Armageddon, Christchurch, 2012

Card-gaming was just one of many diversions on offer to Expo attendees

Noting the proximity of this year’s Armageddon Expo to the ‘Star Home Show’, I couldn’t help but imagine the comic mis-steps required to necessitate the utter bamboozlement of your average denim and polyester-clad ‘Home Show’ couple. Literally one wrong turn, and their hotly-anticipated, yet coolly-considered morning of soft furnishings perusal and contemplation of the latest innovations in bench-tops would be irreparably ruined. I say irreparably, because confusing the two venues would necessarily result in said pair’s forced exposure to a largely impenetrable and perplexing display of pop-culture expression.

Quite apart from their inability to distinguish an Otaku from a Whovian, “denim-and-polyester’s” sense of social equilibrium would be assailed by any number of groups of maddeningly-specific sub-cultural devotees, not to mention those rogue niche enthusiasts whose alignment to the most arcane and obscure back-alleys of fandom manage to baffle even the initiated.

As it happens, I can’t verify that any such fish-out-of-water scenario actually occurred, but that may just be because I spent the majority of my time taking in the spectacle of several thousand people, predominantly young, but not exclusively so, having a fantastic (albeit uncomfortably physically intimate) collective time. It was both fascinating and inspiring to witness so many formerly marginalised enthusiasts, be they wargamers or cosplayers, participating in an event attended by a demographically-diverse crowd.

The ever-improving accuracy of Star Wars costuming on display by the Expo’s default maitre-d’s, the NZ Outpost 42 garrison leads me to suspect that it’s only a matter of time before the Empire calls these clearly capable troops into active service. although perhaps something will have to be done about their enthusiasm for posing for photos, which somewhat undermines the regime’s cruel totalitarian agenda.

But of course, for many Armageddon attendees, posing for photos is largely what it’s all about. It would be an unusual cosplayer, many of whom have clearly spent weeks or months planning and refining their often freakishly elaborate costumes, who would greet a photo request with coy refusal. Not that all costumers are equally invested in the hobby. For every painstakingly executed Naruto or creatively exemplary TARDIS/Woman, there’s someone who wants to show their geek-love, but can’t quite make that final leap of faith.

For once, the TARDIS fails to unassumingly blend in with its surroundings

Fortunately, pledging commercial allegiance to one’s chosen obsession/s is an attractive option for those costumed or otherwise. Armageddon regulars will be familiar with the companies which routinely set up shop at the Expo, offering everything from manga books, anime dvds, and merchandise from an exhaustingly broad range of licensed properties. They were there in force again this year, shilling everything from novelty button badges, to Death Note plush toys to pricey top-shelf anime statues.

I myself was fiscally obliged to make a decision between a thirty-dollar Sylvester McCoy autograph, and a slightly more expensive, though considerably less articulated six-inch simulacrum of the man himself, outfitted in one of the least offensive of the generally offensive 1980s Doctor Who costumes. In the end I plumped for the autograph, but I’ve since had buyer’s regret. Not just because face-to-face encounters with my childhood heroes, despite my high expectations, are unfailingly disappointing, but the little Sylvester also came with his TARDIS.