Report On: Anime North 2014

Sempai gonna notice the fuck out of you.

Anime North, a landmark event on a scale that’s hard to understand. Pushing the limits of the capacity of the Toronto Congress Center, the Doubletree International Plaza Hotel, the Sheraton, and the Radison. Pity and mercy on any convention May 22nd to 25th that dares to compete with Anime North, because Anime North has more to do, more to see, a spectacle even for people who don’t know Naruto from Death Note.

There are few events that Anime North doesn’t already have. There’s a casino night event, there’s Anime North Idol, there’s a masquerade, there’s both a rave and a J-pop dance and concerts. Panels, airing rooms, photo-shoots, gaming tournaments. The challenge for Anime North’s organization isn’t selecting which events to have – it has them all. The challenge is operating all those events at a scale to make them accessible. But they continually refine the system for a tighter experience, although there’s always a few bugs in the software. Did anybody attend the “John Happy” panel?

The regular layout of the Congress Centre was shuffled around so that the dealer’s room could reach a rare level of spaciousness (although still a few accommodation issues that need to be worked on since vendors were give almost random placement). Nominoichi, the flea-market style dealer’s room, was gigantic and the best place to find collections of YuGiOh cards, old magazines, and anything else a hoarder isn’t sure why they’ve been saving but are hoping to liquidate. The artists selling prints and posters in the artist’s alley have all learned the ins and outs of photo-shop. Plenty of things to quickly exhaust your funds on.

Anybody who ever cosplays is there in most elaborate cosplay. For some, cosplaying is the only reason to come out, and many are there just to see them. As expected, the most common outfit were Survey Corps characters from the popular Attack On Titan series (now on Netflix). Between “Frozen” and other Disney movies, My Little Pony, Mario and Zelda, and Sailor Moon, it felt like one out of eight girls was some kind of princess. Last year and at many other conventions, Homestuck cosplayers were an indistinguishable herd of black T-shirts, but this year the group improved their behaviour and outfits dramatically and wore some very colourful full body attire. And hundreds of people not in cosplay but still wanting to show their love of League Of Legends wore their spikey Rammus hats. Thankfully, there were only a few “L” cosplayers.

For tag-able versions of all these photos, check out TdotComic’s Facebook gallery for the event.

   

  

Of course it wouldn’t be Anime North if some people’s outfits weren’t going a bit into scandalous territory. A malfunctioning “Kill La Kill” cosplay left more visible than socially acceptable. Thankfully after the Emma Frost and Poison Ivy’s of last year, enough parents knew this really isn’t the convention to bring your children to. There’s a lot of other locals conventions which are smaller and perfect for familiars and don’t have a rave where empty rum bottles fall between dancer’s feet.

One new thing nobody expected were a few people who saw the crowd and took the opportunity to preach the saving power of our lord and saviour Jesus Christ. Their large signs made them easy to misinterpret as protesters against the Otaku lifestyle, but they actually were drawn only to the large crowd and had no particular opinion about Anime fans. I’m not sure they’re technique of Asking Really Loudly actually persuaded anybody to change their world views, but I still expect them at FanExpo. And fifty feet away from the preaching, a band played some funky tunes in the hot sun.

For years now Anime North’s focus on Japanese media has been severely diluted. While it’s still the best place to talk about shows that have aired in Japan but haven’t made their way to YTV or Teletoon yet, like Kill La Kill, it’s also has a ton of Teen Titans and Deadpools all over. This might upset the purists, but for every grumpy purists, there’s twenty five Avengers and the Avengers are a lot friendlier. And now that Avengers has been a household name for more than two years, the latest generation of fans have had time to learn their Comics History 101 and can carry conversations about the continuity of Hawkeye. This paragraph is mostly filler for formatting reasons.

   

Over ten years ago, Pokémon triggered the domestic boom in anime. Now all those fans have grown up and attained disposable adult income. “AN” is gigantic, exhausting, and colourful, Anime North is a good convention that could easily be the same every year, but instead they’re trying to improve it as the attendees get older. And after ten years, it feels like everybody is friends with half the people there (or awkward enemies). This familiarity is what makes Anime North more than just a fandom extravaganza, but an unmatched Canadian nerd community affair.

-Ryan Michael, May 301th 2014

The highlight of my convention was when I had a chance encounter with Brian Dobson and he did me a favor and used my phone to send a text to cheer up a friend of mine 200 killometers away, what a nice guy!

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