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by Zac Bertschy on Mon Jun 26, 2006 5:20 pm
This weekend is Anime Expo, the country's biggest (and, in my opinion, best) anime convention; it also marks the 7th time I've been to one of these things, since the first one I attended in 1999.

There's something really special about the first time you attend a convention as a fan - the feeling that you finally found where everyone else like you has been. AX99 was the first and only anime convention I ever attended just as a fan; I went with my college anime club and had saved up around a thousand bucks just to blow on merchandise in the dealer's room. I waited in long lines to watch the 35mm movie premieres, see the Masquerade and the Music Video competition.. it was all so thrilling and fresh.

The year after that I attended as press with Anime News Network... and since then, AX has been a working weekend for me. I think the last time I actually bought something in a dealer's room was in 2002; I don't attend the Masquerade anymore, nor the music video competition. Expo is all about panels and interviews and con reports and securing exclusives and after-hours parties. My hobby became my job, and I had to shelve the notion of being a "fan" so I could become a professional.

Still, every 4th of July weekend, I stop being so jaded and cyncial for a few days and try to remember what it was like back when all I had to do at the convention was have a good time. To this day, going to Anime Expo is a little bit like going home... even if I'm working 12-hour days.

If you're attending this year and it's your first time, soak it all in. You'll only have this experience once.
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