Something I like about anime and manga is that there are huge communities of fans. There are websites like mine written by one person or a team of fans. There are message boards where people trade DVDs and talk about different aspects of the genre that they like. But some stuff actually takes place away from the computer. There are big events, called conferences or cons. And there are many here in the United States and other countries as well. No need to go all the way to Japan.
There are a variety of cons. Some are specifically for anime. Others are for manga. Some are for both. There are some for specific shows or specific fans. It can get a little too specific. There is one just for males interested in My Little Pony, which isn’t anime but I thought worth mentioning. They call themselves bronies and the conventions are called Bronycon. It is a real thing. Others are for cosplayers—people who like to dress up as their favorite characters. Most cons will have special guests, like artists, authors, or actors involved in the genre. They have panels of discussion, meet and greets, and signings. There are merchandise booths, publishers and film studios usually have representatives there, and the fans get to meet other people who share their interests. I like cons because they promote the idea of community and bring fans together with the people who create the things we enjoy so much.
Here are some of the best cons out there:
Comic-Con San Diego is a little of everything. There are TV shows there and more mainstream type things, but also some cool stuff. It is so big now that they have events at more than one location. They are often sci-fi heavy. I like to watch some of the panels that they have done over the years, they can be very interesting. It is one of the premiere conventions in the genre, so if you can only attend one ever, this is the best one to try. This event is usually mid-summer and they host it every year.They also sponsor Wondercon, which is a little more comic book focused.
New York has a specific anime convention. Also in the summer, it is hosted in the middle of Manhattan. They typically have voice actors, writers, illustrators and other cosplay type events. Last year they had MōshiMōshi there, a music group who promotes video games and anime. I think that is fun. I would have liked to have seen them there. It is a family friendly event, because the founders believe that everyone should be exposed to the awesomeness that is manga and anime. I totally agree.
If you are closer to mid-America, there is an annual anime convention in Chicago. They host gaming tournaments and have formal dances, too. Branded as being “for fans by fans” they try hard to make it more than just a bunch of booths with their events. I would be very interested to see one of those dances.
Not to be outdone, Las Vegas also has an anime and pop culture convention called Sabakon. They include video games and pop culture in their convention, giving it an appeal to a broad audience. Last year they even had a royal meal with some decidedly Disney characters. But the idea is to mix the familiar with the unknown to convince people of the appeal. I can’t wait to see what they do next year.
If those are too far for you to travel, you can always try typing the name of your town plus the words “anime convention” into your search engine and see what comes up. I bet you find something close by. Just keep in mind that many of these are hosted over the summer, so plan accordingly and have fun.