Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Yaoi-con 2012 Convention Report

Black Butler Cosplay
The Japanese manga industry has a long and fabled history in Japan. Due to its ubiquity among Japanese culture, it is a popular medium across a vast section of the Japanese market. The manga market’s large size means that smaller, niche markets can thrive. One of the most popular niche genres are Yaoi manga, better known as “boys love” manga. This market is large enough in the United States that the genre itself has survived the great manga crash relatively unscathed. One of conventions that is dedicated to this genre is Yaoi-con, which has moved to Southern California after it was acquired by Digital Manga Publishing. Here are my thoughts on Yaoi-con’s first convention in Southern California.

Sword Art Online
Before I go into the convention report itself, I will first explore the genre in which this convention is centered on. Yaoi is a genre that focuses on homosexual relationships between men that are mainly written by women for the female-dominated market. In this pairing, one man is known as the “seme” and they are the dominant person in the homosexual relationship. The other is known as the “uke” and they are the submissive person in the homosexual relationship. Traditionally, most Yaoi came from fantasies written by Doujinshi (fan-made) artists that pairs straight characters with each other. This manga is then printed, bounded, and then sold in Doujinshi conventions such as Comiket. With such a large market, original works were made that were not based off a property, and this was published in bi-weekly or monthly manga anthologies that would be compiled and bounded into a manga for sale. Companies such as DMP localized the Yaoi manga for an American audience.

The venue for Yaoi-con was interesting; it was on the Long Beach Westin. For those of you familiar with Anime Expo, it was the main staging area for the manga library and video programming in Anime Expo 2007. The convention itself took place on the third floor of the Long Beach Westin. I entered the self-parking at around 10:00am and was pleased to find that there was plentiful parking near the elevators. As I entered the hotel area, I walked up to the third floor and proceeded to pick up my badge. It was quick and painless; the convention staff was very helpful in answering my questions. I looked around the area after picking up the badge, from a photographer’s perspective; the lighting in the third floor area was difficult to work with. I did my best to make sure that I did NOT take any photos in the third floor. My main area for photography was the lobby in the first floor and the outside gardens, which provided for a wealth of beautiful locations.

Layla from the
Code Geass OVA
The layout for Yaoi-con was nice and it made lots of sense. Greeting the attendee as they got up the escalator was the information desk. Behind the information desk was the artist alley that had a variety of unique and talented artists well versed in the art of Boys Love. Some artists were tangentially related to the main con theme, they focused on drawing both elegant men and beautiful women. Booths that had less of a strong Yaoi focus were the booths that I spent more time. The artist alley also surrounded the exhibit hall and the main events area. The exhibit hall was nice and small, but it has a unique selection of Yaoi-themed goods, general anime goods, and boys-love romance novels. On the other end of the third floor were the panel room, the anime programming, and the backdrop for photos. The convention also has a strong "no hate" policy, which was very refreshing. The older attendees also made the convention far more relaxing than a typical convention.

My big shoot at Y-Con
One of the most eye-catching groups of people at any anime convention is the cosplayers. Southern California has a wealth of beautiful and talented cosplayers that attend a variety of cons; Yaoi-con was no exception. One of the things that surprised me in Yaoi-con was that there were not a lot of cosplayers that were from Yaoi-series or were popular Yaoi fan pairings. The best example I saw of anything that was tangentially Yaoi-related was the amazing Kuroshitsuji (Black Butler) cosplayers, but they are a considerable presence at any anime con with their gorgeous Victorian-style dresses and outfits. For the most part, the cosplayers are Yaoi fans who dress up in cosplay that they would normally do in anime cons. There was some great, standout cosplay from newly released anime such as Code Geass: Akito the Exiled and Sword Art Online. For a small convention, the quality of the cosplay was amazing.

I am not a fan of Yaoi, for those of you who know me I am a fan of shojo, seinen, and comedy manga. For a person that was not part of the target market, I had a great time in the convention. There were many wonderful artists in the artist’s alley that had a wide variety of unique goods to sell. The venue had a logical layout that fits the setting of the convention. As with most hotel conventions, my big issue is with the convention lighting that makes photography difficult. If they keep Yaoi-con in Southern California, it will continue to be part of my Southern California convention circuit.

Kris Zoleta started working in Anime Expo as a staffer in Manga Library. He worked in Staff Service in Anime Expo 2006 and became the manager of Manga Lounge from Anime Expo 2007-2010. He is currently serving on the Board of Directors for the Society for the Promotion of Japanese Animation, the 501(c)(6) non-profit behind Anime Expo and is one of the most recognized cosplay photographers in the West Coast. 

Links
Yaoi-Con Website


No comments: