Anime and manga has been around a long time, with some of the most loved films dating back decades – Castle of Cagliostro (1979), Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1984), Akira (1988). As well as iconic series Pokémon, Sailor Moon and DBZ all dating back to the 80’s and 90’s. Anime has been around a long time and it’s fans are growing with it, exploring all aspects of its fandom; including attending conventions.
Despite this, the anime community is often associated with a younger audience.When I mention anime to people who are not fans or familiar with the genre they often think it is childish and associate it with childhood memories of Pokémon. I often explain yes, that is anime but there are other kinds such as Elfen Lied which is certificated 18, aimed at an older audience and definitely not suitable for children! Some may feel embarrassed, or even ashamed to admit they like anime in front of the unfamiliar due to the discrimination of stereotypes for people who like the genre.
In regards to conventions, the younger fans do seem to make up the majority of attendance. Analysing this, it could be because of animes recent surge in popularity. Looking at the content of anime, most of the protagonists are teenagers, therefore younger people can be seen to relate better. As we get older our responsibilities typically change; we settle down, get married, have children, progress in our employment allowing less time for our interests and hobbies, which means unlike when we were younger we cannot just go away to a convention for a weekend without factoring in other aspects of our life such as arranging time off work, babysitter for the kids, feeding the pets etc. Cosplay and conventions can also be expensive; as we get older our disposable income can also change, going towards more practical items such as new furniture or a family holiday.
Considering all these factors that may prevent older fans from attending, some are managing to fit it into their lives, whether it be as a special treat or involving the family. However, in a prodominantly stereotypically younger audience environment what are the limitations and expectations of an older and more mature con-goer?
Thriving and in their thirties, I interviewed Jackie Kennedy, often known as Ladydchaos and Ari Papadopoulos both cosplayers and con-goers who have both experienced conventions as attendees and crew. I discussed with them the issues of age in the anime community through their own personal experiences.
Ari – I don’t think I’ll ever really grow out of it, but finding time to sit down and enjoy a series is becoming rare. I find myself not being able to watch anything these days owing to work and adult responsibilities and when I do find a series I like, I haven’t got the time to catch up on past episodes, or I suddenly find myself swamped with work and stop watching it, lose track and never really go back. It’s a sad state of affairs to be honest but one that’s beyond my control. As for conventions and anime related events, again, time is the main issue, that and the scene tends to be more geared towards younger cosplayers whose sole intent seems to be going to a convention to get drunk, rather than expand their knowledge of the scene and admire the creativity behind the art. As I get older I find myself having less patience with younger cosplayers. Granted it could simply be a cultural difference but in all fairness I’ve earned my right to be a grumpy old lady at conventions!
Ladydchaos – Oh God no, I don’t care if it’s American or Japanese; if it’s got a good story and supernatural elements to it I’m already hooked. I think I will happily go to events until my body says enough, sure I’ll consider taking break if I ever have kids, mostly due to the financial aspect but I’ll find a way of getting the kids hooked too, even if that means going only once a year, I’d contemplate using it as a holiday and go to DragonCon in Atlanta. Hell, if I’m gonna do one event a year; it has to be that one!
Have you ever attended a convention and thought ‘God, I’m too old for this!’?
Ari – Every convention I’ve been too recently. From the late nights, to the constricting costumes right down to the general atmosphere. Like I mentioned previously, I am a bit of a grumpy old lady these days and sometimes I need my own space and a bit of peace and quiet, which is almost impossible at a convention, especially when having to sleep in hostels with 11 other people. It can all get a bit much for my senile brain.
Ari – Anime has been around for decades and most fans continue to enjoy it when they’re older. There is no stigma attached to finding something you enjoy. However I do sometimes find that younger members of the community seem to think that there is such thing as ‘too’ old and that they have an exclusive right to the scene. But saying that, that’s a typical teenage trait in any scene.
Ladydchaos – Only recently, due to some medical issues my body and brain get tired out quickly making me feel old BUT I still get post con blues and I can’t wait for the next event! I have now been doing events for around 13 years and once did 26 in one year, I consider myself a veteran at some events as I see a younger crowd these days but the old crowd are still there and now bring their families along so NO I don’t think age matters one bit. The oldest con goer I know is about 75!
Do you ever get annoyed of the younger attendee’s behavior at conventions and related events?
Ari – Oh goodness yes. There are kids out there who think that the aim of conventions is to get drunk and be as loud and obnoxious as possible, as though being in costume gives them free license to act like a twat for 3 days. From glomping you when you’re trying to walk down the street, and breaking parts of your cosplay, to demanding fanservice; there’s a boatload of immaturity at conventions. Then there’s the drama that they cause…usually as a result of alcohol fuelled rage/jealousy/idiocy. You can’t have a convention without at least one huge drama which tends to be a result of the ‘he said/she said’ mentality, the cosplay grapevine and just plain vicious rumours that tend to start when a bunch of hormonally challenged geeks gather in large numbers.
Ladydchaos – Oh all the time! There’s always someone who needs the rules explained to them so they have a good time without potentially causing irritation to others. I hate the ‘free hug’ signs, I know where it came from but I also see underage scantily clad girls who can put themselves at risk from creepy guys and when someone randomly hugs you because they love your costume and ruin all the hard work you put in, as it’s not always that strong – ‘cardboard & duct tape mostly’. People need to think of others before doing stuff like that or at least ask. Not to mention inappropriate hand placing when having your picture taken with a fan…
Do you think that there are certain cosplays you wouldn’t do due to age?
Ari – There are a great many cosplays I wouldn’t do owing to age…mainly those of child/teenage characters. For the most part I would cosplay characters that are about 18 or up. I’m fortunate in that I look a lot younger than my age so can generally get away with it.
Ladydchaos – The way I have always cosplayed is anyone can make and wear whatever they want BUT personally I only cosplay those I know I can get away with, due to height & build, the more I look like the character the better, age is not a problem, make-up & prosthetics are a wonderful thing if you know how to use them!
Have you ever attended a convention and thought someone was dressed in an inappropriate cosplay for their age?
Ari – I recall a young girl who is a regular on the scene. She is very young, around 8 -10 and she cosplays from Final Fantasy. Her costume was highly inappropriate for a child of her age as it was thigh high boots, a bra top and what were essentially hot pants that were little more than a belt. I have no objection to children cosplaying, but I draw the line at the sexualisation and objectification of young children, especially in a scene where there seems to be no taboo when it comes to shota and loli.
Ladydchaos – I can’t say I can actually think of anyone who’s done this. I appreciate all costume efforts, good bad and downright weird & wrong!
Many conventions have age restrictions (such as 18+), would you ever like to see an event aimed just at the older fans?
Ari – Funnily enough, no. I think it’s unfair to restrict the age groups any more than they are. There’s no guarantee that a bunch of 25yr olds are going to be any more mature than 18yr olds, and sometimes you need the youth to liven the place up.
Ladydchaos – No, I like a good mix of ages at these things, it makes me feel young having people in their 20 ‘s around but if the show was aimed at 18+ I wouldn’t expect to see children at the show.
Ari – Unfortunately I don’t think it can be. Age discrimination is a global thing, in every scene, and generation after generation gets butt hurt over the older generation talking down to them, then promptly do the same to the generation that comes after. It’s human nature.
What advice would you give mature cosplayers/people worried about attending anime related events due to feeling ‘too old’?
Ari – As long as you’re young at heart, then no one will bother about your physical age. Some of my closest friends that I met through the community are almost 10 years younger than me and my age has never been an issue. As long as you’re confident in yourself then go for it. It actually inspires the younger generations as they get to realise that their hobby has no time limit and they will be able to enjoy it for as long as they wish. My only real advice would be to cosplay to your strengths…and don’t cosplay too young. For instance, if you’re 40, don’t try and pull off a character that is 9 years old. Go for adolescents and above.
Ladydchaos – Don’t worry, enjoy and be yourself, respect cosplayers so you don’t get a reputation for being creepy. Shower, no one likes a bad sweaty smell regardless of your age. Have fun, and remember, everyone there has at least 50% of the same interests you do, that’s why they’re there so don’t be afraid to start a random conversation.
Thank you for your time, help and opinions ladies!,
What do you think about ageism in the anime community? Do you find younger members can ruin the experience for you with their drunken antics? Do you find outsiders do not understand your hobby and find it childish? Do you ever feel ‘too old’ to attend a convention?
Photo Credits for Ladydchaos – Paul Holroyd http://www.phphotoimages.co.uk/