Some of us have already gotten a taste of the 2014 conventions with the small-ish spring convention that was J-Fest. There was an immediate difference because the venue was different, with an emphasis on a larger central dealers hall/artist alley.
2014 will see more interesting changes compared to previous years. One of the biggest change is Northwest Fan Fest. This is a convergence of three popular Vancouver conventions – Cos & Effect, Anime Evolution, and Vancouver Gaming Expo.
In 2012 and 2013, we saw a huge growth in the number of conventions during the summer for anime fans to attend. This worked out to be a double-edged sword. The good thing was it made the Vancouver anime community seem much more developed. The problem was that it really wasn’t, and it brought an over-saturation of events that local fans felt was “too much”.
At the same time, I don’t know how I feel about this convergence yet. The differences between Cos & Effect and Anime Revolution seemed incredibly slight, considering the venue was the same place, I saw the same people cosplaying, the same artists and dealers, and some similar events. It seems like a good idea to merge these events together – there will be an increase in attendance, costs will definitely be lower for the organizations, and it will be a more encompassing, broader scope. The less popular conventions will see more exposure too. However, I don’t see attendance increasing a significant amount. Not as much as three separate conventions would yield.
The biggest thing I like about these conventions though, is that the Artist Alley is public space. You don’t need to buy a ticket to check out the amazing local talent. This brings a lot of good exposure to the artists trying to make it big. The venue (UBC) also features a very open outdoors area for people wanting to roam around outside of the convention boundaries. Since it’s usually a beautiful and hot summer day, cosplayers and photographers can enjoy congregating outside with beautiful natural lighting conditions, and spectacular Vancouver summer weather. The dealer’s hall and the conventions’ panels are off limits to those without a ticket of course.
I don’t foresee this great part of the conventions changing.
Here are some great photos from Anime Evolution and Cos & Effect 2013.
A larger anime con of Vancouver is one much younger than Anime Evolution, and that’s Anime Revolution. I still have mixed feelings about Anime Revolution. They are obviously trying to create a much larger, more commercial convention, allocating a very large budget to their marketing materials and hosting their event at the Vancouver Convention Centre. But I don’t think the local anime community is quite big enough to support this. Just like the venue they chose, AR is attempting to fit into pants that are still slightly too big for them. While they did get a lot of attendees, the convention halls seemed too big and a little empty compared to the more compact venue of AE and C&E at UBC.
What they have done, is create an amazing marketing front to boost the popularity of the local anime scene. We’re seeing a larger attendance from people outside of the Vancouver area. With a large and healthy dealer’s hall, an incredible number of panels, concerts, a cute little maid cafe, and popular guests including Jessica Nigri, AR seems like it has a lot of potential.
Here are some great photos from Anime Revolution 2013
There are still also some great smaller conventions during the summer too. While they don’t sport as many attendees as the other major ones, they’re incredibly fun, community-driven, and niche specific. Two that I can think of off the top of my head are MiniComi, which is a small convention solely focused on artists, and Summer Fest, which while supposedly a convention embracing Japanese culture, is more trying to mimic an anime matsuri festival.
Besides these anime events, there are a couple more cultural oriented Vancouver events that see some occasional cosplay, but more things to buy. This includes the Japan cultural festival, and the summer night markets in Richmond. All are free, or close to free events.
So why talk about these local events despite my blog targeting a global audience? While Vancouver isn’t yet a hub for anime fans to gather, such as Seattle with Sakura-Con or Anime Expo in Los Angeles, it’s definitely a growing one that’s become comparable to even some conventions in South East Asia. With events like AR, and even the larger all-encompassing Vancouver FanExpo, the local anime scene here is only going to get bigger. It’s definitely worth your while to attend if you can, and it’s also a place you can move to and enjoy the anime scene, if you have considered moving here!
Sites you may want to check out: