In lieu of a formal report on New York Comic Con/Anime Fest (I am currently writing one for Real Otaku Gamer), I’ve decided to make this week’s post something of an exploration into one of the biggest “challenges” facing the anime community today. And by “challenges” I mean less of ‘this is something that needs to be overcome’ and more towards ‘how can we, as congoers, address this issue and incorporate it successfully.’ Please use similar discretion when looking towards any words framed in “” marks, as they will have dual meanings within the context of this discussion.
The following are the “minutes” of a conversation I had the other night on Twitter with a few of my colleagues. The topic is a familiar one to many of the “old guard” of anime fandom- how to “deal” with a changing landscape when it comes to anime cons in the 21st century. There are many sides to this debate, and this discussion only reflects one of them, but it is one of the larger, more prevalent arguments regarding what many see as a “dilution” of the fandom gathering.
Anyone who has been following me recently, be it on twitter or here, has noticed I do a good deal or arguing on the changing face of the modern anime convention. And anyone who has ever attended a con recently, whether or not they have done so in the past, would be hard pressed to not notice how much of it has skewed away from the “anime” in many regards, and jumped on the multi-fandom bandwagon. This can be seen as both good and bad.
On the one hand, it shows a level of unity that has emerged within the anime fan community. Whereas once they were seen as the “bastard child” of the fandom world, they have now taken their almost “mainstream” legitimacy and decided to extend a welcome to members of other fandoms. While hostility towards anime fans has been documented and reported at other fan gatherings, rarely are such thing seen at even the largest of anime cons. Otakon, for example, has photoshoots dedicated to almost any cosplayer, and Santa Claus has even been seen wandering the halls. Rather than seek to gain a sort of “revenge” on the other fandoms for years of mistreatment, many anime fans are welcoming, and indeed anyone can find a place there.
On the other hand, this does dilute the general idea of the anime con. How can a convention label itself as anime when it holds panels dedicated to other fandom pursuits? Case in point, AAC 2010 has scheduled not one, not two, but three panels dedicated to the steampunk movement, despite there being very little actual steampunk anime. Zombie afficionados are now present at every con, drawn in through ties to gaming series like Resident Evil and Silent Hill. And Katsucon 2010 hosted a panel entitled “Why Batman is Awesome” that had no connection to the rich history of the Japanese incorporating the Caped Crusader into their media.
Now, the general argument here is that organizers are looking for more attendees, and thus by opening their doors to fandoms of all types, they are increasing their viable pool of attendees. Larger numbers mean bigger guests, which mean even larger numbers. This is a tried and true method of growing your event. But the question at hand is: “How much fandom can a convention get before it no longer has the right to label itself an anime con?” Or for that matter, what denotes an anime con in this new millennium? This conversation is part of a much larger discussion.
MBeasi- @patachu I'm sure things are changing w/younger generations, but still... Otakon is pretty heavily "Yay Japan!"
Ed Sizemore- @mbeasi In true, Otakon is morphing into just a "Yay teens" convention. More about hanging out than anime/manga.
VinceA- @edsizemore This brings up an interesting question. How do you stop your con from becoming just another "Teen meetup" con
Studyofanime- @VinceA One could argue programming: I've heard a lot about the Providence con being so great because of panels.
Studyofanime- @edsizemore Hasn't that been the trend with most anime cons of late? They've evolved beyond their original scope.
Ed Sizemore- @Studyofanime Unfortunately, yes.
Ed Sizemore- @VinceA Probably can't completely, but can start by not making having a rave & by getting rid of non-anime/non-manga panels.
VinceA- @edsizemore Getting rid of the rave would be nigh-impossible but the panel thing is a possibility.
Studyofanime- @edsizemore What then, would be the litmus test for "non-anime" panels?
Ed Sizemore- @Studyofanime The zombie apocalypse comes to mind, unless it's tied directly to anime featuring zombies.
Studyofanime- @edsizemore Makes sense. But then you also need to ask: are organizers willing to turn off potential attendees for the cause of "purity?"
Ed Sizemore- @Studyofanime Are organizers? No. Am I? Yes.
Ed Sizemore- @Studyofanime It's a tough call to make. Organizers like numbers because it's money and that means more Japanese guests.
Studyofanime- @edsizemore And such goes the schism. All comes down to personal preference, then. I don't mind the multifandom aspects, but the memes...ugh
Ed Sizemore- @Studyofanime That's the rub, how much anime content is needed for it to still be an 'anime con'. Guess we'll find out in a few years.
Studyofanime- @edsizemore One could also argue that merging fandoms is good for the fandom community as a whole, as it fosters unity and common ground.
Studyofanime- @edsizemore But at the same time, then they would have to stop calling it an "anime" con.
Studyofanime- @edsizemore Here's a point: while panels have shifted into J-culture and other multifandom pursuits, notice how VIEWINGS have not.
Ed Sizemore- @VinceA See the rave is the first thing I want gone. I think it's also what draws so many non-fans.
Studyofanime- @edsizemore It definitely does, I agree. Kids who can't get into "adult" raves find them at cons. But what to replace it with? Formal balls?
Studyofanime- @VinceA Raves aren't their own fandom, really, they're more an activity that has broader appeal...to those young enough to participate.
VinceA- @Studyofanime Hmmm, so you're saying that intellectual 18+ panels would help. Another good idea
Studyofanime- @VinceA Well I notice from my panels that there is a definite current of people seeking more from their con than choruses of "buttscratcha."
Ed Sizemore- @Studyofanime @VinceA I can attest to that. Both his panels at NYAF were packed to capacity with people standing in the hall.
Studyofanime- @edsizemore Last Nekocon, I was up against the masquerade, and I still had 75 people in there. And look at "Anime in Academia," it draws.
Ed Sizemore- @Studyofanime Good point. I don't mind J-culture panels, since they help us understand anime/manga better.
Studyofanime- @edsizemore But that opens another can: what about J-panels that do NOT focus on anime concepts. Like J-Rock/music panels?
Ed Sizemore- @Studyofanime Yoko Kano, The Pillows, and Asian Kung-Fu Generation panels are all perfectly fine ;-)
Ed Sizemore- @Studyofanime Of course, with Marvel commissioning superhero anime and manga, we are seeing a blending of subcultures on industry level too.
VinceA- @Studyofanime This begs the question of how does one advertise that their con isn't a meme-yelling con. Quality of attendee over quantity.
Studyofanime- @VinceA I think it might go back to the old standard of "Word of Mouth." If you want to keep your con small, don't advertise publicly.