Anime North 2004
Thoughts and Impressions

by Christopher Macdonald, May 27th 2004
Anime North 2004 was an interesting conundrum. On one side, it was characterized by a near total lack of industry presence. On the other, at roughly 8000 attendees, it will probably be the largest Canadian anime convention of the year. How could a convention so big end up being so... unimportant?

The problem was largely an organizational one. Changes in the Anime North management resulted in various aspects of the convention being organized later than they should have been. The two most noticeable results were the aforementioned lack of industry presence (no industry in the dealers' room, and no industry panels except as noted below) and a horrible convention center/hotel mix.

The Toronto Congress Center and the brand new (just opened last month) Airport Renaissance Hotel are each great places to hold a convention, but a horrible combination for one. The problem simply comes down to the distance between the hotel, where all the panels and video rooms were, and the Congress Center, where the dealers' room and the major events were held. There was a good 10-minute brisk walk from one to the other. Anime North did arrange to have a shuttle bus running between the two, but any way you look at it, it was an annoyance, particularly given the heavy rain on Friday night, during the 90 minute break in the shuttle schedule. Fortunately, next year the convention will be moving to a hotel right across the street from the convention center.

But even though the convention was unimportant from a particular point of view, it was by no means a failure. Despite being one of three anime convention held in the greater Toronto Area, it was clear that close to everyone at the convention has having a great time, more so perhaps than at almost any other convention that I've been to over the past five years. It somewhat cemented in my mind Anime North's reputation as being more of a big party and get together than a convention proper. Nothing supported this more than the Saturday night dance. Despite an attendance of "only" 8000 people, there were easily twice as many people at the dance than at similar functions at other, much larger conventions.

For the most part the programming was well organized. There were six rooms largely dedicated to video programming, and three panel rooms, in addition to the all day Jrock–Jpop room. Workshops and gaming sessions meant that there was always plenty to do for the con-goer. On the other hand, the video-game room, with only one machine, and the con-suite, with no seating or food (aside from the occasional vendor), were among the worst I have ever seen at any con.

On problem with the programming was that some industry and fan panels were placed in rooms that were separated from things like the video rooms by only an airwall. As a result, speakers were frequently drowned out.

The opening ceremonies were another mark against the convention. Starting over half an hour late (which actually isn't all that uncommon at anime conventions), they presented no entertainment value whatsoever to the attendees. Running a scant 10 minutes long, the opening ceremonies were essentially a quick welcome and naming of the guests, with the one Japanese guest not even present yet.

It's clear that Anime North had a good deal of organizational issues this year, but if they get these problems fixed for next year they have a great base to build on. If you're an out-of-towner, Anime North is not a convention worth traveling to, but people in the greater Toronto area should check it out.

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