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What Do You Do at Anime Conventions?
If you have not attended a comic convention or anime convention, you have not lived. I kid you not. These events are some of the most enjoyable, cathartic, interesting, inspiring, and exhausting activities in which one can engage.
Believe me. I have jumped off cliffs and out of planes. I have traveled the world; climbed mountains in China, snorkeled in subterranean caves in Mexico, visited holy caves in Japan, and snacked on the perfect creme brulee in Paris. And never have I experienced anything quite so overwhelming as an anime/comic con.
Below is an outline of 12 awesome things to do at comic and anime conventions. These are, of course, only some of the many, many awesome things you may experience should you ever attend one. If you're a seasoned convention-goer, I hope you feel as warmly about these activities as I do. If you're a convention virgin, I hope I may inspire you to take the plunge.
If you're a true fan, you'll not only attend comic conventions and anime conventions, but also attend them in costume. Dressing up in costume, known as cosplaying, is one of the coolest and most enjoyable things you can do at an anime or comic convention!
If you have the time and resources, I recommend you really put some work into your costume. Cosplaying is a form of performance art, after all, and showing up in a $20 Halloween costume is, well, downright disappointing (though plenty of people do it, so if that was your plan, don't worry- you're in good company). Those who come to conventions in full-out epic costumes become temporary GODS. Who would not want in on some of that action?
If you're going to an anime convention or comic convention with a group of friends, consider going in costume as a team! Group costumes are more fun for everyone- onlookers, photographers, and the cosplayers themselves! You and your buddies can even work on special group poses and fun in-character pranks you can play throughout the convention weekend. It'll be AWESOME.
My personal favorite thing to do at comic conventions and anime conventions is take pictures- and LOTS of them. You'll be amazed at how many stock photo opportunities there are at conventions - each time I go to one, I find myself using the resulting photos for years and years afterwards.
Cosplayers, are, of course, the most interesting thing to photograph at these conventions - where else will you see so many people dressed so outrageously! Sure, Halloween is good for costumes, but convention cosplay brings costume-wearing to an entirely new level.
When taking photos at conventions, take full advantage of the front of the convention center and areas near entrances when shooting. These areas have the most space and the most natural light, plus they have higher cosplayer concentrations, and those in costume will be more amenable to being photographed as they're not trying to learn/buy/sell/eat anything. Most convention centers also have interesting architectural elements outside that make for better backdrops than booths and crowded indoor hallways.
If you're shy, don't be afraid to ask cosplayers to take a photo of them- it is common practice to photograph cosplayers and nobody showing up to a convention in costume is going to get pissed if you try to take their photo so long as they're not busy with something else. If you're so shy that you don't even want to ask, however, just trail some other more experienced photographers and snap photos once they ask cosplayers to strike a pose.
Anime conventions and comic cons would not have much of an excuse for existing if they did not bring in interesting speakers and personalities, and these panels and appearances make up a huge proportion of these events' draw.
Make sure that you check schedules and the website ahead of time and that you create a game plan regarding panels and other special events that you want to attend when you go to a convention. It's easy to let time fly by and you just might miss seeing Neil Gaiman talk about his experience writing for Doctor Who! Also, be sure to calculate some lead time into panel attendance- especially if you want to see someone particularly noteworthy or famous speak- as often long lines form ahead of time and only the early birds are able to make it in before meeting rooms reach capacity.
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You can always tell when an anime or comic convention is in town- the attendees are easy to spot! Convention-goers of the anime and comic persuasion have a sort of look to them, even when they're not cosplaying, and seeing so many in one place is both heartening and awesome, since usually comic and anime fans are more widely dispersed- not to mention frequently closeted or reclusive.
Anime and comic conventions are therefore great places to meet other people who share your likes and interests. Take advantage of the gathering to make some new friends!
A NOTE OF CAUTION: You'll not be the only one attending this convention looking to make friends, or... more than friends. I once made the mistake of attending a "Nerd Courting Panel" (I wanted to know what "Nerd Courting" was!!!) which turned out to be FULL of guys on the prowl. Boy, was that ever a mistake! Just be careful about what messages you might send by any panels you attend! Oh, laugh now, but you'll see!!!
Some anime and comic conventions have several rooms devoted JUST to the screening of old television shows and movies. These ROCK! Not only will you get to watch some very hard-to-find cult classics, but you'll also get to enjoy a bit of a break from the nonstop walking of convention life. Many people utilize screening rooms for sleep. Not that I recommend that. But it's an option.
See Live Music
In addition to seeing movies and television series, you may also have the opportunity to see some live music! Some anime conventions I have attended have small concerts with J-rock or J-pop celebrities. They're great fun, but if you want in, you might have to pay for a special VIP pass or spend all day holding your place in line. That said, convention lines are just about the coolest lines EVER. The overheard conversations are choice, the people-watching is superb, and you'll be glad just to have an excuse to stop walking for once.
Stalk Your Favorite Artists
The Artist's Alley of any comic or anime convention is where the real action is. If you are familiar with major illustrators, you will certainly get a kick out of meeting some of them in person and perhaps getting some signed, original work for your personal collection.
You will also likely enjoy browsing through the work of more obscure artists- they offer everything from fun fan fiction to awesome original pieces. No matter what, you will find no shortage of talent and artistic stimulation and inspiration!
Ooooh boy, do things ever get weird at conventions! People really let their freak flags fly, in the most awesome and glorious ways possible.
The collective excitement of being with other fans who... well, just get it, is enough to make a great number of typically reclusive or shy people loosen up and let go.
Sometimes people get rowdy- running around like mad, darting from event to event, and getting involved in heated debates. Sometimes people get goofy, playing jokes, horsing around, singing, and dancing. And sometimes people get... physical!
Yeah, I remember when I first encountered the "glomping" trend. To glomp is to sort of hug-tackle someone, and for a while, it was all the rage amidst young anime convention-goers. People would run around glomming each other and laughing like loons. Some people even walked around with signs reading "glomp me."
The "glomp me" trend has been replaced with the tamer "hug me" trend, which is a bit less violent, but also less hilarious. At any rate, it's nice to see some euphoric contact amongst those who are typically quite reserved.
I have yet to attend an anime or comic convention that has no games at all. The best ones have full-out gaming rooms complete with tabletop board games, PC and console games, and full-out arcade games. Some even hold small gaming competitions.
While I have never spent much time gaming at conventions, I have friends who have completely disappeared into game rooms for the entire event. I suppose one of the big draws is the wide selection of games to play, plus the chance to play them with other pros. Some conventions also offer sneak peeks at new games and consoles provided by convention sponsors, so attendees get the chance to be the first to try out new tech.
Conventions typically host multiple contests. Some are official and broad- organized by the people who put on the convention. Among the very best of these are cosplay contests that include hilarious skits. Other contests are presented by individual artists, groups, panels, and sellers- these can be simple as drawings and as elaborate as singing and dancing competitions.
Get in on the fun! The prizes you stand to win are fun, but the experience is even more enjoyable. I'll never forget a drawing contest I entered at my first ever anime convention. We were supposed to draw some anime character- I can't remember who. I couldn't draw anime characters if my life depended on it, so I drew a piece of cake instead. And by popular vote, I won. It was a major upset. One of my fellow competitors ate my winning drawing several hours after the contest. Such are the shenanigans of convention contests.
Party Like Mad
A convention would not be complete without a grand party, and nearly every anime or comic convention has one, if not more than one, ball, masquerade, or huge, loud evening get-together. Some are low-key come-and-go-as-you-please affairs that only require general registration and have no dress code; others are more structured and may even involve special competitions or celebrity appearances. Be sure to get all the details on the convention site so that you can plan ahead.
Shop ‘Till You Drop
Both dealer rooms and artist alleys are chock full of merch to buy. Finding something you want will not be an issue; affording everything and managing to carry everything will be.
The key to shopping at conventions is to pace yourself. Scan all of your options first. Work out a budget and establish priorities for your money. Decide what you must have and what you would like to have. Buy the things you must have immediately to ensure you get what you want before it sells out. Everything else should be purchased at the very last moment when sellers want to unload cumbersome stock.
Not being particularly attached to buying anything, I don't typically spend a lot of time shopping, however at one anime convention I have attended regularly, I regularly volunteer two or three hours of work at one commercial booth in exchange for a certain value of merchandise. Working at a booth rocks - everyone comes to you and interacts with you: no effort required! Getting some free stuff at the end is only a bonus. So if you see some grey market opportunity for work-merch exchange, go for it.
What's the best thing about shopping at conventions? You come home with souvenirs that will always remind you of the amazing time you had.
Go for it!
I hope you give one of these conventions a visit. If you're not already convinced of their awesomeness... there is no hope for you my friend. No hope at all.
Amelia on June 12, 2019:
I have recently became obsessed of the idea to dress up when it's not Halloween! I mean, you get to run around with crazy people who love the same thing as you. I personally have never gone to a convenient but this makes me want to go even more! Plus the idea of people glomping each other sounds amazing! This definitely makes me want to go!
James H from Washington, DC (MD side) on December 02, 2016:
Hi. I'm late to the party but wanted to say I enjoyed the article. The glomping vid was funny (I've had a friend or two do this to me and knock me over).
I'm a looooong-time nerd, geek, dweeb, whatever it is that sets me apart from regular folks. Been going to cons since Balticon 19 (Balticon 50 was just a few months ago) so I'm considered a "seasoned veteran." lol
I like all the subject areas you hit on - as I think I've done all of them - but I would like to add on to the photography and cosplay section. I am a cosplay photographer (as well as a cosplayer) and costume role-playing is very close to my heart.
My golden rule is to always, always, always ask the cosplayer for his/her photograph. Barring not begin able to get permission beforehand (say you take a pic of someone from across a crowded area), seek out the cosplayer afterwards to get their okay on your photo. If they don't like it and ask you to delete it, respect their wishes and trash it.
And if a cosplayer doesn't give you the go-ahead to take her/his picture, respect them and don't take their photo. Don't be *that* person, don't be a schmuck, or follow Wheaton's Law, "Don't be a dick."
I can't tell you how many times I've witnessed guys harassing a female cosplayer. I get that she is beautiful and titillating and *may* be a fantasy figure for you but he/she didn't sign up for your personal fantasy (trust me, there are external web sites for this). It sucks and if she is unable to deflect the guy or guys, I do try to step in with, "Hi! I missed you at the last photo-shoot. Can we do something now?" while giving her a wink and body motions at the guy(s) not getting the hint. It also helps that I'm a big guy (6'2" 265 lbs) and resemble a biker. ;-)
May I add that attendees should try to be nice and polite at cons. You're with fellow fans that share your interests. They are a part of your extended family. Enjoy your time at the con. You'll meet some awesome folks, become friends with some, or every now and again some more blooms from this.
I had to chuckle at the "Nerd Courting" portion. Yeah, some guys are bad about this; it's as if the female fans have a blinking neon sign saying, "GOOD EATS HERE". There are always hook-ups at cons and guys - in general - live for the hope of this happening.
Elizabeth Harp from Arkansas, USA on December 25, 2014:
I'd always wondered why hugging was so popular at cons! The more you know, huh? Though I wish I could've seen the glomping bit, I must admit that if someone had done that when I was a con noob, I'd have been terrified.
Naomi Starlight from Illinois on March 26, 2012:
The spammers seem to be getting bad on here, I had one on one of my posts. Good thing you can delete that!
Simone Haruko Smith (author) from San Francisco on January 27, 2012:
Hehee, how can one NOT be passionate about conventions! Thanks for stopping by, RachaelLefler!
Naomi Starlight from Illinois on January 22, 2012:
This is so true, full of great information, I love your enthusiasm and passion for the topic. Cons rule!!!
yourmooseyfate on December 31, 2011:
lmao the glomping vidoe!!!! poor kakashi ^.^
Simone Haruko Smith (author) from San Francisco on November 18, 2011:
That makes two of us, cepheid! I bet you can find one pretty easily online. Gotta love trollfaces indeed!
Christopher P from Estonia on November 15, 2011:
Really want that f**k yeah! mask, I wonder where can I buy one of that? Gotta love those troll faces, especially the you-mad-bro? one. :)
Sadlyanotaku on June 02, 2011:
OMG did you see the FMA ENVY in the glomp vid? GO ENVY!!
celeBritys4africA from Las Vegas, NV on May 06, 2011:
I love the video!
Simone Haruko Smith (author) from San Francisco on April 07, 2011:
Oh lucky you! I've always wanted to check out a Star Trek convention. I hope you make it to Comic-Con someday! Heck, I hope I do, too! It is one of the best, after all XD
Mohan Kumar from UK on April 07, 2011:
I am a mad comic fan and have always wanted to go to San Diego Comic con, an event I follow online and through articles. Maybe I will do it soon... love your article and the various activities available for us comic fans. I once accompanied a friend to a Star Trek con to see what these conventions are all about and I fully agree with you on the 'overwhelmed' feel you get as a con virgin! phew! I also sensed a subtle snobbery from the veterans! voted up.
Ancillotti from Brasil, Vitoria - ES on April 06, 2011:
I was willing to participate in these conventions ... a lack of courage!
Simone Haruko Smith (author) from San Francisco on April 06, 2011:
Oh yeah! WunderCon ROCKS!!
The Jet from The Bay on April 05, 2011:
I've been to WonderCon a couple of times -- very fun indeed.
Simone Haruko Smith (author) from San Francisco on April 05, 2011:
@Andrew- LOL I know! That glomping video made my lifetime too. Ah, so many good memories. Poor Kakashi cosplayer. I think they are the hardest hit. I mean, who can restrain themselves?
And jcnasia- oh my god- an anime and marriage conference in the same area??? That's epic! Hahaaa!!!
jcnasia on April 05, 2011:
I was at a marriage conferences in D.C. and it just happened to be that we were sharing the hotel with an anime conference. It was pretty funny to see the two types of people together--suburban couples holding hands and wearing sweaters and then Elmo, the Crocodile Hunter, a star trooper, and countless other amazing cosplayers. My wife and I really enjoyed watching all the cosplayers while wearing out sweaters.
Andrew Gubb from Barcelona, Spain on April 05, 2011:
This article was worth it just for the glomping video. You've made my day... no, my lifetime.