I really don’t like to get involved with controversies related to anime conventions. Better things could be done like working on my technical skills or focusing on the Word of God or learning fundamentals of the Faith from excellent pre-Vatican II theologians’ books, rather than arguing with someone online over their subjective take on a past event. From what I’ve seen, most of the controversies that surround Anime North seem to be quite petty, with people saying things along the lines of:
- “None of the panels/guests/events I went to were interesting”. (My response: If you didn’t like the panels/guests/events then that’s fine, but if you’re going to stake your enjoyment based on panel quality instead of hanging out with friends… you’re dead wrong)
- “The items/food at the Dealers’ Room were overpriced.” (My response: As someone who has bought items from the Dealers’ Room, and has willingly starved themselves at conventions to avoid paying for food and to maximize the amount of fun time, I can sympathize – but there are other solutions such as buying things online or packing your own food)
- “It was too hot.” (My response: It’s the middle of May, what did you expect, a tundra? If the heat bothered you then carry an umbrella or wear cosplay that is not too heavy. For people like me who enjoy the summer, this isn’t a major concern)
- “The religious protesters (from the Vatican II sect) were loud, annoying, and obnoxious. They should be banned.” (My response: Ignore them and outright reject their heresies, and pray for their conversion to the Catholic Faith).
However, I’m not going to be focusing on these small issues in this week’s post. Rather I’m going to cover some issues that I have with a (hypothetical) Anime North scenario in 2021.
In the midst of the COVID-19 farce that is currently spreading across globally, organizers of Anime North looked for options to see how they could attempt to host the convention in a safe manner, one that would reduce health risks. One of these included moving the convention from late May to late July, under the misguidance that things would be better by then. Eventually, it was determined that due to the continuing growth of the “pandemic” across Ontario, and the fact that the Toronto Congress Centre would be used that summer as a vaccination centre, the decision was made to postpone Anime North until the following year. I can’t blame them this time around, to be honest.
Recently, I came across a podcast by the Canuckleheads, hosted by a staff member of Kitchener Comic Con who, understandably, had a gripe to handle with at Anime North following an incident involving their organizers back in January of 2020. In a podcast from 14 November 2020, along with another organizer from said convention, they went over a leaked email from the Anime North director which outlined the contingency plan that would have surmised for a possible 2021 rendition of the convention. The purpose of this post will not be to attack the podcasters’ opinions, nor will it be to defend the contingency plan; neither is this also meant as an endorsement of the show or whatever beliefs they may share. What I’m going to do is highlight some key features of the decisions made and put my opinion on the entire matter.
Had Anime North happened, the plan would have called for:
- Intensive health/safety precautions. Anime North organizers were reportedly working with Prepared Canada, an emergency management company located in Mississauga, Ontario, to come up with a plan to determine possible ways that the convention could go on. It was determined that the only way the convention could go on was to use copious amounts of restrictions in-place at the convention hall, such as social distancing, hand sanitizers, masks, etc. Nothing too out of the ordinary, as many businesses have taken that route to secure functionality and ensure the safety of their attendees.
- Restricting convention attendance numbers. Keep in mind, under normal circumstances Anime North typically brings in at least 30,000-50,000 persons to the grounds of the Toronto Convention Centre – guests, vendors, performers and attendees alike. Should Anime North have gone through this year, attendance would have to be severely cut down to at least 50% of the original uptake to accommodate social distancing. Consequently, this would also mean large amounts of space and equipment would be needed to make sure these health/safety guidelines were possible, and in a manner that would be cost-efficient. The hosts of Canuckleheads went on an expletive-laden response to this suggestion, accusing the former about only “caring about money”. Whether or not that is what the email trily entails, I will not comment on it, as to quote the Kermit meme, “That’s none of my business”.
- No American/Japanese guests at Anime North. Like any anime convention in North America, Anime North prides in giving fans an opportunity to meet some of their favorite voice actors from English anime dubs and Japanese sources. However, due to the travel restrictions, conflicts of interest with their talent agencies, and the intensive quarantine measures in place for incoming travelers, the absence of these individuals would be severely limited, or at best, held in a virtual setting. Canuckleheads hosts continued to lambast the organizers’ decision to limit guest appearances, once again accusing them of their preference for profit over an exciting fan experience.
- Many events would be cut down in size or not held (!). Food events, such as the maid café, were noted as not feasible to hold that year. However, places such as the Dealers’ Room, Comic Market, Crafters’ Corner, as well as some unnamed gaming, masquerading, panels and music events. No word on whether my favorite events, such as Cosplay Battle Chess, Anime North Idol, or the Skit Contest, would be part of this year’s lineup. Due to the lack of events, volunteers would either not be needed or cut down in size to accommodate for the reduced capacity.
- Limited staff ventures. Not only would volunteers be reduced in number or eliminated this year; but staff would be impacted as well, especially those who feel that they could not, in good conscience, expose themselves to COVID risk by working at this convention. Hotel accommodations for them would also be impacted based on the decisions that they made whether to show up or not.
- Significant, yet temporary ticket price hike (!!). Last but not least, in light of the attendance cut, to make up for potential losses, a price hike in tickets was also in the works, presumably to cover the COVID precautions. Under normal circumstances, a ticket for the weekend would cost around the $30-$70 range depending on whether you were going for one day or the whole weekend. Make that of what you will.
Even though a lot of what the Canuckleheads hosts had to say seemed directed as part of a vendetta against Anime North staffers, who attacked them for inviting voice actor Vic Mignogna, who at that time was facing sexual harassment allegations, to the Kitchener Comic Con, they did manage to raise some interesting facts as to what an anime convention held during COVID would look like. I can’t say I’m all that surprised with what was in store for planning for this hypothetical convention.
Suffice to say, Anime North cancelled its plans to host a 2021 event on February 23 of this year. But assuming that it was going to be held this year, I can’t imagine how rather dystopian it would look with all these changes in place. I’m actually kind of glad that they cancelled for this year, despite how much it sucks that there likely won’t be another convention season to put about this year. Even so, if they did plan to host it, I probably wouldn’t be buying a ticket or showing up. Here are the reasons why, barring anything COVID-related:
- No High Mass. I go to anime/fan conventions because my primary reason is to escape the Novus Ordo, and find a way to honor God effectively at the Tridentine Mass (I would be okay with a Byzantine Rite parish too, but I’m not aware of any near the convention). With the way things are, having to book a seat at church and the added hassle of public transit or Uber just as I did last year, seems to me that taking the path of least resistance might be the best route this time around – and that’s, as much as I hate to say it, staying home.
- You’re basically paying a lot for a reduced fan experience. While I can’t say the lack of guests has dampened my personal convention experience in the past, the fact that they’re willing to cut down a lot of the things that made Anime North fun in the past, like the Dealers’ Room size, and the type of events that are going to be presented, really bugs me. As a regular attendee of Anime North since 2016, I cannot fathom the thought of going to this convention without seeing the usual sights such as packed photoshoots and masquerade events, Anime North Idol, Cosplay Battle Chess, or impromptu dance performances. That’s what made the convention fun in the first place, and has been the subject of many memories savored through the past few years – taking them away just for the sake of health/safety guidelines is a sacrifice that, in my opinion, is not worth it. Not to mention, I don’t think a 50% reduction would be enough; the actual rate might probably need to be higher, maybe at least 70%, if one wanted to make it as safe and efficient as possible. As I’ve told to my dad, going to Anime North with all these precautions in place would be like “paying fifty bucks for a quarter of a pie”. It’s a total rip-off, and a buzzkill for the fun.
- Cosplay hassles. My D’Artagnan (from The Man In The Iron Mask) and Cardinal Ottaviani (an IRL Roman Catholic cardinal who was head of the Holy Office from 1953 – 1968) cosplays are still waiting to see the light at a future convention, God-willing it happens again. What’s even more is that if I were to come home from this convention, a lot of sanitizing would be done which could possibly ruin their quality. Also, another thing that bothers me is that I would have to wear a mask inside the convention hall, on top of my cosplay. Notwithstanding how ridiculous such a garment would integrate on me, how historically inaccurate and outright depressing it would look, as if seeing everyone in the streets walking by with a mask isn’t already depressing enough, and the fact that I absolutely detest having to wear them everywhere except possibly outdoors and at home, why bother going if you’re going to be reminded everywhere I go of a likely overhyped virus?
Overall, it just won’t feel the same. I go to conventions because I enjoy being around thousands of other like-minded patrons who want to share their cosplays, bask in the nice summer weather, see a few cool events, and most importantly, talk about anime – but even more, do it without worries. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t disregard your safety at conventions, nor keep a good hygiene (remember, con crud, or getting the flu after a con, is a thing which I myself almost succumbed to but, by the grace of God, didn’t); but if you are going to look back every few minutes to make sure you’re not going to get sick or whatnot at these places, then by all means, don’t bother.
Given that Anime North was cancelled this year, organizers decided to hold a virtual version of Anime North during the weekend of Trinity Sunday, called “Anime North: Stay At Home Edition”. You might as well call it the “stare at your computer and waste your life at someone talking about anime/gaming/cosplay at home edition” – because let’s face it, that’s what it is going to end up being anyways. I’ve talked about it before in a previous post why I think virtual conventions can go suck it, and I still stand by those words; you’re better off putting in that energy to work extra hours at another job (like what I’m doing right now) or spending time with family. Just because you set up an online meetup and call it a convention doesn’t make it one, anymore than watching the Mass on television doesn’t fulfill your Sunday obligations, or driving a car in a video game makes you eligible for a driver’s license.
After all, what good is holding an online convention when you’re not willing to meet with others? The whole point of an anime convention is to be around your friends, roam a space with thousands of other people who like anime, have fun, and probably get some good exercise while you’re at it too. Adding health/safety precautions on top of masks to dishevel everyone’s cosplay, implicitly discourage social interaction and prevent them from enjoying the experience like they normally completely defeats the purpose of such, and if that’s the case it’s better to not hold it and wait for a cure from God to deliver us from whatever virus-related conspiracy is up next. That’s what I’ll be doing, at least for the time being.