An anime convention is an event or gathering with a primary focus on anime, manga and Japanese culture. Commonly, anime conventions are multi-day events hosted at convention centers, hotels or college campuses. They feature a wide variety of activities and panels. Anime conventions are also used as a vehicle for industry, in which studios, distributors, and publishers represent their anime related releases.
Anime conventions have a long and varied worldwide history. The original Comiket, mostly based on fan published manga called dōjinshi, started in 1975 with around 700 people in Tokyo. The Comiket of today see several hundred thousand people, showing the lasting popularity of the medium in its home country. Other Japanese anime conventions are arms of or heavily sponsored by certain studios or publishing companies and are used as platforms for new releases, such as Jump Festa.
Anime conventions of the west mostly spawned from similar science fiction and multigenre conventions of the 1980s which featured anime content by tandem. Though many popular shows from Japan had been broadcast by that time, the direct to video market had yet to reach any significant penetration in North America or Europe until the late 1980s. Anime conventions of the west take many cues from those conventions, such as use of a large hotel with a meeting space, spanning 2 days or more of a weekend, invited industry guests, costume dressup, dealers selling various goods, and many other similarities.
Most western anime conventions are fan operated, meaning a group of self appointed fans manage the affairs necessary to run the event, either as individuals, a non-profit group, or an LLC. Many early conventions were run out-of-pocket at the expense of these organizers, often referred to as directors. However as a result of many factors, most did not run more than 2 years annually.
The early 1990s saw what would later be the long standing annual conventions, such as Project A-Kon, Anime Expo, and AnimeFest, which continue to run today and number attendance in the several thousands. Anime conventions in other locales, such as Europe and Australia began to take off in the mid 1990s as well. These growth trends follow the popularity and availability of anime to other countries outside of Japan.
In recent years, new anime conventions continue to spring up in places where coverage from other conventions doesn't reach, such as Kawaii Kon in Hawaii and Aurora-Con in Alaska. Special industry announcements and premiers are now taking place at anime conventions outside of Japan, reflecting an acknowledgment of fandom from other locales.
Anime conventions typically feature a guest (or "guest of honor") list as part of their makeup, though the only criteria for someone to be a guest is for the convention to state they are one. As such, a guest can be an industry figure, a talent (like drawing artist, performer, etc), or even a fandom community figure. An anime convention represents an opportunity to interact with such individuals that may not be possible outside the event.
Guests may be featured or responsible for specialty events at the convention, such as concerts, casting calls, or special announcements/news releases.
Anime convention events
A typical western anime convention will feature several events, workshops, panels, and contests for the attendees. Longer-running conventions with higher attendance often have the biggest variety and highest number of events. This list features common events, but is in no way meant to be considered as exhaustive or complete.
Anime conventions often have panels, which are open ended discussions involving some pre-determined topic, usually related in at least some way to anime. Topics can include manga, favorite voice-actors, details about a particular anime show, series, or movie. Panels may also be about more general topics such as cosplay, fanfiction, video games, or even industry related topics such as production or licensing.
Slightly different than a Panel, a workshop is more like guided instruction through a major or specific task, typically instructed by an individual (often a convention guest). The instructor could either demonstrate or instruct people on how to accomplish tasks such as how to draw manga, make computer animation, or how to become a voice actor.
Most anime conventions hold screenings of actual anime shows or movies because the circulation of the material and theatrical releases continues to trail Japan in other locales. Because of this, screenings and video rooms are less common in Japanese conventions, unless promoting a specific studio. Some western conventions have several video screening rooms, running a varied schedule of shows, some of which are available in the US, and other are fan-subtitled with no domestic publisher.
Most conventions include contests. Contests can also focus around costumes (or cosplay), art works (drawn, sculpted, painted), anime-related music videos, video games, dice games, card games, and many other activities. In some cases, tangible prizes have been offered as winnings in these contests.
An Exhibit Hall or Dealers' Room is also popular at most conventions. Publishing companies, distributors, and other proprietors often arrive to exhibit and/or sell their newest products to fans. Wares can include graphic novels manga, anime media, action figures, apparel or pre-made costumes, music CDs, software, decorations, toys, art books, specialty foods, and many more. Pirated items are often addressed as well.
Typical art shows are similar to those at a traditional museum or gallery. Artwork of all kind is put on display for inspection, and in some cases for purchase/auction bidding, by the viewer. Entry is usually only restricted by space available & registration with the convention. The artist can choose to be present to display, discuss, or take commission in a variation of the art show known as the Artists' Alley. Artists may also include crafts, drawn art, self published books or video, fanzines, and more.
Most conventions (or their visitors) also hold purely social gatherings, such as dances, room parties, dinners, and more.
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