Walking into the lobby of the Hyatt Regency Minneapolis usually means a quick jaunt to the front desk and then an uneventful elevator ride to your room.
But if you happened to walk in on April 6, you did not reach the front desk before you saw a man-sized Pikachu, Link from The Legend of Zelda, and like, six Gokus.
That’s the magic of Anime Detour: the annual Twin Cities anime convention that takes over a local hotel for a weekend and lets over 6,000 ardent fans of Japanese animation and all its far-reaching tentacles, from Naruto to Steven Universe, just fan themselves out. There are panels like “Body Paint 101” – all the better for ardent cosplayers -- and “The Great Waifu Wars,” a “waifu” being an animated character that is also, for various convoluted reasons, your wife. There are chances to meet people with famous -- even infamous -- voices, and discuss issues like inclusivity in entertainment.
There’s also trivia, a rave, and a prestigious masquerade for high-caliber cosplayers. All the while, there’s the serendipity that comes with being in a building with a bunch of people who like the same things you do. You’ll see three Deadpools taking giddy photos together, assume they were best friends, and moments later find out they were from Minneapolis, Rochester, and Nebraska, and had only just met.
“There’s a strong bond already,” one of them says, sizing up the others.
If Anime Detour were a person, it would now be a freshman in high school. This year, it graduated from the Bloomington Double Tree to the much bigger Minneapolis location, which meant a bunch of people in non-seasonably appropriate costumes were hunched over in the 20-degree chill and running across intersections and for blocks in all directions.
And oh, the costumes. Some convention-goers will spend weeks, even months on them.
“I’ve been slowly working on this for over four years,” Sarah Mitchell said of her cosmic purple getup. She’s dressed as Tohka from a fantasy anime called Date A Live. You don’t need to know what that is to appreciate the structure and sheer detail, from the light-up mechanical wings to the giant broadsword. Some of the attendees are professional prop designers, taking a break from business as usual to show off their giant hammers and gauntlets.
Jayson Stob of Eden Prairie is a longtime Chairman of the convention, and he insists that one of the things that’s the most special about Anime Detour was that it is possible for anyone to have a good time there. Some of the costumes and the convention offerings aren’t even technically tied to anime -- your Deadpools, your Dr. Whos, your Margarita Guy from the Latest Jurassic Park movie -- but no one cares. There’s no penalty for casual fandom. They’re just happy you’re here.
“As long as you’re not racist,” he says. Good rule of thumb.
Besides being a space for fandom -- ranging from casual to rabid -- Anime Detour is a charity. Whatever they don’t need after convention expenses, they donate -- sometimes to local libraries, sometimes to organizations like the American Red Cross National Home Fire Campaign. And, of course, you can get a bowl of soup and some fruit when you need it, courtesy of the price of your ticket.
“That’s kind of a Midwest thing,” he says.
The general rule of Anime Detour is this: Whatever you’re into is OK, as long as it’s not hurting anyone. Just enjoy the act of enjoyment.
“We’re really weird, and we like it,” Stob says.
Click here to see a photo slideshow of the delightfully geeky 2018 convention