Cosplayers gather to take a group photo at Anime Weekend Atlanta. / Kelsey Klosterman

Nerd culture is running rampant, and it’s great.

It’s always fun to gather a bunch of people with a similar passion, put them all in the same room — or rather, convention center — and see what happens. In this case, that passion is anime. The place? The Cobb Galleria Centre. And what happens?

The answer is Anime Weekend Atlanta (AWA).

AWA is a long-standing Atlanta tradition held annually during the last weekend of September since 1995. This year, it was a four-day event lasting from Thursday, Sept. 24 to Sunday, Sept. 27. It was organized to provide a way for fans of Japanese animation and manga to come together and celebrate their shared passion — and boy, does it do that well.

There’s a lot that goes into this convention. It’s the largest anime convention in the Southeast and one of the top ten most-attended anime conventions in the country — last year, it boasted over 20,000 attendees.

Though it centers itself around anime, there are many other platforms that AWA also puts in the spotlight. The convention centre is huge, and every room has its own distinct theme. The biggest room is the “Dealer’s Room,” where fans line up to get autographs and meet the voice actors from their favorite shows and vendors who set up their stalls to sell all sorts of goods, including video games, stuffed animals, costume pieces, clothing and posters.

Also in this room is “Artist Alley,” which has rows and rows of artists showing off their work and selling prints, hand-sewed characters, accessories and knick-knacks. Many of the artists also sell their work online.

In the main hallway, you find all sorts of people taking a break from the excitement. Most are dressed up as their favorite anime characters, a tradition known as “cosplaying.”

My favorite part of AWA is looking at the cosplayers. There’s something about the dedication and care that goes into the costumes — people often make their cosplays by hand, sewing dresses together, curling the hair on wigs just right, and crafting perfectly detailed masks and armor. Some also make their own weapons, though there are certain rules that limit what you can bring to the convention.

Two years ago, the halls filled with cosplayers for Attack on Titan and Free! This year, those once popular cosplays have been replaced by none other than the characters from the show Steven Universe. The number of Rose cosplayers was unbelievable, and there was an endless amount of Pearls and Sapphires — not to mention the titular character himself, Steven.

There were a number of people cosplaying as non-anime characters as well. AWA always has a handful of Disney princess cosplayers, and there was even a pair of girls dressed as Max Caulfield and Chloe Price, a dynamic female duo from the video game, Life is Strange.

Upstairs in the Cobb Galleria Centre is a particularly long, thin hallway with endless doors running down each side. Behind each of these doors is a room for tabletop gaming. “Magic: The Gathering,” “Cards Against Humanity” and “Dungeons and Dragons” make up just a fraction of what’s available to play here at the Tabletop Gaming Festival.

In other parts of the convention center, there are countless events and panels going on throughout the weekend. There are workshops in game design and writing, art lessons, seminars on cosplay creation and care, character design classes, sessions about specific animes, webcomic seminars, karaoke, trivia, cosplay contests and so much more.

A few panel titles that stuck out include “Awesomely Bad Japanese Music Videos,” “Bad American Dubbing: A Retrospective,” “Anime Hell,” “Otaku Bellydance” and “Shakespeare as Performed by Anime Characters.”

If that doesn’t make you want to go to AWA, I don’t know what will.

AWA is truly a delightful experience, and it’s always an adventure. If you’re someone who’s been on the fence about going, and you’ll be in the area next September, I recommend checking it out. You can buy a full weekend pass, a two-day pass or a single-day pass, and they’re all worth it. There’s always something to do at AWA, and there’s something for every nerd to enjoy — you’ll never get bored.

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