HentaiCon, a first-year event that happened in Burbank last weekend, was awesome. It brought together a lot of Harriet Sugarcookie fans, comic fans, cosplayers and a bunch of other unique personalities that were awesome to see. Thing is, as an outsider, it was brand new to me, but it still ended up being something I really enjoyed going to.

I’m not going to lie to you, I’m not much of a self-described geek, if you will, so the last thing I thought I’d find myself at was any sort of con for a weekend, chatting it up with people who have interests that I’ve never even thought about. That said, as much of a unique community as cons are, HentaiCon ended up being one of those experiences that I’ll never forget.

Rather than sit here and review the first-year con, I’m just going to recap some of the highlights of the weekend. The ones that made me comfortable among strangers who were dressed in their cosplay garb, and who all had a story about getting into the genre.

After arriving on Friday afternoon and meeting Harriet for the first time in real life, I was instantly blown away with the amount of love she got from her fans. No, seriously, there were lines to meet her just to snap a quick picture or get an autograph. It was like a teenage girl in the ’60s waiting to meet a member of The Beatles, with each fan sharing stories about why they adored Harriet so much.

Later in the day, we ended up going to a little contest that had audience members break out of their shell a little bit by doing a few crazy things like dancing, dropping their go-to pick-up lines and, of course, naming some Hentai sex terms. Sure, I felt out of place with the topics, but it was awesome to see so many people who would normally be reluctant to be onstage get up there and show confidence. I could tell that they were in their element, and it brought out the best version of them.

The rest of the day was full of interactions with vendors and getting a crash course into the Hentai lifestyle from Harriet. It was overwhelming at times, but amazing to see all the different art and swag people were showing.

Saturday was full of talking to some of the biggest cosplayers at the event, which shared stories with me about how they got into Hentai and how the genre helped them break out of their shell. They all spoke about empowerment and the community as a way to express themselves, while exploring some of their sexual fantasies. Stay tuned for some of those interviews, as I’ll be publishing them over the next few weeks.

As incredible as the interactions with cosplayers were, I was shocked to hear some of the acknowledgement I received from Harriet’s fans, too, who actually came up to introduce themselves and tell me they were a fan of the advice I write about. For all those who went out of their way and did that, thank you, because it meant more to me than anything, reminding me why I first got into this profession over a decade ago. It made me feel accepted into the Hentai community, too, which I never thought would have been the case.

HentaiCon 2018 ended with a big blowout party, eventually ending with a near-all-nighter from Saturday into the early hours of Sunday. It created relationships that I never thought I would’ve had and gave me stories from people who aren’t much like me. Overall, sure, I’m still a bit of an outsider who probably won’t be donning a cosplay costume anytime soon. But, hey, at least I know more about the Hentai community, giving me an appreciation for a subculture that is as passionate and unique as anything else out there.