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Anime Lover's Guide to Major Conventions in The US
Anime, finally part of the American mainstream
Japanese anime, back in the 1980s and 1990s, was still part of America's underground culture. After 2000, the genre of Japanese animation (known as Japanimation, Japanese anime, or anime) gradually became mainstream. Before then, not many channels carried anime shows. In most cases, the one channel you could catch Anime was on the Cartoon Network during its Toonami and Adult Swim blocks. Notable shows were Mobile Suit Gundam Wing, Tenchi Muyo, Sailor Moon, Big O, Mobile Fighter G-Gundam, and Outlaw Star.
When Toonami got moved to the weekend, one notable showed that aired was Samurai Champloo. Adult Swim aired notable anime titles such as Cowboy Bebop and Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex. As the years passed, Japanese anime has infiltrated the American mainstream. The most popular anime titles such as Naruto, One Piece, and Bleach would air on the weekend Toonami block. For some time, .hack//SIGN was aired on Cartoon Network's Saturday afternoon block.
Other channels such as IFC (Independent Film Channel), Spike TV, and G4TV. In the case of IFC, notable titles were Samurai 7 and Witch Blade. Afro Samurai aired on Spike TV.
G4TV aired titles such as Gungrave and Last Exile.
Anime has fully penetrated mainstream entertainment across North America.
It has become one of Japan's biggest economic commodities. Over the years, anime conventions have popped up across North American and especially the United States.
The actors behind the voices weren't known much, but now we get to see their faces at the many conventions across the world.
Such examples are Tara Strong, Steven Blum, Yuri Lowenthal, Crispin Freeman, Johnny Yong Bosch, Roger Craig Smith, Beau Billingslea, Wendie Lee, Mary Elizabethy McGlynn, Tara Platt, Travis Willingham, Laura Bailey, Richard Epcar, D.C. Douglas, Chris Ayers, Kyle Hebert, Vic Mignogna, Derek Steven Prince, Christina Vee, and many others.
Also, there are franchises that have been converted into Japanese anime. One example would be Marvel Comics which has worked with Madhouse Studios.
Together, they produced anime adaptations of Iron Man, Wolverine, Blade, and X-Men. Perhaps they will do more together in the future. Even mainstream actors have caught wind of the continued popularity of the genre. Several anime titles have gone through or will be going through live-action adaptations.
If you are into anime, you are still a “cherry” until you've attended at least one convention.
But you may want to attend one of the bigger conventions as it draws in more people and bigger guests. Here are the conventions in alphabetical order:
Anime Boston is one of the biggest anime conventions to be held on the eastern seaboard of the United States. This convention is held once a year in the city of Boston, Massachusetts. According to the 2010 US Census report, the current population of Boston is almost 630K. The population of Boston is over half a million. This makes Boston an ideal place to have an anime convention.
Furthermore, Boston is one of the known “college” or “university towns” in the United States. You have places such as Boston College, Boston University, Boston Conservatory, Cambridge College, Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and many more. The median age of college students is grouped within the median age of people that enjoy Japanese anime.
Plus, you have to factor in the anime lovers from towns and cities close to Boston.
Anime Boston was first held in 2003. Since 2003, Anime Boston has grown larger and stronger. As of 2012, the attendance was a little over 22,000 attendees. This event is usually held between March and May.
Anime Central, also known as A-Cen, is one of the largest conventions in the Midwest. This convention is currently held every year in May, though it was held during April in the past, for three days. For all three days, Anime Central runs for 24 hours.
Meaning the fun does not stop for all three days.
This would entice anime fans to get tickets in advance, pack food, pack drinks, pack toiletries, and pack changes in clothing.
Currently it has the rank of 3rd in largest anime conventions in North America. The staff works at bringing in guests from home and abroad.
The concept was created by the Midwest Animation Promotion Society in 1996. The first A-Cen event was held in 1998. Since then, attendance has continued to increase. For A-Cen 2012, guest attendance was almost 25,400.
This convention is held annually in Rosemont, Illinois. It is located directly northwest of Chicago, which has a population of a little over 2,700,000 people. For anime lovers living in Chicago, Anime Central is definitely a must-attend event. This convention is consistently held at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center.
Anime Expo or "AX"
Out of all the anime conventions in the United States, Anime Expo or “AX” takes the cake as being the largest. The convention is held every year in Los Angeles, California. In most cases, AX is held on the July 4th weekend and runs for four days. This is convenient as July is when most students go on summer vacation. This is perhaps the biggest must-attend anime conventions in the world let alone the United States. AX drives in much revenue from the attendees. This convention holds valuable connections with the anime and video game industries.
This convention is organized every year by the Society for the Promotion of Japanese Animation.
AX means four days of fun and entertainment. There are many events such as: cosplay contests, AMV competitions, charity auctions, arcades, concerts, guest panels, gaming competitions, and many more. If you have attended anime conventions in the past, you may want to attend AX. Los Angeles is an ideal place due to the many voice actors working there American branches of Japanese companies are headquartered in Japan.
In 2012, attendance was 49,400 unique and 130,000 turnstile. This is the one anime convention in the United States that draws in the biggest crowd. If you wish to attend AX, be sure to get your tickets early.
This is the one convention where attendees can get the latest info on soon to be dubbed titles and video games.
Anime Weekend Atlanta
Anime Weekend Atlanta, known as AWA, is the largest anime convention to take place in the south let alone southeastern United States. It is held each year in Atlanta, Georgia mainly in the month of September. It is organized by Anime Weekend Atlanta, Inc. which is registered as a for-profit. If you live within or near Atlanta, then AWA is the place to go during September. Like most other conventions, AWA usually lasts for three days.
While AWA is usually run in September, the weekend dates tend to change. It can happen early, mid, or late-September. This convention seems to have a good relationship with anime fans as the event has many fan-driven events. Like any other convention, AWA has industry panels, workshops, voice actor panels, anime screenings, and vendors.
Originally held in 1995, it has increased in popularity in the coming years. For AWA 2012, attendance was almost 13,500 people. Of all the conventions to take place in the southeast United States, AWA is the major convention. Thus, this is one of the major conventions of the United States.
Katsucon is one of the biggest conventions to be held in Washington DC or Maryland. Depending on the year, Katsucon can be held in the District or Maryland depending on conditions and so forth. This event is organized by Katsucon Entertainment, Inc. This convention is held during late-Winter in February over Presidents Day weekend.
If you're living in Washington DC, southern Maryland (SoMD), or northern Virginia (NoVA), then this is the convention to attend. Like other conventions, Katsucon is usually held for three days.
For Katsucon 2012, attendance was a little over 12,600. Attendance could be bigger for Katsucon 2013 which takes place from February 15 until February 17.
Usually, Katsucon takes place in Washington DC. Recently, in the last few years, the new location of Katsucon is National Harbor, MD. In 2010, Katsucon had a relatively small attendance due to the blizzard that struck the area that year.
Those living in the area are lucky because they get to attend Katsucon in January and then attend the larger Otakon later in the summer. As of 2012, the location for AnimeUSA (taking place each November) has changed from Virginia to Washington DC.
Otakon, short for Otaku Convention, is a convention for otakus (hardcore fans) of anime and video games. This is the second largest anime convention in the United States. This convention is organized by Otakorp, Inc. As this is the second largest anime convention in the United States, Otakon is the largest anime conventions in the east coast of the United States.
Like AX, in Los Angeles, Otakon has an extensive program with many things to do. Such examples are: multiple video rooms that view anime, live-action East Asian films, fan-made AMVs, fan-made parodies; voice acting panels; manga drawing panels; Japanese culture panels; industry panels; skit-based masquerade shows; art events; musical performances; dealers' room; video, computer, and arcade gaming; and the “Otakurave.”
As Otakon started in the early 1990s, it gradually grew in attendance. For Otakon 2012, attendance was almost 36,000. Like AX, Otakon is one of the major conventions to attend. This convention attracts attendees from Maryland, Washington DC, and northern Virginia.
UPDATE - 1/5/2018
Otakon has moved from Baltimore to Washington DC and will now be held at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.
A-Kon, used to be known as Project: A-Kon, is the largest anime convention in the south. It is held annually in Dallas, Texas. Of all the conventions in the world, A-Kon has been active the longest. A-Kon was around over a decade before Japanese anime had reached American mainstream audiences. This is a good convention to volunteer for due to getting benefits. If you work at least sixteen hours during the weekend, you get a free pass to the convention. If you work at least twenty hours, provided you're at least 18, you can receive a hotel room with three other staff members.
Like other conventions, A-Kon is held for three days. Each year, A-Kon takes place usually during the first weekend of June.
Such events in the program are: film screenings, TV screenings, artist panels, voice actor pannels, a Dance Dance Revolution room, an art show, Japanese band concerts, cosplay events, and martial arts demonstrations.
Texas is one of the four locations in the United States to find employment as an anime voice actor. This is because you have ADV Studios in Houston and FUNimation Studios in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. The other three locations for anime voice acting work are: Los Angeles, New York City, and Vancouver.
Sakura-Con is the largest anime convention in the Pacific northwest of the United States. It is organized by the Asia Northwest Cultural Education Association (ANCEA). This convention is usually held during either March or April. So far, the location has remained constant as Sakura-Con continues to be held at the Washington State Convention center.
The first Sakura-Con was held in 1998. This idea came from a group of people from the local science-fiction community. According to those people, who are anime fans, felt that there was not enough anime-related content being represented at conventions such as Norwescon which is one of the largest regional sci-fi and fantasy conventions.
Programming is similar to other anime let alone major anime conventions. It does work with the Make-A-Wish Foundation for a charity auction. There are many contests in subjects such as: fan-fiction, karaoke, AMVs, and cosplay.
Originally, it started out as a local event. As the years went by, attendees came from outside Seattle. It event attracted fans that live in Vancouver, Canada; thus, Sakura-Con is one of the largest American-Canadian anime conventions. Vancouver is known to be one of the four locations in North America for anime work with notable dubbed titles such as Gundam 00, Gundam SEED, Black Lagoon, and Inuyasha.
For Sakura-Con 2012, estimated attendance was over 20K.
This is a relatively new major convention.
The expo is created by the popular streaming anime platform known as Crunchyroll to celebrate reaching 1 million subscribers.
Crunchyroll Expo will likely be held each year in August at Santa Clara, California.
That is where the inaugural event kicked off.
AnimeCons.com reports that the attendance for Crunchyroll Expo 2017 is estimated at 16K.
These are the major anime conventions in the United States. As the years pass, they will continue to grow in attendance. However, do not overlook a convention because the attendance is smaller. There are plenty of great conventions that have smaller numbers of attendance. These people organize conventions because they simply love the culture of anime. No matter how big or small, these are places where anime lovers can connect and industry professions can interact with their fans and supporters.