By David Cabrera
#6 – Introduction to the American Anime Convention – There is Anime, but...
I said I'd be answering the question “just what do American otaku do?”, but certainly the majority of us don't run to the theater to watch limited screenings of Redline. There were only 30 or so people in the theater that night. At the big anime conventions, on the other hand, there are perhaps 20 or 30 thousand. No, that's not all of us, but it's about as many of us as you're going to get into one place at one time. What do the conventions offer that could pull in that many people-- most paying hundreds in room, board, and admission-- year after year? In short, their goal is to offer everything. I'll try and explain... but like the convention itself, that's going to take more than one day.
I've never been to Comic Market, but I've heard and read a lot about the event. It sounds like a lot of fun, but it's a very different animal from the kind of event we hold here in the States. We have fans and companies selling merchandise... but not nearly so many, and the shopping is just one part of the event. The American anime convention is a theme park that runs an entire weekend, one that doesn't center on any single event: rather, it attempts to cover the probable interests of everybody who has ever watched anime in their lives.
Is there anime? Well, of course. Video rooms run day and night in case you wanted to watch an episode or two of a favorite series, or perhaps marathon something in its entirety. Though it might defeat the point of taking a vacation like this, you could just spend your weekend sitting in different video rooms watching anime.
Of course, if it was just that, nobody would be getting on planes to get to the convention. To be worth the money we all spend to get there ($200 for the hotel, $30 or so for gas money, $70 for that weekend pass), there has to be something there we won't be able to get anywhere else, any other way.
For me, that's usually an exclusive guest or event. Depending on who and what you care about, you might change your vacation schedule for the year.
A few years back, I decided to skip anime cons for the year. All my friends were doing it, but I wanted a break. I'd had a lousy year, and I just didn't want to go to the trouble again. That year Otakon said they were bringing JAM Project over for their first (and only to date) US concert. Within the day I heard about it, I had a hotel room lined up, money set aside, and I forgot I'd ever said anything about taking a break. (If I wasn't broke right now, I'd be getting my plans together to see Halko Momoi at Anime Boston in a few weeks...)
For me, interesting guests decide whether I show up to the convention, but I'm not the majority and you'd be surprised by what the most popular events at the convention usually end up being. Over the next few days I'll be talking about other stuff on offer at many anime conventions.