Much like that speed dating thing I wrote about a bit ago, you can attain a lot of this information just by reading the mixi thread for the event. However, I’m going to assume most of you can either not read Japanese, or don’t have mixi accounts. Besides, I was there! I was able to take in the atmosphere! That’s not the sort of thing you can understand by reading a mixi post made to organize the event written before the fact! Then again I’m not sure if you’ll be able to take in any atmosphere by reading my crappy write-up, but whatever.
Anyway, in my continuing quest to make more Japanese friends (I have a few, not enough) I decided to try an off-kai as a means to meet people. If that link didn’t provide you with a satisfactory enough explanation, an off-kai is essentially an off-line meeting of people from a certain online community. In this case, it was the Bakemonogatari community on mixi, and they were holding an off-kai to commemorate the end of Bakemonogatari’s sequel, Nisemonogatari.
The way to RSVP was to hit the “I’m Coming” button on the mixi thread, and then post a little about yourself–including your gender, natch. When I joined in, there were about eighteen people coming, only two of which were girls. When I checked before leaving for the event, the number had increased to fifty-five… of which only five were girls. But considering there was a no-nanpa rule set in place (for good reason, I imagine) I went there with hopes of picking up dudes rather than chicks.
I get there about 10 minutes before go time, but the place is already 90% full. I see a ton of nerds sitting around in one section of the store with poorly encoded episodes of Nisemonogatari playing on a giant wall-mounted flat screen TV. I turn my head to the guy at reception, and simply utter the words, “off-kai…” He then directs my attention towards a roughly 6-foot tall, balding gentleman in a turtleneck sweater. He is cube, the organizer of the event. I hand him my money, and he hands me my name card (a piece of paper with Karen and Tsukihi on it) and my Bingo card (for the Bingo tournament, obviously) and sends me on my way. All the tables are already full, but there’s one table in the back with no people. I slink my way over there, already feeling a bit distant and left out.
The attendance is mostly your typical Japanese otaku types, but there’s a few dudes with piercings and clothes too cool for them.
But, as luck would have it, I wouldn’t be alone for too long. Right around 5:30–the time when the event was to officially start–a bunch of otaku make their way in, and occupy all the seats around me. It is at this point that cube passes out the donuts we are to use in place of beer for the kanpai. We had only two choices: Pon de Ring or Golden Chocolate. I’m at an absolute loss as to why they chose those two specific flavors. It just doesn’t make any sense!! It’s so random!!!
After we clink our donuts together, everyone introduces themselves. About half the males at the table name Hachikuji as their favorite character. Another one drops Nadeko. There’s on Senjougahara, and one Kaiki. One of the girls said Hanekawa, but the girl next to her was too quiet so I couldn’t catch hers. It’s a pretty eye-opening to find out that lots of guys like Hachikuji. One wonders why there aren’t more doujinshi of her…
Turns out the table I’m at is the anti-moe table. “I think all moe anime is shit!” exclaims one gentleman; a man who enjoys cyberpunk, South Park, and American rock music. “Today’s anime is all fluff,” explains the man sitting across from me with a fedora and blazer on, “But this show is different! It has a story!” That said, we all agree that Strike Witches is pretty cool.
I naturally become the topic of conversation for a bit, as I’m on the only foreigner in attendance. I feel a bit like an idiot, since this is one of those days where my Japanese is especially bad, but I can generally follow along, and can only hope I’m saying things they can parse. The flow of conversation is obviously a little stilted, as this is the first time any of these people have met each other, but everyone seems to be having a good time.
I get on the best with Mr. Cyberpunk. It’s fascinating how his tastes more or less mirror the tastes of Americans who grew up on Adult Swim. He’s also just a year older than I am, so he fits the age range as well. Dude’s favorite shows include: Ghost in the Shell, FLCL, Cowboy Bebop, and he liked Akira quite a bit, too. He’s also an avid military fan, and loves the Call of Duty games. Owns every one of them. He hasn’t seen Apocalypse Now, though.
The event isn’t all you can eat, but the restaurant dishes out more food than anyone at the table can finish. It is however all you can drink, so after my first beer I just start ordering nothing but whiskey. This would turn out to be a bad idea later on.
As the evening goes on, a few people move around to other tables to get a feel for the other people in attendance.
After a while cube announces the start of the Bingo tournament, in which winners can win fabulous prizes. Prizes include: a set of the Araragi family Nedoroids, one of two posters, a figure, a Fire Sisters tote bag, and the Naisho no Hanashi ending single. It is at this point where I realize a misunderstanding on my part, as I thought that everyone had to bring a prize for the Bingo tournament, but it seems as if this is not the case. That’s what they did at the last Bingo nomikai I went to! Needless to say, as a result, I now own the Naisho no Hanashi single. And I don’t like ClariS.
But anyway, this Bingo’s got a nerdy twist to it. As this is a Nisemonogatari off-kai, one must say “The courage to declare Reach!” when they hit Reach, and “‘Bingo!’ said I with a posed expression on my face” when they hit Bingo. “Man, this is tough!” exclaims Mr. Cyberpunk. I actually score the last Bingo right as someone else does, but the only remaining prize is the poster, and I don’t have space for that, so I let it pass.
As the Bingo tournament is going on–and even before that–there’s a guy from another group of people with a dumb–LOOK AT ALL THESE NERDS–look on his face constantly looking over in amazement. His friends keep telling him to cut it out, but he keeps peeking over.
After Bingo, everyone gets a piece of Nisemonogatari chocolate, which is just a piece of chocolate with a Nisemonogatari picture on the wrapper. After increasingly drunker conversations with Mr. Cyberpunk and others, a cake promised in the mixi thread makes an appearance. It’s a small cake, but they cut it up nicely enough so each of the fifty-five people get a piece. It’s home made, too!
As the clock strikes 9:30, people really begin to move around. Some people come my way, as it seems they heard tell of a loud-ass gaijin being in attendance. We’re already all pretty drunk, so we dispense with any semblance of politeness, and just exchange sex jokes. Another dude comes over hearing that there was a foreigner who likes Strike Witches, and we have another similarly perverted conversation. In fact, now that everyone is basically drunk off their asses, every conversation just becomes dirty. I sit down with Mr. Cyberpunk once again, along with another slightly older gentlemen, and people start bringing up porn sites on their smart phones and saying all manner of dirty things. We are otaku, after all.
At this point in the game everyone has basically lost their minds. While going to the bathroom, I cross paths with another guy from the event at the urinal. He asks me who my favorite character is, and I say Hachikuji. He then just calls me a pervert to my face while laughing nervously. At this same point a dude busts out of the one stall in the room, yells “HACHIKUJIIIII,” then runs out. It’s basically an anime con, for better or for worse.
The clock strikes 11:30. The event is over. I bid farewell to Mr. Cyberpunk after trading numbers, and him along with the other older gentlemen escort my stumbling self back to the train station. I get back home, drink an entire bottle of water, then vomit all over the sidewalk outside of the station.
But on the plus side, I got some MaiMiku requests and a phone number! Hopefully I’ll see some of these guys again soon! It was fun save for the irresponsible levels of drinking!
Much like the speed dating event, things like these are good venues to just meet people in a city where people are increasingly more isolated–it’s just up to you to keep up contact and build a relationship. It also helps if you find someone who loves America.