May is finally here and it’s time to (properly) celebrate the brand new season! This is the month where Canada shows sign of warmth and welcome as the snow finally melts away and the May flowers blossom! I hope you’ve been sewing your costume all winter because now is the time to bust out your cosplay and show the next convention what you’re all about! For those of you aren’t aware what this convention is, Anime North is a gathering of eastern fanatics and animated otakus (Japanese term for people with an obsession with manga and anime). During the convention, people get together to enjoy costumes, exclusive items, voice actors and more! It’s really a 3-day event of nerds and people making fun of nerds.
Being Asian (and apparently racist), I’ve never fully gotten into the anime craze. Admittedly I’ve watched a few series in my time like Dragon Ball Z, Pokemon, Digimon, Gundam Wing and Naruto among others, but haven’t really considered myself an otaku towards them. I closely followed the first few Digimon series and even to this day I’m pretty much devoted to just watching one anime. I wish it were Attack on Titan. The only anime I’m watching now is mainly Fairy Tail… I guess I’m an otaku for that?
The event runs from May23rd to the 25th and you better be ready. Once you arrive the location, you’ll immediately become surrounded by people dressed as anime characters and loud, ear piercing kids shouting in excitement. But for those who aren’t fanatics and are going, how can you prepare for the convention? Here’s a little guide!
Did you grow up watching Dragon Ball Z? Are you a Sailor Moon fan? Bleach? There’s definitely something for you there! Closer to the convention, the website will update itself with a full program. From there, take a look at what events or panels that’ll happen. Panels are always a great way to sit in a room full of people sharing the same interests as you, the conversations that spark up can get really interesting. And if you find yourself in a debate-fueled panel, oh boy you better be ready for the nerd shouting!
If you aren’t into relaxing in a stinky room full of Bronies, you can also wander around the other lots, namely the Toronto Congress Centre where the main attraction is. If you take a look inside, you’ll find many activities happening simultaneously! The Dealer’s Room is a dedicated area where you may roam around and purchase cool items related to anime or video games, Artist Alley is in the same nature as the Dealer’s Room but as the name states, is more focused on artsy stuff like posters, buttons, paintings, etc.
Still not convinced? How about a rave party at night? Or concerts from real Japanese bands? How about the endless amount of cosplayers walking about? Video game tournaments? Maybe you’ve been reading the wrong post then.
Aside from not arriving at all, there is nothing worse than arriving at a location and not knowing where to start. Things are happening with or without you so act quickly! Figure out which of the 3 nearby hotels are running what you want to see! One building is filled with panels, the other with video games, and so on. Every hour, a new set of panels begin and if you miss it- tough luck.
It goes without saying, but (obviously?) stay knowledgeable in the topic you’re about to step into, unless you’re going in to learn something new. Western Otakus can be very, very harsh on vulnerable prey- Show any sign of ignorance and they’ll flock towards you, pecking your every weakness. Oh, and violence is not allowed so you can forget about nerd bashing at this convention. Of course, this would only happen rarely, Otaku people are generally nice people…
Are you planning to stay overnight? Or late? And when are you planning to get to the con? And how? These are all questions you need to ask yourself and your friends before going. Taking the TTC will be a massive pain, but cost effective for sure! The TTC only has so many busses to fit you people. I think they may have expanded new routes this year, but consider that people on the bus may be carrying their costume on them- or worse… wearing them on the bus. Driving is generally a good option, but getting out of the car at the con will be a bit of a hassle as designated drop-off points will be crowded with cosplayers. Some events go till midnight and some even run overnight! If you plan on staying overnight, I hope you have a hotel booked, or you’re going to be scrambling for the bus that you’ll probably miss at the end of the night. Whoops.
BRING MONEY, SPEND WISELY
I don’t know your spending habits or how into collectables you are but once you’re at the con you will likely spend a decent amount of dollars. There are tons of things to buy at the dealer’s room and the artist alley. And if not there, you’ve got to keep yourself energized with food and drinks, pay for transportation and maybe even a hotel room. Not to scare you off but you definitely need to be prepared with a wallet full of money. You may finally find that collector’s DVD you’ve been looking for- and often it will be yours at a slightly higher price.
I recommend you do a bit of research ahead and use your better judgment on prices. A box of Pocky does not cost $5. Booths at the con will often charge more because they assume you don’t have access to the internet or visit an Asian grocery market. Browse around the con before making a purchase, other places will likely have what you’re looking for. If you can wait on what you want to buy, hold off till the last day of the event where prices will likely drop. You can also try haggling if you’re good at it (or use the convention as practice).
Visit Anime North’s website at www.animenorth.com as the days go by for more updates on the convention. They also have staffing and volunteering opportunities if you’re interested in lowering the cost of your convention pass. The rest is in your hands, be money-conscience, be prepared, be otaku. I hope this guide helps you and I’ll be seeing you later this month!