Nerd Reactor at Anime Weekend Atlanta 2015

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Written by Kaung Set/Photography by Stephanie Monica

Anime Weekend Atlanta, or AWA as the locals call it, holds a special place in my heart. It was the first convention I ever attended, way back in 2003. The geek culture explosion had not started yet back then—there were no famous cosplayers, no readily available resources on how to make a costume, and no mainstream acknowledgement of the word “cosplay.” It’s amazing how much a subculture can grow in just a little over a decade. Attendance numbers have grown exponentially too, from under 5,000 when I first went, to over 25,000 this year! Surprisingly, the combination of the Renaissance Waverly Hotel and Cobb Galleria Centre can still accommodate this growing crowd; although I would argue it was pushed to its limits during certain hours on Saturday. The open space of the hotel lobby floor, along with the flowing natural light from the glass-filled ceiling, is a very inviting area for cosplayers to strut their stuff. The floor was filled with colorful wigs and fabrics, and compliments abound as typically shy individuals connect with others who share the same passion for a beloved character.

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The quality of the costumes are impressive, even more so considering the average attendee is probably still in high school. Even though that is the target demographic, AWA has events catered to an older crowd with a 21+ only Mixer or the Adults Only Kink In Hentai panel. The majority of the events center around Japanese culture, whether it involves music, TV shows, art, video games, or the kawaii culture in general. Even the artists in the dealer hall have styles that are heavily influenced by anime and manga. There is no short supply of cute kawaii plushies or wall scrolls in the massive dealer hall. A welcome addition near the entrance of the dealer hall was a row of local food trucks. It was a breath of fresh air after you’ve had hotel food or food court meals for the past 48 hours.

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Unfortunately, rain fell all weekend over Atlanta. While it did not dampen the spirits, it certainly did take away some photo opportunities in the business park surrounding the convention area. Here’s hoping 2016 brings a little more sunshine to go along with fun and chill vibe of Anime Weekend Atlanta.

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