As the clock struck ten o’clock on Friday morning, a gaggle of excited fans had already begun to line up in front of the Veterans’ Memorial Auditorium. The queue wrapped around the second floor of the Hynes and, though everyone was wearing masks, the excitement in everybody’s eyes was hard to miss. There was a hope, a genuine spark of life that can only come from that rare sense of normalcy a convention brings.
The doors to the theatre opened at 10:15. The room was packed to the rafters within minutes, as nearly every seat in the house was filled.
The two massive screens at the front were playing the traditional pre-show, which was filled with the silliness and fun that had come to define the event in previous years. Fans laughed and clapped along to silly crowd games like “Memes: A Visual History,” “Choose Your Own Adventure,” and “Win Lose Or Banana.”
The audience grew silent at 10:40, as the lights dimmed, and “Cooking With Conventions” – the safety message began to roll. Afterwards, mascots A-chan and B-kun took the stage for this year’s “Cosplot” skit. The crowd cheered as the duo greeted the convention for the first time in three years.
No, they didn’t explain what the dakimakura was for.
After their introduction, con chair Kristen Leiding and vice-chair Jenna Leary took the stage. Leiding remarked that this was the convention’s twentieth year of operation, before sharing a handful of anime fandom facts from the weekend of Anime Boston 2003. In particular, they recalled that the premieres for Naruto, Fullmetal Alchemist, and Wolf’s Rain all aired that weekend, along with the 150th installment of the seemingly endless One Piece.
Leary thanked the staff, choking up as she introduced a short video celebrating the many individuals who’ve made Anime Boston possible over the years. The film really cemented just how much of a void this event left over the past two years. Indeed, it served to remind everyone in attendance that the convention was something special. It was a place where lasting friendships were born, and where nerdy passions thrived; where anyone could be their true, best self, if only for a few days.
And for the first time since 2019, the halls would be filled with eager fans, cheerful cosplayers, and excited staffers once more.
Leiding and Leary continued, remarking that, as it was Anime Boston’s twentieth anniversary, Adam Ferraro—con chair from 2003 and 2004—wanted to be at this year’s event, but was unable to do so. Instead, he prepared a short video greeting, in which he explained what Anime Boston meant to him. It was a touching, short message summed up as “Anime Boston has been fandom. Twenty years has been a long time, and to keep coming back, year after year, […] the fact is the fandom to me that has kept me, and I think a lot of us, coming back year after year.”
Ferraro’s delivery was equal parts wistful and nostalgic, and really pulled all of the heartstrings. It was clear that he was proud of the event that had arisen from that crazy weekend in 2003. Above all, though, there was a sense of hope that the event could continue to be a beacon for anime fans for the next twenty years, and beyond.
The duo took their leave, and stepped offstage, as the first guest was revealed: J-Pop icon ASCA. She took the stage and offered a brief greeting to the crowd, before reminding the audience of her concert that evening.
Next up, was rapper EyeQ, who offered a heartfelt thanks for the invitation to the event.
The audience erupted in cheers as Greg Ayres made his way to the stage, who bolted onto the stage, tearing his mask off as he strained to contain his excitement. He offered a brief, excited comment to the crowd, talking up his panels and events, and expressing his joy that this year’s con was actually happening, before dashing off as quickly as he came.
Next up was Griffin Burns, who seemed excited for the hype video that had played, before remarking that he wanted to go on a Boston Duck Tour at some point this weekend. “You’re all gorgeous,” he remarked, before talking up his events for the weekend.
After Burns, came Brittany Lauda, who took the stage to greet the room, adding “I missed you all,” to great applause.
As Lauda made here way offstage, Leiding quickly jumped in with a surprise announcement. Kayli Mills, who lent her voice to the English adaptations of Re:Zero‘s Amelia, Love Live! Nijigasaki High School Idol Club‘s Kasumi Nakasu, and countless other beloved characters, would attend the year’s events. The audience cheered as Leiding proudly proclaimed “she’s on a plane coming here to see you!”
Next up was Lauren Landa, who strode onto the stage, bouncing with excitement as she talked about her planned events, from panels to autograph sessions, to her very first D&D game. And, as quickly as she came, Lauda dashed offstage.
Moments later, Matt Shipman rushed onto the stage after his introduction video, talking a mile a minute as he greeted the crowd, thanking them before rushing off as quickly as he arrived.
After Shipman, Susie Yun stepped onto the stage, palpable excitement in her voice as she mentioned that Boston was her home city, before discussing her plans for the weekend.
After Yun, was a short video introducing Max Mittelman, who helped to breathe life into characters like One Punch Man’s Saitama and Persona 5’s Ryuji; Ray Chase, a man whose resume was a mile long and studded with as many big roles as there were stars in the sky; and Robbie Daymond, whose voice has given life to characters like Tuxedo Mask and Goro Akechi (Persona 5).
The three took the stage together, drinking in the energy of the moment as they joked and made wisecracks with each other. It was clear that they missed the atmosphere of a live audience, as they traded barbs, and talked up their big events—most notably Loud, Annoying, & Very Annoying (LAVA) Live. They came and went like a hurricane, as the room cheered them on the entire time.
Finally, the bobbling heads of Ceres Fauna and Ouro Kronii from Hololive English filled the video screens as they talked up their events at the con.
With the introductions over, Leiding and Leary stepped back onto the stage to talk up volunteer opportunities at the con and charity events planned for the weekend.
They quickly ceded the stage to the programming team, who delivered highlights of what to expect over the weekend in the form of a cosplay skit starring Anya from Spy x Family. In it, the duo bubbled over the various events that were slated for the weekend, from AMV contests to panels, to game shows, to concerts and karaoke. It was a cute segment that helped to make this typically dry affair easier to digest, especially when considering it was done in front of a room filled with a thousand anime geeks, all of whom were fueled by a cocktail of adrenaline and caffeine.
With the skit complete, a short video celebrating the AMV community rolled, which aimed to highlight the positives of the community. The video ended for a panel: Synced Creations that was set to begin at 11:00 AM.
Looking at my watch, I noted that it was 11:20 as the teaser faded out.
After the trailer, came a short greeting from Shinji Inoue, the Japanese Minister in charge of Cool Japan. The room cackled, as he stated “tell me what anime you’re excited about,” before pausing for about forty seconds. The room chuckled once more when he asked, almost patronizingly, “did you know many people around you are fans of anime and manga?”
After Inoue-san’s greeting, Leiden and Leary stepped out once more, thanking the audience for attending, and wishing them a good con, before adjourning the event.
By all rights, this was just Opening Ceremonies, the same as it has been since 2003. The same moving pieces and segments, the same silliness and oddly endearing quirks that had been entertaining folks for twenty years at this point. Still, it’s impossible to really understate how refreshing it was to be able to partake in the event once again. To be gathered at the Hynes, with so many fans, so many people, who were eager to celebrate their fandom together once again.
As the crowd of fans made their way toward the double doors at the exit, it was hard to not take a moment to appreciate the excited chatter that welled up among friends and strangers alike. And, in the back of my mind, I couldn’t help but recall the words that Eric Roth stated at Otakon 2021: we were here, together.