When it comes to talk about anime conventions, a lot of complaining happens. I’m guilty of this myself on numerous occasions. So to combat some of the general negativity that comes with convention talk, I want to talk about the things that make anime conventions good, possibly even great.
1) The Ability to See Other Fans
Now, this point actually applies to any convention be it anime, fantasy, carpet-racing, etc. One thing that’s said about conventions in the internet age is that they’ve lost some of their utility, as conventions used to be about meeting people you couldn’t otherwise, whereas now you just head over to your favorite chatroom/messageboard/whatever and talk it up. One thing that hasn’t changed though is that it provides a common gathering point for fans, only now instead of meeting total strangers you get to meet people with whom you’ve chatted, and once after you’ve bonded over fine anime and cola, you can then continue your friendship online. On a personal level this has worked out quite well for me. Quite well.
2) The Growing Population of Younger Anime Fans
Some might call this a serious negative, but you have to look at this in comparison to science fiction conventions, where they’re having continued trouble bringing in new blood and the mean age for sci fi con-goers continually rises. In contrast, what this means for anime conventions is that there will be a new generation to take up the order once the current generation of leaders retires and then probably the next one after that. There’s a good chance that the conventions you love will undergo drastic changes at that point, but at least they won’t be dying off.
3) It Lets You Experience a Tangible Anime Fandom
This relates to the first point in that I want to reiterate that the internet, as wonderful and convenient as it is, is still not a perfect substitute for real-world fan interaction. At an anime convention, you really get to see fans expressing themselves however they can through their physical presence. Now keep in mind that I did not say you could experience an accurate anime fandom. Only a portion of the fandom ever attends cons, and there’s a very silent majority out there, but at the same time you probably couldn’t experience that silent majority anyway unless you actually knocked on their door and told them to come out.
All points after that are more or less related to the above three, or are things like “totally wicked concerts” or “seeing people run panels as best they can.” It really all boils down to the fact that people are able to gather under a single banner of passion for anime and manga, damn the differences.
What you say is all true, but I think what you are getting at is something more taken-for-granted: you’re setting apart time to “do anime fandom.” And I mean it in a meandering, not-really-that-focused sense. For some people they go to cons and park their butts in the artist alley because they bought a table and they’re selling stuff, promoting their stuff and themselves, let’s exclude those (and others who might be running the cons on their own dime, or using cons as opportunities to network as press, writers, producers, industry), whatever; ignoring people who are doing it for srsbzns. Casual Janes and Joes puts on a Naruto headband and goof off in “anime fan style” on purpose, as a celebration.
It’s quite different than just talking it up online or whatever. Meeting people online IRL is something else because some people are just more fun to talk to IRL IMO, and you get to press their buttons with immediate results (usually in the key of ROFL)! For example, Otakon is this huge, 4+ day affair that I dedicate easily 16+ hours a day mingling with other con-goers. I do not read blogs/chat/post on blogs/forums/watch anime/do anime things for 16 hours a day, ever.
I think #3 can really be pimped today, because kids should know that this is how anime fandom started in America: by watching anime with people.
Things that go on at a convention just plain don’t happen elsewhere (for the most part). And I have to agree that talking to people IRL is a way different and better experience. Sure, I have done my share of complaining about some fans that grated on me but I can’t ever say I’ve had a bad time at a con. And now that I have started being more involved like helping with panels, it has only enriched the experience and helped me meet more people than ever before! Long live anime cons (and carpet-racing cons)!
I do like the “srs bsns” aspect of cons as well, as it’s a way to at least get a face to face interaction with “the industry” that isn’t possible elsewhere.
While I spend plenty of time interacting with fans online, anime cons can be a very entertaining experience.
I am pretty quiet and shy, so I don’t actually talk to anyone who doesn’t start talking to me first, but I have had some really nice conversations with people. I go to small local cons though, so I never get to meet up with my online colleagues.
It is a lot of fun to browse the dealer’s room, see cosplay, and watch anime with other fans. For someone whose interaction with fellow fans is only through the internet, it is kind of nice to be able to hang out with others in real life.
I wish these local cons around here had an industry presence though. The panels get about as serious as that one where they teach you how to pretend-fight in cosplay or something… I try to avoid those.
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