Growing up in a third-world country during the 2000s, you didn’t have many opportunities to showcase the things you love to a wider audience. Especially if it was something that was considered too strange or foreign. But anime was slowly making its mark worldwide, with the Toonami block on Cartoon Network aiding its cause. And people were starting to share in on the interest. Suddenly, anime wasn’t just a niche little hobby. And when the internet became more normalized, all the baby Otakus finally discovered that they didn’t have to be alone. Cue the start of Anime Expo and Conventions!
The Anime Expo was definitely worth going to. They became the highlight for most anime fans looking to connect with more people like them. Suddenly, the kids who were spending their time collecting Pokémon cards, forcing their parents to buy them Beyblades, or doing group ‘Ninja Runs’ across the park? They finally had a place they could gather and share their love for anime. And the ways people showcased their love for all things Otaku, were endless.
You have artists displaying and selling their work, preferably with your particular fandom as the subject. Some cosplayers show off their amazing building skills, and, hey, who doesn’t want to see their favorite anime character come to life? And then there are the merch stores, selling everything from themed food to manga to figurines and beyond. It is a slice of heaven for most Otakus.
I remember my first con, all the way back in 2013. And it is where I met some of the best people in my life right now, who shared the same enthusiasm as I did for all things anime. And since then, I have been a regular con attendee with zero regrets because it’s just way too much fun to miss out on. And here are some reasons why I think you would enjoy it too!
If You’re An Artist, Anime Expo Is The Place For You!
Back in the day, the artistic scene in my country was very low-key. There was barely any information in the field, and generally, artists weren’t very well connected with each other. However, when the first anime expo happened, it was like a new avenue was opened.
Artists got to display and sell their works to consumers directly, building a fanbase and community within themselves so that they could raise each other up. Some of my favorite artists are ones I’ve met at cons over the years, who share their love for all things anime with tribute pieces and fan art. Social media was on the rise so fans could connect with their favorite artists outside of the expo and spread the word!
Most cons actually host different activities and competitions for artists that help put a spotlight on their work. The best part, however, is just how loving everyone is. It doesn’t matter if you’re an amateur or a seasoned veteran; your work will be loved by someone there. And hey, it always feels great to support the local artist community!
Cosplayers Unite: You Get To Dress Up And Meet People From Your Fandom!
Okay, so here’s a fact about me. I’ve actually been cosplaying for the past 9 years now, and it’s magical every single time. My first cosplay was a very, very homemade Misa Amane from Death Note. And I felt very self-conscious about it at first, but it turns out I didn’t have to worry at all!
The moment I entered the hall, I heard someone squeal ‘Misa-Misa!’. The next thing I knew, a Howl Jenkins Pendragon from Howl’s Moving Castle was hugging me, and I wanted to cry. I was a very isolated kid, so having someone cosplaying a character I loved, and appreciating my own, was amazing. The entire day after that was a blur of screaming, recognizing different anime characters, and exchanging contact info so we could talk more.
Finding your own people is one of my favorite parts of going to an Anime Expo. I love working hard on my cosplay and then sharing the love of that character with someone who recognizes it. I recently introduced my sister to the world of cosplay too, and it’s been a hell of a time. It doesn’t matter what you cosplay, someone will recognize it and, hey, instant new friend!
Get Your Hands On Some Unique Merch!
Conventions are the best place to grab merchandise such as manga, figurines, and special edition releases that you can’t really find anywhere else. Sometimes, you can find real treasures like limited edition releases and the like. I love going to cons to stock up on Japanese and Korean snacks like instant ramen and candy.
There are also themed clothes from your favorite franchises, posters and etc. It’s like an Otaku’s dream, being surrounded by so much anime-themed stuff. And, hey, what’s wrong with indulging yourself, right?
In the end, anime expos are something I look forward to every year. It’s my happy place, and I reckon it’ll be yours too!