Note: If you want to know what’s been going on thus far, check out part one here.
Meeting Charles Dunbar, Anime Anthropologist and the mind behind Study of Anime, has been a dream of mine since I started presenting magical girl panels in 2014. Once the initial “OMG, people like this, this can actually be a thing” feels wore off, I began to look up panelists on the internet to get ideas for my own works (thought I was largely local at the time). That’s how I found Charles Dunbar – through the Study of Anime website as well as a few choice panel videos on youtube. Maybe it was the intense exuberance he exhibits when doing panels. Maybe it was his love for Studio TRIGGER’s balls-to-the-wall Magical Girl masterpiece Kill la Kill. Whatever it was, I was hooked and I knew I’d found someone who I could look up to as a panelist – even if that meant getting over my social anxiety and shooting over an email.
What started with one email – hello my name is Misu and I like presenting about magical girls, do you have any tips to for this henshin fan girl – turned into a request to come to Anime North 2017 and partner up for his “The Road to Becoming a Magical Girl” panel (partly inspired by my three-year labour of love). To be honest, even if it was a year away, I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to make it. When you’re a single mother and a thesis-writing grad student, everything seems up in the air and anything could change at the drop of a hat.
Somehow, I did. I don’t know how I did it, but somehow I did. And I’m glad I did because HO BOY, Mr. Dunbar had a lot to teach me!
After an initial awkward “Hi, yes, I’m dressed in cosplay, but please take me seriously!” (I was dressed up as Mercury Still!), we got acquainted and I got to sit in on his panels. I thought I was energetic while doing panels – but Charles is a showman and has the knowledge to back it up. Despite a shaking Friday night sessions (that’s to be expected when you’re up against a panel featuring popular Youtubers next door – that’s all I’ll say), I finally got to witness firsthand why he’s so popular on the convention circuit. In many cases, I watched as several attendees came up to him after every panel, eager to talk with him further.
Okay, granted I haven’t had a shabby year in the least (Tsukino-Con, GeekGirlCon, Emerald City Comic Con [OMG, HUGE!] and being invited to Puli-Con), but it was clear that I had a lot to learn this weekend. After all the experiences I’ve had being the “magical girl researcher” in the past year, seeing if I could keep in step with Charles in my own special way would be my biggest challenge yet.
Lucky for me, I had plenty of awesome cosplay to keep me from overthinking things. As overwhelming as Anime North is, the cosplays were on point. I normally don’t take a lot of pictures at cons, but I was whipping out my phone a lot. And I’m not ashamed to say that I enjoyed yummy ice cream at one of the many ice cream trucks like a kid chasing the vehicle down with a pocket full of coins on a summer day. There were no lulls at Anime North – it always kept me busy.
Because I had a media pass, I was fortunate enough to get to interview both Charles Dunbar as well as Natsumi, designer and model for Sweet/Classic Lolita brand Metamorphose Temps de Fille. I can’t post anything yet, but I hope to show you I’ve learned within the next week. It was quite the awesome experience!
After few dalliances in the dealer room (OMG, how huge was that?! If I had more money, I’d have to write a post about how my haul of otaku shame), the day arrived – it was time for me to do the panel with Charles. Dressed in my Yveltal Haori, I may have looked cute but I was a nervous wreck. I am so used to do this panel with my magical girl sisters, but we all come from different walks of life. How would I fair against the person who inspired me to do panels in the first place?
I’m happy to report that the panel went really well. I did have the same energy and zest for life like Charles, but then again I wasn’t supposed to (though I had to be told that many times). I held my own in my own special Misu way. Granted, I felt like the crowd came for him, but damn it, I was there so I was going to do my best. My research, my passion that I’ve pursued for three years now, didn’t fail me. And when some attendees came up and said how much they enjoyed the panel, I knew that everything it took to get here was totally worth it.
We managed to find the balance between his exuberance and my…well, my exuberance which may not be as powerful as his exuberance, but damn it, it was a great panel and I was honoured to be a part of it. I really hope to be able to go back next year and do a few of my own for attendees. Now that I know that I can, I know that I can really knock it out of the park, especially once I complete my thesis.
And thus, Anime North 2017 came to a close…but not without one more thing to experience in order to really remember my time in Toronto. Through sheer luck and serendipity, I was able to travel with a group headed out to Niagara Falls. And while I thought I was ready to see those beautiful, multi-coloured falls, I really wasn’t ready. I’m not ashamed to say that I cried upon seeing them – silly cartoons and atlases had nothing on seeing the Falls in person.
And there you have it! My two-part recap of my time at Anime North. I really hope I get to go again this year and while I’m not sure about cosplaying, I do hope to showcase panels AND wear some geeky cute clothes in the process. Thanks again to Charles for letting me participate in the panel – I learned a lot! And if you want to learn more about his panels as well as further appearances, you can visit him on Facebook and Twitter. He’s also started up a new Youtube channel called Tengu Talks– you definitely want to check that out!
I don’t know how I’m gonna survive until GeekGirlCon in September-October now…Guess I better finish my thesis, huh?