For fans, by fans: Toronto anime event 2017 among continent's largest

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

A view of some booths at the event.
A cosplayer as Sans, a character from video game Undertale.
Animegao kigurumi performers.
One participatory session saw martial artists teach the basics of the fighting systems referenced in Avatar: The Last Airbender and Legend of Korra.
Cosplayer as newspaper editor J. Jonah Jameson interacting with another man as Spider-Man.
A cosplayer as Tohru from Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid.
A manga dealer.
The Ferocious Beast (PixelyEmily) danced on the outdoor stage during a 90s Cartoons dance event.

Anime North is “by the fans, for the fans”, event chair Irwin Tan told Wikinews in an interview at the event, Saturday. Started by a group of university anime clubs in 1997, it has grown to become one of the largest conventions of its kind in North America, spanning three days, five venues, and tens of thousands of fans.

Along with the dealer's hall, industry tables, and artist booths typical of conventions, Anime North's convention floor included a formal gallery space, a charity auction in support of Toronto's Sick Kids Hospital, an aerial performer, gaming tables, archery tag, dance events, and outdoor concerts. At one of the hotels surrounding the main venue, an entire 5000 volume manga library was available, for attendees looking to take a quiet pause. Full programming tracks about ball-jointed dolls — Doll North — and homoerotic-themed anime and manga — Yaoi/Yuri North — were also given entire hotels to themselves, allowing them to offer extensive programming.

As with many fan conventions, many fans attended in cosplay of their favourite characters. Some outfits included massive props, like wings, weapons, or even an additional character riding on their back. A variety of anime and manga worlds were represented, as well as video games like Undertale, Western comic books, Disney characters, even "Smug Wendy", and the Ferocious Beast from Maggie and the Ferocious Beast. The event offered panels to help costume creators and wearers develop in their hobby, such as "Thermoplastics for Cosplay", looking at the pliable polymers used to create things like character armour, and "Social Media for Cosplayers".

The cosplay subculture of animegao kigurumi, for which masks of mainly human characters are worn, was well-represented. Ride the Pig Studios, a Nevada-based studio, was set up in the industry section with a photo booth for attendees to get a photo with practitioners of the craft, and two sessions, including one hosted by Kazunori Uhyo Sugiura, a university professor attending from Japan.

Anime North was deemed the fourth largest convention in North American with a primary theme of anime, in 2016, by

Cosplay coverage continues after the interview.

Interview with Irwin Tan

Wikinews had a chance to talk with Irwin Tan, Chair of Anime North, in the midst his busy schedule of checking in with the dozens of departments at the event. The event refers to its volunteers as staff.

 ((WN )) Since the creation of Anime North, it's amazing how much it's grown. How has the organization been able to deal with the growth?

I think one of the key things is that, in many ways large chunks of the organization are very stable. There's almost like a backbone of staff who have been in the same positions for long periods, For example, the woman who runs the program department, Eileen McEvoy, she's been doing it every year since the first Anime North, which means she's gotten really, really good at it. As the convention has grown, people have been in the same positions, so I think it kind of grows around them, [...] positions grow around the person at the core and their strengths.
We've also been very lucky with our staff, because we have a lot of really great staff. [...] When we first started, we were just [...] around 700 our very first year, and that was 21 conventions ago, so this is our 20th birthday. At the very beginning, we started with that as a core, we started as a one-day event started by the University of Toronto Anime Club, along with other university anime clubs, pooled resources, made use of one of the university facilities, which was no cost, planned for 300 which was club membership, got 700, and it's kind of grown up since then.

 ((WN )) Most conventions tend to be for a certain genre, but anime is much larger than a single genre. How do you balance all of the different interests?

A lot of it is, when we do the panelists, people can submit panels. They say, "hey, I would like to do a panel on this, and here's the topic I have, here's the panelists I'd like to bring." So people come to us and say this is what we're doing, and we have a team that reviews it, and says "we've got too many of this, but not enough that,” so they can kind of work back and forth to provide a very general program.
One advantage of the size is that we can cater. For example, Yaoi North is an area dedicated to the Yaoi fans. So they have their own space, and in many ways it lets them be themselves, they don't have to worry about, someone walks in there, they know what they're going to. [...] The people who do the ball-jointed dolls have space. Since we're so large, we can devote different parts of different hotels, gaming has this track, that has that track. It helps that we can maintain the diversity that way.
I think this year, we have just over a thousand staff. It was a thousand yesterday, not sure how many more have checked in. It means there are staff dedicated to different events, different things. [...] There's a certain amount of diversity and specialization within the organization.

 ((WN )) How after 21 years do you remain so passionate? Is it seeing everyone else's reactions?

That has a lot to do with it. As I said, it's by fans, for fans. I mentioned this in the opening ceremonies, just walking around... Sure, the con has changed, the world around us certainly has changed in the last year, but as I say, the more things change, the more things stay the same. A lot of it is the passion these people bring in, every time you look at these costumes, it's like "you spent a whole year working on that, that's a huge commitment, and a lot of love and passion." In many ways, that's what inspires us, as we look at all these people and they love it so much, and it inspires us to do the best we can for them.

Cosplay highlights

As mentioned earlier, many cosplayers went by the maxim of “go big or go home”, with large props, wigs, wings, and weapons.

While the app Pokemon GO has simmered among the general public from its earlier popularity, the franchise's characters remain popular among attendees.

Many fictional worlds were represented in the selection of the anime, manga, and video game cosplay.

Animegao kigurumi performers rotated in and out of the main hall throughout the weekend.

Costumes extended well beyond anime and manga, with Disney fandom, children's television series Maggie and the Ferocious Beast, comic books, and Wendy's restaurant chain's trolling Twitter account.

Conservative convention next door

A portion of media attention was devoted to the Conservative Party of Canada hosting its leadership convention in the north building of the Toronto Congress Centre, simultaneous to Anime North. Allegedly, hour-long traffic delays at the venue prevented some party members from voting. Polls were Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., local time. The north building is accessed from a different road than the south.


This article features first-hand journalism by Wikinews members. See the collaboration page for more details.
This article features first-hand journalism by Wikinews members. See the collaboration page for more details.