When I went to my first Anime North 7 years ago, I was floored by how big it was and how overwhelming everything seemed to be. At that time, I could really have used a guide, but none seemed to exist. So if this is your first time or your 3rd time, I hope you can learn something new and get the most out of Canadas largest anime convention.
So youve bought your tickets, booked your hotel, and arranged transportation to and from the Congress Centre. Now all you have to do is count down the days right? Not quite. There are a couple of other things you should prepare for.
When youre in the Dealers Room (The area with all the merchandise), the last thing you want is to not be able to buy that special something because you spent your money on that plushie you just had to have! Make sure to save at least $100 before the con! That may seem a lot at first, but manga after manga after figurine after anime pile up and you run out of money very fast, no matter how good the deals are. Atm machines around the convention run out of money very fast during the weekend (Yes! They can actually run out!), so dont depend on them for cash. The majority of vendors only accept cash and dont have machines on hand for debit and visa. So make your life easier by saving up your cash or making a nice big withdrawal before the con.
Yes, there will be fast food restaurants near the convention centre, and even a Japanese restaurant! Food is also sold in the Dealers Room and at the Double Tree Hotel. But food will be extremely expensive and the wait at fast food restaurants will stretch to tomorrow! Dont try making reservations either. Those nicer restaurants dont accept reservations on convention weekends. So hit your closest grocery store a day or two before the convention and stock up on some small snacks! Something to tide you over for most the day. Muffins, candies, Pocky (A fan favourite and a must have at the convention), cup noodles, and those Singles snack packs are a great choice.
No, not A-List, a list! What would you need a list for, you ask? Other than money, a list is your best friend in the Dealers room. Walking into that room is like walking into a treasure cove or a toy store. Theres a lot of things and you dont know where to start! Most vendors have rows upon rows of manga and anime lined up on tables. If you dont know what youre looking for, all those titles could be blinding when youre going through them and you might be deterred from them. Write a list of all the manga and anime you are either collecting or want to start. Conventions are a great place to start or add to a collection because of the mass quantities of each title available. A list is also good if youre having a hard time looking for that specific title. The people standing behind the vendors tables are there to help you, so if youve found a vendor with the right prices, you can pass them your list and they will assemble all of them for you! I cant tell you how much time and headaches I saved when I discovered I could do that! Walking through the long tables, looking over other peoples shoulders to find the one volume Im looking for was way too much for me. Going into the Dealers Room with a list of what you know you want can also mean youll most likely be able to get what you want. If what you wanted was a popular title that had just released a new volume, and you remembered on Sunday you wanted it, chances of finding it are slim.
At the convention
So now youve done all your preparation. Time to hit the con! Here are some tips to help you ease into the convention with little trouble.
How early can you get to your hotel? Getting there early is key to a headache-less start to your weekend. All the hotels of the area are booked full of convention goers that will all be checking in at the same time. If you can get there early, you can miss the long lines of people waiting to be checked in. Disregard the check-in time on the hotels website. Thats the time for when your room will be ready, but they will gladly check you in at the front desk at an earlier time.
So what do you do after youre checked in and your room is not ready? Split up your party and have one half get in line to pick up your convention badge at the Congress centre and the other half wait at the hotel until its time to move into the rooms. Heres where coming early is an asset. The line for pre-registered folk and non-pre-registered folk are equally long and often wrap around the perimeter of the building. So get in the line early and wait for the convention to begin. It would be wise to bring something to sit on and play with while youre there.
If you are in highschool or younger and live in the GTA, DO NOT SKIP SCHOOL JUST FOR THIS. Just rush there after school. Remember, you must have an adult with you in the hotel room if you're 13 and under. Anime North is not a valid reason to skip school for.
Ive already mentioned this place earlier in the article. This is the large area of the centre filled with vendors from all over Canada (And some from the US) that have brought their anime merchandise to sell. When you go in, DONT and I repeat, DONT spend money at the first booth full of manga or plushies that you see. Take your time to walk all around the room, asking about their prices and any possible deals. After youve looked at every booth, then you can go back to the vendor that had the lowest price or the best deal. Also, most people will be selling manga at US cover price. What that means is that youll be paying for the US equivalent of the manga with Canadian dollars. When that was first introduced to conventions, we were all floored. But now, fans are looking for better deals, and there are many people willing to provide them. So be cautious and check out all the vendors before you start spending your hard-earned money.
**From Rock-E-"Another tip, for the gamers: unless it's a super super super rare game (I'm talking Tengen Tetris, Snatcher, most Working Designs games, ICO, MGS3: Subsistence Limited Edition rare here), avoid buying games there. You may find some somewhat decent prices, but most of the time it's overpriced, especially RPGs."
This is what youll get when you get your badge. A book that lists all of the events of the weekend, where they are, when they are, and what theyre about. Its a good idea at the beginning of the con to sit down and go through all the events that are happening and maybe circle some of the ones you just cant miss. Its horrible to go home from a convention just to find out that you missed an event you really wanted to go to! Also, this is a good way of preventing the dreaded Now what? moment when you and your friends are sitting in the hotel lobby, bored and wondering what there is to do at a convention.
Comic Market and Crafters Corner (Originally Artists Alley)
Because this is the first time Anime North has had this, I dont know much about it. Im unclear of the rules and what to expect specifically, but I have a general idea about it.
This is the place where everyday people get to show off their art and sell it to other fans. Some people make buttons or pins and key chains that they sell here. Most artists are open for commission, meaning they take requests for specific drawings for a fee. If you commission them on Friday, they can usually have the picture ready for you by Sunday. Prices vary from artist to artist according to their skill and the details of the picture. For example, one person costs less than 2 people, and black and white (inked) costs less than coloured, and so on. I often commission at least two people because I like to support budding anime artists. If you happen to really like someones drawing or style, dont be shy to ask them to draw you your favourite pairing or character!
So many people dont know what these are, and thats shocking! A convention is nothing without panels. Panels are basically discussion rooms where you go to a room and talk about the topic that the panel is on. For example, during a Shakugan no Shana panel, there will be people at the front of the room that have volunteered to lead the discussion, and an audience and all you do is talk about the anime/manga for an hour! Its a great way to meet people that are just as into a series as you are and also to maybe learn something new about it. You can talk about the plot, the characters, the creators, anything that comes up about the series, you talk about. There are also panels lead by more qualified people, such as a props panel or a voice-acting 101 panel where you can learn how to do something. So dont be afraid to check these out!
The major events that happen at AN is the Friday Skit Contest, Saturday night Dance, and the Saturday night Masquerade. I recommend going to the first two. To even get in to watch the Masq, youll need to line up for a wrist band, then youll need to line up for a good seat, then you spend 3 hrs watching mediocre skits and costumes run up and off stage in less than a minute. Many many people make it their mission to video tape the Masq and then put them up on Y-Tube. So go do something more fun and watch the more interesting skits online when you get home.
If it's your mission however, to take pictures of the best cosplays from Anime North, hang out outside the area where the Masq entrants leave the stage. I did this one year and was able to get lots of great pictures. If you don't know where this is, you can always ask a con volunteer.
The Friday skit is a contest where groups are given a longer time for their acts and are much more entertaining than the Masq.
The Saturday night dance is just your regular dance with a DJ that plays anime and Japanese music all night! If you plan to go to the dance, I suggest you pack lighter clothes to wear because it can get VERY hot on the dance floor. And no, Im not talking about that girl in the Yoko costume or that guy in a Kamina costume.
Theres a certain etiquette to taking pictures of cosplayers at a convention. The procedure goes roughly like this:
1)You spot a cosplayer that you JUST have to take a picture of
2)You see theyre not eating or in a hurry. (VERY IMPORTANT)
3)You go up to them and ask Can I take your picture? They say Sure!
4)You take their picture and say Thanks! They say No problem! (Also very important. The thanks lets them know that you took the picture so they can stop posing.
5)You go on your way.
No-nos of photo taking
1)DONT take a picture of them without asking them, unless you were taking a picture of the room, and there just happened to be cosplayers.
2)DONT take a picture in a super crowded place like the Dealers Room because you could be blocking a lot of peoples way.
3)DONT go up to them if they seem to be running somewhere. If you do this and they deny your request, theyre not being rude, they just really have to be somewhere.
4)DONT and I mean DONT take a picture of them when they are eating! They are obviously busy with food in their mouth so either wait around for them, or look for them later. But dont stand near them and actually wait there! Thats creepy.
As a cosplayer, please assume that there will be people stopping you on your way to somewhere or maybe when youre just hanging out, for a picture. Dont be shy and strike a pose! If they request a certain pose from you, only agree to it if youre comfortable with it. Its not rude to deny a request to do a pose youre not comfy with. Also, people not from the convention may come up to you and ask you what all the people in costumes is all about. Theyre not being rude or mean, theyre just very curious about something they probably havent seen. Just explain to them that its an anime convention. Believe it or not, much of the western world knows what anime is. If they dont know, you can just say Japanese animation. Dont be weirded out or put off by them. I know many cosplayers that take offence to people coming up to them, but theres no need to be. Remember, youre in a costume, so youre bound to get all sorts of attention.
There is generally a 126 rule at conventions.
-1 shower a day
-2 meals a day
-6 hours of sleep a night
This is to keep you from keeling over on Saturday or Sunday morning and to keep you from smelling horrible all weekend. Often at a convention, all the excitement makes you forget about things like food and sleep, but they catch up to you fast and hard. If you really can't shower, many places such as Walmart of Shopper's now sell those tiny body sprays to keep you smelling fresh. It would be nice to invest in one to keep you from stinking up the con.
Some people can get away with the 411 rule. Which is:
-4 hours of sleep a night
-1 meal a day
-1 shower a day
I don't recommend that for younger con goers, but if you're over 18, that could be enough.
And thus ends my short guide for first-timers. Theres still a lot I can say, but its much better to find them out for yourselves. I hope you have a great time and plan to come back next year!