Emerald City Comic Con has many unique features. There’s its Homegrown section, which is dedicated to local artists. There’s the Cosplay Central Crown Championships, which lets cosplayers show off their talents. And there’s the Pop Asia section of the con. As its name implies, the Pop Asia section features a number of activities tailor-made for fans of anime and manga. In my book, this is something that other cons could use more of. Anime is growing to be more popular than ever – this week saw the debut of Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero in theaters, and series like My Hero Academia and Chainsaw Man have plenty of fans. Over the course of the con, I visited the Pop Asia section and found multiple activities to partake in.
First up was the events stage. Technically it was a section of floor rather than a stage, but there was plenty of room for people to participate. Every day would see a new activity: there were classes where con attendees learned the art of kendo, along with basic martial arts moves. There were even dance sessions where people attempted to recreate the moves of J-pop stars. The biggest feature was the beanbag chairs placed in front of the stage. They made a nice place to sit and relax after a long day’s walk on the con floor. And on the opposite side, there were photo opportunities including a mock cherry blossom tree.
The biggest draw was the Dreamland Maid Cafe. As its name suggests, it was a section where attendees could talk with maids dressed in frilly pink and white uniforms while enjoying tea and snacks. Sadly, I didn’t get a chance to visit as the cafe’s reservations filled up almost immediately each day, but those who did attend seemed to enjoy it. Given the popularity of the maid cafe, it would not be surprising if it returns next year. There are even plans for a maid cafe at this year’s LA Comic Con, so it’s clear that other cons are looking to capitalize on that popularity.
By far my favorite part of the Pop Asia display was the manga lounge. Fans could walk inside, pick up a manga, and start reading. And there were plenty of selections, from new series like Fire Force to classics like Ramna 1/2. I chose the first volume of Infini-T Force by Ukyo Kodachi & Tatsuma Ejiri, which served as a crossover event between Tatsunoko Productions’ series including Ninja Science Team Gatchaman and Tekkaman: The Space Knight. Infini-T Force follows a high school student named Emi, who discovers a magical pencil that pulls four heroes into her world. It’s essentially the manga version of The Avengers, and it was catnip to a lifelong Toku fan such as myself. I even started watching the anime series when I got home!
Finally, there were plenty of panels centered around anime and manga, from the disappointment of live-action adaptations to trivia sessions. On Sunday, I attended a panel titled “The Influence of Sailor Moon on Pop Culture and Today”, which talked about how Sailor Moon has impacted other creative endeavors over its 30-year history. Not only is it referenced in other anime such as Yu Yu Hakusho, but films like Turning Red also draw inspiration from it. Even American comics have referenced the shojo classic; an issue of Justice League of America has the Martian Manhunter assume the identity of “Hino Rei” – who happens to be Sailor Mars.
Pop Asia is not only a unique experience for Emerald City Comic Con, but it also served as a haven for anime and manga lovers. If you ever have the chance to attend ECCC, you owe it to yourself to check out the activities there.