If you are human, you’ve most likely had a dream that you wake up from, only to wish that what you had experienced actually happened. You may have been able to fly, or you may have found the love of your life; no matter the case, it was all an illusion. Of course, I’ve had no shortage of similar letdowns, but last weekend marked one of the few times that what I had experienced was truly of this world. This fantasy was Anime North 2015.

Watchers of anime, readers of manga, followers of sci-fi, and enthusiasts of the sorts congregated in Toronto, Canada this past weekend for Anime North, a celebration of all things otaku. Myself (Stanlick) and my co-author (Matt W.) attended the convention and set out to experience as much of it as possible. We knew this would be a daunting task; just look at the “pocket” guide and you’ll find yourself submerged in 56 pages of gatherings, panels, booths, and other trappings. With an event this enormous, there’s no way in hell that a single person (or even two) could remotely dream to cover everything, but that’s the beauty of it. No matter who you are or where you came from, as long as you like some aspect of anime or nerd culture, your weekend would certainly fill up.

Information about Anime North:

Anime North is a non-profit, entirely fan-run convention that has been held every year in since 1997. It reached over 28,000 attendees in 2014, currently listing it as the 4th largest anime convention in North America. The event is hosted at the Toronto Congress Centre, which functioned as the main hub for the weekend.

The Venues:

Along with the TCC, Anime North was held in six buildings including the International Plaza Hotel which together formed the bulk of the venue. Four smaller locations held some of the less notable events and were accessible by shuttle bus from the TCC, posing a barrier towards those wanting to attend. While the TCC and the International Plaza were big enough to adequately host their events, the venue as a whole for Anime North had a few features that were less than ideal. The most glaring of these is that the TCC and International Plaza are separated by two busy roads, one of which did not even have a cross-walk and forced con-goers to dodge traffic to get across the road.

This was pretty problematic from a safety-standpoint, especially since this divided the two major building hosting the convention. In addition, there was a very distinct lack of inside and outside signage at the convention, making for a confusing experience for many con-goers simply trying to enter the TCC before they learned their way. It seems somewhat silly that an event of this scale could not clearly label entrances and exits, much less provide signage to direct people to the dealers area or to the major events. While these issues did not cripple the convention by any means, these were the two of the biggest issues with the convention that did not make it as fan-friendly as it could have possibly been. Though if a con has to have a bad point, this is probably a preferable one, and it is worth mentioning that the volunteers could be easily found to provide you with assistance if you ever needed it. Fortunately, what was confusing on the outside was not necessarily the case for the inside. The single entrance into the TCC funnelled everyone to their desired destination accordingly.

Retail:

Anime North featured a large retail area, providing fans with the opportunity to buy merchandise from a wide variety of retailers. There were many deals to be had, with retailers selling all sorts of paraphernalia including wall-scrolls, posters, figures, imitation weapons, and other merchandise. This was in addition to the actual manga and anime being sold, with massive manga sections attracting big crowds. A highlight for Matt on the first day was the comic book shop The Beguiling clearing out their backstock of artbooks by Udon Press at a rate of $40 for 4, which attracted some incredulous stares from many buyers used to paying upwards of $30 each at retail. For myself, I found a shop selling manga, 7 for $20. I picked out seven first volumes completely at random, and may plan to write a creative article with them.

In a separate area was the comic market where artists were taking commissions and selling their fan-art prints, and this area featured a diverse selection of artists that were sure to please everyone (although there was a severe shortage of Your Lie in April, with only two pieces of fan art representing the show at the entire convention :P). One of the notable things about the retail area was this it was organized effectively and rarely felt overcrowded despite the large number of people channeling through it regularly. You were still able to get where you wanted to go and a few steps was all it took to escape for a breather.

Above are two of the prints I collected from ofSKYSOCIETY. Don’t mind me as I place a picture of Ben-to below, it’s relevant to the section and I need to put this inside joke somewhere. Too bad it’s not available in one particular Ani-TAY author’s country.

Cosplay:

Without a doubt, the highlight of the weekend was the cosplay. It’s one thing to see photos online, but when you’re actually standing ten feet away from a lookalike of your favourite hero or heroine, an entirely new feeling enters your body. It’s hard to put into words, but it’s like meeting a celebrity, except you can actually have a five minute chat with them, and you can repeat this all day with as many celebrities as you want.

The effort that everyone put into their design was unreal. It’s clear that everyone had determination and passion when making their costumes. It’s great to see that there are people in this world that can love something so much and spend so much time on something that is over in the span of three days. Even if someone’s cosplay wasn’t as intricate as another’s, they were still having just as much fun. My hat’s off to all of you; stay awesome.

I had the opportunity to take photos of many cosplayers and I’ve organised them into three articles:

Part one, Part Two, Part Three.

Panels:

Anime North facilitated a variety of different panels this year, ranging from large sessions that anyone could enjoy to small, intimate panels where everyone could participate. Some panels housed voice actors willing to answer your questions, and others held discussions on niche aspects of anime. There was something for everyone this weekend, and it was impressive to see the sheer variety of panels hosted at the event. To give you an idea, we’ll list a few of the panels that we attended.

Many of the panels involved the Guests of Honour of Anime North. The guests were alone, with the exception of a translator if needed, and the hour was spent primarily answering any and all questions that the fans had. For the most part, they were pretty entertaining, but for the Japanese guests the quality of their translators was a flip of the coin. They were either amazingly versed and happy to help, or barely capable and killing the mood. Two of the stand-out guest panels were the ones for Asami Shimoda and J. Michael Tatum.

Asami Shimoda (Voice Actress, on the right, above), or Asapon to her fans, is a Japanese voice actor primarily known for her role in The iDOLM@STER as the Futami twins. Shimoda’s panel was very lively, featuring a sizable and very vocal contingent of iDOLM@STER fans. Shimoda herself was very enthusiastic and happy to be at the convention to meet her Canadian fans. The panel moderator was also very good, keeping things on track while translating Shimoda’s answers effectively. This was a great panel and all of the fans seemed to have had a great time.

J. Michael Tatum is a voice actor, ADR director and scriptwriter who works for Funimation and has had acting roles for the English dubs of Steins;Gate (Rintaro Okabe), Attack on Titan (Erwin Smith), and Black Butler (Sebastian Michaelis). In addition, Tatum has worked on the script adaptations for many shows including Attack on Titan, Steins;Gate, and Future Diary. This panel was packed with fans, and Tatum did not disappoint by putting on an electrifying single-handed performance. The panel was less of questions and answers and more of Tatum telling a series of stories about his career, but this was fantastic because of his sheer energy and hilarious delivery. Tatum had the fans mesmerized for the entire hour and everyone left the panel extremely satisfied.

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There were a number of smaller panels placed in rooms that housed roughly 50 people each. Rather than listening in on a panel in a giant room with tons of people and having only the slightest chance to get a question in, these smaller ones acted as intimate discussions that everyone was a part of. These panels were on seemingly every topic you could think of, ranging from guides to save money in the anime/cosplay/manga world, to talks about specific anime fashion, to panels that were fuelled by a simple question.

One of my favourite small panels was called Why Anime which was hosted by Shelley TSivia Rabinovitch, an expert panelist who attends AN yearly. The entire point of the panel was to explore why anime fandom is increasing as sci-fi fandom is decreasing in the western hemisphere. Shelley simply started out by asking the question, and the everyone in the room began to conjecture theories and say them at will, which turned out to be amazingly interesting. It was so good that I may even base a future article of mine on the theories that were presented.

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Some of the most frequent panels were ones that solely discussed a particular anime. There wasn’t regularly any relation between the hosts and their respective anime other than the fact that they were well-versed fans. Much of the time was spent talking about favourite instances, reminiscing the heydays, or theorizing what could come next. One thing I noticed is that almost all anime on these panels began airing before the Fall 2014 season. Shows like Death Parade, Your Lie in April, and Yona of the Dawn were passed over entirely. Only Parasyte and Shirobako had dedicated panels, but they were housed in the smaller, 50 person rooms. This is understandable seeing as not many people may have seen these shows yet and I presume they’ll likely be featured next year.

Game Shows:

Imagine your favourite game shows, then imagine them centred solely around anime. There was Anime Jeopardy, Anime The Price is Right, Anime Family Feud, and many more created specifically for the event. I sat in on a few game shows and one inparticular called Anime WTF, which is probably not what you think it is. The gist of the game is for the contestants to attribute captions to a series of silly anime pictures, then the audience chooses the best captions and whichever contestant wrote them wins. The game shows were all pretty entertaining, but were struck with more than a few technical difficulties.

Other Events:

In addition to all of the events we’ve covered so far, there many more that could be added to this endless list. There were dance parties, raves, an entire building dedicated to everything yuri and yaoi, a maid cafe, wrestling, concerts, fashion shows, an entire section of events dedicated to dolls (photo below), auctions; you name it, it was there.

The Verdict:

I think any avid fan of anime would find themselves at home if they attended Anime North. The weekend was a spectacular show of enthusiasm and general enjoyment. Everyone was positive and seemed to be having the time of their life. The atmosphere was so friendly that you could sit down beside a random person, start talking about anime, and almost assuredly have a good time. You could see groups of new friends forming, and cosplayers of the same shows gathering and spending parts of the con together. It’s not often that so many people who all strive to celebrate the same interest assemble in one place; a sight to behold.

Anime North is a haven for all people who enjoy anime. It really is a dream come true, but saying that only scratches the surface. The anime fandom is unbelievably amazing and being able to visibly see the passion amplifies this fact. Stay awesome everyone. See you next year.


This article was written by Stanlick and Matt W., authors of Ani-TAY (a reader-run anime blog, supported by Kotaku, on the Kinja platform).

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For any questions or concerns, please contact my email (stanlick_anitay@outlook.com) or comment down below.

Thanks to Media One Creative for letting me use one of their cameras.