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Tekko 2018 – Pittsburgh’s Premier Anime and Japanese Culture Convention

Tekko 2018 General Admission badge

-With Dakota Wagner

Tekko is an anime and Japanese pop culture convention in Pittsburgh that is now in its 16th year. Originally titled Tekkoshocon and founded by the Pittsburgh Japanese Culture Society. The original name more or less means steel mill con, in reference to Pittsburgh’s rich history in steel. This year’s theme was Wonderland, but I didn’t see much that spoke to it in the atmosphere, set dressing, or cosplay. According to Tekko’s Facebook page, the total attendance was just over 9700 people, but it did not feel that crowded to me and I have a lot of issues with big crowds.

There is far too much to do and see at Tekko to see and do all of it, but it is not without its drawbacks. While there wasn’t much of a line in the morning like you see at Steel City Con, there also wasn’t much going on at first either. The doors might open at 9 on Saturday morning, but the vendor room didn’t open until 11 and the game room didn’t open until 10. Even the panels didn’t begin until 10 so, getting there early isn’t as important as it is in some conventions. The nice part though is that all the waiting and the lines are inside, out of the weather.

On Saturday, My family started in the game room which was set up really well with board games and card games at tables in the middle of the room and arcade-style games in the back half of the enormous rooms, pachinko (Japanese pinball games) on the right, and several console gaming stations on the left when you first walk in. We weren’t in the game room during peak hours but while we were there, everyone was polite and following the rules of etiquette – if there is a line, loser leaves the game at the end of it. It is fun to watch the dance games, and the mech games look like something straight out of a science fiction movie.

Dakota: I played many a game in the arcade. My personal favorite has to be the table-flipping game. There are various stages, and the point is to cause as much damage with your flying table/desk/coffin as possible. I somehow managed to get the top score even though I could not understand any of the instructions. I also highly enjoyed this one game where you sit in a pod, surrounded by screens, and pilot a mech. The controls are very strange at first, but smooth once you figure them out. Taiko Drum Master entails playing different rhythms on a large taiko drum, and there was a rhythm game involving five staggered buttons, which was fun but the arrangement of the buttons often caused me to press the wrong one.

Extra Life in the Burgh at Tekko With Kathryn Morosky

There was an Extra Life chapter there signing up people in the game room also. Extra Life is a game based fundraiser supporting the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. I’ve heard of Extra Life before, and have friends who participate but I thought it was very clever placement, smack in the middle of the game room in a convention center full of people who love to game. They were giving out a special die and sheets with information and advanced tactics for new gamers just signing up.


Cosplayers of all shapes, sizes, shows, games, ages, and styles filled the convention center. There were several Stevens from Steven Universe, Deadpools of all kinds, a guy I’m calling a Knight of the Game Table, Pokémon, Elric Brothers, two or three Scarecrows, a few Harley Quinns, the best Squirrel Girl I’ve ever seen (unfortunately my picture did not come out well), and countless young women who looked like they were ready to go to some sort of Victorian tea party. There were more Alice themed cosplayers on Sunday when Dakota was able to go back to attend a few panels.

501st Legion’s Cards

The 501st Legion of Star Wars cosplayers were there also, making the rounds, explaining what they do, in a space next to the Make a Wish Foundation. As usual, they were also out in the crowd, interacting. At one point, a stormtrooper came by us with a “captured rebel” who asked my youngest son for help. My son immediately started trying to get him released and nothing worked until he informed the trooper that the rebel wasn’t the man he was looking for. I adore the 501st, and every time we interact with them at conventions or I see them in the news, I like them even more. They had something new (at least to me) this time – trading cards!

The vendors had a little bit of everything. The art was amazing and I think I found my new favorite artist. There weren’t the used or vintage toys like you get at Steel City and it didn’t feel as crowded either and I think it’s because it is such a focused convention on the anime and manga and Japanese culture. Everything relates to that except maybe some of the art vendors. The aisles were nice and wide, very easy to navigate for people with mobility issues even with the crowds.

While there weren’t as many celebrity guests at Tekko as there are at other conventions, but the way they had the signings set up was much easier. One celebrity at a time in the center of the hall with roped off snaking line that was very nicely organized and I think they managed to get to everyone in the line for each person. I (Sarah), missed out on seeing Bryce Papenbrook (the voice of the English dub for Blue Exorcist’s Rin Okumura) but Dakota got to see Vic Mignogna, the voice of the English dub of Full Metal Alchemist’s Edward Elric and star of Star Trek Continues.

Dakota: I got a signature from Vic Mignogna, best known for his role of Edward Elric in Fullmetal Alchemist. He seemed genuinely interested in what I said to him and was an all-around nice guy.

The panel selection and variety (within the given parameters) was really amazing even if I didn’t manage to get to any of them. On Friday, they had The Plus Side to Cosplay (a plus size panel), Pet ownership in Japan, How to Get Started in Online Voiceover, World Building in Anime, and so many more interesting things. On Saturday, many of the celebrity guests had Q & A sessions, several writing focused panels, trivia challenges, weapons use, armor building, and fashion panels that all looked incredibly interesting. Sunday included panels specifically for cosplaying with chronic pain and cosplaying for the big and tall.

Dakota: I went to multiple panels on Sunday. I started with “Tea Time with Sebastian and Ciel,” which was run by guest cosplayers. They did well staying in character, and when a few of them were late it was handled very well, with fun conversation in the meantime. When the main event started, it was mostly the audience asking the characters questions about themselves or the other characters. There was a raffle, Ciel’s dead parents got referenced a lot, Grell lip-synced All Star in the lip-sync competition, and I was served cookies by a demon butler. Good times were had by all. I then saw “Voice Acting in Video Games,” which featured all of the con’s VA celebrity guests. They all gave wonderful and very helpful answers to audience questions. Many in the audience were aspiring voice actors, and good advice was given. They all revealed their desires to voice both Totoro and Harley Quinn. I ended the day at “Rating Anime Husbands and Wives” with ProZD, a personal favorite YouTuber. It all felt very relaxed, like just hanging out with a comedic friend. Eventually, everyone started holding up different objects to get his attention- I held up my entire backpack. I then proceeded to ask him for a rating of Granny Riddleton from Professor Layton. He knew who I was talking about, but his wife did not, and was surprised upon seeing her.

Overall, I found this convention incredibly inclusive and forward thinking. We will definitely be going back again.



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