Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Awkward Mom vs. the Anime Convention

Now, to be clear, she is not really taking on anime itself; Awkward Mom is awkward, not crazy. I mean, those people are robots, airbenders, teenaged bikers, bounty hunters, alchemists, cyborgs, ninjas, goldfish, police officers, vampire hunters, steampunks, hedgehogs, master thieves, man-wolves, mobsters, dream invaders, and monsters, of both the duel and pockets variety. No way is she dealing with that motley crew. She is talking about decent, but mostly awkward, people who dress up like anime characters and show up to confuse and delight her dress-up obsessed son. Them, she is taking on.

They are called Cosplayers, narrator o' mine. And they are currently everywhere in the Great Wolf Lodge. They are pretty much hanging off the surfaces, just like the lodgey decor. So, now, we have the Cracker Barrel of lodge/anime. And frankly, it is totally freaky looking.

I have no beef with cosplayers. I have never been one because I don't have the energy, sewing skills, or the desire to explain what obscure character from "Cyborg 009" I am dressed as. (Fran├žoise Arnoul, by the way, but that really isn't fair, because that is a magna, not an anime... Are we loving this post yet, Readers? So super nerdy! ) Moreover, although I love some good manga, my reading material is usually reserved for the magical world of Marvel comics (house of M withstanding). I am no expert on magna or anime. My good ally (and the aptly named), Magna Mom is, and her son, Charming Preschooler is a pretty big fan too. Maybe I will ask her to guest post about the use of anime/magna in parenting one day (I have a feeling there is a ton of material there), but that will have to wait, because today I am telling you about the craziness going on in this here lodge.

But first, I have to sidetrack again (huge shock there) and tell you about Magic Quest. As you can see (and hear; yikes! Is it as loud on your computer?) from the above link, Magic Quest is "the World's Largest Live Action Game!" OK, here's how it works: you buy your child a wand. (I assume that you could play it yourself but it is aimed to ages 6-12.) Your child takes this wand and waves it at things (strategically placed all over the lodge) that have the Magic Quest logo on them (a M and a Q all intertwined to look cool) and the things open/talk/move around. I have no idea how this works. Awkward Dad went on and on about infra-red technology, but I think it is real magic, as does Super P. You wave your wand at some fake trees and a computer screen pops out to give you quests or adventures to complete. You look for runes/crystals or find treasure or save fairies or battle dragons. You end up talking to all manner of storybook folk (including the wizard who shouts at you if you click on the above link)and there is a medieval/Renaissance Fair vibe to the whole thing; understandably, Super Preschooler loses his mind with glee. And for the record, no, I did not know that this game was at our hotel until we got there.

None of our questing pictures turned out, I think there was too much wand waving going on, but here is a picture of Super Preschooler with his:

It is ultra him. The Magic Quest proprietor (a pimply young man in a tunic) tries to talk Super P. into a brown wand with a dragon on it, but our hero knows his own mind. It is shocking pink with a unicorn topper, and every time that he waves it at a computer screen in the game, a giant unicorn appears, to bound over a rainbow and neigh loud enough to be heard in the water park. Oh, it is epic.

Super P. has been happily playing this for 2 days at this point and even Super Toddler has a wand (a utilitarian blue with no topper...all business, that Super T.); they are romping through the halls. Awkward Dad is lagging behind with the stroller and I am trying to keep up. You see, I am the keeper of the "the Ancient Book of Wisdom" (a booklet with the rules and some hints) because I am the only one of our merry trio of questers who can read. We are seeking the Enchant Creature Rune, and actually making some headway, when Super Preschooler comes to a screeching halt on the balcony and stares over into the lobby. Super Toddler, never known for his breaks, slams right into Super Preschooler and nearly tumbles over the railing. I grab him and examine him for injuries and therefore miss Super Preschooler's face as he intones (in a voice about as loud as the Wizard's), "Princesses!" Awkward Dad told me later that Super Preschooler's face resembled one's as one gazes upon the Shroud of Turin.

Thinking he has spied some aspect of the game, I casually look over the railing to be confronted by something like this. Except, of course, these girls do not have eyes the size of plates and are dealing with little things like gravity and the third and fourth dimensions. Foes that their inspirations never had to tangle with. They are standing in a line by a table, and they are trailed by (in no particular order): a girl dressed as Mario (as in the game), a girl dressed as Link (also as in the game) a traditional Catholic schoolgirl waving a flag, 2 ghosts, something fishy-looking with a tail, a homemade approximation of this, a panda, and numerous gothy looking girls with brightly colored wigs. Incredulous, I turn to Awkward Dad, who simply smiles and points to a sign across the lobby that proclaims, "Welcome Northern Michigan Anime Convention. Cosplay judging located outside the gift shop."

Thinking that his Magic Quest wand just opened a portal into a fairy land, Super Preschooler goes running down the stairs and dives into the wild world of nerdom, about 10 years ahead of schedule. Oh boy. So, we go trailing after and find him chatting up a rather sweet girl in a puffy white dress who is only too pleased to tell us all about Princess Tutu. Super Preschooler is entranced. Super Toddler is bored, so he wanders off to find out what the Cowboy Bebop guys are up to. The cosplayer girls come running over to ooh and aah at Super Baby and I am reminded that teenage girls are teenage girls, regardless of their hair color. Although, Super Baby really does have eyes the size of plates, so that might be helping her case here. Awkward Dad, who has a decent history with comic conventions, seems right at home, so I give in and just let the awkward flow.

And flow it does. There are cosplayers dressed as everything under the sun. We watch a gaggle of giggling Ghost Hounds gather by the fireplace. I am able to cover Super Preschooler's eyes when I catch him eyeing some Samurai Girls, but Awkward Dad is a grown man, there was little I could do about that. We observe what looks like a business meeting of vampire hunters, and admire the stitching of many a homemade cloak. We witness a frantic Princess Resurrection call her father about some missing supplies, and we are delighted to see the King himself, when he drives over to bring her the hair straightener and corset that she forgot at home. The best part is watching Super Preschooler interact with all these teenagers. Little know fact, Readers: all teenagers think they are too cool, even when they are wearing the equivalent of a Madi Gras float on their person. Awkward Dad and I are treated like oh so much background noise, but the Supers? The Supers are embraced like long lost relatives. Is it the fact that they have wands or that Super Preschooler deems most of the costumes there "stunning" or "gorgeous"? Are Super Baby's enormous eyes the tipping point? Maybe. But I think the gentle, creative, magic that lurks within the person brave enough to play pretend well into their teens and beyond knows how to treat little kids with kindness and respect. For some reason, cosplayers have managed to hang on to their childlike wonder at the prospect of dress-up, and for that reason alone, I admire them. Despite some of the more questionable aspects of their costumes, I would have let any of these folks babysit. I mean, come on; think about what kind of amazing pretend play that would be!

So, it is all weird and crazy and delightfully awkward, and then the awkward level goes right through the beam-laden lodge roof. I know that I have hinted at the clock tower in the main lobby. I can't really explain it and pictures do NOT do it justice. Just go check it out at youtube, right here. Take your time, but it really gets going around minute 3. Now, try to picture all those refugees from an eighties Chuck E. Cheese singing for me, Awkward Dad, a wand waving Super Preschooler, a completely overtired Super Toddler manically running in circles, a Super Baby that has decided the fireplace is the place to pull up, about a dozen more exhausted families with young, over-stimulated children, about 45 cosplayers (including one dressed as Steve from Blues Clues...I wanna see that anime right now!), someone dressed up as Oliver (the lodge's resident raccoon), and 3 employees from the Great Wolf Lodge, trying to act like this is totally normal. Let it sink in. Got it? Yes, pure awkward (nerd-tinged) bliss. You really have to soak that in when you are lucky enough to come across it. Watching all those cosplayers doing the "Great Wolf Lodge Wolf Howl" is one of the truly awkwardly epic moments of my life and it will lodge in my memory forever. Pun totally intended.

It is a little hard to adjust to normal life after an experience like that, and we were worried that all other awkward experiences would seem flat and, well, normal. Should have has more faith in the Supers and their ability to locate the awkward among us. For, Super Preschooler has started Preschool again and Super Toddler is in a class of his own at First Steps. Super Toddler even has a new nemesis; Circle Time....oh, you won't want to miss the fall follies and frolics around here, Readers. They should prove to be awkward indeed. Catch you later!!

Words fail me, Readers. Words fail here.


  1. Oh. Em. Gee. Can I just say how into MagiQuest I would have been? Ok, who am I kidding - still would be? I even googled around to see if there's a Great Wolf Lodge near us, but alas, the closest one is near Seattle. Yuck.

    As I watched the clock tower routine, I thought of the poor souls who work in the lobby and have to hear it over & over, day after day. Like the Simpsons at Itchy & Scratchy Land, when they visit the restaurant where it's always New Years' Eve. ("Please, kill me!")

    1. I have to admit that MagicQuest was pretty darn awesome. I wish I had a wand of my own!

      Yes, that song has been in my head since I heard it, so I can not imagine how those in the lobby deal with it. I hope they are all slightly hard of hearing.

  2. We took O to the motor city comicon a couple of years ago. He dressed as Batman Beyond and was a total hit people were asking if they could get their pic with him...slightly creepy but cool. I agree that there is a certain connection with the kiddos and those who cosplay. Maybe a connection to childhood and the possibility that exists in the world of fiction. It is why I still love comics I know. Maybe, just maybe, I can be a part of it all and change the world. Like Queen says "It's a kind of magic"

    1. Well said! I don't think there is much maybe about it though; you are changing the world already!