Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Followup: The Demise of Anime Conventions

If you have not read my previous blog on this topic, please skip this entry and go to "The Demise of Anime Conventions".  I got a bunch of interesting feedback and I plan to do a short followup with some questions that arose after publishing.


In my blog entry, "The Demise of Anime Conventions" I pointed out a distinct shift away from "anime-only" conventions and towards more of a return to the sci-fi/comic book convention that originally spawned these genre specific conventions.  Some people agreed with me whole-heartedly while others disagreed with me completely.  This made me realize that I have been looking at anime conventions from a distinctly East Coast point of view, and more likely a Mid-East/North-East point of view since I've never been further than Chicago in my convention wanderings.  That doesn't mean that everyone West of Chicago disagreed with me as a few of them also agreed that things were making a distinct shift, but I did start to wonder about location and also about saturation of the market.

Let me start with talking briefly here about West Coast conventions.  Now, really, I don't have anything but my own personal perceptions of these West coast conventions as I've never been to one.  From what I can see online, however, most of them are quite large and run by possibly, larger corporations.  I could be completely wrong, there may be dozens of little conventions (and I'm sure there are) all over the West coast, but because of population numbers, I wonder how near to one another these conventions are located.  Simply looking at population, I can only imagine that larger cities tend to host these conventions as most of the time larger cities are where there are more convention spaces and hotels.

That said, if you move to East Coast conventions, we have a whole heck of a lot of them.  They range from fairly large 22K or bigger Otakon, down to some very small 100 people conventions.  Within the range of where I am in Ohio, I could probably drive to a few dozen conventions just within an 8 hour drive.  I usually attend at least 2-5 conventions a year which are within the 3 hour range.  What does that mean to me and those who agreed with me on the demise of conventions?

Perhaps it means that the true demise of anime conventions lies in the demise of smaller conventions.  These conventions range probably less than 2,000 attendees and are forced to cater to a larger group of genres for their attendees or risk losing attendance each year as children/teenagers grow up and move on to other things rather than just anime/manga.

Perhaps though, this genre switch is also taking place in the larger conventions.  The largest conventions that I've attended are Anime Central, Ohayocon, and Otakon.  I've attended Ohayocon since 2003, and Anime Central off and on over the years, and Otakon only once in 2006.  So, if I take Ohayocon for example, it started out in 2003 as perhaps less than 5,000 attendees, their dealer room was about 12-20 vendors who dealt strictly with figures, plushies, manga from Japan, doujinshi from Japan, Funimation, MediaBlasters, and maybe a sword dealer.  Artists in the alley attempted drawing doujinshi, but more often they had tables full of fan art.  I do not remember any cosplayers playing anything but anime or manga characters.  Fast forward to 2014 and there were American comic book stores, card gaming and video gaming, artists and clothing ranging from cosplay to gothic to steampunk.

Now, Ohayocon was always an ANIME convention.  It's expanded into something a bit more, and for it's size it can have anything it wants.  It's a Pop Culture convention, no matter what it may call itself now.  And if you ask the 18-20 sect, they might still say it's an "anime" convention.  However, don't be fooled, because running the anime convention Tsubasacon and sitting in the Ohayocon dealer room advertising for that convention... we had people coming up to us saying "Oh, you're an anime convention?  We don't go to anime conventions."  WAIT..... WHAT?  But YOU'RE AT ONE!

I've seen the same shift in genres at Anime Central a few year's back and at Colossalcon, at Matsuricon, Tekkoshocon, and every single other convention that I've attended in the past few years.

Does that mean it's happening everywhere?  No.  It doesn't.  But...I have a feeling it is happening everywhere.  You can't stop cartoon characters from popping up at anime conventions.  Can't stop people cosplaying various objects and people found in other sci-fi genres.  People go to these events to share in their geekdom and they've realized that if they stand out a bit by wearing something from a different series that isn't Japanese, then they'll get more photos and more interest.

Ah... so there you are again.  Interest.  People are interested in far more things now than just anime.  It was actually a lot easier a few years back to pick up dozens of manga and anime every week and keep your daily dose high.  Heck, I used to drop $100 a week on all of that and it was my life for a few years.  However, it's a lot harder to do that now with only a few companies putting out anime and manga.  Okay... so I take that back, there's a WHOLE LOT of stuff out there on the internet, and if you're reading this then you're probably thinking "well, I watch all of my anime on Crunchyroll or I download it, and I read all of my manga online" - but when you're online, are you only doing that?  Aren't you downloading "Game of Thrones" and watching "Adventure Time" as well?  And when you go to a convention, aren't you hoping to find something to support those genres too?

I'd really love to know if anyone else out there has a different opinion on anime conventions.  Feel free to drop me a line at my email: whatcher@juno.com  if you have a different idea on this.  Or just comment below.  If you go to a convention that is sticking with it's anime roots and not bowing to the American comics or cartoons... I'd love to know.  If you think that there are still 'pure' anime conventions that will outlast this 'death' I've foretold, it would be interesting to look into for me.

Otherwise... I have a feeling I'm still somewhat right about this.

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