Ahh Anime North, possibly my favourite three days of the year. When I was a kid, I absolutely loved Halloween. Dressing up as characters and creatures helped my already huge imagination run wild. But as I got older, Halloween became less about candy and awesome costumes, and more about partying, and so I haven’t celebrated Halloween in quite some time. I’m not too bummed about this though, because Anime North has been functioning as a replacement for halloween for the past three years, and I love it even more! I mean, it’s three days instead of one night, you’re guaranteed to have common interests with most of the attendees, and the skill level and creativity of the costuming is often fantastic.
For those who are less familiar with the convention scene, Anime North is a fan-run convention held annually in Toronto, Ontario. Some of its main attractions include a costume contest called the Masquerade, Panels in which fans discuss their favourite animes, video games, music, manga, and many other topics with knowledgeable individuals on the subject, a Dealers Room, Artist’s Gallery, Comic Market, Gaming, Contests, Dances, Themed Cafes, and meet/greets with guests of honour like voice actors. The convention is quite large; in 2012 approximately 20,000 people came to the Toronto Congress Center to enjoy the geeky festivities.
The main reason I attend Anime North is for the cosplays. I probably spend nearly half the time just wandering the convention, viewing and taking photographs of skillfully made costumes of my favourite characters. This year featured some amazing work, like the lovely Nayru above, and Kamina below!
The main events I attended were the Masquerade, Charity Cosplay Cafe, Fashion Show, and of course I checked out the Dealers Room and Comic/Art market. The Masquerade is one of Anime North’s biggest events, and frequently sells out the first day of the convention, despite being held on the second. Participants in the Masquerade create costumes in either the Young Fan Division (division for children), Novice, Journeyman, Artisan or Master divisions, with each division rising in skill level. Competitors may choose to perform a small skit when they show off their costume, or they may simply pose on stage. Unfortunately I didn’t get photographs from this event, as they don’t allow flash photography, but a few notable costumes include Halsemon, a hilarious Fire Emblem skit in which two characters, who are unable to marry in the game, confess their love to one another and rip up Nintendo signs, Hero’s Shade from Twilight Princess, MetaRidley, and a Dragon from Skyrim who’s name I cannot remember at the moment, but was incredible.
The Cosplay Cafe and Fashion Show were new experiences for me. The cafe was incredible. For $5, you got one food item, one drink, and fantastic service. The hostesses were five women dressed as the idols from J-pop group AKB48. All I knew going into the Cafe about AKB was the recent controversy in which one member publicly apologized for being caught having a boyfriend. One of the rules for being part of the group is that the members cannot date, and for breaking that rule, she shaved her head as an apology. I’m not going to get into my feelings about this right now, but assume that they are very negative. Putting that aside, the Cafe experience was great. The hostesses played rock, paper, scissors, and if the idol assigned to your table won, you got a price. I won a pack of pocky! They also performed a dance to one of AKB48’s songs, and posed for photos. The food was definitely not the main attraction of the event, but it was quite good! I got green tea and strawberry shortcake.
The fashion show was an unexpected highlight of the convention for me. I went into it expecting to like it, but not expecting to love it! The show featured four main styles: Lolita, Steampunk, Gyaru, and the history of Kimonos. It also reminded me that if I were rich, I would spend far too much money on Lolita and Steampunk type clothing and accessories. Within each category were subcategories, like Sweet or Gothic Lolita, or Pirate Steampunk.
The only photos I got from the actual Fashion Show were of the Kimonos. The show took the viewers though the history of Kimonos, I think going back around 400-600 years. We got to see modern summer Kimonos, the traditional attire of Geisha and Samurai, and everything in between.
Finally, in the Comic/Art market, I came across a fantastic artist named Alexander Chow, and bought one of his prints. I couldn’t find the one I purchased on his website, but here’s an example of his work:
The print I bought is of San from Princess Mononoke, riding Totoro, hunting Kodama (forest sprites). While I highly doubt San wouldn’t actually ever hunt forest sprites, the art style has a childlike quality that meshes well with the quirky subject matter. The digital painting is beautiful and painterly, and I admit that I bought it not only because I love the image, but also to study his style. I look forward to keeping up with his art!
The Dealers room always features a plethora of cool, geeky merchandise. I managed to find a Game of Thrones bobble-head of Arya Stark for a friend of mine! I didn’t really buy much this year in an effort to save money, but there were an unreasonably high number of t-shirts, pillows, accessories and knick-knacks that were tempting. I personally just walked away from the convention with just a couple of buttons, a key chain and the print I described above.
Every year when Anime North is over, I always feel like I missed out on something. There’s so much happening all the time that it’s impossible to do everything you want to. I’m already looking forward to Anime North 2014, thinking about what I’ll want to do, who I’ll dress up as, etc. Speaking of dressing up, here are more amazing cosplays!