Anime NYC is currently happening in Manhattan’s Javits Center. Tens of thousands of people are expected to attend the three-day anime and general nerdy convention between Nov. 17-19. Some of those people are with the U.S. military.

At least two branches of the armed forces are at Anime NYC. Not to sit in on any panels, watch screenings of new anime films or pick up some Gundam model kits — well, not explicitly anyway — but to recruit. The U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps both have booths at the convention.

The Marines have the flashier convention booth. It’s not as fancy as, say, Bandai’s, but it has some interactive elements. Convention attendees are invited to participate in the Marines’ “Battle Dome,” which appears to be a small inflatable dome. Photos from Anime NYC show attendees trying out push ups and pull ups for the Marines.

The Army has a seemingly more simple set up. A photo posted to the r/USMC subreddit by user newnoadeptness shows a cosplayer dressed as Misato Katsuragi from Neon Genesis Evangelion hanging out the booth with some soldiers. It’s unlikely the cosplayer is with the Army. 

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Both booths are set up near one another, on the far side of the convention floor near the video game section, according to Anime NYC’s map of exhibitors. Considering the way video game controllers are making their way into military technology, that makes sense.

The FBI is also there, although they are a bit more quiet online about their presence. There doesn’t appear to be a major hit anime these days concerning the FBI; perhaps they are counting on lots of Twin Peaks and X-Files fans being there.

The military setting up a booth at comic book or anime conventions isn’t new. Different branches have exhibited at conventions such as San Diego Comic-Con and WonderCon in recent years. In 2016, the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security held a panel at Comic Con. It’s not clear how much successful recruiting the military gets from conventions but it does appear to be something the Department of Defense is committed to, especially as several branches struggle to fill the ranks.

On one hand it makes some level of sense. Anyone who has been to one of these kinds of conventions can tell you it takes endurance. There is a lot of walking, with con-goers racking up several miles over the day, often carrying bags filled with free swag, heavy merchandise and enough snacks and water to survive the experience (refreshments at the convention center are never cheap). These fans are well versed in detailed minutiae of their respective interests and for the cosplayers out there, handling a lot of heavy equipment. 

But is a Naruto run actually useful in basic training? Probably not. 

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