If they weren’t attending in person, then U.S. citizens were watching the Republican National Convention from the edge of their living room sofas; and now they can be found glued to their television sets once again as the Democratic National Convention gets underway. But from July 21-24, thousands of Florida residents were taking a break from the Hillary/Trump head-butting to attend a convention of a different kind as Tampa welcomed back its widely popular anime convention, Metrocon, for its fourteenth year in a row.
Almost 12,000 fanboys and girls, Metrocon’s largest attendance yet, flocked to the Tampa Convention Center for a weekend of cosplay, panels, and all things nerdy.
“This is my sixth year attending Metrocon,” said Justin Moody of Zephyrhills. “And it was just as fun as the first time that I went back in 2010.”
The four-day event features a number of panels with themes ranging from TV to video games, sketch comedy and stunt shows, an artist and vendor room full of nifty merchandise, costume and video contests, a masquerade ball, and celebrity guests.
“Metro Night Live”, a comedy show parodying “Saturday Night Live”, and the Anime Music Video (AMV) contest are among some of the bigger events at the convention. Congoers can also choose from a plethora of panels featuring trivia, sing-a-longs, or even voice acting or writing tips.
“My favorite event was the Human Chess Match,” said Zephyrhills resident Michelle Cooper. “I’ve always liked the idea of a combat chess match; I actually discovered it at Metrocon one year, I had never seen it before. It’s really fascinating; all the guns and explosions. It’s like a real battle!”
The Human Chess Match is quite possibly Metrocon’s most popular event. The match pits heroes and villains from popular anime and video game franchises against each other in a life-size game of chess. The battle royal features an elaborate back story, spot on cosplayers that carry out their own impressive stunts, special effects, and plenty of surprises. This year’s match fell under the theme “Order vs. Chaos” and saw heroes such as Starkiller from the beloved game “Star Wars: The Force Unleashed” and Yang from the hit anime “RWBY” take on big baddies such as Alice from the twisted video game “American McGee’s Alice” and Batman’s archenemy, The Joker. At the end of the battle, Chaos had reigned supreme.
Some of Metro’s attendees come for the live entertainment, and others to hunt for deals in the vast sea of toys and memorabilia that is the vendor room. But all come to proclaim
their love for their favorite characters and bond with fellow con-goers through the art of cosplay, or costume role play. Imitation is, after all, the sincerest form of flattery.
“I cosplayed as three different people this year, “said Michelle Cooper. “I went as Asuna from ‘Sword Art Online’, which I do almost every year. I also went as Miles Edgeworth from the ‘Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney’ video games and Shogo Makishima from the anime ‘Psycho Pass’.”
“I cosplayed as the character Mercury from ‘RWBY’,” said Joey Munn, a Tampa resident who was attending for his eighth year. “He was easy for me to play because he’s so relatable. We share the same kind of personality and attitude.”
Some cosplayers even take the opportunity to create and share their own original character. Steven Maynard spent weeks making his costume; a leather and fur clad
creature in a blue motorcycle helmet the likes of which have never been seen.
“I’m a Japanese biker who was bitten by a demon,” said Maynard. “Now I’m slowly morphing into a creature that is unknown to me.”
Steven entered his creation in the costume contest, but sadly, did not take home the gold.
“I didn’t win,” said Maynard. “But there is always next year.”
Steven was in the right mindset. Metrocon is more than costumes and contests and stunt shows and dances; Metrocon is about expressing oneself and befriending others who share the same interests.
“I love Metrocon,” said Maynard. “There is nothing better than the people you meet here.”
“I always like to interact with others who have the same interests,” said Joey Munn.
The Metrocon staff pulled together a little something special this year. Director of Operations Alex Craddock and the rest of the team organized a large raffle that attendees had the chance to enter all four days. The drawing for prizes took place at the convention’s closing ceremonies on Sunday evening. All funds earned from the sale of tickets will be going to charity in order to help the families of the victims of the Pulse night club shooting in Orlando.
Craddock promised that next year’s convention would also be filled with big, new events and special surprises in honor of Metrocon’s fifteenth anniversary.
“We’re going to go all out,” Craddock stated at the closing ceremonies. “Get ready to see a whole new look to Metrocon.”
Metrocon 2016 has just ended, but dedicated fans are already planning their wardrobe and panels for next year’s convention. 2017 is going to be a big year for Tampa’s most popular anime convention, which means the cosplays will also have to be bigger and better than ever before.