Over Memorial Day weekend of 2011, I was fortunate enough to cover Northern California’s best yearly anime convention in San Jose. And as this is the first time I’m reporting on the convention for people, I’m going to do a convention overview/report. Ladies and gentlemen of Marooners’ Rock, welcome to Fanime!
So, what makes this convention so different? Well, I’ve been a regular attendee of it for the last twelve years, and it is simply not like your normal convention. Fanime’s motto since its inception has always been “By Fans, For Fans.” And it really does show with the things on hand. You see, typical conventions like Comic-Con or WonderCon are built around announcements of things and panels. There is usually a place to shop, and maybe you’ll see some new show or movie, but for the most part, it’s announcement after announcement. Some anime conventions are usually filled with lots of anime to watch, but nowhere near the level that Fanime always brings.
Let me put this way: Most cons are like a pleasant afternoon out. Fanime is a 24-hour-for-four-days party that never stops. You will not find a single boring moment at this convention.
First off, as the picture shows, Fanime is a free-for-all when it comes to costumes. No matter how strange, bizarre or out-there, it’s going to fit in here at Fanime. Of course, like all conventions these days, it tends to have a dealer’s room where you can buy all the DVDs, swords, comics and soundtracks you could want (among other things). But it also has one of the largest artist’s alleys I’ve ever seen. This is where the bold and talented come out to sell their home-made wares.
That there is Panda Lu, who not only is one of the people having fun with costumes and anime, but also a talented artist who sells her plushies and hats at the con. She is just one of the people who you can easily meet and get along with at Fanime.
“But Ahmed,” you may say, “what was all that about a 24 hour party for four days? How can that work?” Well, my friends, that’s what the various video rooms, panels and etc., are for. There’s always something going on at Fanime.
The panels: There are panels about how to meet girls when you’re a tad dorky. There are panels about costume making. There’s even a 24 hour panel called the Dojo where you can learn all sorts of martial art and self defense things.
The dances: When the sun goes down, Fanime starts up its rave, where you can dance until you drop. And if you missed your senior prom, are waiting for it, or just want to relive it in a geeky way, there’s the Black and White ball, where formal dress is required, but you can still wear bits of your costume during it.
The celebrities: Whether it’s Hiroyuki Yamaga (one of the founders of Gainax studios), Tohru Furuya (legendary voice actor), Seiji Mizushima (beloved anime director), Ric Meyers (Martial arts enthusiast extraordinaire) or Giles Poitras (author of The Anime Companion), they’re all here for panels and such, as well as the occasional interview.
The concerts: Every year, Fanime has some of the hottest Japanese bands performing live. This year had Yuya Matsushita and FLOW, giving some stand-out performances.
Karaoke: One of the more fun things you can do during the con, just grab the mic and sing. If they don’t have a song you like, you can give them your own copy to play for you to rock out to.
Der Cosplay: A Fanime tradition, this costume contest allows the truly exceptional of the fans to stand out and take a bow.
24 hour gaming room: In this massive room, a game is always going. There’s the massive set of tables covered with TVs and gaming consoles from the 80’s through to the modern era to play, the large collection of arcade games to show off with, the biggest set of board games I’ve ever seen, and plenty of room to play games such as human chess, ninja, and whatever you feel like.
And lest I forget the video rooms?
Video Main: Traditionally the source of the main events of the anime shown at con, this year it seemed to be more dedicated to marathons of anime music videos, fan debates of robot combat, and showings of episodes of the Nostalgia Critic and Angry Video Game Nerd.
Industry Room: Want to see what is commercially available in the US? Then this is the room for you. With distribution companies like Funimation and Anime Works putting their best on display, you’ll always find something fun that you can then find in the dealer’s room.
Fansub Room: Can’t wait for the latest shows from Japan? Then this room featuring anime with fan-made translation and subtitles should tie you over. The latest shows as soon as they’re subbed ready for your viewing pleasure.
Film Room/Omake room: Feel like a long story? Then watch any of the anime films playing during this room’s runtime. And it’s also where the Omake (extras) are played, including parody dubs and humor videos.
Asian Live Action Film Room: Interested in a Japanese drama? Chinese action? Korean comedy? Then this is the room to stop off at.
Nostalgia Room: My all-time favorite room, this has non-stop old school anime from the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. It’s like reliving my childhood all over again.
Marathon Room: One complaint made against a lot of anime is that there’s too many episodes for one story arc. In this room, several hours are dedicated to one anime at a time. Ever wanted to see the entirety of one show’s significant story arc? Get comfortable here and enjoy for as long as you can (Seriously though, the last show they marathoned ran for over 12 hours).
If it seems like I’m only scratching the surface, it’s because I am. Fanime is a massive event that can’t be summed up in a single sitting. Which is why during this week, I’m going to be uploading video interviews and my personal reviews of several anime I was fortunate enough to watch during this great convention. And while I may next year make my overview a little shorter, I just hope that I peak your curiosity enough that you may wish to attend next year. I know I’ll be there.