So, people always ask me either what an anime convention is or what you do at one. My English teacher this year told me once that science fiction is very hard to do an essay over because everything is different from real life. An anime convention is kind of like that: It's so hard to compare it to anything else, because most people would have never experienced anything like it. The easiest way to describe it is "it's like a Star Trek convention but with anime" but even that is highly inaccurate. Preston's been to one and has friends that have gone to many, and he tells me the differences all the time. So, I found it appropriate to make this post.
First, we need a glossary:
Anime - Simply, Japanese cartoons. There is also manga, which is the comic book version. Most often, manga is turned into an anime (ex. Fullmetal Alchemist), though sometimes video games (ex. .hack) or novels (ex. The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya) are turned into anime. Anime can also be used as a blanket term for the genre.
Anime convention - A period of time, usually spanning over a weekend, where anime lovers meet up. Can be shortened to anime con, or just con, among fans.
I've gone to four conventions: Oni-Con 2008, IKKiCON IV, Anime Overload 2, and IKKiCON V.
Oni-Con - Takes place in Houston, TX in October. (Oni in Japanese means demon, so it always around Halloween. However, the year I went it was in December because of Hurricane Ike.)
IKKiCON - Takes place in Austin, TX around New Year's.
Anime Overload - Takes place also in Austin, TX in the summer. (Last year it was in August, this year it will be in July.)
Otaku - Although a derogatory term in Japan, here otaku is generally used to describe a rabid anime fan (in a good way.) You can also put a word in front of otaku to specify the interest. (For example, a military otaku could be someone interested in aircrafts and technology from wartime.)
Cosplay - Basically, dressing up as fictional characters. They can be from pretty much any type of fiction, though generally at anime conventions you see mostly characters from anime and video games. At more diverse conventions (ex. Comic-Con) you can see characters of anything from super heroes to TV shows. One who cosplays is called a cosplayer and there is large community of cosplayers. The majority of people at any given anime convention will be cosplaying.
FUNimation - The biggest anime dubbing and distributing company in American since A.D.V. Films in 2009.
Voice actor - Pretty self-explanatory. Often shortened to VA. Usually used for English dub actors while seiyu is used to describe a Japanese voice actor.
Guest - Often voice actors, but can be pretty much anyone--professional cosplayers, comic book writers, bands, etc.
Artists' Alley - Half of the shopping area at a convention that has artists selling whatever they make--prints, pins, plushies, hats, jewelry, etc.
Dealers' Room - Half of the shopping area that sells licensed merchandise.
Panel - A pretty open-ended term for a person or a few talking with an audience. There are VA panels, which is usually just a Q&A, or there can be a panel over a certain topic (ex. "Classic anime you should know" or "Anime we love to hate.")
I could go on and on (I own The Otaku Encyclopedia) but I think that is enough you need to know to understand the rest of this blog.
The anime con-going process starts with either AnimeCons.com, where you can find conventions in your area, or you can go straight to a website for a specific convention you already know about. Registration is required, and depending on the convention can be anywhere from $20 when pre-registration starts all the way up to $50 or more for really big conventions. You can either pre-register on the website (which is what me and all my friends do, because at my first convention when we didn't do that, we had to wait for 3+ hours to get our badges,) pre-register via mail, or you can register on-site. Pre-register is simply the better option because if you do it soon enough, it's a lot cheaper, and on-site registration always takes longer. Lots of anime conventions are doing premium badges that come with special features, that go up all the way to $90 and probably more. All the conventions I've gone to only have weekend pre-register, but you can register for just the day if you register on-site. Even if you're only going for one day, it'll still probably be more time-efficient and/or cost-efficient if you just pre-register a weekend pass.
So, you get to the convention center/hotel/college campus/wherever the convention is taking place. You get your badge, which will either have your name already printed on it with the name you gave at pre-registration or you write your name on it depending on the convention. They give you a program, that comes with the list of the guests, the schedule for the weekend, and a map. Unless there is a panel you need to go to, this is where you make your first trek through the artists' alley/dealers' room.
A very common practice at anime conventions is taking pictures of cosplayers. You simply just ask, and they pose; or visa versa if you're the one being asked. This goes on throughout, but usually while you're just walking around.
There is viewing rooms, where they show anime all hours of the day. (And for some reason they always seem to show the best stuff at 3 in the morning.) There is also a video game room which is, as the title suggests, where you can play video games.
There are signings with the VA's, where you get to talk to them. I've met Christine Auten, Chris Ayres (twice,) Greg Ayres (thrice,) Terri Doty, Caitlin Glass (twice,) Brittney Karbowski, Mike McFarland, Vic Mignogna (twice,) Carli Mosier (twice,) Michael Sinterniklaas, and J Michael Tatum. I'm what you could call incredibly voice actor savvy, alongside Preston, and this is one of my favorite parts of any convention.
There are bands you can listen to and meet. My past two conventions are the only two where I've actually cared anything about the bands, and they were the same bands! One-Eyed Doll, which I can pretty much only describe as weird rock, and The Descendents of Erdrick, which is a video game music cover band.
Most conventions will start at about eight or so in the morning and go until about five in the morning. As you can imagine, most people don't stay that long--they either leave or go up to their hotel room. I've never actually stayed in a hotel room for a convention, but it's pretty customary. During the late hours of the night, there is often a rave. Some conventions will even have a gala that require fanciness!
There are also cosplay contents, dance contents and other types of contests as well that are all pretty entertaining to watch even if you aren't participating.
Sometimes there are maid cafes, which is a spin-off of a popular custom in Japan: Maid cafes are, as the name suggests, cafes that have waitresses that act as your maid. There is also the less popular variation of a butler cafe for us female folk. ;D Usually maid cafes are only for people with those stupid premium passes though. >:(
I probably missed something, but even if I did get everything there is no way I could portray how awesome anime conventions are. It's not just the events or the guests or the cosplay. It's the memories that go along with it. If you give me a few hours to talk, I could tell you so many stories from the few anime conventions that I've gone to. They are pretty much my favorite thing I get to do all year. Hopefully now you can see more into a huge part of my life and somewhat understand how amazing they are. :)
Next time: Bows and my obsession with them.