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Photo Credit: Ariel McBride

Lovers of animation, comics, video games and more converged in Atlanta, Sept. 24 to attend the annual Anime Weekend Atlanta (AWA). From Naruto and Dragon Ball Z to Star Wars, this convention pulls together thousands of people with many different, yet converging, interests.

As the name suggests, AWA officially mostly caters to Japanese anime and manga, but one can find merchandise and events dedicated to not only Japanese video games, like “The Legend of Zelda” and “Final Fantasy,” but also American works, such as Marvel comics, Disney films and “Halo.” AWA also hosts a formal ball and, some years, a rave. However, one of the most popular and accessible activities at AWA is costuming, or as it is more commonly known, cosplay.

“I only come to cosplay and talk to people,” said Hayley Becker, a cosplayer from Marietta, GA.

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Photo Credit: Ariel McBride

For many cosplayers, costume making is a time—and money—consuming hobby, but a rewarding one.

“Once I figure out what character I want to do, I go online and look at forums to see what other people have done, so I don’t make a mistake and have to do something over,” said Kristun Bridges, who cosplayed Yuna in her “Final Fantasy X-2” outfit. “I usually work on a single costume all year, because I’ll work on one piece at a time until I’m happy with it before I move on.”

The number of attendees for 2015 has not been released yet, but in 2014, AWA drew in more than 20,000 people over its three days.

“I like that I can be myself here,” Bridges said. “I like seeing people that are just as passionate about the nerd culture as I am and want to dress up as their favorite character just as much as I do, and I like all the friends I make.”

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Photo Credit: Ariel McBride

The love of anime, cosplay and making friends attracts people well outside the metro-Atlanta area. A cosplayer who goes by his stage name, Unaki, has traveled from Bowling Green, KY, to attend AWA each year since 2010.

“I come [to AWA] because it’s big and I get to stroke my ego a little bit,” he said. “I like having my picture taken, and the people are cool.”

AWA also provides a space both for merchandise dealers to set up booths and for artists to sell handmade art, jewelry and apparel.

“I love getting to see the look on someone’s face when they like my art,” said Katy Sule, one of the artists in Artists’ Ally. “Some people get really excited, and even if they can’t buy anything, just seeing them happy makes me happy.”

AWA was first held in October 1995 and is now held every year during the last weekend in September. It spans across the Cobb Galleria Centre, Renaissance Waverly Hotel and Sheraton Suites Galleria in Atlanta. In previous years, AWA has run from Friday to Sunday, but this year the convention expanded to four days in length, opening on Thursday and ending on Sunday.

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