Convention Reviews



Anime conventions occur all over the world but are most popular in North America. Hundreds of anime conventions happen year-round with thousands of anime fans flocking to the doors for an amazing weekend experience. I attend convention mostly in areas that I am situated for the year. At the moment I am in Toronto, Canada and have been enjoying the Canadian anime convention experience. Over the summer I attend conventions in Florida and Georgia. I have previously studied in other places such as California and Hawai’i. The following are conventions that I hope to attend and ones that I have been to. I have included a review on each convention I have attended and what other people may expect if they were to attend. Some of these conventions may have changed since it has been some time since I have attended them. However, I based my review on the time that I attended. Do not let my reviews sway your decision. What may have been a bad experience for me may be a great one for you, go out and enjoy yourself no matter what convention you pick! :)

Dream Conventions to go to: 


AnimeExpo – The largest and most popular convention in all of North America. Usually takes place at the beginning of July each year.

Mega Con – I have heard nothing but great things about this convention which takes place in March-April in Orlando, Florida. This convention is probably one of (if not the most) the best in all of Florida.

Update: After researching Mega Con a bit further I have come to realize that the company is the same one that does FanExpo in Toronto. If this is true I feel like I am not missing anything. 

Conventions that I have attended: 


1. Ancient City Con

Location: Jacksonville, Florida

Size: 

Usually Takes Place: July or August

Review: Coming soon! First Time Attending in 2016


2. Anime Festival Orlando 

Location: Orlando, Florida

Size: Medium

Usually Takes Place: Late July – Early August

Review: This is the convention that I have attended the most, mostly because of the time and proximity to my house. The attendance has increased dramatically over the past few years as well as the number of artists showing up in the galleys. However, organization levels have decreased as of late. Registration is a big pain. No single day passes allowed to be purchased online, you must stand in line, which only one person is usually running. This past year I arrived at 8am to stand in line (which the website said was the open time) to then be told that it would not open until 9am. The masquerade is the highlight of this convention with everyone rushing to get a seat for the big show. However, I am critical with the masquerade jugging. Rumors have surrounded this convention for years that the contest is rigged. The ones who win year after year are close friends with the judges. Plus they all attend the fashion department at the University of Central Florida. These are just the rumors that I have heard over the years. They do not hand out enough awards in my opinion. Out of 50 participants only about 7-8 awards are handed out. It kills me to see so many sad faces on the people who worked very hard on their cosplays. Then again I haven’t won anything at this convention yet.

Even though attendance is increasing I don’t think the convention has been able to keep up with the demand over the past couple of years. I think they need a bigger venue with more parking and more volunteers to help with crowded lines. However, I love their dealers room. I always manage to find something interesting to buy. Hopefully they keep up the good work on this.

Final Verdict:  3 out of 5 4 out of 5 5 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5

The good: Excellent convention space, good vendors, many hotels and other fun activities to do.

The bad: Long lines, inaccurate information, questionable cosplay contest


3. Anime North

Location: Toronto, Ontario

Size: Large

Usually Takes Place: Late May

Review: By far my favorite convention. This is one of, if not the largest convention in Canada, and it shows by how fast the tickets sell out. Registration is a breeze for both online and same-day tickets. Plenty of volunteers that know what is going on. Plus you get a very tidy brochure that tells you everything that is going on. The dealers room and artist galley are amazing. So many things to look and drool over. The number one thing I have learned from this convention is: “if you think you have enough money… you don’t.”

If you are interested in hotels, you are in luck. There are plenty of hotels surrounding the convention site. If you just want to drive, this convention has the best parking of any I have been to. Luckily the convention center has thousands of parking places all around. You will easily find a space (even though it may be a little far from the entrance).

The masquerade is a huge hit at this convention. The best part is that there are many craftsmanship/stage awards to go around. So even if your craftsmanship isn’t the best you will have a good chance for a stage award :) However, if you plan on participating in the Masquerade please note your Saturday will be dedicated to it. You will have to arrive to the “prep” room a few hours before the show for pre-judging. Since there are a lot of participants, this takes a while.

My only critique is that they should have a section dedicated to a food court. True there are restaurants and food trucks close by, but the lines are insane! I have been known to stand in line for over an hour in the hot sun in my cosplay to just get a small sandwich. It would be nice to have more food areas to lighten the traffic. Or you can try packing your own lunch… just note that it is usually hot during this time of the year in Toronto… so don’t leave your food in the car :)

Final Verdict: 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5Two-half-stars

The Good: Huge convention, excellent setup and location, fairly organized parking structure, insane amounts of merchandise and artwork, amazing cosplay contest, loads of invited guests.

The Bad: Hotel reservations go VERY fast, you may be parked far away, Saturday tickets sell out fast (get them immediately when they come online), needs more food areas.


4. Animation on Display 

Location: San Francisco, California

Size: Small

Usually Takes Place: January

Review: I have only attended once back in 2011. This is a 1-2 day celebration of all things Japanese culture, but Anime plays a huge roll in the convention. At the time I attended the convention it took place on the ground floor at Hotel Kotobuki, located in the heart of Japan Town in San Francisco. Apparently they moved to Burlingame, California in 2014. This was a fairly small convention with only a small room full of dealers and artists. Not many people cosplayed during the year I attended. However, the more years a convention takes place, the higher the attendance. I have heard that this convention has grown and now includes a masquerade, more celebrity guests/voice actors, and even a few bands. The location was probably the best part of the convention. Of course it would be in Japan Town! When you got hungry you can easily stay in the spirit of anime and japan by going and having sushi or ramen right across the street.

Final Verdict: 4.5_StarRating4.5_StarRatingTwo-half-stars1 out of 51 out of 5

The Good: No crowds, good price, decent vendors, excellent location

The Bad: Few cosplays, barely any panels or invited guests, small dealership and artist galley, take transportation (no parking in site).


5. Dragon Con

Location: Atlanta, Georgia

Size:

Usually Takes Place: Late August – Early September

Review: Coming Soon! Excited to be attending for the first time in 2016! :)


6. Fan Expo

Location: Toronto, Ontario

Size: Large

Usually Takes Place: Late August – Early September

Review: Not geared as much to Anime. Most cosplayers are from American comics and video games. You still see the occasional anime cosplayer though, so don’t be afraid to attend. There is plenty of merchandise for the anime fan and the artist galley is filled with them. My favorite part of this convention happens to be the artists galley. Many well-known artists from DeviantArt for example attend this convention.

If you are looking to get autographs from well known actors, voice actors and directors, this is the convention to go to, although expect to waste a few hours in line. Steve Lee from Marvel movies usually shows up to this convention, and when he does all hell breaks loose with fans pushing to get a glimpse. This leads to the biggest problem… the size. This convention is enormous! Even though the who Toronto Convention Center is booked to accommodate this event it still isn’t big enough! Many crowds and many lines. So you need a lot of patience for this convention. However, it is worth checking out, just don’t wear a huge cosplay that may rip or fall apart in the crowds.

The one complaint I have has to do with the masquerade. In order to participate you need to have a “Deluxe Pass,” this means you have to pay around $136. It is worth it if you are planning to attend all 4 days, but for people who only want to go for a day or two, it is not worth it at all. To me it is unfair that the masquerade restricts participants to this pass. So I have never been able to attend, even though I live in the area. The commute to downtown is very hard, so going for 4 days is out of the question for me.

Final Verdict: 4.5_StarRating4.5_StarRating4.5_StarRating4.5_StarRating1 out of 5

The Good: Something for everyone not just anime fans, excellent dealers and artist galley, lots of food available, cosplayers all over, venue.

The Bad: parking (please take transportation), ticket prices, masquerade entrees have to have a deluxe pass.


7. Hyper-Con

Location: San Francisco, California

Size: Small

Usually Takes Place: Discontinued :(

Review: I believe it was the first year for this convention when I went. As with most start-up conventions it was tiny! Not many vendors or people at all. Most of the people wandering around were staff or people who helped put this convention together. Nothing wrong with this, they obviously worked very hard to get this set up so of course they would show up to see the “fruits of their labor.” I particularly enjoyed the little “fashion show” they put on where the few people that did dress up would strut into a small room to show off their works to the tiny audience. Although no prizes and no announcement it still shows the spirit of cosplaying and the hard work each cosplayer put into their work. Sadly the convention did not survive. I think they did one more year and then it fell apart permanently. Due to Hyper-Con being a tiny convention (probably the smallest I have been to) I can’t really say anything good or bad. The good part is that they were trying to get this to be a fun time for anime enthusiasts. With any anime convention the first year is always the hardest mostly because no one knows about the convention, many won’t even show up to try it, money is always the big problem, and the lack of experience.

Final Verdict: 4.5_StarRating4.5_StarRating1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5

The Good: Obviously a lot of hard work went into trying to make it a good convention, good cosplays, cute fashion show.

The Bad: Super tiny (not really their fault), location was sketchy, no food in site.


8. Kawaii Kon

Location: Honolulu, Hawai’i

Size: Medium

Usually Takes Place: Early-Mid April

Review: This was the first anime convention I ever attended and it is the largest convention for the island of Hawai’i.. At the time it was the third year of the convention (started in 2005). It takes place each year at the Hawai’i Convention Center which allows for many panels, dealers and artists to fit in comfortably. I was very impressed with the organization of the event. Registration was easy (at the time they did not have online registration) and transportation to and from the event was pleasant (Honolulu has a great transportation network).

During the year I was there, the dealers room and artists galley was relatively small, but they had amazing stuff. They were put into one large room, but now I hear they are separate because they have increased in size over the years. Tons of cosplayers flock to this convention, mostly because it is the only convention on the island. So everyone has a whole year to prepare something for the weekend.

Surprisingly during the evening the convention brought a Japanese rock band to the event! (For the life of me I can’t remember who it was). Great music and the band seemed really thrilled to be there. Awesome time!

The best part of this convention is that art stores (which had their own display table) handed out super amazing coupons. After the convention I got a set of 36 copic markers for around $60. Originally they would have been over $100. This coupon basically started my art hobby. Haha!

Final Verdict: 4.5_StarRating4.5_StarRating4.5_StarRating4.5_StarRating1 out of 5

The Good: Location and venue, good dealers and artists, good coupons (yay topic markers), lots of cosplayers, good transportation.

The Bad: You have to venture out of the convention to find food (might be different now), better plan your schedule right because it is the only anime convention on the island for the year.


9. MomoCon

Location: Atlanta, Georgia

Size: 

Usually Takes Place: End of May

Review: Coming Soon! Excited to be attending for the first time in 2016! :)


10. Toronto Comicon

Location: Toronto, Ontario

Size: Medium

Usually Takes Place: Late March

Review: Hosted by the same people who do FanExpo in September, Toronto Comicon is a fast weekend that basically provided “oxygen” for fans who can’t wait until the big FanExpo. It is almost identical to FanExpo except that it is smaller and features way more american comic compared to anime. At FanExpo, the entire convention center is booked, however for this smaller convention only one section is booked. For those who have been to FanExpo you would remember that there is usually a giant GameStop store with video game tryout lines everywhere… Toronto Comicon they run away and hide. Nevertheless, Toronto Comicon gives Canadians something to look forward to during the cold and dark days of winter. Artist galley is the hot spot where you will find mostly anime artists (most of which attend FanExpo as well). Tickets are also much cheaper with pre-orders going for about $10-$15. There are a few cosplayers roaming around but I figure everyone had the same problem I did… way too cold to dress up. However, there are still many people who brave the cold and are jumping around in their Harley Quinn attire. Final verdict is that if you can’t wait for FanExpo or if you are going to be absent from the city in September, go to Toronto Comicon. However, you can find the same merchandise at this convention as you will at FanExpo. Better to wait and save your money during the cold winter for the bigger celebration.

Final Verdict: 4.5_StarRating4.5_StarRatingTwo-half-stars1 out of 51 out of 5

The Good: A nice escape from the winter, less crowded than FanExpo, descent amount of vendors and artists, good entry price.

The Bad: No parking and a hard commute if you live outside the city, focused mostly on American comics, best to wait for FanExpo.


11. Unplugged Expo

Location: Toronto, Ontario

Size: Small

Usually Takes Place: July-September (can’t seem to make up their minds)

Review: Small…and crowded… that sums up this convention ver well in my opinion. I have attended twice. The first was during their second year and then I came back for their third anniversary. I would advise them to maybe go back to their first venue as it had way more space and better conference rooms (although was in a sketchy area in downtown Toronto). This convention is still ongoing as far as I know but they really need to consider upgrading their space. Like most conventions, the longer the convention is held the higher attendance record each year. The past two times I have attended it was chaos trying to walk without people stepping on my costume every 10 steps. Dealers room is VERY tiny and some of the venders did not bother to set up a table to give it a “professional” appeal. Let alone some of the merchandise they were selling was way overpriced. Artist galley was super tiny. Both times there were only about 15 artist vendors. Although an ok size, I still think this convention could have advertised themselves a little more to get more vendors. During the third anniversary they started a cosplay contest, only problem is that there was only one winner out of the 20-30 that entered. No divisions, nothing. Bad choice my friends. Of course the professional who builds the Gundam Robot with LED light technology will win the whole show. I don’t attend this convention anymore. I will consider going back when they upgrade their venue and get things a little more organized.

Final Verdict: 4.5_StarRating1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5

The Good: Trying to become a bigger convention (having a hard time figuring out other positives).

The Bad: Location, venue, not much to do, very few dealers, lots of overpriced merchandise, need to re-think cosplay contest.


12. Yaoi Con

Location: San Francisco, California

Size: Medium

Usually Takes Place: Late September – Late October

Review: Surprised that I went to this convention? Well so am I. For those who do not know, “yaoi” is a japanese word meaning “Boy’s Love.” So as you can imagine this convention only allows 18+ participants, and for good reason. Artist galley you will find the vast majority of the art to be covered up in a “tasteful” way as to conceal what lies beneath the black strip of paper. Even though the convention is for 18+ only there is a law that states art need stop be covered up for the viewers until they purchase it (grow up America we were all born naked). Do not fret about cosplayers running around nearly naked, this does not happen here. Cosplayers are still cosplaying in attire that covers them up (or at least a little bit). You will find well known cosplayers from around the San Francisco Bay area at this convention as well as hard to find yaoi merchandise straight from Japan. So if you are looking to snatch up a very rare figure that you can only get online after providing information that you are 18+, this is the convention to go to.

Dealership and artist galley was well set up and there is plenty of merchandise for everyone’s taste, not just yaoi fans. The only trouble was the area the convention took place. At the time I went the convention was outside the San Francisco transit area, which meant I had to hitch a ride with a family friend. If I were to get to this particular convention I would have had to take the BART train, plus three separate buses. Plus, when you reach the convention center you have to pay for parking and walk for a while until you find food. The location of Yaoi-con was definitely the downfall of the convention at the time I attended.

Final Verdict: 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5Two-half-stars1 out of 5

The Good: Rare merchandise, not just for yaoi fans, lots of artists and dealers, large convention hall with good areas for photography.

The Bad: Convention site, transportation, paying extra for parking, very little food available.

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