There’s an old, but widely known Chinese proverb that says, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”. This is very true – whether the person in question is embarking on a literal adventure through a new country, or if they’re starting the process of learning something new; in either case, nothing will be accomplished unless one starts off somewhere, and in the process, a new set of life experiences and personal outlook on things will be formed in oneself. Ditto for getting into anime, and attending conventions in general. Ask any attendee if they remember their first convention, their first anime and why they got into it, and I guarantee you they will be able to come up with a coherent answer. For me, it’s been four years and going with this journey, and what better time than now, with only three months to go before the start of convention season, to cover my first-ever trip to one of my favorite conventions, Anime North?
It was Friday, May 27, in the year of Our Lord 2016. One month had passed since I finished what turned out to be a disastrous second year at the University of Toronto (by the grace of God, however, I didn’t fail any courses); on the flip side though, I landed a job as a junior developer in downtown Toronto, so I had that running for me, at least for the next five months. Anime North had just begun for everyone that day – but as for me, I was happily working away in a bright office, with a notepad beside me in which I had written in big letters, all over the page reminding me to buy a CD and burn the opening song of Digimon Adventure (Butterfly by Wada Kouji) for use at Saturday’s Anime North Idol auditions. Other than that, most of the morning and afternoon was rather uneventful; with each passing hour, I began to brim with excitement as to what was going to come the following weekend – what sights I’d see, do and hear, and the thought of cosplaying for the first time at this event.
That evening, I sat down with my family as we watched a heartbreaking Game 6 of the NBA Eastern Conference Finals, which saw LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers rout the hometown Toronto Raptors to reach the NBA Finals. There was only one problem though: I still had yet to buy a CD. Once the game ended, me and my brother made a mad dash to the nearby convenience store, at 10:30PM where I successfully bought a CD. To this day, I still remember the enthusiastic look on my face as I found the CD, handed it over to the stunned cashier, and made it back home. This whole slew of enthusiasm would barely scratch the surface of the excitement and emotions that would sway over me for the next two days.
The next day was the 28th of May. One month and fifteen days had passed since Kobe Bryant (may God rest his soul) dropped 60 points in his final game with the Los Angeles Lakers to lead them to a victory over the Utah Jazz, and cap off an exciting 20-year run in the NBA. I woke up early (at around 7:30AM) and reached my best friend D’s house, who was also going along on the trip with me and two of his other friends R and N, who were going to give the both of us a ride to the Toronto Congress Centre in Etobicoke, where the convention was held. That day, I was going as a Roman Catholic cardinal from the popular video game series Assassins’ Creed. Though I’ve never played the game personally, I had seen clips online about the gameplay and was enthralled by the art and the picturesque depictions of Renaissance-era Rome (during the reign of notorious Borgia Pope Alexander VI), which convinced me enough to coax up exactly $0.00 to make a galero (a red brimmed hat worn by cardinals, like in this picture), with an few old shirts and a red blanket to complete the look). To this day, it remains the cheapest cosplay that I have ever worn to a convention: but consider that I was just a broke university student trying to get by. What more was there that I could have done?
We arrived at the Toronto Congress Centre around 8:30 AM, where we were met with a lineup of thousands of anime fans ready to start the day off. All around me, were folks either in ordinary dress, or cosplaying characters from Naruto, Bleach, Inuyasha, and countless other shows that I had no knowledge of at the time. We waited thirty minutes in the hot sun before the doors to the convention opened, where everyone rushed in, signed up their tickets, and with that, my day had just begun!
My first stop was the Dealers’ Room. One thing that I was amazed by was the vast amounts of merchandise being sold at the convention: things ranging from vintage video games, board games and the ever-so sought after figurines, to posters, plushies and even medieval weapons of war, which we scoured through endlessly. It was here that, at the insistence of D, I bought a hat featuring my favorite character from the Super Mario series, Yoshi. I even briefly hesitated for a bit on buying a few wall posters featuring Sonic the Hedgehog characters, but after a bit I balked. Meanwhile, my friends were out buying drawings, figurines and mouse pads whose price ranged from $50 to the hundreds.
We then made our way to the hotel across the convention hall, where a family mistakenly labeled me as coming from Monty Python’s sketch on The Spanish Inquisition – to which I could only quip back, “You were maybe expecting… the Addams Family?” After that, we went to a panel about vocaloid software, and despite the insistence of my friends to stay close to them, being that they were experienced con-goers and knew the way better than I did, I decided to be a bit of an adventurer and check out some of the sights for myself. The first of them was the audition for Anime North Idol; with my CD in hand, and laboring under my cardinal cosplay, I silently practiced my rendition of Butterfly in the moments leading up to my actual audition. I completed my audition process, and then made my way over to one of the grassy areas to see the Digimon photoshoot, and stayed for what seemed like hours just to see random folks cosplaying characters from my favorite series at that time, in various group pictures. Even though it was hot outside, and I was sweating like crazy (those robes were heavy), I was very happy that I could get to see this moment going before my eyes – almost as if the characters were real and right there before me. I even got into a run-in with the infamous fanfiction author, the Dakari King Mykan long before I knew who he was – which I previously wrote about back in February of 2018.
Once that was dealt with, my friends and I headed off to lunch at the St. Louis Bar and Grill, where we spent about a good 45 minutes waiting for our order of chicken wings – an event which convinced us to never go back there for lunch again. In the meantime, I had just found out that I didn’t make the cut for Anime North Idol; despite my disappointment, I decided to brush it off, say “Life goes on, man” and move on with the rest of my adventure. We once again roamed through the Dealers’ Room and outside, where I was once again mislabeled by one of the conventioneers as coming from the Spanish Inquisition sketch! This time, I just told them: “Yeah, I like to show up once every 400 years or so!” or something of that effect.
As evening rolled around, I was no longer in the mood of laboring under sweat and sun as a Catholic cardinal: so I rolled up my cosplay materials and put them in my bag. It was also here that I learned a very important lesson in attending conventions: always bring a phone charger with you. By this point, my phone was dead and there was no way to contact any of my friends as a result – so when I roamed around the halls, and ended up away from my friends, I was effectively screwed, and lost a lot of roaming time thanks to my mishap. Luckily, I found my friends and made a resolve to bring a phone charger the next time around. We had dinner at Swiss Chalet with another group of D and R’s friends, and after a brief stay at the rave party (named Otakubaloo) that was happening around this time, it was time to head home after a long and tiring walkthrough. Nonetheless, it was fun and easily one of my favorite days at Anime North!
Sunday was notable for two reasons. Firstly, it was the last time that I would attend the Novus Ordo worship service while at the duration of the convention. At that time, I was not a regular attendee of the Tridentine Mass and had NO IDEA about the errors and heresies of the Second Vatican Council, so I attended the Novus Ordo service with my family with no problems. Nowadays however, for the Mass there’s the Society of St. Pius X’s location a bit down south of the convention hall that I could drop by to receive the graces of the Blessed Sacrament. Second of all, it was the first day in which I didn’t attend in cosplay: rather, I was just clad in a black Super Mario Bros. shirt and brown shorts.
I arrived at the convention around noon where I met with R, N and a few others just by the burger joint, Harvey’s. D didn’t attend that day, because it was his father’s birthday and he went to celebrate with his family. We sat down for a bit to have lunch, sitting under the shade while thousands of other conventioneers passed by us, and attended a panel on what it’s like to study abroad in Japan. However, there was one event in particular that I was looking forward to that day: Anime North Idol. Even though I didn’t make the auditions, that didn’t stop me from wanting to see what other performances were like. After a short cut around the Dealers’ Room, me and R went to the North Building to see Anime North Idol. Thankfully, unlike the last two years, no Vatican II Sect preachers were around to annoy us.
I had a good time at Anime North Idol – it was really refreshing to hear the performers, who were quite frankly, all females, belting out songs from Full Metal Alchemist, Seven Deadly Sins and even One Piece; however, the performances that I enjoyed the most were that of the year’s winner, who sang the fourth opening theme song from Inuyasha, titled Grip, and the performance of the previous year’s winner who sang Paper Moon from the series Soul Eater, while cosplaying the show’s lead character, Maka Albarn. Coincidentally, I’m watching the latter two shows at this current moment!
That was the last thing that I saw at the convention, as everyone else was too tired to do anything else – so we headed back in R’s car, where he drove us back to our homes; and with that, my adventures at Anime North 2016 came to an end.
My first year at Anime North was a blast, and I enjoyed every moment of it despite the crowded and heated atmosphere. The fun times that I had there shaped my decision to attend future Anime North events whenever I’m available, and to relish in another weekend of anime, gaming, cosplay, and (as of 2018) a weekend away from the Novus Ordo trash bin. God willing, this year will be my fifth consecutive year as an attendee there, but one thing’s for sure: nothing, not even the coronavirus outbreak, secondary circumstances or Vatican II will bring my continuing journeys to Anime North to a grinding halt!