3:00pm: AH, KF, and I are making our way to the Renaissance Hotel, whose programming is divided into two halls, yaoi/hentai-related panels in the north wing and all types of gaming in the south, and a lobby with a bar20 that’s as orderly and clean as the Doubletree. AH is set on seeing a film at 6pm in the Yaoi North Videos room, which provokes a brief discussion of yaoi and hentai in general: I mention seeing a sign in the Dealer’s Room that read “YAOI IS TRUE LOVE” and AH remarks that yaoi and hentai fans tend are among the most welcoming and nice people at the convention. In contrast to the film, I’m pretty excited about a Pokémon TCG Sealed Deck Tournament at the same time.
First walking toward the south, the Dance Dance Revolution room seethes with the chthonic smell of mass sweat. Beyond is a merch table featuring sign-up sheets for various activities and a hallway devoted to tabletop gaming, TCGs, and video games. The Ambrosa I/II is entirely devoted to trading card games, stuffed with people playing Yu-Gi-Oh, Magic: the Gathering, and Street Fighter (?!) against one another. Perhaps more interesting to the casual observer is Ambrosa III/IV, the video game room, where staggering amounts of skill are on display. I don’t even entertain playing Street Fighter IV or Naruto because people are stringing up lengthy whirlwind combos. A full Rock Band, complete with a drummer in a Behemoth shirt, has universally scored 90%+ for some complicated song on Expert. Elsewhere, someone is playing an impossibly difficult rail shooter for the Dreamcast and the technical prowess—successfully navigating through nearly microscopic spaces in between a melange of dots and lasers so bright it could detach the retinas while simultaneously destroying the foe—is just flabbergasting. Back in the hall, a robust man in a Bathory t-shirt walks out of the Spartan Gaming room, exclusively devoted to Warhammer21, which we quickly exit because KF says he really wants to jump on the table22.
3:30pm: I’m in the Renaissance Hotel backyard watching LARPers, live action role-playing gamers. This is a phenomenon that I’ve always heard about but never witnessed. The battle is approximately three skilled warriors—a total assumption based on their intricate costumes and enthusiasm for the game—versus ten randoms, who I’m assuming are first-timers as many are cosmetically unadorned. The weapons are crudely fashioned from tape and the geography is created and sustained by the imagination a la Dungeons and Dragons. When they hit each other with their weapons, there are declarations of damage, similar to how a number floats above the head of a character in an RPG when damaged. However, what essentially amounts to is a scrimmage wielding weapons made of electronic and duct tape, hitting each other, and yelling, “3 normal! 3 normal! 3 normal!”
3:45pm: The delightful aroma of cooked food draws us to the Muskoka II/III Game Shows room for the Iron Chef Competition, but instead of scoring any free grub we sit and watch people cook while two high school students deliver a Powerpoint presentation on Japanese cuisine23. The Japanophilia is more explicit in this room as an Indian-looking girl is talking about her favourite types of sushi and the other Caucasian girl is offering sticky goo to the audience, praising the glop as a Japanese cure-all with miraculous health properties. We decline.
4:15pm: At the Jack Astor’s across the street, the waitress confirms that they’ve been getting considerable fallout from Anime North, but the con-goers are well behaved24 and uniformly nice, if average tippers. Plus the flamboyant costumes make for interesting discussion amongst the staff. Giggling rises from the two tables flanking us, both eating the Pad Thai, when Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up” plays on the radio.