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MTAC Haiku Attracts Anime, Pop Culture Fans Across Tennessee, Brings Japanese Style to Nashville

The Middle Tennessee Anime Convention returned to Nashville once again from April 14—16 for a weekend of comics, video games, anime and fandom as pop culture enthusiasts gathered to express themselves and share interests.

Filling the halls of the Sheraton Music City and Embassy Suites Nashville Airport hotels, MTAC Haiku marked 17 years of anime appreciation in Middle Tennessee; last year was MTAC 16-Bit to mark 16 years, and this year’s event pays homage to the 17-syllable Japanese style of poetry. Dragon Ball Z fighters and Power Rangers and Overwatch heroes shuttled back and forth between the two hotels and paraded around the area while taking part in sanctioned events, impromptu dancing and an appreciation of the painstaking detail found in each other’s cosplay.

One of the most packed areas of the Sheraton was a maze of booths called the Artist Alley where patrons shuffled from table to table to check out the myriad crafts and consumables on display by artists from both near and far. Some tables dealt in bath bombs, some sold official MTAC merchandise and some offered 15-minute sketches of portraits or concepts.

Emmie Mayne and her company, Lightning and Lace, came from Alabama to set up in MTAC's Artist Alley

Emmie Mayne and her company, Lightning and Lace, came from Alabama to set up in MTAC’s Artist Alley

 

Emmie Mayne was one artist occupying a corner booth at MTAC, a prime spot as visitors made their rounds through the room. Travelling from Huntsville, Ala., for her first time at MTAC, Mayne brought with her merchandise from Lightning and Lace, her company that specializes in cosplay, props and designs. Mayne’s table was full of laser-cut acrylic products and mugs adorned with dye-sublimated images.

Further down the hallway from Artist Alley were the dealer rooms where more commercial products such as Japanese food, replicated weapons and T-shirts with pop culture prints were being sold. While access to the rooms on Friday was no issue as visitors still trickled into the convention, Saturday brought a wave of new and returning guests that resulted in long lines that extended outside as people anxiously waited to browse and haggle their way through the dealer rooms.

“MTAC’s pretty good,” said Casey Vongphrachanh of Cordy’s Corner, a store based out of Opelika, Ala., that deals in everything from gaming to steampunk. After visiting multiple conventions from Miami to San Antonio and attending MTAC for four years, Vongphrachanh and his associate Hudson Hicks had only positive things to say about their experience at MTAC. “It’s a little on the smaller side for us, but it’s got a really good crowd. We like how it’s laid out, and we like the people here, too.”

Casey Vongphrachanh (left) and Hudson Hicks representing Cordy's Corner in the MTAC dealer room

Casey Vongphrachanh (left) and Hudson Hicks representing Cordy’s Corner in the MTAC dealer room

 

Organized panels and events also attracted growing crowds that extended out doorways, some visitors lining up hours in advance to guarantee admission to events with limited space. The MTAC Cosplay Contest, a recurring event that always draws a massive viewership, was one of more popular events on Saturday as a line of decked-out cosplayers stood in lines that wrapped around outside onto the sidewalks as they waited for their shot to show off their creations.

Celebrity guests such as Josh Grelle from Yuri!!! on Ice and Keith Silverstein from Overwatch and Hunter x Hunter also held autograph and Q&A sessions to interact with their multitude of fans. Instructional workshops incorporated fans new and old in the wide array of interests that anime offers through sessions such as Anime 101 for Parents and Crossplay 101: From Men to Women. With roughly 10 meeting locations that rotated events almost on the hour, there was truly something to hold anyone’s attention.

But if guests grew restless of waiting in lines and sitting in events, there was more than one way to let off some steam. Over in the Embassy Suites, gaming rooms dedicated to analog, tabletop and digital gaming housed gamers day and night as they competed and cooperated in games ranging from Magic: The Gathering to the always-occupied Super Smash Bros.

(From left) Nikkie Vancamp, Haden Winokur and Jake Blank represent Pokemon's Team Skull at MTAC

(From left) Nikkie Vancamp, Haden Winokur and Jake Blank represent Pokemon’s Team Skull at MTAC

 

Jeffrey Gordon, a first-time MTAC attendee from Nashville, wasn’t sure what to expect at his first anime convention, but he felt right at home in the game room behind a GameCube controller.

“It’s definitely been fun for my first convention,” said Gordon. “It’s great to be somewhere where everyone has something in common, especially when that thing is video games.”

Out behind the Sheraton, a different competition was being fought where participants traded in their joysticks for foam sticks. After filling out a waiver and choosing their weapon, combatants fought with members of Dur Demarion, a Southern realm of the foam-fighting group known as Belegarth. While similar to LARPing, Dur Demarion’s style focuses less on role-playing, more on fighting.

“Of the foam groups out there, you have a whole bunch of different LARPs, which is live action roleplaying,” said Hudson Kus, an organizer of Dur Demarion who alternates between being a Realtor and a combatant under the name Sir Mefit. “The combat-based groups are Dagorhir and Belegarth.”

Combatants fight alongside members of Dur Demarion behind the Sheraton at MTAC

Combatants fight alongside members of Dur Demarion behind the Sheraton at MTAC

 

Kus said that conventions such as MTAC and GMX have proved to be prime recruiting grounds for participants in their group.

“This is our target demographic,” he said. “These are the people that come out and fight. We’ve found that if we can get a weapon in someone’s hand, and get them out there, and get them to see how it feels, they’ll come back.”

Whether they come back for the combat, the celebrities or just to appreciate some anime, fans keep coming back to MTAC to congregate with like-minded individuals. MTAC will return next year on Easter weekend with a new schedule of events and celebrity appearances to entertain guests.

For more, check out mtac.net.

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