Dramacon 3: Big Eyes, Big Mouth

In the last post,I talked about how Christie grows as a character throughout the series. At first she’s a shy girl who lets everyone walk all over her. By the final volume, she’s a self-confident young woman taking steps towards a writing career.

She’s not there, yet, though. When she and Matt go for a coffee, she shows more of the “real” Christie. She’s witty and teases Matt, and it’s totally out of character of what we know of her. So much so that Matt calls Christie out on it.20190204_1128112218555465877020755.jpg

It’s kind of a jarring shift that gets hand-waved off. I interpreted it as Christie acting like her true self, a side of personality that gets subdued when Derek’s around.

We also get more information about Christie and Matt’s life outside the con. He’s a freshman in college, she’s a barely legal high school junior. I’m glad that the manga makes a point about Christie’s age. Otherwise, I’d just be too weirded out by the age difference to enjoy the story. Christie’s age also works well in terms of her character. It offers an explanation for her naivety, and reflects in her relationship with Derek. She’s in an unhappy, floundering relationship, but is still trying to make it work. She holds on to Derek too long because when you’re young and in love, you think you’re going to be that way forever.

We learn more about Matt, too, but not the full story yet. He wears sunglasses at all times, which Christie finds disconcerting. When she takes them off, she apologizes after seeing what he’s hiding. The audience doesn’t know exactly what she saw, but it’s enough to make her understand why he’s always wearing his trademarked sunglasses. Their banter and flirting come to an abrupt stop when Derek returns to the hotel and catches them in the act. He’s not happy with her, but she finally stands up to him. For a minute. 20190204_1130395556471477410251673.jpg

But when Derek says that he came back to the hotel to check on her – the bare minimum of what a good boyfriend should be doing – she instantly caves. It’s fair, I guess. I can’t get mad at Christie for not having a total change of character in a span of only a few pages.

Derek’s real motivation for returning to the hotel was to sleep with Christie while they had the room to themselves. It’s established earlier in the book that Christie lost her virginity to Derek, which is one of the reasons she’s holding on to him longer than she should. But she’s also expressed discomfort about sex throughout the book so far, to the point where she can barely say the word “sex”. Her blush when Derek pulls her close and general hesitation about sex  lead me to believe that she was pressured into sleeping with him for the first time.20190204_1133072403960851287740108.jpg

One of the things that’s disappointing to me reading this now is that Derek is just flat, flat, flat. He’s a bad boyfriend, and at no point is he given a shot at redemption. He’s manipulative and an all around antagonist. I would have liked to see more nuance from him, other than, “he’s a jerk.”

Well, I think Matt is right about this one.

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Dramacon 2: Tentacles~

First of all, I apologize for the late post. Two big life events over the last week left me with not enough time, energy, or focus to work on this blog. I got engaged last week (yay!), which was shortly followed by my brand spankin’ new fiancé having knee surgery. His recovery is going well, but it also means I’ve had to step up a lot more around our home. Fortunately, things are settling down, so I’m going to try to keep a regular schedule again. Just don’t be alarmed if, instead of a normal post, you see a long, confused rant about color palettes and guest lists.

But we’re not here to talk about how planning my wedding scares me shitless. Instead, we’re here to talk about Dramacon, and pick apart a fictional character’s romantic relationships.

You see, Christie has a type. Unfortunately, her type is “snarky jerks”. She’s found an ally in the mysterious cosplayer Matt, but he’s also a total heel to her, too. He and Christie have chemistry, though, and he has a single advantage over Derek. Matt actually listens to Christie and wants to hear about her problems. Derek’s a pretty flat character, and he doesn’t get much development throughout the book. Matt at least has more facets to his personality, even if they’re hiding under mean one-liners.

I think there’s another reason that Dramacon appealed to me when I first read it at age eighteen. Apart from fantasizing about a con romance, Christie and I are similar in less than ideal ways. She’s a writer who creates comics, which is still an aspiration of mine. But she’s also a pushover who doesn’t always communicate her desires well. Like Christie, I’ve held on to relationships for too long, and put myself in uncomfortable positions to make a guy like me more. I’m glad to say that I’ve learned from those mistakes and I’m happier for it. Christie has a voice and a mind of her own, but right now, she’s holding herself back from speaking out.

Dramacon isn’t just a series about a girl falling in love at a con. As the series progresses, Christie finds her confidence and learns to advocate for herself. But she has to go through a lot of pain to gain that confidence and say what she really needs to. As someone who had a hard time with this for years – and still struggles on occasion – I think seeing Christie grow and change was something that really drew me to Dramacon.

To my credit, though, I at least knew what hentai was.

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To be fair, that’s how I feel about hentai, too.

Girl, I know you’re supposed to be an innocent character, but you’re at an anime convention. How do you not know what hentai is?!

The rest of her friends are going to the hentai screening, but Christie’s not into it. Instead of just saying she doesn’t want to go, she lies about having a headache. She goes back to the hotel, and runs into Matt in the elevator.

And Christie totally has a crush on him, even as she reminds herself she has a boyfriend. But it’s so cute! She and Matt don’t end up together by the end of this book, and that’s probably for the best. Apart from both characters’ need to mature, sometimes a romantic fling is as much about the setting as it is the person.

I developed a couple crushes at cons myself, one I even tried to follow up on by trying to friend the guy on Facebook. I knew I didn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell, with him living in Canada and us only having known each other for a few hours. He never responded to my friend request, and I went on with my life. No pining or lovesick sighs. When I did send that (ignored) friend request, I was trying to capture that moment. I wanted to extend the time we spent together, re-live the thrill of clicking with someone I’d never met before. It was all the potential of a relationship – romantic or otherwise – that would never become anything.

Christie’s crush is just that. A chance meeting and a bit of chemistry with someone who’s marginally nicer to her than her boyfriend. They become friends over the course of this book, but as of right now, their attraction is based purely on those fleeting moments.

Dramacon 1: Welcome to the Jungle

From the amount of manga reviews on this blog, it won’t come as a surprise to anyone that I was an otaku when I was growing up. When I got to college, I started losing interest in anime, partly because I was cut off from my steady stream of Adult Swim and weekly allowance to buy manga. There were still some series I liked and followed, though, and Dramacon was one of them. I read this series for the first time only a month before my first anime convention. I was so excited to go, and ended up using it a template of what a con would be like.

It wasn’t exactly like Dramacon, though. I waited in line for six hours for registration, and by the time we were let into the con, all the panels were over and the merchants’ room was closed. We got to see the masquerade show and visit the artists’ alley. It was a fun and tiring time, and I really hoped that my next con would go a little smoother.

That’s the kind of memory that stirs up when I start Dramacon now. The excitement and anticipation of going to my first con, not really knowing what to expect, and at times being overwhelmed with it all.

I like the way the manga starts as well. Christie, her boyfriend Derek, and two friends are going to an anime convention. She and Derek have a booth at in the artist alley to sell a comic that they’ve created together. It’s the first day of the con, and she’s already having a hard time. Along with her friends accompanying them to the con driving her crazy, Derek is blatantly flirting with girls right in front of her. This all gets covered in the first couple pages. There’s not a lot of build-up and background, because it’s not needed.

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  Read from left to right!

The art’s not as good as I remember, and something about the way the artist Svetlana Chamakova draws mouths bothers me. I’m not entirely sure what it is, and complaining that they look “cartoonish” seems silly when I’m talking about a comic. They’re overexaggerated, which is okay for humorous scenes, but the first few pages are all done in this style. It makes Christie’s dilemma look funny, which makes it harder for me to take her seriously when she’s mad at Derek.

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That’s right. She’s mad at him, but she’s the one apologizing.

And rightly so. Derek is a tool, but Christie also lets him walk all over her. Throughout the course of the series, Chriss gets more confident and learns to stick up for herself, but that doesn’t happen here. Frustrated with her boyfriend, she runs off into the crowd, where she meets Matt.

I think this was the real appeal of the story to me: that serendipitous meeting with a handsome stranger at a con. Of course I secretly fantasized about meeting someone at a con and having a runaway 72-hour romance with them. I did meet some cool people, and developed a short-lived crush on one of them, but nothing ever came of it. I didn’t keep in touch with the people I met, and never got kissed by a cute cosplayer.

Christie’s story is the one my teenage heart always wanted to have, but following it would come with some serious drawbacks. Other than having a jerk boyfriend, Christie is also dumb in the way she approached the con as a whole. For instance: she didn’t know her favorite manga artist and writer would be there. At the last con I went to, I went specifically for a chance to meet an actor I loved. Christie also didn’t know that there was a program detailing the different panels and events going on. How did she miss this? I’ve never been to a con where there wasn’t a program right at the entrance or registration booths.

If I really wanted to get into the nitty gritty, I guess this could be read as Derek trying to gaslight his girlfriend,  but to be totally honest, I just don’t think he’s that smart. He’s an asshole, though, but Christie is a wet blanket. Until Chriss stands up to him, he’s going to get away with everything.