On Saturday, May 23, 2015, I went to my first Anime North. I’ve wanted to go ever since I first heard about it in 2003. Or was it 2004? Either way, I’ve waited more than half my life to go. And a few months ago, my birthday buddy texted, “I GOTS TICKET U WANT GO ANIME NORTH LOLOL?” Okay maybe not those exact words, but that sums it up. And I love how I got that text a week after cutting my hair. But we’ll get to that.
For those who aren’t aware, Anime North is Toronto’s annual anime convention. There are all kinds of panels, workshops, photoshoots, and cool crafts to buy. If you like, you can attend while dressed up as your favourite characters. (Cosplay) Who can say no to that?! Basically, Anime North (AN) is a weekend of awesomeness for anime and video game fans everywhere.
Since last weekend’s blog was delayed, I figured this week’s blog would detail my experiences and takeaways. If you are considering attending AN in the future, I hope this post will give you insight on what to expect.
Anime North takes place at the same location every year: the Toronto Congress Centre (TCC) located in Toronto’s West End. I live in the East end, which means it took 2 hours to get there by public transit. A little tip from someone who has taken TTC for most of her life: as long as you can find your way to the subway, you’ll be fine. This deviantART journal explains the bus and subway directions very clearly.
My commute went smoothly (I don’t account for the delay at the subway station, since those happen a lot) until I got to the 52, the bus that takes you right to the TCC. Expect crowds, because that’s exactly what you’ll see when you get to the stop. Part of the way, some commuters got into an argument with the driver because he wouldn’t let them on the bus. The bus was already crowded, and due to safety reasons drivers cannot let people stand beyond the white line. He was almost ready to put the bus out of service, until some other people on the bus got him to settle down and continue on. The people did get on the bus in the end, but it cost us all an extra 13 minutes of commute.
What I learned: if, under any circumstances, your commute takes more than 90 minutes, get a hotel room. Many events take place early in the morning or late at night, with some of the bigger events running past midnight. Think of it this way: a hotel room is expensive, but considering how much more you can get out of your one experience, isn’t it worth it? You don’t have to catch a bus at 8 am just to get to a panel at 10:00 am, and you don’t have to bail halfway on the panel that runs until 10 pm. If you choose to commute, be aware of the general non-con going public who still have to go about their usual lives. My biggest advice would be to leave early, or carpool with friends.
I have mad respect for people who try to make their costumes look as close to the original character as possible. I stressed out too much with Katara… and that was just a shirt with stuff sewn on, hair loopies, and a neckalce! Oh yeah, here’s the necklace:
Regarding hair: the loopies were such a pain! This wouldn’t have been a problem with regular long hair. Katara’s season 1 hairstyle is simply a braid, with two strands tied in front, and pinned in place under her ears. Well, the entire top layer of my hair decided to do its own thing and flew around all over the place, constantly undoing the loopies at the pins. Layered hair looks gorgeous when left loose, but it’s a hassle to tie back. This is why I seriously consider cutting my hair super short. *hears her family and friends yelling “NOOOOOOOOOO!”*
When I told birthday buddy I wanted to cosplay Katara, he asked which outfit, and I told him it was a combo of seasons 1 and 3. He said I should’ve cosplayed the red outfit she wore, when they were undercover in the Fire Nation. Ya know, the one with midriff? I couldn’t be brave enough to do that, let alone run around in a bikini anywhere but at the beach/swimming. I’m too self-conscious of my tubby tummy. >_< This discussion happened after we saw a girl dressed as Yoko from Gurren Lagann. I know there has been a lot of controversy lately, about what girls should and should not be allowed to wear. As a girl, I believe there’s a time and place for everything. At a convention celebrating all kinds of scantily-clad characters for instance, and as long as it makes sense for your character.
What I learned: no matter when you start working on your costume, no matter how simple or complicated it sounds, you will always end up working on it the night before. Something tells me I should’ve just worn my Pikachu Halloween costume and hopped into my bag.
Also, it’s fine if you don’t want to wear certain things, but don’t put others down for wearing those things. Anime North is basically a 2.5 day retreat to dress up, have fun, and enjoy your favourite nerdy things. Save the dress code debates for when you get back to real life.
I didn’t get many pictures, but if anyone knows the guys pictured below, please let me know! I didn’t get their names, and would like to give credit where credit is due.
Panels are basically lectures and discussion groups.
The first panel we attended discussed sewing tips. Having stayed up late figuring out how to sew the trim on Katara’s outfit, I listened intently. That, and the plushie workshop next door was full. (Not that I sorely needed to attend that. 😉 ) While waiting in the lineup, we met a guy working on chain mail. I showed him pictures of the Charmander and Squirtle plushies, and he went, “awwwww~” Then he tapped his friend, and she joined in the “awwwwww~” XP
I attended the next panel on my own. The topic: Kingdom Hearts. I remember being a wee one when my neighbour borrowed the game from someone. We never got to watch her play it, but I became curious after seeing Mickey Mouse on the cover. Man, I was a dumb gamer as a kid. In fact, the hardest boss I’d fought in that game had to be the Wonderland Heartless boss. Silly me couldn’t figure out how to find Blizzard, which was very very useful for said boss. And so there I was, stuck for ages on this stupid thing, only to play through a second time, get Blizzard, and wipe it out in less than 5 minutes.
Birthday buddy joined me for the Legend of Zelda panel. Or rather, he magically managed to crash a few minutes in. That panel was jam packed! Not surprising, since Zelda is amazing. In fact, it’s my favourite vidya gaim series to date. For personal reasons, I liked Twilight Princess. Aside from the darker art style and more creative boss battles, one of the game’s most iconic sequences has to be when you have to carry Midna on your back, after Zant exposes her body to light. Not only was this the first Zelda game I finished without a walkthrough, but that particular scene stuck with me. Maybe it’s the whole urgency, maybe it’s the music (another memorable part of the game) but I never thought of it as much until now. The whole idea of going through all the trouble to save Midna, after all she put you through to reach Zant, and after she was hurt so badly and left helpless, was very touching. It reminds me of my game devs, who have been with me through all the emotional stress of the program. The ones who would be right there complaining about assignments and profs, and who would stay up chatting until 3 am just to listen to problems. My friends are all my Link. They’re not the macho “MERN” types like traditional Western comic book and game heros, but they don’t need to be. They just need to have the right skills to help Zelda save Hyrule, and to get Midna the help she needs.
What I learned: it’s important to remember just how passionate fandoms can get. And by passionate, I mean “will defend to the death.” You should’ve heard the reaction of the Sora/Riku shippers, after a little 10 year old girl said, “I would like to see Sora and Kairi get together.” Hey, she has a valid point, ya know. They never did tie up the whole deal with the Paopu fruit. Or did they?* Really, the best thing to do is just enjoy the things you like, however you like. So what if you haven’t gotten to this or that, or you didn’t react the same way as others? You shouldn’t feel bad. And you shouldn’t rush through just because other fans are pressuring you. I for one stopped reading Game of Thrones for several days, after the infamous Red Wedding scene.
*I still haven’t played Birth by Sleep or Re:Coded. On an unrelated note, Chain of Memories‘ battle system can go die in a hole.
Vendor’s Alley and Spending Money
As you can imagine, this was the part I was looking forward to the most. There are so many cool things here! Sadly, I didn’t find cute bows or phone cases for Shoonie. I couldn’t find many cases, period. Being a non-selling crafter in Vendor’s Alley feels awkward. On one hand, you can look around at all the cool things other crafters have made. On the other hand, you look at them and think, “I could totally make that myself…”
They also had Pokemon Curry Sauce Mix. This was the first thing I considered buying, until I imagined Kitty as Professor Oak going, “Pika, this isn’t the time to eat that!” Ever since we made the dango candy kit, he’s had a bad impression of Japanese foods that come from packages. The picture on the box did look kinda gross. X3; Besides, I want to try making Japanese curry from scratch. Maybe I’ll hit up the local Asian grocery store to see if they sell curry roux blocks. My parents will ask too many questions if they see me putting apple and honey into curry.
I did find something worth buying: candy kits! They were the same prices as Sweet Tooth ($7 – $8 depending on kit) but they had a particular kind that I couldn’t find at Sweet Tooth. I looked at Birthday Buddy and said with confidence, “I am getting this!” I won’t reveal the kind just yet; you’ll have to wait until the candy kit review! (Yes, you too, Shoony)
A funny thing happened while I was browsing a weapon booth. Someone said, “hello, wife.” I look up, and the dealer was dressed like Aang. He had a glider and everything. :O I said, “oh, not for another 20 years. I think. When did they get married?” Then he said, “um, after the next comet.” Oh sheep son. That reminds me, I never did make that Appa purse… I saw a couple Zukos and Korras, too.
What I learned: being a vendor is never easy, no matter how or where you sell your creations. When deciding to become a vendor, consider the pros and cons before making your decision. Consider whether or not you can afford the rental fee, and whether or not you can sell enough things to make up for said fee. Have you ever wondered why things are more expensive downtown or at malls, than they are in local chain stores? It’s to make up for that pesky space rental fee!
If they have one, pick up the seller’s business card. This way you can have a link to their online shop, and you can buy from them when you’re ready.
There are many restaurants available right next door, from Tim Hortons to Harvey’s to Montana’s Steakhouse. AND THEY’RE ALL CRAZY BUSY. There were lineups out the door for fast food, and people were sitting outside for hours to be called into the sit-down restaurants. I wish I was exaggerating. And by the way, you can’t make reservations during the con weekend. Birthday buddy and I ran around looking for a place, before giving up and ordering room service at his hotel. (It arrived in an instant, by the way) But ya know, after all that running around it felt good to finally take off those winter boots, put my feet up, and eat steak in bed. Fun fact: this was the third time I’ve ever had steak. All three times were with someone who had some importance to me. In this case, it was a birthday steak with a friend who was born on the exact same date. Yes, we were born the same year, as well!
What I learned: bring snacks, and make use of the water stations. It gets really hot in Toronto around this time, especially indoors where there are a lot of people. I didn’t personally see it happen to anyone, but I’ve heard stories of people fainting at Anime North. Take care of your health! It’s a bit outdated, but this guide is very useful.
Exactly what it says. These are slots in which you can kick back and watch available anime and movies. If it’s a viewing of a series, they start from the first episode and go down the list. From what Birthday Buddy explained, all viewings are in English.
We watched Rock Lee and his Ninja Pals, which I’ve already watched. Ya know, that Naruto spinoff where everyone’s chibified and Rock Lee is the main character? I don’t know why, but I like the birds that go, “idiot! Idiot!” Birthday buddy looks at me and says, “I know this is supposed to be a comedy, but come on, Lee is so much smarter than this…” I don’t mind watching Naruto in English, since that’s what I used to watch when it was on TV, and the voices are pretty close to the original. Granted, it does make a lot more sense to hear Japanese terms in Japanese. Argue all you want, but I still think English dub Neji sounds awesome when he says, “Byakugan!”
What I learned: viewings are a good way to discover new anime and revisit old favourites, while also kicking back and taking a break from walking all over the place. But again, viewings are in English. If you’re vehemently against English dubs, avoid.
Late Night Weirdness
After the kiddos are put to bed, things get weird. And Toronto’s biggest anime convention is not exempt from this truth. Take for example the viewing with which I concluded my first Anime North: WTF Anime.
While not the weirdest cartoon, or part of the actual viewings, this cartoon started us off. It’s called There She Is, by the animation trio SamBakZa. It’s about a Bunny and Kitty who fall in love, much to the simultaneous support and chagrin of society. You may have heard of it; to this day, it’s one of the most popular cartoons on Newgrounds. The dude running the viewing described it as, “the cutest cartoon about racism you’ll ever see.”
As silly as it is, this actually becomes very watchable. *Warning: step 4 really does get intense.
The dude running the panel did some dub work in the past, and showed us some of the silliest dubs. Bear in mind these were all animes that were meant to be taken seriously, but due to fail acting, directing, and overall ridiculous content, they became so bad, they were funny.
I don’t remember many titles, nor do I know if they’re available online, or if the guy just had them handy. All I know is we watched a clip called, “the dog who cried blarg at the heart of the moon.” It was a clip from an anime in which a rabid Doberman tears through a metal train and tries attacking people. And yes, I mean “tears through” as in literally, as though he was tearing through a cardboard box to get treats. They used an actual a voice actor for the dog, rather than getting dog sound effects. Said actor got bored and started making “blargaragalablah” noises. It was so dumb, it was funny.
A bit of Google searching helped me find two of the shows: Machine Robo, and Naikaku Kenryoku Hanzai Kyosei Torishimarikan Zaizen Jotaro. (Government Crime Investigation Agent Zaizen Jotaro. Yes, that’s the entire title) Machine Robo’s Rom Stoll always made grand entrances, yet never revealed his name to the bad guys. (“You don’t deserve to know my name!”) Zaizen Jotaro was an over-the-top secret agent whose catchphrase was, “da bomb!” Fun fact: the creators of the latter didn’t make him over the top as a joke. They honestly thought that American audiences would like the notion of a character that said, “da bomb!”
Unfortunately that’s all she wrote for this day, because an hour in, I had to call it a night. Word is there were some events that ran until midnight.
What I learned: See above, re: Transportation.
Aftermath of My First Day at Anime North
As you can tell from the last blog… I was exhausted. And I wasn’t even there for the full day! X_X I also missed the Avatar photo shoot, which took place on Sunday. I’m not too broken up, since I know my costume was derpy. Meanwhile, I will wrap the present I got for Shoonie. I never found anything in particular for Peck Peck, except that missed opportunity to get a picture of the guy cosplaying Shulk. Le sigh… Fortunately, most things he would like are available at the town centre.
Would I go again next year? If I can get money, and friends for a hotel room, definitely. I’ve already got a few costumes planned! ^_^
Would I be a seller next year? Probably not. I want to be able to enjoy the con. I might just bring business cards.
Have you been to Anime North? If so, what were your favourite events? If not, would you like to attend one day? Have you been to any other nerdy conventions? Comment below!
Pika, so happy~