Adult Otaku, When Does it Start Getting Creepy?

This is a first in series of posts focused on my experiences and thoughts on the first annual New York Anime Festival, which took place on Dec 7-9, 2007.

It happened to me at the MangaNext convention a couple of months ago. It was a small convention compared to Otakon or the NYAF, so I decided not to take a vacation day from work and only go to the Saturday events.As I walked through the narrow hallways of the hotel, I felt very uneasy. I was becomeing very annoyed with the other attendees, and I knew it wasn’t because of all the ugly, poorly-made Naruto costumes.

They were loud, screaming to each other in the small hallway. They were annoying, complaining on-and-on about how one anime character was not nearly as cool as another. They were rowdy, running in the hallways and “glomping” complete strangers. I felt like just telling them all to calm-the-f***-down!

But then I realized they were otaku kids. That’s what they do. This was their chance to be away from school and just goof off with their buddies, blow off that teenage angst and whatnot. I remember what it was like to be like that.

But if I can realize this and still be annoyed by their wild behavior, then that must mean… that must mean…

I’m getting too old for this!


Sure, I’m only 23, but half-a-year of the post-graduation life has put me way beyond the level of these kids. I’m doing a 9-to-5, paying rent, and I simply do not have the same energy I did before. Not that there’s really anything wrong with that. There’s no way in hell I would ever go back to the life of studying and exams. But looking around at my fellow convention attendees, I felt that there was no way I could ever consider them “peers” of mine.

Am I past my prime when it comes to going to anime conventions? Was I starting to become one of those guys?

I have always been fully aware of the creepy older people that would show up to these events. They were typically male, over weight, and balding with grey hair. Most of them would be carrying a tripod and camera, and snapping off shots of the underaged girls in sexy cosplay. How completely sick and pathetic! There they were, sticking out so much among the youth. l just can’t help but to be disgusted by them.

Was I turning into one of those guys? Was my presence at these cons starting to become creepy?

This realization really put a damper on my MangaNext experience, and it was a real fear I had going into the NYAF.

I did take a vacation day for the NYAF and attended the convention when it opened on Friday. My friend was not going to be able to come with me that day because she was still in college and had an exam to take. In a way, this should have been a good indication of things to come.

Even though it was a much larger convention, I didn’t feel nearly as overwhelmed as I did at MangaNext. I was able to walk around the entire floor with no problems. There was no running, no screaming, no glomping, just a peaceful and enjoyable experience. And I know just why that was:

There were no kids!

It was a Friday, a school day. All the kids were still at school! The attendees that were able to show up were all adults like me. Most of them were professional journalist, writing for the Anime News Network or Publishers Weekly. But others were just hobbiest, taking in the panels and discussions without the flood of attention craving youngsters. I ended up having some serious discussions with the other attendees.

The kids came on Saturday and Sunday, but I knew to stay away from the general hallway and stick with the professional media at the panels. This is where I felt more in my place. I loved this audience. These were finally the folks that I could call my peers.

With the social awkwardness that you often find in otaku, you can see how easily one would lose sight of what’s appropriate and not-appropriate for their age. There’s not a more pathetic scene than the balding overweight man being surrounded by hyperactive teenagers. But there is still a place for adult anime fan in the convention scene without it being creepy. Stick with the professionals as the discussion panels. They actually do talk about very interesting things that will keep away the ADD youngster.

And please, never ever go around taking photos of underaged girls in sexy cosplay… that’s still very wrong on so many levels.

::shutters in horror::

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