Anime North (May 25th to 27) is big, no denying it. Even with the cap on the number of people allowed to register, it’s still the largest anime convention in Canada and one of the biggest fan conventions in North America. With more than you can possibly absorb in the time allotted, it is a sugoi spectacle giving the chance to embrace all things Japanese or just get away with rampant nerdy gushing. Of the Canadian events, only Fan Expo even compares in scale.
Anime North is held at the Toronto Congress Center with events overflowing to also fill up the Doubletree and the Sheraton a short jog away. Every hotel is filled to the brim with otaku of all ages. All the convention facilities had tables with cups and water for anybody who needed it – always make sure to stop and have some water, even if you aren’t thirsty.
Cosplay is a major part of the convention experience and for Anime conventions it’s triple so. More than half the people there use the convention as an opportunity to dress up in outfits they’ve spent seasons preparing to compete for attention. Cloth, cardboard, and authentic props all checked by convention staff to make sure they’re safe for the crowds (A big hit this year were scythes, a fashion accessory popularized by Soul Eater). Let’s be honest, there’s more than a few people just using cosplay as an excuse to dress up as provocatively as possible and they don’t really know anything about who they’re dressing up as. Less Panty & Stockings than last year though.
All these the photos on this page and many more are in an album on TdotComic’s facebook page, so check it out and tag yourself and your friends.
In the parking lot of the TCC, the first activity to kill time is the colossal line-up. Just walking from the front of the line to the back of the line took eight minutes. In the summer sun, it’s not a surprise that some people, unprepared for the grueling convention lifestyle, ended up passing out in the heat. Previous years have had the line wrap around the building which provided shade to people lined up, why that didn’t happen this year I can’t say.
One fun thing about being in line is the chance to see the Anime North Line Coach, often crudely called a Nazi because of how relentlessly he keeps attendees in file. Occasionally he’s been seen in entirely fittying Klingon garb. I believe he does not actually exist outside of Anime North and is loaded back into storage after Sunday until next year.
Aside from the people fainting from the heat, the only major incident was a car overheating outside the Doubletree Hotel and a fire truck summoned to extinguish the flames, but this automotive malfunction didn’t disrupt traffic too long. At some point in the weekend a fire alarm in the local Perkins was pulled and the building was evacuated, but the worst thing about this is some people unable to finish their meals.
If you were able to pick up your badge in time for Opening Ceremonies you could watch the first of The 404‘s several performances through the weekend. Their style of improv works best when they can play off their audience so Anime North provides them with the best material possible. In my review of Con-G I said they should put out a DVD, so they did and you should buy it. After the 404s, the Opening Ceremonies began starting with a deafening Japanese drum act and then parading all the guests in front of the attendees. There were a number of Beyblade voice actors, which is strange as I’ve never heard anybody say they actually watch the show. Since it was a convention, nobody was surprised to see Chris Potenza there.
This year marks the first time convention staff formalized the photo shoots and broke up the front lawn of the TCC into designated areas for cosplayers of common theme to pose together and draw bigger crowds than they can individually. A horde of Sailor Scouts, a herd of Ponies, too many Homestucks, and a modest number of Digimon (trying to figure out the plural of Digimon is proof I was a bad person in a past life – Editor Justin), among other groups met at pre-designated times and locations. Sometimes these shoots have somebody taking charge and coordinating all the people into positions, others are akward meetings where people fumble when they should be posing, but I’m glad to see them happening in official capacity now.
There was also a DC photo shoot this year – Batman and his Robins and their friends now fully accepted despite their brand being American as apple pie. No Marvel photo shoot, which is odd since there were enough Marvel characters walking around, thanks to their recent popularity caused by The Avengers movie that roughly everybody saw. Like it or not, but Anime North is no longer just for Japanese stuff so don’t be bothered by the Timelords going around. Take a picture of the kids dressed as internet memes! Tragically I didn’t see the Dr. John Zoidberg who I heard was going around.
The TCC’s interior was more organized, with exhibitors like ConBravo! and Genrecon and Con-G no longer hanging off the edge of the artists alley. Hobby Star Marketing had a large display for Fan Expo, because while it’s a landmark to the comic book scene, I can imagine a lot of Anime Fans having never looked into what it offers to their demographic. Most of the events marketed at Anime North are already in the Tdotcomics calendar or will be shortly.
One gentleman in the exhibitor’s area vigilantly stood beside some glass shelves filled with toys, like an (almost) complete set of Green Lantern related figures. He was polite to people and all of his figures were standing up properly. I’m sure his home collection is no joke, but his display at Anime North was unremarkable in the era when toy shows and import stores and online vendors are easy to Google.
In the Artist Alley, several artists had improved since last year, digital painting techniques getting better and more artists understanding they need more than a lens flare. UDON wasn’t exhibiting this year – but not too odd since they spend more time working behind the scenes on projects with big organizations and it’s been a while since they’ve released a new comic based on a Japanese brand.
Before going into the dealer’s room, we stopped by Nominoichi Friday night. It’s like a “dealer’s room light” where fans liquidate their collections in a flea market atmosphere. It’s a good place to pick up miscellaneous odds and ends at Sunday prices. I was able to grab some cheap Manga from when they were still imported in single issues so I can get the CLAMP experience first hand and a Sailor Moon VHS.
Inside the dealer’s room you have all the fundamentals for sale. Manga to fill the gaps in your collections, DVDs, plushies, and exotica. You can peruse whatever displays are set out to see what catches your eye, or scavenger hunt for a particular rare item you can’t find at your local vendors. Never forget that there will always be a demand for body-pillows. Like how cosplayers have diversified, this year had a bigger selection of non-Japanese goods, which I am thankful for since I’ve been meaning to pick up Phonogram vol2. My primary quest was for a Deunan Knute but since I couldn’t find one, I grabbed a Transformer from Sid Burn Collectibles. I wasn’t able to find another copy of Shaq-Fu.
A seven minute walk away from the Convention Center and its Anime Wrestling, the Doubletree hotel held many of the panels and smaller events. Discussion panels are where several volunteering experts discuss their favourite and least favourite things about any given brand and hopefully interact with the audience a lot to make it more involving than a live podcast. Convention staff regulated these panels and made sure they kept to the schedule and filled the rooms to exactly fire code capacity. Most of the hustle and bustle went smoothly although the J-Rock panellists could tighten their game for the benefit of other panellists.
No transformers panel this year, but I’m glad that the Mobile Suit Gundam: Universal Century panel still draws enough people to fill a room to capacity even though new Gundam stuff is no longer imported by Bandai. After last year’s capacity Pony Panel, this year’s was supplemented with the “Ponyrama” event – half way between being a panel discussion and an screening. Some My Little Pony episodes were shown on a large screen and dissected, and a laughing audience is really the best way to watch any My Little Pony material made before the current Friendship Is Magic Series (2010).
The Sheraton was host to most of the gaming events and LBGT-oriented panels. It’s a good idea for thematically distinct stuff to be in the Sheraton since it’s a considerable walk away from most of the other events (or a ride on the Anime North shuttle that never seems to be around when you need it). I went by briefly to greet the dude from Snake & Lattes and find out more about Epoch LARP. TdotComics’ Alice Quinn was in the Sheraton filming material for the upcoming season of Quintessential Comics. There will also be some footage of us at Cafe Nocturne, the more exclusive maid cafe than the one in the Doubletree drawing lines a hundred feet long.
Remember 2004 when during the Masquerade there was an electrical failure, blanketing the entire audience in almost solid blankness? This was before every Cellphone could also function as a flashlight. Fun times.
Sunday afternoon and a few raindrops told everybody that it was time to pile 7 per car and head home. While it’s a huge deal going there, with three days to kill, it’s not always exciting just being there. The weekend is an incredible extravaganza but it also leaves me with an appreciation for the smaller events. This year’s Anime North, aside from the black-outs, was smooth. Being over 15 years old, most of the staff have a good idea what they’re doing and how to prevent disasters. They all deserve a pat on the back.
But what the Anime North staff bring to the table is only half the fun, a huge part of the experience is meeting friends I rarely get to see – including a few I’ve barely seen since last year. And you can also meet a new people to add on Facebook but you know you won’t see them in person again until next year. It’s friends that make Anime North a great convention even to somebody like me with only moderate interest in anime. Cute Robin girls help a lot too.
This just in: Apparently the Radisson hotel has already been filled for next year’s convention, Anime North 2013.
|The next big event on the TdotComics calendar is the Niagara Falls Comic-con on June 9th.Then on July 14th there’s the big party that is Atomic Lollipop.And all Anime Fans will be welcome to ConBravo! that starts July 27th.|
-Michael Ryan, May 29, 2012
Now go read my Sailor Moon article.