There’s no better way to pay tribute to Occult Day than by visiting Waterstones in Hull on a weekend. Once there, simply walk toward the sections for sci-fi, horror and particularly manga, and you’ll be greeted – well, perhaps not greeted, more like gawked at – by everything from genuine Satanists to grown men dressed as Sailor Moon. The reason for this can be summed up in one word: Me.
You see, back in 2007 when I worked at Waterstones (which then had an apostrophe) and ran their event activity, the manga publisher Tokyopop got in touch about bringing their convention to Hull. Long story short, I said yes, thinking we might get 30-50 attending, but we actually got over 300, all dressed up as Pikachus and Son Gokus and a massive No-Face that was actually one kid on another’s shoulders, dropping chocolate coins on the carpet which were then trampled into the fibres by hundreds of virgins. It was a huge success, but the ramifications were far greater than the smell of teenage sweat becoming infused in the woodwork and bloody Pocky packaging left all over the place.
A few weeks went by and a group of kids came into the shop on a normal Saturday dressed in their manga finery. We assumed it an isolated incident by some particularly ardent fans of tentacle porn and the like, but over the coming months more and more of them started visiting the city centre with swords, nunchucks and ill-fitting spandex showing off their pubescent junk. At one point this bizarre activity peaked, and it has since remained at pretty much the same level.
I’m not especially proud of what I instigated, but at least I have something cool to get engraved on my headstone: Here lies Richard Sutherland, drafter of Hull’s dork army.