This year was my second time at the Dutch anime convention known as Tsunacon. As a one-day event I won’t have a ton of things to say about it, but there were some significant differences this year, not least of which is the move from the town of Sliedrecht over to the more well-known city of Rotterdam to make room for the ever-growing con attendance numbers.
Naturally, the first difference was transportation. Whereas last year required me to transfer to a rather small and adorable train, Rotterdam is one of the largest cities in the country and so took only one train to get there (getting back was a different story, but more on that later). This also means that for other people living around the country, there is a far likelier chance that the trains will be relatively more convenient for them as well. But unlike in Sliedrecht where it took only a short walk from the station to the convention, going to the new location required an additional bus or tram. Well, you could still walk but it would probably take you over an hour, and if you’re like me and European cities and streets confuse you, then it would take you about twice that amount. The trams and buses are both very close to the train station though, so it isn’t really a hassle.
The actual site of the convention this year was the Social Sciences building of Erasmus University, and it was, as promised, significantly larger than the old place. With three floors available as opposed to just one, and a significant amount of space per floor, it seemed just the right size for the convention, providing enough room for people to move around, but not being so spacious as to dwarf the crowd and make the place seem barren. Cosplayers were naturally everywhere, and as is common here, the dealer’s room is combined with the artists’ alley, with dealers and artists all mixed together. Overall, the university was lacking some of the charm of the old location in terms of its coziness and warmth, but I think it was a fair (and of course necessary) trade.
One major difference with the new location was the way in which food was handled. The spot in Sliedrecht was something of a fitness and recreation center, so it had both a small bar in the main area, as well as a bar with seats where karaoke had taken place. One of the most vivid memories for me at my first Dutch con was seeing a fairly large crowd chowing down on cup noodles like they were the best thing ever made (a claim that is supported to some extent by the fact that it has its own museum). This year however, cup noodles were practically a thing of the past, as Tsunacon saw it fit to serve actual bentou and bowls of ramen straight out of Naruto (with signs saying “Ichikaru Ramen” hanging above the serving area). Though the lack of a bar limited the food options (no bitterballen or Japanese beer as far as I could tell), this did not seem to bother the patrons at all, because the line was gigantic.
Even though I passed by the line repeatedly over the course of many hours, not once did the line ever die down, as if the people’s desire for ramen was insatiable. Honestly, I can relate, because unless you live in Den Haag, Rotterdam, or Amstelveen, it can be quite difficult to get a half-decent bowl of Asian noodle soup in the Netherlands, whether it’s ramen, wonton noodles, or pho. I know it’s a hunger that never fully dies down, and maybe on a different day I would have joined them.
There’s some obvious advice for you: serve Japanese food at an anime convention and you’re sure to be a smash hit. Think Pocky is the talk of the town? Why not hit them with some udon?
The larger space also allowed for something new this year: panels. Whereas last year the closest thing you could get to a panel was a cosplay/AMV competiton or an arts and crafts workshop or two, Tsunacon dedicated a room to the endeavor. Seeing as the panels were in Dutch, I couldn’t exactly get the most of them, but I did attend the one panel I could actually follow along with: Name that Anime. Divided into categories such as “openings,” “action scenes,” and “traps” (yes, that kind of trap), the panelists showed footage from a large variety of anime. As far as I could tell, most of the anime were from the last decade or so, with a sprinkling of Ghibli as the primary representation of anime 20 years and older. As I wasn’t sure of the exact nature of the panel going into it, I didn’t participate for fear that my inability to speak or comprehend Dutch would hold me back, but I might try next year. Overall, the panel was 90 minutes, which might either be too much or not enough for this kind of “game show,” but it seemed like it was on a good track to improvement for next year.
The last thing I did at the con was go to the karaoke room, as anyone who knows me is aware of the fact that I enjoy singing anime songs even though I can’t sing. It’s also fun to see people really get into the songs they love, which ranged from Vocaloid tracks to the popular shounen titles to the English Pokemon theme, which seems to be universally popular among singing anime fans. I spoke about this last year, but the people responsible for karaoke at Dutch cons have an entire fancy system set up to mimic a proper set. With a monitor displaying words in-sync with the song, just about anyone can follow along if they know the basics of the song, something that not even Otakon has. As for myself, I recognized a lack of burning passion in people’s selections, so I went with the go-to song for both me and one Astro Toy columnist: Kanjite Knight. Though quite off-key, the crowd was still nice enough to applaud my endeavor.
When I look at the attendees at these conventions in the Netherlands, I get the feeling that, while tastes are largely similar between the US and Dutch fans, there seem to be some major differences as well. Most notably, One Piece seems to be more well-loved among the Dutch anime fans. Does anyone else get this impression? People sang One Piece songs at karaoke, One Piece merchandise seemed to be popular in the dealer’s room, and I even saw a Garp cosplayer, which is something I have never seen at an American con (though I may have just not been paying attention). How popular is Monkey D. Luffy and his merry band of pirates among Dutch otaku, anyway?
In any case, cosplay:
(To the cosplayers above who asked me to send you this photo, my apologies as I seem to have lost your card!)
The famous combo of Chii & Stocking
I would have stuck around longer, but by 4pm noticed that it had began to snow. As I have learned during my time here, snow + Dutch trains = not fun, and what was once a 30-minute trip turned into 2 hours. Obviously, that’s no fault of the convention itself, and in hindsight I can only imagine how much worse the delays would have been going to and from Sliedrecht. In spite of those troubles, it was overall a fun convention where people just enjoyed being anime fans.