Comic Con is known as one of the biggest conventions in America, and while it’s not quite on the same scale, Tokyo Comic Con is a great place to get a feel for the Western convention experience. If you enjoy superhero films and comics, or consider yourself a pop culture geek, Tokyo Comic Con is a great place to nerd out.
This year featured guest appearances from Mads Mikkelsen, Karl Urban, Nathan Fillion, Michael Rooker and the comic book legend himself, Stan Lee. At 94 this was likely Stan Lee’s final visit to Japan, and the last chance for his Japanese fans to get a coveted autograph.
With around 40,000 visitors over the entire weekend it is much less crowded than other cons. This gives fans the chance to meet the actors and artists without waiting all day. The lines for signings and photographs started at around 30 minutes, and tickets were available throughout the weekend. The only downside is the price. This year’s Japan tax was steep, pushing the cost over ¥11,000 for autographs and even more for pictures.
Despite the heavy film presence, Comic Con is still a chance to meet artists from all over the world, see their work and even grab a drawing. Many artists embrace the country by giving their work a cultural twist, something unique to these events held away from the US.
Along with the heavy Marvel and DC influence there are a number of Japanese designers and artists present, combining their love of superheroes, anime and movies. The smaller booths are perfect for finding unusual art, statues or even VR experiences. If you are looking for anime convention style sales of one-off manga however, this is not the place.
Retailers selling everything from shirts to solid metal castings of fan favorites offer a great opportunity to pick up souvenirs, although the prices are steep. Unlike the insanity of events like Comiket, the lines are only a few minutes long and staff always try their best to cater to foreign customers. The quirky body pillows and suggestive posters you find elsewhere are replaced by well-known statues and figures, but there are still plenty of interesting trinkets to be found.
As expected, much of the floor is dedicated to Marvel and Star Wars. These behemoths aside, props and artwork from dozens of other franchises were free for everyone to see. These include more niche items like KITT from Knight Rider and a dropship from Starship Troopers, but also mainstream fare like enormous Aliens and Predators from their respective movies. This mixed gallery feel lends itself to a slow wander along the show floor to take in some of the more unusual sights. Where else can you see Darth Vader sitting on the Iron Throne, for example?
And you will see many Darths in some unusual places, as cosplay is arguably one of the main attractions of this event. It feels like almost everyone was dressed up as their favorite character from film, TV and games. Perennial faves like Batman and Superman are well represented, but even the most avid geek will struggle to name everyone they see. Some of the organizers dress up too, helping to keep the grassroots feel that these gatherings stemmed from.
The event encourages amazing creativity from amateurs and professionals alike with competitions, shows and prizes. For those who just want pictures, approaching with a smile and asking politely will almost certainly net you a selfie with your chosen cosplayer and most are more than welcoming. The constant music and non-stop advertising might seem overwhelming, but the friendly community is a great antidote to the more corporate side of things.
Whether you are interested in cosplay but have never tried it, or are a dab hand at making your own costumes, Comic Con is a great place to start.
Photos by Sam De Roeck