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The Masquerade

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"Letters from the New York Otaku"

By David Cabrera


#28 - The Masquerade


Let's talk about one more event that leads to lines around the convention center. There's the rave, there's the concert, and of course there's the masquerade.

This is one of the many traditions that American anime conventions carried over from science fiction conventions. Sit down in an auditorium with a crowd of hundreds, kick back for three hours, and let the cosplayers go up on stage and do whatever they want for five minutes at a time.

What exactly one is getting at the masquerade one never really knows, because the cosplayers decide what the show is going to be. Once at a masquerade, I saw a guy in a costume come up on stage, talk about himself for a moment, give out his phone number, and leave. That was it.

At the anime convention, the masquerade's focus is usually on short comedy or musical skits. As they're live, and they're performances you'll likely never be able to see again, the event draws a big crowd and is considered the centerpiece event of the weekend by many attendees.

It's a unique live experience that you'll never see again, I'll give it that. If you're ever visiting at an American anime convention, I recommend you visit the masquerade, just to say you've done it. Just keep it to an hour.

You see, the downside of this whole setup is that the masquerade isn't exactly about quality control, it's about people getting up there and doing whatever they want. This can go well, and this can go really badly. One time I saw a lady dressed like Priss from Bubblegum Crisis get up and sing a song about how much cooler she was than all the kids at this convention.

A lot of the skits are lazy, rote exercises where the cosplayers just dance or stage kiss, which the crowd goes wild for. The dancing could be alright, but the skits tend not to have great choreography.

I'm pretty sure I saw a good masquerade skit one time; it was about catching Carmen Sandiego, the villain from an old kids' adventure game. I wonder if Japan got Carmen Sandiego? Anyway, what I mean to say here is that in the case you do see something funny at the convention, you'll have suffered through a lot for that privilege. In my time watching masquerades-- admittedly, no more than three hours total in my convention-going life-- I remember the pain a lot more clearly than the laughs.

At Otakon my friends finally dragged me into the masquerade crowd and made me stay put. When I walked out of the auditorium after an hour consisting mostly of skits in which characters from Square-Enix RPGs danced, I passed a man who stared up at me in utter disbelief. He was silent, and his eyes asked “Why?” How could I abandon this most important event of the weekend?

Different otaku, different tastes. Don't want it? There's definitely something else in the building for you. That's what's so great about the con.
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