With hundreds of people sporting horns, long cloaks, unusual hats and assorted weaponry, Tekkoshocon X-2 is, 17-year-old Mt. Lebanon resident Hanna Edvardsson said, "probably a little bit of a culture shock."
But that's the point.
The three-day event, which concludes today at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, Downtown, focuses attention on the rich fantasy world created by anime, manga, webcomics and video games. Dressing in character is one way that conventioneers celebrate creativity and freedom of expression.
"I just feel there's overwhelming acceptance there," said Justen Bowser, 22, a former Carnegie resident who traveled from Detroit for the convention.
Mr. Bowser, Tatiana Franklin, 20, of Detroit and Rebecca Sleczkowski, 33, of Scott dressed as characters from "Naruto," the Japanese manga and anime series about a young ninja.
Some participants said their interest in anime has led to a broader appreciation for Japanese and Asian culture. Others said the reverse was true.
Jasynta Millender, 20, of Penn Hills dressed in Japanese Lolita fashion -- a Japanese variation of Victorian attire. Her outfit included a black top and pants, a hat, chains and neon shoelaces.
"It basically screams everything about me, which is pretty much loud and shy," she said, adding, "It's complicated."
In its 12th year, the convention is a window on Japanese pop culture, but American webcomics and video games also are part of the mix. Events include panel discussions, live music and masquerade contests.
"We 'cosplay' out of love for the characters," Anthony Negron, 22, of Wilkinsburg, a student at Art Institute of Pittsburgh, said. "Cosplay" is shorthand for "costume-play."
Mr. Negron carried a large acryllic key, modeled on the one that opens other dimensions in the American-Japanese video game "Kingdom Hearts."
While some conventioneers praised the animation, intricate story lines and special effects of their favorite series or games, Mr. Negron had a simpler reason for appreciating the craft.
"It takes you away from reality," he said.
Pittsburgh has proved to be a hospitable home for those seeking to explore. The furries -- people fascinated with humanlike animal characters -- have gathered here annually since 2006 for Anthrocon (and will return this year, July 4-7).
Ms. Edvardsson and many other participants wore the horns of trolls from "Homestuck," a U.S.-produced webcomic about the end of the world. She fashioned her stumpy horns out of aluminum foil and clay, then baked them so they would harden.
Dan Pehush, 25, an electrical engineer from Greenfield, wore the pyramid-shaped hat and carried the long knife of a character from the Japanese horror video game "Silent Hill." He made the items out of cardboard and carpet matting.
Amanda Lore, a convention organizer from Monroeville, said participants get progressively better at costume design.
"After a couple of years, they're really good tailors," she said. "It's really fascinating to watch them grow."
Joe Smydo: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1548. First Published April 7, 2013 4:00 AM