So, how did you spend your last wedding anniversary?
My wife and I spent ours at Anime North yesterday, and we had a blast!
It was out first ever time attending A.N., so we really didn't know what to expect, although I kind of expected it to be a fairly short day, and had no problems with having only arranged to go for the Saturday.
Man was I ever wrong!
As we drove down Dixon Road towards the Convention Centre, we could see streams of people, many of whom were in costume, walking on either side of the street and obviously with the same destination as us.
And my excitement started to build.
We parked the car at the Doubletree Hotel and joined in with the people heading towards the con, and were immediately struck by how many people were outside the building.
At first, I was a little concerned that it was going to be like Fan Expo, and we'd have to line up outside for half an hour or more in the cool and breezy morning air before we could get in, but the people outside weren't waiting on anything, they were all just hanging out, having fun with their friends or posing for, or taking pictures of the cosplayers.
To be honest, I could have spent hours looking at all the amazing costumes!
Unlike Fan Expo, where perhaps 10-20% of the attendees dress for the occasion, I think the cosplayers outnumbered the drabs at Anime North, and I think it could have easily been as entertaining to just sit outside all day and watch them go by.
That being said, despite the beautiful blue sky, it was pretty darned chilly for May 25th, and there was a convention going on inside, so we trundled ourselves to the entrance and got our badges and lanyards.
The scene just beyond the registration area was pretty unimpressive to be honest...
Just a big "warehouse" type area, with some folks at tables playing games and a long line of cosplayers having their weapons checked out for safety, (more on that later) and I was almost disappointed.
But we looked around a bit, then followed the crowd to the next hall.
This was better!
This hall was about the same size as the one we had just left, but it was filled with booths, and visions of figures, DVD's and Mangas began to dance through my imagination.
It turned out however, that this was the artist's hall, but because I absolutely love anime art there wasn't the slightest twinge of disappointment, and we spent the next hour or two going from booth to booth being amazed at how miraculously gifted some seemingly normal human beings can be.
I left the hall with 6 buttons, three 11x17 posters, two artist's collection books and at least half a dozen cards from artists whom I plan to check out more thoroughly online.
It was amazing!
Still, I had come to A.N. on a mission.
For the last two weeks, I'd been researching figures for some of my favourite characters, and was determined to leave the convention with at least one of them.
So once we'd seen everything in the artist's room, we followed the crowd to the Dealers Hall.
It was HUGE!!!
The con's literature had said there would be 300 dealers on-site, but that number hadn't prepared me for the sea of merchandise that appeared once we got into the actual marketplace.
It's a bit of a blur after that, as we just wandered from booth to booth, fighting our way through the crowd and, fully aware that our time was limited (there was still an anniversary dinner to attend to after all ) tried to take in as much as we possibly could.
Surprisingly enough, what I was after was in short supply though, probably because I've come to the party kind of late with regards to the anime's I've been watching, so there was no Nagisa Furukawa, and precious little in the way of Hatsune Miku or Misaka Makoto figures to be found, and what there was, was more expensive than the same things on Ebay.
Heck, almost everything that I was familiar with and had searched on Ebay could be found cheaper online, which I found to be very surprising. I mean, sure, the stuff that's rare and can't be found online, you expect to pay a premium for, but I saw DVD's selling for far more at A.N. than brand new sets cost at HMV, and Manga prices were only reduced to American cover price, which I can pay at any number of anime stores, so from a bargain hunter's standpoint, it was kind of a bust.
But for sheer volume and variety, I've never seen anything like it.
And despite finding nothing that I'd initially set out to buy, with the notable exception of some Vocaloids CD's, I still managed to drop over $300 on manga, and artsu, which isn't too bad at all.
Remember I mentioned the line-up for weapons check right after people registered?
That made a fair amount of sense to me, seeing as there were a lot of swords, scythes and other various potentially dangerous weapons being carried about. I'm sure most cosplayers keep safety in mind when designing their costumes, but it's better to be sure in a crowd of that size.
So it struck us as rather inconsistent that there should be booths in the dealers hall where there were some pretty serious and nasty weapons being sold. We didn't investigate all that thoroughly, and perhaps any purchases of serious weapons are handled in a way that would ensure they can't be used inappropriately while still on site at the con, but I kind of suspect there isn't.
It's hot in there!
Despite the temperature never reaching 15 celsius outside, it was hot in the dealer's hall.
As well as smelly.
People really need to shower before heading out for the day. And antiperspirant/deodorant is always a good idea when planning on being part of a huge crowd.
Anime people are amazing!
Some of the costumes we saw were so incredibly detailed and creative, and the enthusiasm with which people cosplayed their roles was honestly wonderful to see.
I've always admired those who are willing to simply immerse themselves in an event and ignore those who might snicker and make snide comments. I've never had that kind of courage myself, and I must admit to a twinge of envy when I see people being so uninhibited and having so much fun in the process.
To anybody who's ever walked the streets of their city or town, fully dressed as their favourite character, and had a blast doing so, my hat's off to you!
So all in all, it was a great day, and we'll definitely be going again next year.
We may be getting on in years, but there's nothing like surrounding yourself with people who love the same things you do to keep you young and enthusiastic about life.
And maybe, just maybe, by the time another year has passed, and Anime North comes around again, we'll have the nerve to join the majority and dress for the event.