Saturday, May 18, 2013

Why go to an Anime Convention?

I usually check what search words people use before accessing my blog; some words or phrases are surprising, but they essentially show what information people are looking for. Recently, there have been search words related to the question: is an anime convention worth going to? Since I am always in the same situation where I ask that question, I decided to make a post about why go to an anime convention for new and veteran anime convention goers.

Please note that this post shares some personal opinions and perspectives about anime conventions.

All anime conventions have similar factors to them. Friends, contests, special guests, and the dealers' room are examples of these factors. Compiled in the diagram below are the 13 factors to an anime convention and the last factor of "other special events."

If I've missed anything, please share.

1. Fashion
Fashion plays a hidden role in the atmosphere of a convention. Whether you're wearing a laid back fan look with a simple T-shirt and jeans or a Japanese inspired Akihabara outfit, the mix of what people wear to an anime convention makes the event feel more like a pop culture event. Some conventions like Anime North have sub-events that take the fashion portion of an anime convention up a notch with clothing swaps and panels.

2. Cosplay
A major feature to all anime conventions is cosplay. It is short for costume play, where people dress up as [usually] their favourite characters and have fun. There are cosplayers who like to make their own costumes and accessories and cosplyers who like to buy their cosplays. Some like to cosplay solo, others in a group. Sometimes a themed photoshoot is scheduled during a convention. A themed photoshoot is where a group of cosplayers and photographers take pictures together and hang out. Photoshoot themes are usually that of an anime, manga, or game. Whether you're a cosplayer or a spectator here to take photos, cosplay is always something to look forward to at an anime convention.

3. Reporting
Bloggers, vloggers, photographers, and journalists are a few examples of people who may have "reporting" under their to-do list at and after an anime convention. There are the passive type and the aggressive type (maybe more, but I'll leave it at that). The passive type tends to write, and take pictures and videos with or without people's permission without conversing too much with other con-goers. The aggressive type likes to engage themselves with people and tends to get others to participate in activities.

4. Panels/Workshops
Panels and workshops are held by hosts that cover specific topics. Many people look forward to these scheduled gatherings to share, talk, and learn more about their interests. Sometimes the attendees are looking to find new interests and skills from panels and workshops.

5. Arts & Crafts/Artists' Alley
There's more to an anime convention than the simple art of anime, manga, and games. Dolls, canvases, buttons, fan art, and doujinshi are examples of other art-related features to an anime convention. Being able to meet the artists is also something to look forward to. Artists may sell their products in the artists' alley, have meet-and-greet events, art galleries, and auctions. There are also art-related panels and workshops that promote a variety of arts and crafts.

6. Dealers' Room
The dealers' room is where vendors sell [hopefully] licensed or official products like DVDs and comics, and costumes and accessories. Sometimes there are a few blackmarket dealers selling unlicensed and unofficial anime, manga, cards, and game products. You will recognize the blackmarket dealers by the quality of their products if you ever encounter them. In recent years, a variety of fashion vendors have appeared at anime conventions. Lolita, victorian, gothic, and pirate fashion are examples of what these vendors sell. You can try haggling with some of the dealers, especially 5 minutes until closing on the last day of the convention. If you're lucky, you'll find great deals. Bring a suitcase along if you plan to buy a lot or big items.

7. Anime and Manga
Certain anime conventions have open walk-in anime showings and manga libraries. These are usually open to everyone with a convention badge. Anime and manga may also be available for sale in the dealers' room.

8. Video Games
Why limit a convention to only anime showings and manga libraries? Open game rooms with various types of arcade, computer, and console games may be found at pop culture conventions. The types of available games to play vary with each year and convention. The game rooms usually have more multiplayer games than single player ones. People are usually required to line up for their turn to play games.

9. Contests
Each convention features their own contests. If you wish to enter and prepare for the contests, you would need to get advance information from the convention website. Examples of contests or tournaments at pop culture conventions are cosplay, Magic the Gathering card game, Lego, multiplayer video games, and music videos. Sometimes the contests and tournaments require a badge and an extra contest registration cost, but that's because the prizes (and winning) are totally worth it.

10. Dances/Concerts
What's a convention without its social events? If you're heavily into the convention scene, you may already know about the dances, music concerts, and after parties. If you're new to pop culture conventions and would like to meet new people (or if you just like to party), the dances and concerts are one way to make new friends. Just make sure you don't party too hard and keep yourself hydrated at these shindigs. They can get wild.

11. Guests
If you're really into the technical aspects of a series and entertainment, you may be interested in meeting the skilled people who contributed to those aspects. Conventions usually have guests like professional or popular directors, actors, actresses, musicians, and more. Meeting these guests involve keeping tabs on event schedules and lining up hours to meet the guest before the line gets long. Meeting guests sometimes have an extra fare to it. The more famous the guest, the more likely you will need to pay extra to meet them.

12. Other Special Events
Anime conventions may have more factors and events to them than what was mentioned. Other special events may include maid cafes, small activities like a Lego station, game shows, mazes, etc. Know what I personally like?

13. Staff/Volunteer
Around an anime convention, it's hard to miss the staff and volunteers. Give a high five the next staff or volunteer you meet, because they (especially the staff) dedicate much of their time to the staffing, planning, preparation, and management of the convention. Many of the staff members are long-time anime convention veterans too, so they have a lot of convention war stories to share.

14. Friends
I know this factor is on the top of the anime convention web diagram, but I wanted to keep it last on the list. An anime convention isn't an anime convention without friends, because being able to spend time with friends make the whole event more worthwhile. You may even meet old friends and acquaintances you haven't seen in a long while.

When I first attended an anime convention with friends, everything else about an anime convention was also on the top of my list. Over the years, with most panels and dealers seemingly unchanged, anime conventions didn't feel as exciting to me anymore. The main reason I go to conventions is to meet friends, visit specific artists or guests, and to look for a specific product in the dealers' room.

Here's how each factor plays for me today in 2013:

The main reason I don't find anime conventions as exciting anymore is because I'm not heavily involved with the convention. I've mostly been a simple convention goer, not an artist displaying or selling my works, a dealer, panelist, staff, volunteer, cosplayer, competitor, nor an outgoing socialite. I don't want to get anymore involved either until I land a steady job. Well, we'll see.

To aspiring pop culture convention goers: I hope you find and stick with your anime convention factors and have fun!

To today's convention goers: why do you go to anime conventions? What does your anime convention web look like?

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