Ah, Anime North – the annual pilgrimage for tens of thousands of weeaboos in the northeastern part of North America. I have been to the convention four times thus far, but during those visits I tended to stick exclusively to my group of friends and typically wandered aimlessly through the dealer’s room and outdoors amongst the cosplayers. I’ve always had a good time, and it’s hard not to – combine in a group of good friends and the infectious cheerfulness on the convention grounds, and the good times come to you by themselves.

But this year my plan was different – maybe it’s because of blogging, but I was eager to meet new people and do new things. I paid 55 bucks to get into this freak show, and by God I was going to make good of every penny! If Anime North was a seal, then I would be the hungry Eskimo, waiting to descend on his prey and take every chunk of it back to his igloo.

In Canada, Hockey season is ALWAYS on — even during an Anime Convention.

So how did the convention turn out? The shorter answer would be that it was like a rollercoaster ride – both fun and nauseating. As for the long answer, hit the jump to find out!

Friday

Of the three days of AN 2011, I have to say that Friday was the definitive highlight. The day began with a lot of waiting in line to pick up my preregistration pass, as well as that of my friend Mundel’s. After that was even more lining up to gain access to the dealer’s room. I heard rumours that the convention was planning to put a cap on attendance next year, and after seeing what I saw over the weekend, I am inclined to agree.

There were plenty of opportunities to take photos of cosplayers who were also stuck in line during this time, and I found that the crowd on Friday had a much better ratio of good cosplayers.

Special mention goes to the baby Link and the Naruto family. The former was criminally adorable, and the traumatized state of the little Sakura in the latter group made for amazing amusement to everyone else present at her own expense. Yay!

Of course, being the classy gentlemen that we are, we bolted straight for the doujinshi dealer’s booth the moment the dealer’s room line began moving. My friend blew $218 right off the bat by snatching up some Udon-Ya Monster Hunter doujins and some Takeda Hiromitsu books. I, on the other hand, held back on my lustful urges since most of the books I’m interested in have already been scanned, and I didn’t feel like taking a $16-25 gamble based on the covers alone.

After the initial rounds through the dealer’s room, we checked out the flea market – a gathering place for people with crap to get rid of. There were volumes Death Note and Fruit Basket all over the place, but I was able to luck out and snatched up a MG Zeta Gundam ver. 2.0 for 30 bucks. We also checked out an Evangelion panel after that, which proved to be amusing, despite the presence of a handful of smartasses who couldn’t stop talking while the speakers were talking. Did you know that the first prints of the Rebuild BDs contained subliminal animation frames featuring key information on the story? The more you know~

We were ready to head home after the panel, but a quick text message and phone call had us suddenly abandoning our original destination for Stefan’s hotel room.  Looking back, it seems almost absurd – I mean, we didn’t even know each other past a couple of brief exchanges at that campus anime club and a few tweets, but there we were, amongst strangers with the intention of sleeping on the floor overnight.

We were supposed to take another shot of this with condoms scattered all over it, but sadly that did not happen =(

So there we were, eight dudes crammed in a room meant for only four people. I didn’t know anyone in the room other than Mundel and Stefan, but the ice was almost immediately broken when we started talking about con loot. As I’ve always said, “Porn is the black soil on which friendships blossom” and this case was no exception. It turns out that between the 8 of us, there were was $618 worth of doujinshi. We quickly inspected each other’s bounties and talked about the various authors and series, as well as the questionable legality of it all.

The conversation drifted from porn to other subjects as the night went on, and fighting games were had. The occupants of the room were all charming people, and I am really grateful for the unexpected overnight adventure. I do slightly regret not checking out the Friday night rave, but who am I to say no to some good ol’doujin talk? It’s not often that you get to talk so openly about 2D smut!

As may be expected from an overcrowded hotel room, sleep was sparse for the entire party. I don’t think I actually had any sleep during the night – rather, I drifted in and out of states of consciousness of varying levels of external awareness, which lasted about 2 hours in total. At five in the morning, a bunch of us were already restless, and I soon decided to hop by the nearby Tim Horton’s for some coffee and breakfast.

Saturday

Saturday was kind of shitty. The lack of rest certainly had a significant role in this, as the heat, humidity, and the endless crowds quickly sapped away my residual strength and good humour. Furthermore, the panels that I was most interested in (figures & otaku networking) ended up being piss-poor. They were both hosted by the same group and were both poorly organized and overly self-indulgent. I’m not going to dwell too much on the details, but let’s just say I was pretty disgusted when they spent 20 minutes straight talking about themselves in the networking panel.

Thankfully, the other panels I attended were a lot better. The “black kids like anime too!” panel yielded some very interesting reflections on black stereotyping and culture in various form of Japanese media. The Futuristic War Fighting panel had a group of university professors speaking about the likely trends of warfare in the future and works of science figure (anime or otherwise) that touches up on them. I never thought I would see a white-haired man talking about Saikano, much less in a completely serious and academic tone!

Still, the dirty stint of the two panels that flopped ended up defining Saturday for me. In retrospect, I think my general optimism towards the convention and my acquaintance with the hotel room gang raised my expectations to naïve levels. The con-going crowd isn’t exactly known for its maturity, and just because someone shares the same general interest area as you, doesn’t mean you’ll hit it off – if anything, I was aghast at how retarded some of these people could be. As I wandered around the convention grounds with Mundel and Tim, I wondered if I really wanted to be a part of this crowd while a mob of Gaiafags nearby sloppily gyrated away to the tired tune of Carameldansen. It was with these thoughts that I retired home for some much-needed rest.

Sunday

The comfort of my bed did much in rejuvenating my spirits for Sunday, and after a bit of self-deliberation, I decided to check out the last few hours of the convention in the afternoon. I met up with Laura, Sam, Bob and Teresa at the doll meet.

Though I am not a doll collector and am only marginally interested in them, I found the doll meet fascinating. Seeing the faces behind the dolls and seeing the amount of care and customization they gave to their dolls made me admire their passion for the hobby. Because of the nature of the hobby, I think doll collectors invest a lot more of themselves into their hobby, and I think there is beauty in such dedication.

Some doll collectors are downright delusional, though. I’ve heard about some collectors who made twitter accounts for their dolls and talked to themselves with them, and from what Laura told me, a “birthing ceremony” took place in the dealer’s room on Saturday to inaugurate the new owner of a BJD.  I am terrified to even imagine such a scene.

I spent the most of the afternoon talking with the gang, which reminded me of the joy in simply slowing down and taking a minute to enjoy myself. After we parted, I swung by the dealer’s room to pick up the final volume of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure and went home with a pleasant feeling in my heart.

Final Thoughts

Now you know what I look like!

This year’s Anime North brought together the very best and the very worst of the con experience. By actually participating in the events, I now have a better idea of what the annual freak show is all about. I have considered doing a panel/presentation at a convention before, and now that I’ve had a taste of both good and bad panels, I am positive that I want in on the action next year. I’m thinking of either doing an introductory presentation on the figure collecting or a presentation on basic figure photography (or both). As I stand right now, I’m not completely confident in my abilities to present orally, nor do I think I’m qualified to give tips on photography, but I think I’ll be more than ready in a year.

Here’s that shirt I was rambling on about on Twitter. The heat transfer on the back looks a little off in terms of colour, unfortunately.

My Anime North 2011 experience wasn’t all positive, but it is definitely by far the most memorable. Many thanks to Mundel, Stefan, Jordo, Daniel, Charles, Gavin, Tim, Laura, Sam, Bob, and Teresa for a kick-ass time, and I hope to see you all next year as well! =D

For more photos of the weekend, hit up my Flickr photoset. To you readers out there: have you been to an anime convention before? What were your experiences? Do you have any amazing/horrible stories to tell? Let me know in the comments!