The 15th Annual Anime Convention, Anime North, filled the streets with over 20,000 cosplayers, enthusiasts, and carefree conventioneers, taking part in the sensation of the largest convention in Canada. Spanning the days of May 25 to 27, the convention, held at the Toronto Congress Centre (TTC), was a gathering of guests, artists, and fans.
The issue of over-attendance in the past years prompted the con attendees to rush to pre-register in record numbers. An attendance cap led to the 15,000 pre-registration weekend passes selling out in the months leading up to the convention. Instead of the infamous hours-long line on Saturday for at-the-door registration, the four to five hour wait had transferred over to the pre-registration line as people went to pick up their passes during the Thursday and Friday pre-convention line-ups.
Many of the themes were returning anime shows that have become canon, or even infamous over time. From Ghibli film characters to Bleach shinigami that are expected in such a place, new shoots, like that of the League of Legends online game and the magical series Puella Magica Madoka, took the spotlight.
Special guests this year included the artist REM, the illustrator for Vampire Kisses from the now defunct manga publishing branch of Toykopop, and Soulless, from Yen Press. In addition to signing with fans at her booth, she teamed up with Waterloo native OEL (Original English Language) powerhouse Svetlana Chmakova, creator of Dramacon and Nightschool, to hold a panel on the discussion of comics. Musical guests Lix, Marlee and HOSHI«FURU wowed crowds on Friday and Saturday, along with special voice actor guests that were specially invited from Japan to answer fan questions.
The TCC, adhering to the space necessary, housed the Dealer’s room, autograph booths, the large wrestling ring, and thousands of occupants throughout the weekend. Outside, the crowds were robed in wide arrays of colour, cardboard and faux-metal, with photography being the focal point and the chance to wow fellow cosplayers of their feats of fashion. Interjections of Cosplay Chess, free swag giveaways and advertisements for other upcoming conventions, including FanExpo, Con-G and Con-Bravo, spiced up the monotony of the vendor shopping within the TCC, while the musical stylings of fan-bands and feel-good dancers lightened up the air with blurs of Japanese and English lyrics.
It was as if this little part of Toronto was transported into another world. Somehow, even that seems like another manga idea. There was so much energy, and unbridled acceptance of the otaku nature, that seemed to run non-stop.
With more than one hundred events, activities, and stalls filled with merchandise, the four-day weekend featured special guests, tournaments, cosplay competitions, the famous Masquerade, and more video and board games than any shut-in, or Hikikomori, could handle. Bright and early, game shows and “name-those-tunes” filled the hotels, panels of discussion on topics as wide as Yuri/Yaoi to unpopular opinions, all the way to the desperately late to four a.m. outdoor raves; exhaustion didn’t seem to affect the atmosphere at all until after the closing ceremonies.
The University of Waterloo’s Ctrl-A, while not holding a stall this year, decided upon a less formal event and enacted their own Pokémon competition amidst the crowd where participants, upon defeating any of the Ctrl-A “gym leaders,” would earn the victor their own badge a-la Pokemon Black/White style.
There was a noticeable change within the community, in terms of the fandom and the cosplays. Besides the outrageously large mainstream cosplays from Shonen Jump and Shoujo Beat, came more creative and outstanding costumes scattered across the area.
Entire battlesuits made from Nintendo 64 cartridges, futuristic Pikachu battle warriors, and box helmets in the fashion of Minecraft personas made up some of the more “artsy” cosplays, and simple, but truly imaginative ones, such as April O’Neil (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles), recaptured the nostalgia of the fanbases.
Of particular note was the movement towards other fandoms maturing, and the shifting demographic of fans, as well as the definition of a “fan.” While the children’s cartoon My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic would hardly register as an adult show, its themes and storylines that span generations has created a large following of “ponies” and “bronies.”
While some may argue that a fan is one that is enthusiastic about their hobby or interest, it is a fact that the ability to purchase and demonstrate one’s fandom is the mark of a fan. Many of the past tweens that have populated Anime North have matured into adults, and still remain fans. Nonetheless, there were many cosplayers of the franchise, mostly Rainbow Dashes and Pinkie Pies, and photograph circles rivaling the size of the Naruto cosplayers.
Regarding anime, many adults focus on things that are “childish” in the eyes of outsider, but Anime North, year after year, defies the definition of childish with its ability to attract the massive demographic of the fandom to one location for a weekend.
Upcoming issues for later years would be the continued growth of the fandom, and whether the venue, and fandom, can support so many people coming to one location to celebrate the acceptance of the anime identity.