friends. As Brough so aptly summed it up, “No matter what kind of fan you are, Con-Jikan has something to offer you.” And that makes the investment in a $40 all-weekend pass, or a one day pass for as little as $25 well worth it. Find tickets at the door, or online at con-jikan.com.

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