By Samantha Johnson
Japanese animation, or anime, has been bringing fans around the world joy since the early 90s. Otaku culture was built from anime, and events like Comic Con were created as an outlet for the massive fandom it has accumulated. From Friday, Oct. 30, to Nov. 1, the Sierra Nevada Anime Fans Unite Convention, or SNAFU Con, was where otakus and gamers from Reno could enjoy what they love the most.
SNAFU held its first convention in 2010, when the Anime and Manga Society from the University of Nevada, Reno, used to hold Halloween parties called “Shadows.” Until this year, the event had been held at the Grand Sierra Resort and Casino, but was forced to move to a different venue after new policies would cut the convention’s space in half, according to the SNAFU Con website. It was moved to John Ascuaga’s Nugget in Sparks and while fans had anxiety about the change, the convention was still a success.
SNAFU Con offers a unique opportunity for attendees, with vendors, artist booths, gaming tournaments and more. Special guests like voice actors Christopher Escalante, Danielle McRae and Reno’s local voice actor, Kiba Walker, were there to talk to fans as well as give advice to amateur voice actors. Author Missy Ames, who wrote the medieval fantasy series “Tir Athair” was also present, along with Team Seven Cosplay and other representatives from the video game and science fiction fields.
None of the staff is paid for their work and offer their time willingly, including the official staff, although SNAFU Con is not a nonprofit event. It is hosted by the company Science LLC., which is owned by the con chairs, Nathan Sindar and “Beta.” All the proceeds go toward the next year’s event, and according to staff members Andrew Eveland and T. Costa, SNAFU Con is growing quickly.
“We really lived up to our name this year,” Costa said. “The show must go on. If somebody can’t do it, somebody else is going to pick up the slack because it’s going to happen.”
Costa is the head of press, public relations, marketing and karaoke at SNAFU Con. She became an official staff member by accident when she volunteered for the technology team, along with several other departments. Originally Costa was an attendee for two years and started volunteering last year, but she became the head of her own department when she helped work with social media for SNAFU, along with public outreach for the convention.
“I kind of wind up doing everything,” Costa said. “When you turn into high staff, you end up giving your all for the con.”
Costa said she had liked anime since the early 2000s, but that she started getting into the culture more after she started attending SNAFU Con.
“At the time, the Internet wasn’t really huge and there wasn’t a local scene,” Costa said. “I made a friend online through fan fiction and she convinced me to come.”
Andrew Eveland, the head of human resources at SNAFU Con, also said he became a staff member in a similar way — by accident. He also started out as an attendee, but through an email that was sent to him through error, he became a staff member and made SNAFU Con history.
Eveland worked the rave his first year volunteering, which SNAFU holds for attendants every year with local DJs from the electronic dance community. They have a one-door policy, which means that everyone participating in the rave can only enter and exit through one door, to ensure that no one is bringing or using illegal substances at the rave. Eveland was the reason why staff wear “cult of the one door” T-shirts, according to him, as a giant inside joke that volunteers encouraged attendees to try and figure out as a part of this year’s theme, mystery.
“I am the best glitch in the system,” Eveland said. “It’s part of the con history and legend.”
Both Eveland and Costa are a part of the “high staff,” which is the status a volunteer receives when they become a part of the official staff of SNAFU Con.
“I love the con and I wanted to do everything I could for it,” Eveland said. “That’s how a lot of our high staff become high staff. They have a passion and they’re good at getting stuff done.”
While SNAFU is all about fun and fandom, the staff members take their jobs seriously to ensure that all attendees are safe and feel secure. Since the event includes hentai screenings, which are sexually explicit anime shows, and other 18-and-over events, all audience members must have valid, government-issued IDs.
“It’s for fun, it’s not pervy. Pervy people get spotted and kicked out really quickly,” Costa said. “We do not tolerate that kind of harassment.”
Costa said the hentai rooms are more like comedy shows, where fans are passed a microphone and can dub over the show with their own lines or sound effects. But there are other problems of harassment, for cosplayers and non-cosplayers alike. Many fans experience both physical and verbal harassment, which includes people touching their costumes without permission, taking inappropriate photographs of cosplayers and catcalling.
“Just because it’s more common in that community doesn’t make it ok,” Eveland said. “It’s not just about cosplay.”
For most otakus, harassment goes beyond wearing a costume, but in the fandom itself. Events like SNAFU Con allow people like anime fans and gamers to express themselves openly without judgment. Some attendees wore “furry,” costumes, some male participants showed up as female characters and vice versa, while some arrived in street clothing.
“Just because it’s about fun doesn’t make it childish,” Costa said. “I really like the way Nathan put it, ‘everybody has a little bit of nerd in them.’”
Both Costa and Eveland agreed that the stigma of being a “nerd” or a “geek” has become easier with pop culture series like Star Wars, Doctor Who and Big Bang Theory.
“Nerdom has become more common,” Eveland said. “You’ve got more forms of entertainment being taken seriously as a medium, like gaming.”
Regardless of whether or not being a nerd is becoming mainstream, SNAFU Con’s staff and participants are a group of dedicated fans that clearly resonates in their passion, hard work and regular attendance at the event. As the only anime convention in Reno, it’s one to mark on the calendar for any curious geek.
For more information about SNAFU Con or for news on next year’s event, visit http://snafucon.com/.
Samantha Johnson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @SamRayJohnson.