Over the past month, the fan-created Bowsette— a mishmash of Nintendo’s Bowser and Princess Peach, has dominated gaming subculture on social media. The character has spawned fan art, cosplay, and unfortunately for Nintendo, a decent amount of porn as well. Bowsette also gained a large following in Japan, so much so that in as quickly as a month, a fan took it upon himself to create the very first “Bowsette Convention” in Tokyo.
Christened “Project Crown”, websites like Kotaku, Sora News 24, and many others were quick to jump on the story. In fact, they were so quick that they didn’t bother to actually investigate or share with their readers that the event was primarily run for Otokonoko– men who cross-dress as women.
They also failed to report on just how small the fan-run event would actually be. While true that it was being held at the Kawasaki Municipal Industrial Promotion Hall, it probably would have been nice for foreigners interested in going to know that the conference hall is just one small room.
While planning this story, we were originally going to bring a two-man team, make a video, record interviews, the whole shebang. After all, Brian Ashcraft of Kotaku did say, “This event is going to be popular. Just a guess!”
Now, I’m not faulting Brian for being a tad over-zealous jumping on the Bowsette bandwagon, but it only took us about five minutes to read the website, look at the organizer’s Twitter, and shoot them an email.
Instead, I went out on my own to make a short-form article about the convention. I kept my expectations low and assumed I would see mostly otokonoko cosplayers, but even I found myself a bit let down.
As I was walking in, a large group of foreigners were walking out with melancholy expressions. There were five tables and about ten cosplayers in total. All of whom were male cross-dressers, and only two of them were actually Bowsette.
Walking back outside, I met up with the group of foreigners I had seen. As they were preparing to leave, I overheard them joking about the convention. When I asked them for comment, Tobbs of the group expressed to me how he felt English websites had over-hyped the event.
“I guess even Sora News has slow days,” he said. “There’s 10 people in there. I was expecting at least 100.”
“This cosplay convention has two cosplayers,” his friend quipped. “When you were walking in, I wanted to stop you,” another said to me.
While I waited for the cosplay contest to begin, I met up with a freelance writer who was also covering the event. He too was surprised by just how little the convention had to offer and by how over-hyped it was in the west. “I was expecting at least fan art,” he told me.
Despite the low turnout and disappointment expressed by foreigners, the event organizers cannot really be blamed. I had the feeling that it was a tight community and that everyone knew each other.
They never expected their small DIY convention to be picked up by so many western websites. Nor did they expect those same websites to overhype their event or portray it as something that it’s not in order to churn out another “wacky Japan” story. All they wanted to do was have fun and dress up with their friends, and to that extent, that’s exactly what they got to do.