I had the opportunity to talk with a lot of people at Acen, but none of them actually were staff members who worked behind the scenes to make the convention itself possible. Luckily on the last day of class, who should happen to show up but the chairman of Anime Central himself, Beryl Turner, with another staff member, Addie, in tow.
It was great to hear the story of a lifelong otaku, from the first illuminating moment of fandom to the present day, going on twenty years or so. He gave us a history of fandom, starting from the underground to the mainstream, which was quite interesting. He’d been with Acen from pretty much the beginning, and told us of the way they planned and ran the convention. I had no idea that Acen only employed unpaid volunteers, and it made me realize how committed you had to be to be a part of this convention, if you were doing it just out of love and not money. Even better, Beryl had a lot of great stories to tell us, like the run in with the Atlanta police that made him stop cosplaying, and the hilarious story behind Sailor Bubba.
One thing I found interesting was how he explained that anime had a “simplistic style” that everyone could learn to draw, as opposed to the strict “Marvel” style of American comics. Although there are more and more experimental American graphic novels being released, I have noticed that in America, comics are usually drawn by committee, in that there are lots of people involved in the whole process, from writers to inkers to letterers to sketchers and whatever. Whereas in Japan it’s usually just the mangaka and maybe one or two assistants to help him. This really does suggest that creating manga is a more intimate and personal process than working on a traditional American comic. It was great that Beryl managed to bring that up.
Overall, I had a great time with these guys, and although Beryl and Addie didn’t manage to guilt me into going to next year’s Acen, I wouldn’t rule out going sometime in the future…given a proper subsidy, of course.