Katt: This past weekend, I was in Toronto enjoying Canada’s biggest anime convention, Anime North. This was the fifth time that I had made the trip to the con and I swear that my anticipation gets higher every year that I go! I don’t know how it holds up against other conventions that my fellow bloggers and perhaps you readers have attended, but I have always had an awesome time. Here at H,S,A! we were recently talking about how we should start making posts for the anime conventions that we’ve gone to. As things turned out, I am the first of our team to have gone to a con since that choice was made…no pressure, right?
Planning and Getting to the Con
I don’t know about other con-goers, but my group of friends had been planning our trip to AN for a looong while. Actually wait, I do know about other con-goers–they’d evidently been doing the same thing since the main hotel and all of those surrounding were pretty damn packed. Thankfully for my group, my best friend, who was in charge of hotel preparations this year, managed to book us rooms at the Doubletree, the hotel just across from the convention centre and a home to many panels and video screenings. Getting rooms for thirteen people is a pain in the butt in itself, but my friend had more fun in store trying to organize pre-registration and transportation and food and…well, I think the point has been made. When you are going to an out-of-town con, you can’t really just get up and go unfortunately.
In regard to my own transportation, I took the train with one of my friends since our parents all conventiently work for the railway–hell yes, free train rides! It’s about a four hour train ride for us, while those driving took about six hours. The ride to the con was interesting for the fact that there was a nun sitting across the aisle from my friend and I; we frequently forgot to watch what we said. Needless to say I was glad to learn that the nun was sleeping when I raved about 07-Ghost to my friend, particularly the part about everyone’s favourite perverted bishop, Frau. Whoops. Of course, taking the train means having to figure out the transit system in a different city to get from the station to the hotel. Last year we got lost and so I had to mend our directions, which thankfully were right this year. Except the metro map (or subway, as the Ontarians call it) at the station we got on at was needlessly confusing. When we got off of the metro and onto the bus, we got to experience one of the best parts of conventions: seeing other con-goers and watching/hearing the reactions of people who are oblivious to anime conventions! By this I mean that there were people carrying their cosplays or wearing parts of them or carrying props–and then there were those saying, “Was that a giant fucking knife?! What’s with that guy’s top hat? And the cat hat? What the fuck are these freaks?” Being in on the strange goings-on yet not looking like it is hilarious.
Finally reaching the convention is like the most satisfying moment ever. You see the hotel rising on the horizon and very slowly getting closer, and then boom! Suddenly there are dorks just like you everywhere, crossing the street and sitting on the grass and going to Harvey’s. At first I had a spaz attack because I thought that the Tim Horton’s (for non-Canadians, think Starbucks but cheaper and superior) had disappeared…but it was hiding behind the Harvey’s. PHEW. But that’s a little side-tracked from convention talk, isn’t it? As important as it was to me that there be a Timmy’s there, no one else cares, right? So let’s move onto what went down once our other friends arrived and we got to con-going!
The last time I cosplayed wasn’t really a big effort or an important thing. This year, though, my best friend and I got really involved in getting costumes done and wearing them at the convention. I wish I could say that I cosplayed something that we’ve blogged and love here at H,S,A!…but I cosplayed a video game character: Micaiah from Fire Emblem 10 (Radiant Dawn). We should be seeing another H,S,A! blogger cosplaying this character this summer, too, right Minnie?
As a cosplayer this year I found it added to the experience. I have had tons of fun in past years, for sure, but by not cosplaying it always felt that I was missing part of the convention experience. You feel like a minority when you’re not cosplaying, which is so ironic because you would be a freak cosplaying anywhere else! Cosplaying has some downsides such as the discomfort of wigs and, in my case, high-heel boots (my poor feet!)–oh, and I had only started wearing contact lenses a couple of days earlier so that became tiring, too. Not to mention all of the stress that goes into sewing your costume together in time for the con, or if you are my best friend finishing the details up at the con with the help of your super awesome and kind friends like myself. Do I have any sympathizers for these stressful and/or painful downsides of cosplay? It is totally worth it in the end, though, to have people compliment your hard work and take photos. I particularly loved when people made comments like, “You hardly see any Fire Emblem cosplayers!” and “Oh hey, someone actually did Micaiah!!” They brought smiles to my face~
The Fire Emblem cosplayers made up a small portion of costumed people at Anime North. We got to have a fun photoshoot, that’s for sure, playing off of character personalities and sharing our love of the series…let’s ignore the part where the sun blinded us and we are all blinking in half of the photos. It was just so great to meet other fans! I only realized in retrospect that one of the cosplayers at the FE shoot was the artistically talented kaiser-mony who I stalk on deviantART; fancy that! It’s the weirdest thing ever to find yourself meeting people who recognize from online in real life. Funny story: at Otakuthon, a convention in Montreal, last year there were some awesome The World Ends With You cosplayers that I was thrilled at seeing since I was addicted to the game at the time. I only got a photo of the Neku, though, which I have posted on a Facebook album. A bit before AN, my best friend comments on the photo saying, Oh hey by the way she is one of the people coming with us to Anime North! Well gee, I suppose meeting the same cosplayers from con to con would be expected, but who’d have thought I’d be sharing a room with someone I recognized through cosplay? She is actually the Sothe in AN Fire Emblem photoshoot. Anime conventions are a small world.
The Fire Emblem group, however, were a tiny group compared to the other cosplay gatherings that I witnessed. This year I’d have to say that Soul Eater (“There are so many Makas!”) and Vampire Knight (“Oh look a Vampire Knight cosplayer! …Oh hey, another one! A-And another one…”) win for the most cosplayed series this year. Funny, since neither have been released in North America yet! Well, the Vampire Knight manga is out and Soul Eater is licensed, but the popularity that they have already is astounding. I wonder if it will dwindle or rise by next year? Last year Ouran was the big thing and it wasn’t released yet, and now after coming to North America it is less popular…is there some kind of statistical graph to explain this phenomenon? Those series aside, there were also a lot of people who threw back to the older, mainstream series like Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh!. It doesn’t matter how many Ash Ketchums and Pikachus you see, it is still great every time. Here, have a look at one of many slideshows that people have begun posting of cosplays from Anime North ’09:
The dealers’ room is always a main attraction for any anime convention, as well as the adjoined artists’ alley. It helps us to achieve the ultimate level of geek–because, you know, cosplay isn’t enough; you also need to stock up on all kinds of merchandise that appeal to the otaku inside all con-goers. The dominating media of merch this year were undoubtedly manga, DVDs, and plushies. A whole bunch of the booths in the dealers’ room were selling a wide variety of these things and I personally purchased at least one of all three. There are many other things available, too, though, like figurines and jewelery and cell phone charms (I neglected to get a new one this year! Aww) and posters. This list could keep on going, but then I’ll be even more redundant than I already am. My point being that there are plenty of things to look at no matter what kind of anime fan you are, be you the kind that just wants to watch it or the kind that needs every available piece of merch to affirm just how much you love a series.
The Artists’ Alley is also a great place to make purchases and to meet other fans. One of the fabulous things about Artists’ Alley is that art offered by the talented artists there is so much more unique than the stuff you can buy in the dealers’ room. Sure I love my Vampire Knight wallscroll that uses Hino Matsuri’s art, but the poster of Ike that I bought in Artists’ Alley is effing gorgeous too. I also got two cute Soul Eater pins and an oh-em-gee adorable pin of Amaterasu from Okami. Whether a fan is looking for stunning works to hang on their walls or cute little things like pins or bookmarks, they will undoubtedly find something in Artists’ Alley or whatever their conventation happens to call this showcase of artsy anime fans’ works.
Ah panels, how I have a love-hate relationship with you. Mostly love, mind you, since I still attend them and enjoy it–but some parts of them disappoint. Voice actor panels, for instance, are super entertaining to watch. Lack of time kept me from actually sitting through any of them this year, unfortunately, although I did stop by the Vic Mignogna panel for a couple of minutes. Because we got there after the panel had started, it was paaacked. This is one downside of panels: if you don’t get there early enough, you have to stand in the crowd if there is even room to get in. We were lucky to have even been able to squeeze in after the panel started because sometimes the doors are closed after it gets too full. I am not always so great in crowds so I opted to leave (I’m not a big enough fan, admittedly), but a couple of my friends stayed. They said that Vic was extremely entertaining, but that another negative aspect of VA panels reared its head: on occasion, the fans themselves are a problem. I am only speaking for myself when I say this, but I go to VA panels to hear the VAs talk. Sonny Strait last year, for instance, talked a lot about the voice acting and dubbing industry and it was so interesting! With Vic, apparently, it was more fans asking him to say or do stuff. I wish I’d taken the time to go and see some of the other VA panels. The others having been Yuri Lowenthal, Mark Hildreth, Tara Platt, Jessie Flower, and Carrie Savage.
Another type of panel are those dealing with topics in anime, such as animu-gone-movie or mythology in anime. A few of my friends went to the latter and said that it was incredibly interesting, although one pointed out the issue with panels like these: sometimes a member of the audience feels like they know more on the subject than the panelists themselves. Sure one might be very well-versed in the world of anime, but they might be a little lacking in the mythology department. My best friend and I are going to try to do a couple of panels at the next con we go to and we intend to be as educated as we can on the topics we will present! At AN, we checked out the Anime in Hollywood panel before heading over to the Vampire Knight one. That panel was great because the panelists were actually those involved in the animation industry who had done their research in regard to which anime series had been turned into movies, which ones were going to be turned into movies, and how people reacted to them.
Then there are the panels for discussing anime series themselves. As I said, I went to the Vampire Knight panel (of course!) with my best friend. First of all, I have to say that I was astonished at how there were so many Zero fans there! Maybe the Zero vs. Kaname thing is regional and Canada just likes Zero more? I’m not sure, but as soon as one of the panelists said that they just couldn’t like Kaname I was stunned. There are more people like me! In any case, the panel…It was fun, no doubt about it, and I contributed more to the conversation than I ever do in a classroom, but…my friend and I agreed that we probably could have done a better job. It’s the same story as the mythology in anime panel; yes, the panelists were definitely big VK fans, but they didn’t know as much as some people in the audience. Shouldn’t panelists be our source of news and provide a mix of objectivity and subjectivity? Not that I want panelists to take themselves to seriously–some of the remarks that they made were hilarious and I appreciated them–but I want to hear more justification for their opinions for liking Zero over Kaname, or for preferring anime to manga. Maybe that’s my fondness for debating things? I’m not sure. But that is my opinion on panels.
In the rooms not being used for panels or workshops, there were videos being aired! Since beginning to blog here, I have been far more aware of the anime series that are currently airing or have recently aired. In other years I would only recognize a few series and ignore the others, but this year…I was so happy to see a lot of the spring season serie being shown! Kemono no Souja Erin, Hanasakeru Seishounen, Hatsukoi Limited, and Hetalia Axis Powers are among the ones that I noticed. Of those, I only went to see Hanasakeru Seishounen admittedly–and they started showing it late because they were still showing ToraDora!. Hmph. Still, I tempted my friend to go with me by promising many pretty men, and after the first episode she was very absorbed. The other people in the crowd, too, seemed to show a good reaction. Perhaps laughing at inappropriate parts, but I am prone to doing that myself so you’ll hear no complaints from me! In showing these new series, I hope that some other people will be drawn into watching them. Something like Hanasakeru Seishounen doesn’t have a huge fandom and that makes me sad–more fans please?! Talk to me!
Aside from that, I also checked out a bit of the AMV competition and Anime Hell (which was funny for a bit, but my friend and I left after a little while). AMVs are always amazing to watch for the diversity that’s seen in them. Some obviously showcase the skills of the person who made them through timing and effects, while other appeal more to things like an ‘aww~’ factor or just plain comedy. Because one portion of the contest this year invited AMV-makers to use a TV theme for their video, there were a lot of laughs of moments of nostalgia. I wish I could have stayed longer to watch more AMVs, but we had a dinner reservation! …Dinner was good too, mind you. Mmm veggie-licious pizza. Anyway, what the hell am I doing writing about AMVs? Here, just watch this one that started playing as my friend and I left and caused the entire crowd to break into laughter:
What was Popular this Year?
Every year the popularity of a couple of series is more apparent than the rest. When I first started attending AN, it wasn’t uncommon to find a cornucopia of Inuyashas having their photos taken. And then next thing I knew it was Naruto and Bleach, and then Ouran High School Host Club. This year? Well, I’ve already said it, haven’t I? Soul Eater and Vampire Knight are the newer series to get tons of fan appreciation, both in terms of cosplays and merchandise and artwork. Funny, since I first came to hear of these two around AN last year–they were showing Vampire Knight on the special Anime North TV station, and apparently they aired Soul Eater at some point during the con.
Aside from these two series, there are always the classics that just never get old. In fact, I swear that Mario, The Legend of Zelda, and Final Fantasy just keep growing in popularity. (Oh, and a shout-out to all of the awesome Tales Of cosplayers and fanartists!) Series like Soul Eater and Vampire Knight are probably going to dwindle in popularity by next year. But these game series? It sure as hell doesn’t look like it. This might say something about fandom, though: video game series are, well, series. There isn’t just one and it’s over with like many animu. We are constantly reminded of them as new games are released. Do otaku just have short attention spans or something? That’s the theory I am formulating now and which I shall attempt to prove through observation of Soul Eater and VK’s popularity from now until next year’s Anime North.
Blahblahblah Anime North was fun blahblah… Honestly, I think that this essay of a blog entry tell my opinion of Anime North 2009 just fine. If you actually read all of it, I commend you. I’ll try to keep it shorter for Otakuthon, okay? On that note it won’t be long before I write another convention entry because Otakuthon is on its way! July 31st-August 2nd!