Attendees at the Con+Alt+Delete anime convention held in Rosemont over the weekend. | Arlene Jones

My teenage granddaughter is into anime. Having learned that there was an actual convention dedicated to that genre, I surprised her and we attended one of the 3-day convention dates this past summer. I watched in amazement as the shy, introverted girl came alive in one of the panel sessions as she discussed her favorite characters and the fallacies of how they had partnered that person with the wrong one. I had never seen that child so animated. But when a kid is in their natural element, it does show.

Fast forward to this past weekend. The Hyatt Regency in Rosemont again hosted a 3-day anime convention: Con+Alt+Delete. I had learned my lesson from my first experience. This time, I purchased a 3-day weekend pass. She could pick and choose all the different breakout sessions she wanted to attend, and I would be there as her escort. And for once, this hard-to-satisfy teenager got the best Christmas present ever.

Attending anything with anime aficionados, you can expect to see some of the best self-designed costumes ever. This 3-day convention did not disappoint. These young people must spend months putting together outfits that are true reflections of the anime characters. Dressing up as their favorite character is called “cosplay.” The anime characters range from the Sailor Moon variety, to one young person who had a vintage computer monitor as his head, complete with lights. Cosplay costumes are not limited to just anime characters. I saw a number of Spider-man, Star War storm troopers, medieval knights, and females in outfits you would only expect to see at a strip club.

As expected, the majority of folks into this are definitely under the age of 30. What I really was impressed with is the camaraderie they shared with one another. We had one breakout session with some of the anime characters who are the villains. The audience got to ask them questions and even the ones who were insulting just brought out waves of laughter and applause. One young man dressed as a ninja even challenged one of the villains to an arm-wrestling contest. The villain lost and was forced to confess how he loved his dreaded enemy.

One of the things that Chicago needs is this same sort of convention for our young people. I don’t think the city has ever put on anything that challenges our young people to come out and have real and safe fun. Can you imagine DuSable Drive from Roosevelt Road all the way to Randolph Street filled with young people roller skating, riding bikes, and just enjoying themselves?

I’m personally of the opinion that it’s only a small percentage of our young people who have become so warped in their mindset that causing havoc to them is considered having fun. It’s time to offer a reason and opportunity to begin to instill a change in that narrative.