Anime North 2013May 26, 2013
Naruto, Pokemon, Sailor Moon–you pick your poison and chances are, ANIME NORTH has what you are looking for!
The fan-run, non-profit convention Anime North has become a staple for any fan of manga or anime fan living in the Great White North. Held in Toronto, Ontario, just outside of the buzzing downtown metropolis and closer to the Pearson International Airport, the convention began in 1997 with an attendance of about 800 people. Now, sixteen years later, having moved to the Toronto Congress Centre in 2004, the convention sees just over 20,000 fans. As of 2011, the founder has put an attendance cap in effect to prevent long lines, overcrowding and unnecessary stress on volunteers and staff. The expo capped sales at 15,000 for a weekend pass, and 5,000 each day Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
This was my first time attending Anime North but I was rather excited to see and learn about everything they had to offer but upon arriving I realized trying to see everything was a huge feat that would not be easily accomplished! I am familiar with the Toronto Congress Centre though I had no idea they could pack so many things inside the halls.
Let me first just start by saying that the centre is divided up by entry point and it’s not really direct where everyone goes when they arrive. Just follow the crowds and when you get close enough in you’ll see the signs for pre-registration (people who’ve purchased tickets online) and a spot to buy your tickets if you hadn’t already.
Once inside, the first room is filled with the tabletop game of your choice. If you don’t like tabletop gaming, there are also card games available (such as Magic: The Gathering), or you could watch character wrestling. If you brought your young ones along, they could take part in a craft corner which featured things like giant Lego building.
The first main hall off of the entrance hall were the art exhibitors—like a conventions Artist Alley. There were print artists and all kinds of handmade items, the most popular being various plushies (the sushi plush were my favorite though regrettably I don’t remember which vendor had them!) and cosplay items. I was able to pick up a print from Ill Intent Comics of Mass Effect‘s Garrus Vakarian, my favourite character in the game. You can see their online store here: http://illintent.storenvy.com/
The third room in the Congress Centre was the dealer room, where one could buy anything from wigs, to manga and figures to weapons and clothing. There was something there for everyone, even for someone like me who is new to the anime scene—I still saw recognizable characters and it was hard not to pick up a couple of the figures I’d been pining over for some time.
Outside, thousands of people gathered with their friends and met new ones. Everyone was outside despite the cold to get some fresh air from the rather hot Congress Centre and hundreds of people were taking photos of the people in costume. Never before had I seen such an amazing turn out of cosplayers at an event. I feel it’s something that comic conventions have been lacking in the past couple of years. Here there were hundreds of them—it was impossible to get a photo of them all. There were people cosplaying as anime characters, video games, films and comic books—even Dr. Krieger and his virtual girlfriend!
Once all of your purchasing is out of the way, there are several other venues that are a part of the weekend-long Anime North. The Doubletree, which is across the street from the Congress Centre, plays host to most of the panels (as they have the most room), though the nearby Sheraton, Crowne Plaza and Radisson offer up other options as well.
There were panels for everyone—it would be impossible not to find a panel that at least piqued one’s interest. For me it was the cosplay ones that really got my attention. They included panels like “cosplay on a budget”, “creature costumes”, “social media and cosplay” and “cosplay makeup”. These panels were great for beginning cosplayers and seasoned designers alike—it was great to see everyone’s insights and their design methods. Another panel that I unfortunately didn’t get the chance to attend was the Q&A with the Sailor Moon voice actors, characters that were long since a part of my childhood and have stuck around since (I even have a Sailor Jupiter costume).
At the other hotels, things like the manga library and the doll market were available for all con-goers to go check out.
This may be the only convention that runs parties and activities well into the night. With comic conventions, they usually run the standard 10am to 7pm with an after party put on by a third party at a bar. For Anime North, this is not the case. There are all kinds of things to do, well into the early hours of the morning. Saturday evening included the Masquerade, where contestants showed off their very best costumes. Following that, you could rock out to Jpop at a dance party in the Congress Centre’s Hall A, take in some Djs at the parking lot stage, or head back to one of the hotels for a more adult oriented evening (18+ discussions and viewings).
If this all seems a little overwhelming, it might be to a first time attendee! I knew I was shocked upon arrival to find out how much there was to do and it’s easy to spread yourself thin with things that you want to do and see. It’s always best to tackle conventions with a game plan, but with Anime North remember you are moving in between five different properties; it’s easy to leave something (or someone!) behind in all of the chaos. Have a meeting place, stay hydrated and my suggestion for next year? Pack a picnic basket for everyone! There’s some green space around the Congress Centre where a lot of people set up camp to relax in the sun despite the temperature—it was a cool 13 degrees Celcius (about 55 Fahrenheit) and I still somehow got a sunburn!
I will definitely go to Anime North again. It wasn’t just all the events and things to do, but the people that will keep me coming back. The volunteers were worked a little thin; it’s hard to direct that many people when you are only one person (and without a megaphone) but they did well with what they had. The lines moved relatively quickly (aside from the atrocious bathroom lines but that’s to be expected!), there was enough space for people to move and everything was kept as clean as it could be with the amount of traffic coming and going.
Kudos to everyone working and volunteering at the event this weekend, you did an amazing job and have a new fan for life in me. We’ll see you next year!