AJ Visits Tokyo by Way of Tulsa

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It’s been a week since Tokyo in Tulsa had their closing ceremonies and this intrepid reporter is already missing the sights of the largest unique convention in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

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2015 marked the 8th year of Tokyo in Tulsa, the theme of the year being Mecha vs. Kaiju, and the first time I’ve personally made the trek to the event. This also marks the 8th year for my convention companion, who provided interesting insight to the humble beginnings in front of con CEO James Fowler’s anime shop. “He had me run to the (local Asian market) and pick up every box of Pocky and bottle of Ramune they had in stock so we could sell it, and we were out of Ramune before the day was even half over.” The voracious appetite of the TnT goer remains as the sole Japanese food vendor had a line running the length of the vendor hall on Saturday.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t the only line. Friday hit a few snafus as the lines grew… and grew… and grew. At one point, the average pre-registered guest was waiting between 3 and 5 hours — something that was entirely appalling to organizers, who were not alerted to the situation until late in the afternoon. Thankfully, once the situation was made apparent, the management of the convention had those monstrous lines down to nothing in less than an hour and the snag was not repeated on Saturday or Sunday. Perhaps it was due to the growing numbers in attendance, as the Friday ticket sales in combination with the pre-registrations had the convention at their attendance for 2014. Regardless, the staff handled the problem and prevented it from happening again, which is the mark of a well-managed con.

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Now, I’ll admit, I was fairly apprehensive attending a convention with anything referencing Japan in its name. Those who know me realize I’m not a big anime fan, for starters, and I was worried I’d be lost. But, at the reassurance of several friends in the Tulsa area, I was told it would be fine, and they were more than correct. Anime fans and non-anime fans alike had plenty to ogle and enjoy during the show.

For one: the cosplay. I’ve written before about the level of cosplay at various events and this show stepped it up to a level I’d not previously seen. Yes, I saw far too many Harley Quinns and Deadpools, but I also saw Cecil Baldwins, Pokémon Trainers, Fili and Kili, every character imaginable from Steven Universe, tons of well-done Lolita, and perhaps the best Voldemort I’d ever seen (who, as it turned out, was a good friend of mine from the Oklahoma Renaissance Festival… I didn’t recognize him at first!). There were also plenty of anime characters I’d have no hope of naming, but were so beautiful I couldn’t help but stare. But, to top everything off, the convention had brought in noted cosplayers Harley’s Joker and Joker’s Harley, both of whom were easily accessible on the floor both Saturday and Sunday (and are just as fantastic in person as they are in their wonderful photographs).

Harley's Joker at Tokyo in Tulsa 2015

Something I found interesting in regards to cosplay was their organization of the competitions. The competition was broken into three very different events with unique rules for each. The “main” cosplay contest was a contest for those who built their costumes and was judged entirely on craftsmanship whereas the “hall” cosplay contest was judged on photographs taken at the convention (you could wear store-bought OR handmade costumes in this competition). Finally, the convention also arranged to have a skit contest for those who enjoy acting out their characters, something not all that common in the convention circuit anymore. You can check out photographs of the winners of each competition on the Tokyo in Tulsa Facebook page.

Perhaps my favorite element of the organization of Tokyo in Tulsa was the way artists and vendors were separated. I assume this has more to do with the cost of tables than anything else, but the vendors in the vendor room were primarily people with goods to sell that were not handmade. This included everyone from the people with DVDs in various levels of translation from Japanese to wig and costume accessories vendors to the aforementioned Japanese food vendor. There were a few handmade vendors in the room as well, including a leather worker I know well from OKRF, but most of the rest of the handmade goods were easily found in the artists’ room, along with the demonstrators. So, while perusing bows from my favorite table (which had also been at Planet Comicon), I was able to watch a Society for Creative Anachronism demonstration.

But, perhaps the most interesting demonstration of the weekend took place at the opposite corner of the artists’ hall: the Chalk Twins. Over the weekend, the two lovely ladies added to a large piece of artwork featuring characters from Avatar: the Last Airbender, the artwork itself being donated to the silent auction held by the convention. Other than the auction, the convention also hosted a charity ball on Thursday night and a charity photo suite to benefit the Openarms Youth Project. For more information regarding the charity, be sure to follow the link to their official website.

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And, before I forget: let me just wax poetic about the app! I’ve been to conventions with apps before (Dragon Con and Wizard World, for example), but this app was one of my favorites… hands down! It had a social media element to it, allowed you to connect directly with other con goers and staff, put a map at your fingertips, and even allowed you to set custom alarms for events. I was thrilled by its useability and I hope they implement it again next year.

All in all, the convention was a great time. I’d like to spend more time in panels next year, maybe even a little more time down in the game room (which was extremely well-stocked), but I personally would recommend this convention to anyone close enough for travel. I can only hope that next year will be bigger, better, and even crazier.

[featured image by Robert Suske]

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