For my second year in a row, I have made the Appalachian anime fanatic’s pilgrimage to Gatlinburg in the first week of December for Yamacon, in what has become a significant yearly attraction for the city. It again was a wonderful celebration of anime, games, and fellowship. I had a marvelous time exponentiated by the presence and antics by my friends along the way.
The event was even more packed with big names from anime than the last year’s and sported a significant portion of the Cowboy Bebop mainstays in Steve Blum (Spike), Wendee Lee (Faye), Beau Billingsly (Jet), and Paul St. Peter (Punch from the Big Shot show). I know many of my friends and coworkers from the Beneath the Tangles’ Discord are fans of Bebop, so I wanted to say hello to them on their behalf. Also featured were Michael Tatum, Caitlin Glass, and Johnny Young Bosh, as well as a few famous cosplayers and creators from the world of American comics.
I had foreseen that this year was going to be a special one. I was interested in having a better cosplay this year that was more in theme with my group. My entire team was going as characters from the Mario-verse: Mario, Luigi, Wario, Waluigi, Bowsette, Kamek, Daisy, Queen Boo, and Chain-Chompette, and they all did an absolutely marvelous job on their costumes. I am not as big a fan of Mario as them, but I wanted to at least be relatively related with another Nintendo entity in Pit from “Kid Icarus: Uprising” on the 3DS and a prominent character in Smash Brothers. I wanted to invest a little bit of finance and elbow grease into Pit’s bow and his wings, but I did not expect it would take me nearly three months to gather all of the supplies and see the final product assembled. It is imperative that I thank my wonderful wife here as she has done a lioness’s share of the work in the designing, crafting, painting, and logistics of the costume. My work is scant relative to the generous effort she invested into the costume, and in my opinion (as well as many of the convention goers), the hard work paid off in spades. It’s a shame someone better looking couldn’t have worn the costume. I would have entered into the cosplay competition, but the slots filled up before I could submit my entry. Sadly my wife could not attend the convention due to limiting circumstances. C’est la vie, perhaps next year.
On my first day, my good friend Ryan offered to drive us down all the way from Lebanon, Virginia to the convention, which went smoothly save for an incident with a semi-truck almost running us off the road. It was a close call, but Ryan’s vigilance and solid reaction time kept us safe. Our group rented out a rather posh log cabin at a resort: It had three bedrooms, a hot tub, arcade cabinet, pool table, and a gorgeous view out over the valley into the great Smokey Mountains. We had a joyous time settling in and going out to eat.
On day two, the first actual day of the convention, I was a bit worried for my costume. Without my wife to help me get suited up, I felt a bit lost, but everything seemed to go on okay until I arrived at the convention when I realized I forgot my wig, but some of my colleagues who were still at the house brought it along later. I had a rough time keeping my lower angelic toga up over my belt until I figured out how to loop the hem through my belt. In spite of this, I was absolutely thrilled to be at the convention center. There was an innumerable amount of things to do, shops to peruse, games to play, experts to learn from, and people to meet. I was blessed beyond measure my whole time there. People consistently approached me to compliment my costume and ask for my picture. My wife was able to take my swords and attach magnets to their hilts so that it could be easily held together as a bow, just like in Super Smash Brothers. This brought a smile to a fair number of faces which made me quite happy as well. Spike Spiegel himself, Steve Blum, even mentioned that he really liked my costume in the autograph session as well as his panel.
I spent most of the early first day acquiring autographs from the voice actors since they were the biggest priority on my list. I am glad I got to express my gratitude for the volume of work of all of the actors and the beneficial effects they’ve had on the anime industry in America. I am thankful they felt comfortable enough to share their own thoughts with me as well. I was able to ask one of the actors if they had anything I could pray for for them, and they provided me with a request, so I am happy to have that task ahead of me, and hopefully God will continue to bless them and their goal will be attained.
All of the actors were extremely friendly and patient in the face of immense pressure to greet the tsunami of fans over three days, much like last year. All of the panels were informative and pleasant to attend. The stand-out panel was with Steve Blum, Wendee Lee, Beau Billingsly, and Paul St. Peter. It conjured up many pleasant emotions and memories hearing the voices from Bebop just talking in normal conversation. Most of the questions were the standard ones of “what’s your favorite X, can you recite one of the lines from the show, where did you get your big break?” One or two questions were novel, asking about how their roles have changed perception of anime in society, and I appreciated that. One of the takeaways I found quite heartwarming was that Steve Blum mentioned that he recently became engaged to the voice actress for Julia from the same show, which seems to dovetail very nicely as Spike and Julia’s romantic relationship was the ultimate arc of Bebop.
The next day was jam-packed with tasks to do and people to meet. Sadly, I had spent all of my dollars on getting the signed 8″ x 10″s the previous day, so all that I could do was look. There was an ATM, but unfortunately my card was not accepted. Even still, I wanted to say hello and let them know I appreciated their work. I got a chance to play as Pit dressed as Pit in Smash Brothers with some high caliber competitors. We had the chance for our entire team to take a group picture with all eleven of us, and it went great. Many of the people in my group are far more photogenic than me, but the most awe-striking part was that it was right next to Steve Blum’s booth, and he decided on his own volition to come over to take a picture of our entire group as well. We were all fanboying out internally over this knowing our pictures are on Steve Blum’s own phone.
After I had calmed down, I made a sad discovery that though I had signed up for the costume contest weeks before the convention, there was a secondary signup for with only about 30 slots available for pre-judging. I couldn’t sign up to that in time. Alas, as a result, myself and many others couldn’t even walk on their stage to show off the costume to have judged. It was a significant disappointment for me because my wife and I worked for weeks on that costume. However, I still got to spend time with my friends at the Meme Jeopardy competition. My Waluigi masquerading friend decided to play the part and cheat by pooling his points with the team to attain the grand prize…a glass bottle of the finest, rarest, 100% authentic gamer-boy bath water. He gave the bottle to Luigi to safeguard and see what other prizes he might abscond with, but to the shock and terror of everyone in the room, he turned around to discover Luigi chugging the entire half pint container in one gulp. Somehow he is still alive and well and didn’t even get tremendously sick. Suffice is to say that it’s highly unlikely this prize will ever be offered again. We were blessed to eat out at a lovely buffet in the area with another friend on the way before heading back where much of the crew enjoyed the hot tub. A few of us however decided to draft the most recent Unstable set of the card game Magic the Gathering. I drafted a Rules Lawyer early, and that’s probably all I have to say about that beyond that I did win.
Everyone I had good time.
On the last day, we all ate a hearty meal at the Apple Mill. Everything was mostly wrapping up at the convention though. Lines early were long as Wendee Lee and Michael Tatum were only around briefly, but my good friends Chelsea and Kris allowed me to borrow a few dollars to acquire Wendee’s autograph. I immensely appreciated their generosity as well as Wendee’s patience and kindness with me. Round two of Jeopardy was focused on video games. I didn’t get to run the table on any categories like last year as the audience was too large and the categories too easy. Regardless of this, it was still a great time. Being out of money meant I couldn’t easily pick up anything from the dealers, but I got to meet with other cosplayers, booth runners, and hang out with my team until the auction and final ceremonies.
I was blessed with a copious amount of free time in the apartment which I got to spend playing games with my friends, but I was also happy to get time to focus on prayers for my friends, the people at the convention, and the people back home, as well as other important interests and importantly gratitude to God for all of the wonderful unwarranted blessings and joyful experiences he’s been granting me over the last couple days.
Let me know what you all think of my costume or my friends’ in the comments or in Discord or just stop by to say “Hi” or let me know if you were able to attend as well. I’d love to say hello to you again if I got to meet you there. I would be delinquent in my duties if I were to forget to thank all of the actors who came to Yamacon to spend time with us, all of the staff, the owners, my wife for her perpetual love, support, and efforts on my costume, my good friends whom I got to know more closely including one specific friend who opened up and indulged me in discussing matters of internal struggle, beliefs, and theology; Chelsea and Kris for inviting me and helping me with my costume; Ryan for his driving; everyone who wanted to take a picture of my costume because I really wanted a way to convey to my wife that he work was loved and appreciated by a wide audience; and of most importantly God for literally without whom, no thing would be possible. Given real life circumstances, it’s up in the air if I will ever get to attend again, but whichever way the wind blows, I had a great time and would love to be back each year.