Santa Clara Convention Center

The Santa Clara Convention Center, a several-stories tall building connected to an expensive hotel, hosted most of the Silicon Valley’s biggest events: conventions, expos, tournaments, and such.

I remember attending a large anime expo there once. My friend Thomas introduced me to anime my sophomore year when I was over at his place for a group project. Instead of rehearsing our lines for our reenactment of an act from Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice, we ended up spending more time sitting in front of his computer screen watching the animated episodes. I tried to be good and chose the shortest series possible, Ah! My Goddess, a five-episode series. I refused to watch the shows in their intended format, in Japanese and opted for English dubbing (horrible, but I wouldn’t have it any other way). Despite this error, from then on there was no turning back. I was hooked to anime.

Later that year, for my birthday, I invited two other friends, Bryan and Frank to attend the annual Anime Expo at the Santa Clara Convention Center, the largest convention center in our area. For some reason in my mind, I had always associated anime being exclusively Asian, probably because the only people I knew who watched anime were Asian. Yet, this was an ignorant thought. Anime was Japanese, so how did that entitle all Asians to it? It didn’t, and if it didn’t, then why couldn’t people of other ethnicities watch and enjoy it as well? Furthermore, now that I think about it, most animes don’t even have obviously Japanese characters in them. Certain animes even strive to create obviously American or some other ethnic characters.

Still, when I saw a group of Indian girls at the convention, all of them too fat for their outfits, cos-playing as the Sailor Moon super heroines, I agreed with Bryan’s comment that we would be “scarred for life.” It wasn’t that we were racists. We just weren’t accustomed to it. In some ways, the convention was an expansion not just beyond the Asian cultures, but also an exploration into the different Asian communities.

I went to anime animation workshop classes taught by a Chinese guy and cell painting classes taught by a Caucasian. There were even a few African-American organizers who had flown all the way across the country for this special weekend expo.

I can only speak for myself, but anime’s greatest appeal is probably the intensity and realism the storylines produce. Even the sci-fi or fantasy genres managed the capture present themes and emotions. The anime world presented a world of adventure, drama, and perhaps an escape from our reality into a different kind of reality. Watching anime was a kind of simulation of a world I’d like to have a part.

I think that was what everyone at the convention was so excited about, and because we obviously couldn’t actually be in the anime, cos-playing to simulate the characters became the next best thing.

Anime was also present in so many other parts around Cupertino: Cupertino Village, Blowfish Sushi at Santana Row, and even at hobby card shops.

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