Today I’ll be talking about anime fan culture and why we’ve experienced a growth in recent years.
In the early 2000s, I cringed when Kevin Smith would go on Leno and show what he filmed at San Diego Comic-Con. Kevin would find the craziest people to interview on film to get a laugh on Leno – and a furthering of the stereotype of fandom cons. Similar to that while attending a con, you would be getting ready in the morning and you would see on TV, an on-location piece where you have the morning you local TV crew find the wildest costume or personality to describe the con and not asking a person in regular jeans and a t-shirt or someone with skilled cosplay.
Since 2003, I’ve attended at least 60 anime/pop culture conventions – mainly for work – I’ve attended some small press comic events like Small Press Expo, Staple and MoCCA and three Maker Faires on my own.
I recently got the video bug hard and purchased a Canon T3i that shoots 24 frames. I love the film look and I wanted to give this camera a test at Anime Expo, Comic-Con and Otakon. I was busy with work and meetings, but I made the point to get some footage of authentic con life-mainly in-between panels and during the evening. I prefer video to posed photography – video is more lively and opens the window to view an event in a more personal, observational level.
I’ve edited my footage from Otakon and put it to the song by Sufjan Steven’s “Chicago.” Granted Otakon is held in Baltimore, but it’s more about the song and emotions than the name. Since I have an Industry badge, I’m able to shoot places a regular attendee can’t – like filming crowd reactions to a movie premiere screening or watching the tear-down of the exhibit hall once it closes.
Otakon is my favorite anime con. My favorite time of Otakon is the evening. The convention center is open till 2 in the morning. At night it becomes the perfect place to hang-out because it’s full of random -and I am a connoisseur of random – from break dancing competitions, impromptu caramelldansen, unintentional cosplay pairings, cosplay skit performances, conga lines, 18+ panels, the friendly and insane line for the rave and its wall of humidity, Friday and Saturday Fan Parodies, internet meme Marco-lost-the-game shout outs, and artists alley which stays open till Midnight. It’s the perfect place for catching true fandom on display.
What else do I like about anime cons? The majority of people are always happy. Take another look at my video montage from Otakon, how many people are smiling and having fun? A bajillion It’s a fun time to gather and enjoy life in the moment.
Before work, I had been to anime cons, but I never had the full anime con experience of travel, hotel and 3 days of the con. I live in the Dallas/Fort Worth area so AnimeFEST and A-Kon were the two in Dallas that I would drive to and attend during the day and go home at night.
In 2003-my first full year at FUNimation, I attended 13 anime cons for work- at the same time doing my other marketing work. FUNimation was just getting more anime series like Fruits Basket, and we needed to attend all the cons in major metro areas. My first convention for work was Anime Central in 2003.
I held a panel had a 10×10 booth with big FUNimation sign, screen, projector running a trailer loop and a survey form to win DVDs. I love data and I love fandom and I wanted to know who our audience truly was instead of opinions based on broad generalizations, forum posts and stereotypes you hear about.
Case in point, I brought a camcorder to Anime Central and I taped people who won the DVD prize. I wanted work to see a glimpse of the people enjoying our shows. I taped this one big guy -looked like he drove to the con on a custom chopper and worked as a roadie for Green Day or Kid Rock. On the tape, the guy first raved about Dragon Ball Z saying it’s the best show ever. Then he said he was so glad to have won Volume 2 of Fruits Basket and couldn’t wait to watch it.
That’s what I love about fandom. Here was this big burly guy confessing a fanboy crush on Fruits Basket. Never, ever guess what a person likes just by looking at them – you’ll be wrong most of the time. There’s a beauty in discovering someone’s inner geek.
Here is what I like about anime conventions: The mixture of fandoms. Sure it’s an anime primary con, but a lot of secondary hobbies. Is hobby even the right word now? The term and it’s possibilities have expanded so much now. Webcomics and their forums, LARP, J-pop, live journal fan communities, video games, IRC channel meet-ups, concerts, ball-jointed doll gatherings, internet meme mimicry, maid cafes, sci-fi, raves, artist alley – they all have their presence at an anime con. I think that’s what’s driving attendance these days at all the anime cons. Anime cons have slowly morphed from meeting people and creating friendships at the con to having the con as a “In Real Life” IRL event place so all your friends online can travel and get together to bond in person. This concept is not completely new, but attendance keeps steadily growing now that more and more do this.
I’d like to thank the staff of every convention I’ve attended. It’s these people who have volunteered their free time to give you a great experience, since almost all anime cons are fan-run, not-for-profit organizations. They do these cons because they like to, not because they have to. Be appreciative that you get to enjoy a weekend of great memories.