Japanese animation has become something of an anomaly. The content of anime has become so diverse that a show exists for any interest; if you are into cars, watch Initial D. Want to be a better chef? Food Wars breaks cooking down into a science. Love exercising? Goku turning Super Saiyan for the first time will motivate you to hit the gym. Anime is full of knowledge, history, humor, and wit, yet can be poetic, melancholic, mysterious, and, at times, ridiculous. It is a wonderfully unique style of art that, since its inception in 1951 (Astroboy, by Osamu Tezuka), has grown to unprecedented levels of success. But more noteworthy than Japanese animation itself are anime conventions, most notably the attendants.
Anime Conventions began in 1975 in Tokyo with an event called Comiket. The attendance then was around 700 people. Anime NEXT, held in the Atlantic City convention center, had an attendance rate of over 19,000 people. So, what makes these conventions, events that are focused solely on the niche genre of Japanese animation so wildly popular?
Seeing the cosplay alone is worth it
Cosplaying is synonymous with anime conventions. Yes, it is easy to put together a ragtag costume (it’s also very funny), or to buy one from a Halloween masquerade store, but many of these attendants pour thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours creating their own costumes. They use 3D Print technology for armor, or paper mache techniques, stencils, steel forging and welding, LED lighting, anything. The creativity and innovation is incredible. You’ll catch celestials with ten foot wingspans, enormous robotic suits, eyes glowing, bodies whirring with mechanical, moving parts. This community pours everything they have into an outfit that allows them to be the character they love the most. In essence, they are allowing themselves to be themselves through their characters. It is amazing and art in motion.
The cultural diversity
I remember being at Anime NEXT. I had just received my press pass and was wandering the halls upstairs when I heard music from below. A group of cosplayers had plugged in a big subwoofer and blaring from it was Prince Royce’s cover of “Stand By Me”, a popular Latin cover of the original Ben E. King classic, but in the style of Bachata. I hurried downstairs and caught dozens of people being asked and courted to dance and, suddenly, it became a party. Strangers became friends. Everyone was laughing and were taken by the moment. You will see people from all parts of society. One of the greatest feelings about partaking in a convention is that the reality of all we are is forgotten. Everyone is accepted and it is diversity in its finest hour.
The Activities. Play a Game, Have a Drink, High Five Left Shark.
Aside from the panels that lets you talk to famous voice actors and Japanese musicians, the free game room boasting hundreds of hit games such as Super Smash Brothers, Street Fighter, Marvel Vs. Capcom, and Dance Dance Revolution, the marketplace that hosts hundreds of merchandise vendors, artists, and rare collectibles, you are free to do just about anything. Tired of walking? Sit literally anywhere you like and rest. Walk outside and watch a photoshoot take place, catch characters from different Animes stand off against each other. Head to the many bars for a drink. At night, go to the raves in the ballrooms. Go to the nightclubs. The options are practically endless, and apply to every anime convention in the country.
Nowadays, it’s about more than just anime.
It started off as a gathering of people with similar interests, like all conventions do, but over the last decade, anime conventions have become an event that encompasses all pop culture. Yes, you’ll see your Ouran Highschool students, your Edwards and Alphonses, Narutos, and Attack on Titan cosplayers; you’ll also see Spidermen. You’ll catch Harley Quinns strutting down the halls, Batmen, Hogwarts students, Deadpools, Transformers, and Ninja Turtles. Anime conventions have become a haven for all fans of any medium.