My favorite Pittsburgh convention is Tekko, which brings fans of anime, manga, gaming, and cosplay to the David L Lawrence Convention Center every Spring. Compared to other pop culture conventions that I’ve attended in the area, Tekko has a unique signature, ambient energy that comes from fans’ enthusiastic participation. It’s rare not to see a single, exhausted, ticked-off face at a convention, but if people felt like that at Tekko 2017, they covered it with excited smiles.
The first thing we noticed upon arrival was a dramatic uptick in Friday attendance. Typically, Tekko’s strongest attendance is Saturday, but this year the Exhibition Hall was packed on Friday as well, and the walkways were filled with throngs of cosplayers.
Cosplay spirit was especially high, including a platoon of cosplayers singing songs that were sounded off authoritatively against cadences that seemed borrowed from a drill sergeant. Cosplay is always king at Tekko; the pervasive and exuberant cosplay of Tekko outdoes Wizard World Comic Con Pittsburgh and Steel City Con, and matches the near-professional costuming I’ve seen at conventions like Megacon and New York Comic Con.
Due to our newest addition to the family, our own participation in Tekko 2017 was a little lighter than last year. Our three month old is a quiet, happy, baby, but our desire not to contribute any distractions to panels meant we mainly stayed in the Exhibition Hall and the Gaming Hall. We did, however, see Uncle Yo’s comedy show, where the Main Stage speakers and the crowd’s laughter drowned out everything else, and our older kids could even get on their 3DSs without disturbing anybody. That they were lost in Kirby and Mario Kart was a good thing, because though Uncle Yo was not doing his 18+ show on Friday, this show was only a shade less adult.
This was our first time watching Uncle Yo, and as he revealed at the end of the set that he is leaving the convention circuit, it might be his last Tekko as well, and I’m glad we didn’t miss a chance to see him in Pittsburgh. Though the word rollicking has left general usage, I’m roping it back in to describe the rollicking laughter that was my response to Uncle Yo’s show, laughter that made me feel not only better, but lighter.
I would describe Uncle Yo’s comedy as nerd highbrow but with not so high a brow that he can’t catch a whiff of what’s being served up by our current administration. Oh yes, he segued from anime to Harry Potter to our political reality, with the high point of the political segment being his skewering of the way the rhetoric of Global Warming has been emasculated by renaming it the much more timid Climate Change. I’m paraphrasing, of course, as to be specific, Uncle Yo said they should call it something that would catch everyone’s attention–“Bill Cosby’s B—r”–the idea being that people would take the concept much more seriously if it had that horror-show of a name. This was just the high point of a comedic set that was comprised of, in the main, bits about pop culture franchises, in which he demonstrated not only a deft fast-talk style of comedy, but mastery of the language of nerds, at one point using as a stand-in for the more run of the mill profanity word s*** the phrase “live action Ghost in the Shell.” Oh yes, that got a big laugh from this crowd.
The Exhibition Hall contained a large variety of vendors this year, with the most noticeable shift in merchandising being that Overwatch, One-Punch Man, Bananya, Tokyo Ghoul, and Yo-Kai Watch were well-represented with product, although the biggest merch franchises were probably still mainstays like Dragon Ball Z and Sailor Moon. I didn’t see as much Yuri on Ice, Hunter X Hunter, or Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure stuff as I thought I would, and I didn’t find a single Mob Psycho 100 product, not even a shirt.
The only down side of Tekko 2017’s Exhibition Hall was the the DLC’s food concession, which was always crushed with customers, so much so that we always gave those lines a wide berth. Sometimes I couldn’t see recognizable lines. This isn’t a problem that Tekko can fix of course, though the DLC may want to think about how to adjust their food concession to the growing Tekko attendance.
The big surprise at last year’s Tekko was the evolution of the Gaming Room, and Tekko 2017 matched the expanded gaming presence of last year with the return of everything from last year, including the Japanese arcade experience, pachinko, tabletop and console gaming, and tournaments. We stayed awhile in the gaming room, playing Japanese arcade games, all of which were set to free to play, and pachinko.
Tekko 2017 was an excellent convention, with an atmosphere of sincere fandom to it, so that that while it was non-stop spectacle, no one seemed to be putting on a show. Comic con organizers in Pittsburgh and surrounding areas looking to create an event of equal interest and enjoyment value should follow Tekko’s lead and put fandom first, rather than imitating two other big shows that have folded by seeming to be more interested in being in the comic convention business than in fandom.
Tekko provided press passes to this event.