My first impression of London AnimeCon is of being hit by a wave of noise and testosterone. The entrance is devoted to gaming stations with rows of predominantly male gamers furiously punching away at a huge variety of games. As well as the traditional means of gaming there are plenty of more interactive options including floor pads for gamers to really become immersed in AnimeCon.
Within the same area is the screening room, whose films were thankfully all subtitled as you’d otherwise never hear a word. But they’re not in English, so you probably wouldn’t understand it anyway. Top marks however, for securing some of the best anime available, playing one episode from top series such as Fullmetal Alchemist and Trigun ensures that the casual anime fan leaves with an insight into what they should be watching.
The live music downstairs was a bit much for me on a Sunday afternoon, but it does highlight the wealth of options available at this event. It’s not just a screening or gaming venue, but an all day and all night anime festival.
In a separate, much quieter area (why weren’t the screening rooms here?!) are the exhibitor stalls. Here you can walk past the latest anime merchandise from the best known anime series to illustrators and graphic artists selling their own work. I caught up with French artists Nita and Sanoe, part of a collective that exhibit their work internationally. They told me that the convention was much friendlier than similar ones around the world, with people stopping by their work and asking them questions. Their reasonably priced work also contained a personalised drawing that they completed within 20 minutes, which was a great extra and an extraordinary insight into their skills as artists.
This is the fourth annual AnimeCon and it’s been growing from strength to strength every year. Part of this is undoubtedly down to their events schedule, which includes workshops on animating anime, drawing graphic novels and a host of other programmed activities. They’ve also made a real effort to attract a more diverse crowd, by themeing their events. This year, they decided to tailor their event to alternative fashions, bringing in everyone from punk rockers to anime characters. Apart from the gaming stations, which were heavily male-orientated, there were a significant number of women at the event and, in particular, those artists showing their work were predominantly female.
The gritty urban venue lends itself to the event and there are plenty of cubby holes for you to retreat to with a drink if it all gets a bit much – yes, there is a licensed bar. There’s enough for the casual anime fan to hop from workshop to screening and back and not have to be entangled in the gaming arenas, which were a bit intense and quiet. Putting some of the players on giant screens for people to watch would’ve been a better idea; huddling silently over people’s shoulders didn’t seem all that comfortable for the gamer or the audience. Also, I met plenty of people who weren’t anime fans, Call of Duty was also duly represented. All in all, a really unique experience, intense, loud, but incredibly diverse in what it has to offer – from voice acting and dance workshops, to an all-day gamers tournament with cash prizes. Not too overwhelming for the anime novice and plenty to keep more hard-core anime fans going well into the early hours of the morning.