[OpEd] What’s Up With Anime Cons?


New year. New listing for conventions. I live in California, specifically the greater Los Angeles suburbs. Now…we’re allegedly a thriving community with no shortage of conventions. Even after the Great Lockdown of 2020, Los Angeles geek events came back in full force. People wanted to do things again. Conventions started springing up after a year or two of shutdown. And what I am seeing, at least in Southern California, is a new normal. There’s something going on somewhere in Southern California every weekend be it a weekend convention or one day anime themed artist market. There’s a lot of benefits to this – most of these events and affordable and give younger weebs a space to hang out with likeminded weebs. 

Anime Culture Experience 2022 in Torrance. One day artist alley event at the mall.

As a preface, I’ve gone on record saying that the types of events I am to describe are great value events if you’re looking for voice actors and are a family with young children looking for something to do for a day. These venues have even been spaces for my idol friends to perform. These types of events have a place and time. I’ll even show up if given the opportunity and the time. However, there’s something missing from these events. I’ve attended several of these and I sense a pattern.

A trend of 2-day / 8 hour American voice actor focused events have popped up in recent years

Having a space for cosplay, photos, and hanging out with friends is totally fine. But every now and then, I’d like to check out programming, guests, and other things that I can do that only a convention can offer. I love taking selfies with idols, voice actors, and mingling with content creators. Yet, I’ve noticed there’s been a trend of cookie cutter style conventions that are cutting corners of what makes anime conventions unique. To paraphrase what a convention running colleague and veteran once said, anime conventions when they first popped up were meant to be immersive experiences you could not get elsewhere. They were the once a year Disney World trip providing a unique experience you could not get anywhere else. 

My biggest critique of Anime Impulse OC was the lack of staff available by the line. Simple things like an info desk to help with registration problems make a difference!

First of all, while I have been a panelist at Anime Pasadena and Anime Las Vegas, I felt that programming and panels offered the same content. If you went to Anime Pasadena, Anime Las Vegas was a copy and paste version of it. While it’s ran by the same organizers, but I feel that every convention experience should be unique. Perhaps it was unique to Las Vegas, but Las Vegas has a very unique otaku, j-fashion and cosplay community different from Los Angeles. I would have loved to have seen Cosplay Academy’s team run panels and events at Anime Las Vegas. 

A lack of chairs at panels is a problem for those with accessible needs.

And therein lies my first problem with these events – the lack of fan and community submitted content. For Anime Pasadena, I was privileged to know people on the inside, but it was a struggle for my fellow panelists and event runners to get their content into these events. We love running events, performances, and doing presentations. We love giving back. Yet, we have to question ourselves every time an event rejects the content we want to deliver if this convention is really for fans and by fans. A lot of us started as casual congoers and the older we get, we do want to stay in fandom and we do want to give back. Thus, there’s plenty of us who are hungry and eager to be a part of it. We were never asked or given opportunity.

Don’t just hire influencers to run your programming, so many us convention vets would love to give back!

And this may be a SoCal exclusive problem, but our fan run anime conventions is not as peak as it was. Anime Expo looks more for industry and educational panels. They are one of the more highly selective programming committees. Anime Los Angeles has provided us 1-3 panels for the two years we have attended in the new Long Beach era, but we also have to consider the limited amount of space for panel and live  programming. Wonder Con and San Diego Comic Con are huge events, but also have highly selective programming selection. Panelists and folks who love to run game shows or other pieces of live programming don’t have too many options with the lack of fan panel or event submission. 

Ask the community and we can deliver comedy shows, ballroom dances, and more!

I’ve alluded in my Anime Impulse OC 2023 report was the lack of accessibility. I made this public in my socials. The lack of seats at panel stages made it hard for folks who cannot stand for long periods of time difficult to enjoy. The lack of seats at these panel stages also make it hard for shorter people to view what is going on stage. Additionally, a cosplay contestant at one of the Anime Impulse events who would like to remain anonymous shared their experience with Anime Impulse’s disregard for accessibility: 

We were given no place to sit, no understanding of how long we would be there, no water aside from a questionable wall fountain (during COVID). and no instructions beyond what was happening that exact second, and were told that if we left, we would potentially forfeit our spot in the contest. As I’m disabled, I use a wheelchair in situations where standing is required for an extended period of time, especially on concrete or other hard surfaces. Had we known what the pre-judging process would be, we would have brought mine from home, or asked for accommodations (more than the single bent plastic folding chair in the contestant enclosure). The time spent waiting in this enclosure caused injury to me so severe I was unable to walk for days after the convention….When we raised these concerns with the staff in charge of the cosplay contest, we were shrugged off, and made to feel like our issues were overblown and unimportant.

What is more infuriating is that these events reward content creators who rely on clickbait as a means of attention. I admit, I’m not perfect either and in my journey as a convention blogger of 20 years, there’s always something to be learned. Yet, when a Youtuber’s tagline for their con report is “I Got Banned From Anime Impulse” to then later appear as a guest, you have to question what’s going on. 

Clickbait beware!

Clickbait beware!

And then gets invited as a guest of honor at Anime Impulse LA 2024

I also have no problems with cosplayers as guests at events, but if a con is going to invest in cosplayers at an event, please find ways for these talented folks to contribute to these events by hosting panels, workshops, judging the cosplay contest. And if you plan to have cosplayers as guests, please consider having a cosplay contest. At Anime Impulse OC 2023, there wasn’t a cosplay contest at all. You could get more cosplay talent coming in if you host one. You could get more talent coming in by investing in cash prizes in place of a simple trophy when you invest in having a main stage cosplay contest. I can guarantee, if you invest in researching talented craftspeople in your community, you can find someone to help host and run an amazing cosplay competition. There’s people in your community that have the experience and means to do so that might not have the millions of followers you would expect, but have the years of experience that you need and will be a valuable asset. 

Bring in cosplay events – comedy shows, cosplay lip sync, contests, jfashion catwalks, cosplay chess, etc!

Additionally, we also need to protect each other in our community. I can only speak on Southern California alone, but there are local events I refuse to cover and give publicity to because of sketchy management ran by alleged s*x pests / cuties fans. It is sad that my hometown one day convention has an event ran by someone with a documented history of abuse and that their event bluntly uses AI in their advertising. Even with it’s one day pricing and close proximity for travel, this event already has a reputation being ran by sketchy people. Word of mouth travels fast. Another local anime convention popped up during the summer. Unfortunately, it was held during the same weekend of a major hurricane occurring in Los Angeles. However, the convention organizer ignored city warnings and refused to refund attendees, artists, and vendors giving them the choice of – risk one’s safety coming into the convention or loose money. Because of this, I’m very careful about what conventions I want to focus on, but I also keep these sketchy events and organizers noted. 

Posting Cyril Sneer just because.

There have been an increasing number of “fly-by-night” events. Southern California was promised “Oldtaku Con” in April 2024. As someone who is well connected in the “oldtaku” spaces, I never seen these organizers reach out to us for programming ideas, guesting opportunities, seminars, and meetups. While the convention cites the organizers as “convention royalty,” I never seen these monarchs ask the people they subject to help out or staff. Again, there is a hunger for retro anime themed events, even among Gen Alpha and Gen Z. 

“Japanimaton” is so…weaboomer

A friend also saw that there was an “Anime and Tattoo Expo” in downtown Los Angeles at the dreaded Los Angeles Convention Center. The event hypes itself up to be the best of its kind but I never heard of it until now. The text appears generic and has AI vibes. It’s marketing hype speak, and I’m not convinced to attend. There’s a handful of voice actor guests, but I know I can see them at the next major Southern California event. The company running it talks a big game of having ran successful events in the past, yet does not cite any previous events it ran. I’d rather go to cottagecore weekend at the Renn Faire the weekend this is happening.

Did AI write this?

No examples of events cited. Is this a money laundering scheme?

My advice is to be a picky consumer in regards to which events you attend. If you’re a convention organizer reading this, invest in your local community. Don’t just have the same people provide your convention entertainment. Change it up a bit! I have friends who would love to do wrestling shows, cosplay workshops, lend their time in organizing costume contests, J-fashion shows, game shows, and more. Followers and like count and popularity don’t necessarily make for a good presentation, but investing time in your community and what’s out there does. 

Researching events, asking the right questions, etc before you attend a con makes all the difference.

I can only speak for the Great Los Angeles area. We’re very privileged to have so many cons and events throughout the year. Yet, I can only pick and choose which events I can go to. Realistically, I can’t do them all. Cosplay and conventions are a fine escape, but I also need free weekends to rest and rot. But ask any Los Angeles area otaku and they’ll tell you that they’re burned out from Anime Expo and looking for something like a weekender like Anime Los Angeles. I feel that anime conventions and pop culture adjacent conventions need to step up their game – give audiences something different; do be another voice actor zoo. Don’t be a quick cash grab. Do remember to prioritize fans and giving them an event they will remember.

And no creeps allowed.

Written by Cosplay Ancestor EriIG: @cosplayancestoreri Twitter: @dameaznable TikTok: @cosplayancestoreri

Written by Cosplay Ancestor Eri IG: @cosplayancestoreri Twitter: @dameaznable TikTok: @cosplayancestoreri

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