Clad as both officers and villains of "Full Metal Alchemist," the members of the Okage-Sama De~ cosplay group organized their third Okage-Sama De~ Cosplay Tea event. It was an informal gathering with cosplayers, an artist alley, gaming, a dance, and even tea. While featuring some of the things I love about anime conventions, the Okage-Sama De~ Cosplay Tea lacked one feature I hate about anime conventions: The lack of quality socializing caused by convention friends feeling rushed to attend panels, rehearse for masquerade, and other superfluous activities. The Tea event simply threw attendees together, got everyone to participate in fun activities, serve food and drinks, and let everyone bond and interact. I wouldn't have it any other way.

I will confess: First impressions were bad. Housed in a small common room of a church with only two game consoles, two artists, and about a dozen people (about eight were FMA-dressed staff) present, poor ambiance seemed to have shot this event in the foot. It felt like I arrived after the end of a rocking party and everyone was cleaning up despite the fact I arrived at this tea event 30 minutes after it started. Then more people arrived and filled up the space, assuaging the initial doubt.

The kitchen staff served up a variety of muffins and brownies with Italian sodas and Shirley Temples to wash them down at a reasonable price. The titular tea of this Cosplay Tea was self serve. I'm generally a tea snob who takes loose leaf oolong tea steeped for four minutes in rapidly boiling water, but I will admit the Safeway tea bags used in this Tea event actually tasted like the labels indicated. A side of plain hot water would have helped dilute the tea that had steeped too long during the day.

After fiddling around with the Naruto PS2 fighting game with button smashing inefficiency and attempting to play a Wii game that wasn't "House of the Dead Overkill," I surveyed the scene and attendees. Since this was a small event, it offered an opportunity for everyone who knew each other to catch up or allowed people who had no idea who anyone was to find out who everyone was. Knowing in advance about the group's FMA theme, I made it a point to not dress in my FMA uniform lest I get mistaken as a member of Okage-Sama De~ and forced to work. The FMA dressed staff primarily stuck to their respective characters and personas.

Once the event had a fair amount of attendees, Okage-Sama De~ began its string of party games. It was an excellent way to break people out of their social bubbles and interact with people outside of their cliques. The first game was musical chairs, a game of timing, reflexes, and territory control. Solid Snake won the first round and I defaulted as winner of the second round since the actual winner was a staff member. When it came down to Snake vs. Spike, the encircling dance around the one chair turned into a game of taunts, fake outs, and eventual taking of the chair. I lost due to bad positioning when the song stopped. Snake was better situated to take the chair. Well played, nevertheless.

The second game was Anime Pictionary. Each team had one minute to guess what anime character the artist was drawing. Given how most fan artists take hours to complete their sketches, this game proved challenging. I shot the first match and participated in the second. Anyone who knows my drawing style knows that I have no drawing style. The Faye Valentine I was assigned consisted of a stick figure with two giant watermelons on her chest, a heart with a Cupid's arrow through it, and purple hair. The stick figure Ed and amoebae shaped Ein didn't help much either. Though the team figured it out somehow. We still lost, but it was worth seeing each person's artistic style under the pressure of the time limit.

A couple of attendees performed a Vocaloid routine (which they requested I not post until after Fanime). Then the iPod speakers blasted the catchy and familiar songs from "Lucky Star" and "Haruhi," which was a sign for me to definitely give the outdoors a try before suffering permanent cranial injuries.

As the roasting sun subsided and the air felt cooler, several cosplayers took to the courtyard for frisbee and Wall Ball. The church had a few areas perfect for photo shoots, but the day I deviate from my on the field and on the fly shooting to pay attention to sunlight and detail is the day I fork over the money needed to buy a camera the size of a small cow and a reflector. I got to engage in my favorite convention activity: Punt the cute little thing. In this case, Momo was the cute little thing.

After a rousing game of Anime Jeopardy that the audience easily won (memo to self: finish article about how the pressure of being a contestant leads to occasional lapses of memory and foot in mouth comments) came the raffle. At $.50 per ticket, attendees could win a slew of anime goodies, a photo of Edward Elric with Vic Mignogna's autograph, and a mystery prize covered in a black Hot Topic bag. Like any curious genius, the mystery of the unknown appealed to me. I tried for all and won none, but got to find out what was inside the mystery prize.

Where there's smoke, there's fire. In this case, it was the fire from the grill as Okage-Sama De~ prepared dinner to serve its hungry attendees. Attendees cannot live on muffins and brownies alone, and we were gracious for our hosts serving us dinner as well as providing this fun event. No matter how simple the meal, for some reason watching someone grill the food makes the food that much tastier. It seemed the birds were also hungry. Near the grill site, a larger bird snatched a smaller bird and flew off before we could wonder, "What the hell?" I wish I were faster on the camera to capture this act of natural selection.

Dessert came in the form of a cake decorating contest that Momo and I paired up for. Our theme was "Bleach" and our cake was KON. Despite a lack of orange and yellow decorating material, we still managed 2nd place. Then everyone dug into the cake, which was no lie.

(Sorry, everyone began eating the other entries before I could shoot them. One was "Pokemon," another was "Gravitation," and the last escapes my memory but involved a butler.)

While setting up for the black light rave, Okage-Sama De~ corralled us inside the church. Fearing a sermon--or worse, a baptism--I was ready to get the hell out of there. But it turned out to be a huge Q&A session among the FMA characters. Questions fielded involved Roy's fetishes, Hawkeye's professional relationship with Roy, and what Winry found inside Ed's trousers. An attempt to get a Masquerade going yielded uneven results. Perhaps an odd way to get a Masquerade going would be to randomly split the attendees into teams of three and have each team come up with a sketch. Or during the sunny hours of the event, have each attendee write in scenes they want performed onstage via the improv game Scenes from a Hat. I was in an improv mood.

Given my swing and ballroom dance background (10 years and counting), setting me loose in a rave is like setting lit dynamite in a fish tank. You just have to be there to see it. The rave music swaggered between dead and alive like Schrödinger's's cat when the speakers did the same. During the dead times, an Apa-Rave was considered as they backed their van dubbed Apa into the courtyard and was ready to blare music from its speakers. When I wasn't dancing, I was mingling with Otaking007 and Mike. Using the idiot-proof pick up line to get girls to come over here to our location (typically along the lines of, "Girls! Come over here to our location!"), the train wreck of schmoozing mixed with flirtation commenced. In this day where a Homo-Sapien of either sex can like a fellow Homo-Sapien of either sex, sometimes the best way for someone to find the right Homo-Sapien of either sex is to spray and pray.

After the final dance (Caramelldansen... an oddly fun way to end it) with my partner de noir Jenny, I did the unthinkable and began helping Okage-Sama De~ clean up evidence of their event. I don't even clean the bloodstains off my car, yet I felt the urge to help them after they hosted such a wonderful anime con-like event without the con. We then rendezvoused to the post event meal at Carrows. The aftermath of the dance was already kicking in as my leg began its routine symptom of hurting like hell. Luckily I had my House cane on standby.

One question in our minds is what kind of people who aren't us would be at Carrows after midnight? The place was relatively packed despite the late hour before we arrived. Perhaps there was another big event that just ended at the same time. Despite miscounting the number of diners, we got a nice private section dedicated to us... minus that couple who had the misfortune to sit in that nice private section before we arrived. We ordered American comfort food (latkes for me) and killed the night talking of our con experiences, plans, and diagnosing one overly perky diner with an ecstasy overdose in need of a cane to the head treatment.

I shall close by saying that amid the consistent experiences I have been feeling at conventions (being tons of running around seeing things, shooting things, and hopefully remember what I saw and shot while doing these reports), this recent trend of doing non-con events with con audiences is a refreshing break from the monotony. I feel I can actually relax, get to know the con attendees I hopefully will see at a con, and let my hair down.

And for those wishing to keep in touch with me, you can find me via Twitter (TravelvalNT) or through Facebook. Just look for TOM Tonthat. There's another Tonthat, but he's a musician while I'm a wrier.

And the Youtube Playlist of all the video clips shot including the ones aforementioned:


Pictures are copyright by Traveling Valentine. If we took your picture, feel free to use it on your site or cosplay gallery. While you're here, do sign the guestbook. This site was brought to you by a font A.C.M.E. Secret Agent. Many thanks to Chaz Boston Baden for the image resizing and watermarking program.