By early Sunday afternoon a small meeting hall hidden deep in a cluster of brick buildings on UCLA's campus, was full. Singer Mari Iijima, who voiced Lynn Minmay in The Super Dimension Fortress Macross (both the original Japanese series and, much later, ADV's English-language dub), performs work from her numerous solo albums in addition to songs recognizable from her time with Macross. People sing along with her, particularly when she performs the Macross songs. Clearly, the music from this 1980s anime resonates with the crowd.
This was a special performance for Macross fans. According to series lore, October 10, the date of the show, is the birthday of animated teen idol Lynn Minmay. More importantly, though, it is the tenth anniversary of the MacrossWorld Convention.
This convention is a weekend-long gathering for fans of all things Macross, the popular franchise that was partially adapted as Robotech for U.S. audience's in the mid-'80s. Specifically, though, this is a convention put together by and for the members of MacrossWorld, the web forum that brings together fans from across the globe.
Shawn Kluek of San Diego is a co-founder of MacrossWorld, which evolved from the community that was gathered around alt.fan.macross.
“Everyone used to go to [alt.fan.macross] and it was a lot of fun but the problem was that there were no pictures,” said Kluek. “It was just talk. So, I created a separate site to supplement that… It just kind of grew and exploded into this big animal that lives and breathes.”
Kluek and another member of the forum threw the first convention downtown inside the conference room of a residential complex. It was a chance for the L.A.-area forum members to get together, talk about modeling kits and play arcade games. Since then MacrossWorld Convention has grown. It's still small compared to many of the fan conventions we've seen, but there were easily a couple hundred people walking in and out of the hall last Sunday afternoon.
In recent years, the convention has been hosted by UCLA's Japanese Animation Club. Phillipp Nham, co-president of the student organization, worked with Bee Kong, director of MacrossWorld Convention, to organize this year's celebration. Nham says that this gives the club the chance to “bring more anime to UCLA.”
Kong, who has been the convention director for four years, said that there are three parts to the Macross fandom.
“There's the characters. There's the mecha component and then there's the music aspect,” he explained.
“I, myself, am a mecha guy,” he added. “Some fans are really into the cosplay or music.”
MacrossWorld manages to incorporate all three aspects into the convention. For the mecha fans, there are modeling contests as well as stations where they can display their work. On Sunday, there was also a Photoshop panel for those who like to work on paper craft projects. There was a cosplay contest for those who enjoy dressing as certain characters from the show. Then there was Iijima's performance and autograph session, which catered to fans of Macross-related music.
On that level, MacrossWorld Convention was like many other cons we've attended, but there are still some rather significant differences. First, it was free. Second, there was no vending area. Instead, the room was lined with thoughtfully displayed Macross memorabilia that was arranged chronologically. This was clearly more of an event for friends and fellow fans than it was a business opportunity and it seems to be in line with the spirit of the web forum.
“The people who go to the MacrossWorld site, they're polite, nice, respectful,” said Kluek. “People care about each other. It's a big friend site.”
Now, similar gatherings are sprouting up in other cities.
“There are a lot of satellite mini conventions,” said Kluek. “We encourage those.”
He concluded, “That's what it's about, people getting together and having fun.”