USF Goes to Metrocon

USF students dressed up as favorite characters from animes, movies and videogames for Florida’s largest anime convention.



By Daylina Miller

USF News


TAMPA, Fla. (June 27, 2011) – There’s only one place on earth where Japanese cartoon characters, zombies, power-wielding mutants and Internet memes come to life and can co-exist in peace – an anime convention.


This year’s annual Tampa convention, called Metrocon, was recently held downtown at the Tampa Convention Center from June 17 to June 19.


(View photo gallery at the end of article)


The convention is centered around anime, a distinct style of Japanese animation, and has grown to encompass nerdiness in all its forms. Those who attend the convention dress in a wide array of costumes – from comic books, movies, videogames and more – and typically spend months handcrafting their outfits.


College students are usually at the height of their creative endeavors while still in school and therefore flock to the conventions. University of South Florida students are no different. Several Bulls attended Metrocon this year, many of them unrecognizable in face masks and body paint as they “cosplayed” characters, short for “costume play,” a combination of dressing up and role-playing.


Stephanie Swanson, a theater production major who is transferring to USF in the fall, dressed as a soul linker from a multiplayer online role-playing game called Ragnarok Online.


“I had a lot of fun running around with my friends,” Swanson said. “The cosplay was fun because you get to dress up and pretend you have cool super powers plus it’s interesting to learn how to sew and make everything by hand.”


This year’s convention had a Monsters vs. Hunters theme that drew out everything from zombie enthusiasts to wannabe Pokemon masters. It even attracted zombie guru and author of The Zombie Survival Guide and World War Z, Max Brooks, as this year’s headlining guest.


Another guest, Terrance Zdunich, is well known for his creation of the rock opera Repo! The Genetic Opera set in a dystopian not-so-distance future where an organ failure pandemic causes people to reach out to a corporation for organ transplants, financed through monthly payments, but falling behind means repossession by repo men.


So what exactly happens at an anime convention besides guest speakers?


Panels are held on popular shows, like Dr. Who, and guests are invited to participate in human chess matches, costume contests, raves and masquerade parties. A vendor room takes up three ballrooms in the convention center, selling anime merchandise and other geekeries.


The USF Japanese Club held their own panel on June 18, a maid café, popularized through Japanese movies and television. Members of the club dressed up as maids and served guests tiny cupcakes and treats and played games with them for donations to the Japanese Red Cross for tsunami relief. The club raised $215.


Sometimes convention goers wandered off to play their own games, like World of Warcraft and Dungeons and Dragons in tiny side rooms off of the convention center. Most of the time, this is where you could find USF student David Dzien, who dressed up as Lt. Col. Maes Hughes from Fullmetal Alchemist.


Events like Metrocon attract college students because it creates a venue where you can get back in touch with the things that made your childhood fun,” Dzien said. “It's not everywhere you see a swarm of 10-year old Naruto cosplayers running around just like in the show. That's the stuff of 100K view YouTube videos!”


Tickets were expensive – $55 for a weekend pass if you preregistered, $60 at the door and $35 for day passes- but that didn’t stop nearly 7,500 attendees from buying them this year. People need a creative outlet and dressing up as Dragonball Z character just to go to the mall doesn’t bode well for most people.


Metrocon fans can begin signing up for tickets and panels again soon on the website as the organizers began picking up speed towards next year’s convention. They promise that if the convention reaches 10,000 attendees in the future, it will expand to four days of fun.


Daylina Miller can be reached at 813-500-8754.