You either get it or you don't. • That's how most people see sci-fi and anime conventions, such as this weekend's Metrocon in Tampa. Outsiders don't understand why basement-dwelling nerds would don candy-colored costumes to hobnob with obscure voice actors and comic book artists. Insiders don't want a bunch of n00bs ruining the one weekend a year when they can celebrate steampunk, cosplay and Dragon Ball Z without fear of being mocked. • Still, in its ninth year, Florida's largest anime convention must be doing something to convert the former into the latter. More than 2,300 fans preregistered for Metrocon 2011, shattering the previous record. That means many of this year's guests will be attending their very first Metrocon. • How can one make sense of it all, and not feel intimidated? • For the first-timers in the audience, here are five things to know about Metrocon 2011. Jay Cridlin, Times staff writer
What is it?
The focus of Metrocon is anime, the style of flashy Japanese animation and artwork familiar to anyone who has seen Speed Racer or Sailor Moon. But the event covers all elements of pop culture that have been influenced by anime, from video games to pop music to games like Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh! Throughout the weekend, you can immerse yourself in comics, movies, role-playing games and more. A few relatively mainstream topics will be covered (Family Guy, Doctor Who, Futurama).
The walking dead
This year's keynote guest is Max Brooks (see interview below), author of the zombie bible World War Z (an upcoming film adaptation will star Brad Pitt). One of the big events Sunday is the sixth annual Zombie Wars, a live-action role-playing adventure pitting zombies (fake ones, hopefully) against survivors in a four-hour battle for all the marbles/brains. But there are rules, people! Get the scoop during a Zombie Wars Q&A at 7 p.m. Friday and a rules panel at 11 a.m. Saturday.
Let the games begin
If the zombies don't get us, the robots surely will. Learn more about our future robot overlords during Bay Area Robot Fights, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, with handmade robots duking it out BattleBots style. Not into mechanized mayhem? Check out Anime Idol (3 p.m. Friday), a Japanese and Korean pop singing competition; a costume contest (3 p.m. Sunday); and a cosplay contest (3 p.m. Saturday), which is like a costume contest, but with skits. Don't miss the video game room, with several tournaments, or GGX: Gear Grappling Extreme, sort of a no-holds-barred throwback to the glory days of wrestling, at 4:30 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday. No robots allowed in that one . . . we think.
Party all night
Don your geekiest finery for the annual Fantasy Masquerade (7 p.m. Saturday; admission is $10 and there IS a dress code), featuring a live cosplay performance. There are also nightly raves with DJs and glow sticks. (Perhaps predictably, on Saturday night, there's a "Raving 101" seminar, for guests "so insecure about your dance moves that the sheer thought of breaking down would make a grown man cry.") If you're into music and theater, don't miss a shadowcast performance of Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog (below) at noon Saturday, and a concert by video game-inspired rockers Random Encounter at 8:30 p.m. Saturday.
Geeks and guns
For costumes, prop weapons — cardboard, papier-mache, etc. — are permitted, but please no metal and no real guns, even disabled ones. And most important, quoting from the website: "DO NOT CARRY FAKE GUNS OUTSIDE THE CONVENTION CENTER IN PUBLIC! The Tampa Police Department will treat anyone carrying real looking guns or wearing tactical gear as a REAL THREAT AND WILL TAKE SERIOUS ACTION! Metrocon will not be held liable for any injury or death that may result from violation of this rule." See the website for the policy on bows, staves, whips and roller skates.