Last year’s MomoCon in Atlanta was my son’s very first fan convention. It will be far from his last. After getting photos with cosplayers, celebrating his favorite anime shows and even taking part in some RWBY-based improv, there was no way were going to miss this year.
MomoCon 2019 was an opportunity for Eli to dive deeper into the anime he loves and for me to learn. The annual festival gathers fans of Japanese anime, American animation, comics, videogames and tabletop games each year at the Georgia World Congress Center. Unlike other conventions that I’ve been to, where core interests like comics get overtaken by the stars of genre TV and movies, MomoCon fans are here for the anime, the games and each other. Sure, Voice talent, game developers, comics artists, online personalities and costuming experts were on hand, but most people seemed to be here to cosplay with fellow fandoms, spend hours upon hours in the RPG room or visit the arcade.
We tried to do a little bit of everything.
We learned about the history of console wars, how from the rise and fall of Atari to the bitter marketing battles between Sega and Nintendo to the rise of Sony and Microsoft. He met 10-year-old card-game designer, who designed Zombie Wars at age 7. We stayed up for a late-night celebration of the American anime-style show RWBY, where Eli trounced me in the trivia portion. We went to fan-led panels for Steven Universe, Pokemon and My Hero Academia and heard from voice actors for the latter. And we listened to the minds and pencils behind Spider-Man Noir and Spider-Gwen, who saw their creations adapted to the big screen in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.
When it came to gaming, we focused on games of all types we’d never played before: Bakugan Battle Arena on the exhibition floor (where fans won a chance to battle the lead game developer, pictured above), Splendor in the boardgame library, Konami’s rhythm game Jubeat in the arcade and Pathfinder in the RPG room. Every time we tried something new, there was someone there to help us learn the rules or a volunteer to GM a campaign she created. If you want to learn a game—any game—there’s probably someone who wants to teach you. And maybe even a tournament to enter.
Like any pop-culture con, the cosplay ranged from popular Pokemon and Marvel heroes to obscure anime, but this year’s MomoCon had an outsized population of Steven Universe and My Hero Academia characters. And the merch available at the exhibitor’s booths did as well. You could by everything from hand-made fan art to all manner of Southeast Asian snacks like green tea Kit Kats and Pokky sticks. “Momo” is Japanese for “peaches” and tens of thousands of fans celebrated anime culture in the capital of the Peach State.
For a manga- and anime-obsessed kid gearing up for his first year of high school, this was a time to dive into his interests and be among people who share his interests. For me, it was a time to learn about another corner of pop culture full of its own characters and stories and jokes. We’ll be back next year, and this time we just might be in costumes of our own.