Convention Tales #15: Short Stories From Anime North, Part #2

It dawned on me this week that, south of the Canadian border in the Big Apple itself, New York City, Anime NYC had recently transpired, as once more did 30,000+ anime fans of all ages descend upon the Jarvits Center for a weekend of weeb-filled fun. Not only did this event remind me of the hustle-and-bustle of a big-city convention that I’ve sorely missed over the last two years (thanks to Doug Ford’s incompetence and chief douche Justin Trudeau’s meanderings), but it also brought me back to when I wrote Conventions I’d Love To Visit around the same time as Anime NYC ran two years ago. Man, those were the days, when you could gather in crowds and nobody would question you, or cite you towards the Covfefe-19 gestapo for whatever violation. I was going to write an Anime Review this week, but in light of this newfound fact I think I’ll push it to the next and instead present another set of stories from my time at Anime North as a sort of follow-up to my last post regarding that subject, on 30 August 2021.

STORY #5: LOST AT SEA (OR THE ROAD…)

Of all the Anime North editions that I’ve traveled to, there’s one year that I’ve neglected to mention, and that’s the one from 2017. There’s several reasons for such a lack of mention on this blog. For one, I only went on the Saturday out of fear of going alone without a group. Also, I didn’t go in an elaborate cosplay along the likes of Judge Claude Frollo in 2019 or Rex Raptor (from Yu-Gi-Oh: Duel Monsters) in 2018. It also didn’t help that this was the one where I didn’t visit any significant events or find anything fun, only shuffling into the odd panel here and there with my group-mates. This experience radically shifted my stance towards visiting conventions, and I’ve preferred to travel there alone rather than have to babysit, or be spoon-fed by a group and rely on them for transportation, when instead I could save myself the headache and, to paraphrase legendary singer Frank Sinatra, “do it my way”.

A look at what Anime North was like in 2017; a largely forgotten year in my book.

Anyhow, one particular incident was quite notable that weekend. Having reached the end of our time there, we were looking for a place to have dinner at before heading back home. Having already spent the lunch at the (now-defunct) Tucker’s location near the hall, we debated primarily because the restaurants around were either packed, expensive, or faced with the risk of inconvenient waiting times. It was determined eventually that we would meet up at the Swiss Chalet near Kipling Station, which was a far drive from our current location; one trip down Highway 427 and and past a particular exit to our destination. Well, here’s where the tricky part happened; I was put in the drivers’ seat and for some reason our lead driver was too lazy to follow the GPS instructions on his phone, and asked me to direct him as to where to go. We ended up missing the exit that would lead us to the Kipling Station area.

Admittedly, I was partly to blame because of unfamiliarity with the area and overestimating the GPS, but I can’t exactly exonerate the driver for failing to make use of his drivers’ conscience and figure out how to get there on his own. We briefly stopped in front of the Sherway Gardens mall to retrace our directions, and this time around were successful in navigating our way towards the intended direction – where we learned that our other group-mate, who had his own car, had been waiting for us for some 15 minutes or so during the whole scenario. At least, the alfredo pasta dish they handed out was good, as was the chicken, which soothed the minor tension between us, and allowed us to return home without much discontent. I’d spend the rest of the night recollecting my small share of photos from the trip, and wake up the next morning as if Anime North 2017 had never happened – a somber way to end the convention, and thus why I don’t talk about it often here.

STORY #6: UNEXPECTED ENCOUNTERS

There have been moments where my cosplay became the subject of unexpected remarks, such as in 2016 when a family in an elevator quipped at my cardinal costume and (mistakenly) brought up Monty Python’s Spanish Inquisition sketch; and moreover plenty of times I’ve been bombarded with Judge Claude Frollo’s signature song while cosplaying said character on the Friday of Anime North 2019. However, I’ve been on the other end of that conversation as well, and found myself in situations where I came across some cosplays that I never thought would have showed up at Anime North, and thus I label them as “unexpected encounters”.

  • Running into someone portraying the Nostalgia Critic, complete with suit, hat and the red tie. I’ve heard of people cosplaying his character whenever the original showed up to conventions, but in this particular case, this one was out of his own volition. I was quite surprised to learn that he had also gone as said character’s rival, the Angry Video Game Nerd, though no one seemed to recognize his character.
  • At the same event, there was a guy and a girl wearing penguin suits, and my mind thought they were portraying the characters from the Swiss claymation short series Pingu. I went up to them to inquire if they really were portraying such, to which the male cosplayer replied: “Yes, we’re Pingu. Noot Noot” – much to my delight, and I got a picture with them holding up signs which had “Noot Noot”, which was his signature call, written on them.
  • To see someone cosplaying Filthy Frank, a Youtuber known for his raspy-voiced rants and his army of retarded lycra-suit people, is akin to seeing a full blue moon – but that must have transpired while I was asleep. After I arrived at Anime North after High Mass, as I walked through the crosswalk connecting the Delta Hotel and the Toronto Congress Centre that sunny day, my eye caught a girl wearing a leather aviator hat, red-rimmed sunglasses and a blue dress shirt associated with the character, holding a “Ravioli, Ravioli, Where’s The Pocketoli” sign (in reference to a video where he ate ravioli from his shirt pocket and made stupid remarks). Cue a prompt for a photo while attempting my best impression of Frank’s idiotic sidekick, Pink Guy: “ey b0ss, can i habe photo?”

However, there was another particular cosplay from 2019 that stood out to me; it wasn’t a character from an anime, video game, or even Western media. Think of the most basic thing you could possibly imagine, and turn it into a costume. I’m talking about the walking potted plant depicted below. Curious to know about this character, I approached it hoping to see how it would react upon my arrival. As soon as I came up to it, the person inside the disguise muttered “Hello, Frollo!” – which amused me. I decided to roleplay as how the original character would have upon seeing this: with shock, fear, yelling “Witchcraft” while running away from it. This lasted only a few seconds before I went back and complimented the cosplay, with one “Thank you!” from him.

STORY #7: THAT TIME I MET A YOUTUBER

The best part about choosing to wander carefree across a convention is not only the ability to explore more than you could have if you chose to stick to a group, but also the chance you might run into other interesting individuals; one such instance happened to me on one particular Saturday evening. As I was hunkering under the entrance to the Toronto Congress Centre, clad in my Judge Claude Frollo cosplay, someone tapped me on the back – in the friendly sort of way, not aggressive. Not one to ignore attention, I turned towards the direction, and met a tall person wearing glasses, who looked a bit like my best friend from middle school who complimented my attire, and got my photo. His name was Jack, and as I would discover, was a filmmaker who owned a Youtube channel where he’d talk about things related to anime (particularly his favorite series Inuyasha), Western media, and other parts related to the fandom.

We proceeded to have a friendly discussion about how Frollo was one of his favorite of the Disney villains, and especially how edgy he was compared to most other villains produced by that company. There was also a brief moment in which we lamented the recent burning of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris a little over a month ago; whereas I for the spiritual side, Jack felt it ruined an opportunity for Disney to do a live-action remake of the eponymous 1996 film. To be honest though, given how many live-action renditions of this film have appeared since then (the 1939 version being the best one, in my opinion), I’m not sure Disney’s ready to take that step for a while. I mentioned also how I had run into someone portraying the infamous Internet reviewer Nostalgia Critic, and he propped up a story of how not only did he run into that person before, but he had met the real versions of him and the Angry Video Game Nerd at several different conventions in the US, and how much of an inspiration they were to him as a content creator.

After that brief encounter, we parted ways, wishing each other the best with smiles on our faces. It turns out, with God’s Providence, we would wind up running into each other again four months later at Fan Expo, where he still remembered me from the same cosplay, lingering under the hot sun of late summer, where he was shooting a cosplay-related video based off the recently-released hit finale, Avengers: Endgame. All things considered though, this brief meet-up was a nice show of how great these conventions are; bringing people together from all walks of life, with different hobbies and occupations, and even things to talk about; and the tremendous impact it has on thousands of people.

I couldn’t come up with a picture of the Youtuber in question, so please enjoy this snippet of the winner of Anime North 2019!

STORY #8: WHY I DON’T GO TO PANELS ANYMORE

I believe I’ve mentioned on previous Convention Tales posts that I despise the idea of going to panels at anime conventions, and I can totally understand those who don’t go to these anymore because of the lack of interesting panel choices. To me, the idea of spending upwards of double-digit prices just to go from room to room to listen to a bunch of people talk about random topics, ranging from themes in anime to Japanese music to the most bizarre thing you can think about (18+ panels, I’m looking at you – and praying for your conversion from sin) completely minimizes the value of such events. I can understand business conferences having these type of meetings because that’s what they’re tailored for, and the content there is leagues more useful than at Anime North, but still, I thought the latter was supposed to be fun-filled, like the CNE?

My strong opinion on this was shaped through my experiences visiting panels at Anime North. The first year, I tagged along with my group-mates to panels regarding vocaloid software and living in Japan. Understandably, because I was a newcomer and didn’t want to feel lost among the crowd (something which did, unfortunately happen), I went along to these just to go with the flow and see what they were like. Note that this was the only year that I stayed at a panel to its completion, which usually lasted around one hour. 2017 saw me witness a panel which was more entertainment-oriented rather than informative, where contestants guessed which anime a particular song came from – Sword Art Online‘s opening, “Crossing Field” by LiSA, being one that I explicitly remember hearing there. Fast forward to 2018, and we went to panels regarding LEGO creations and 3D printing. It was at the latter that a series of questions began to dawn on my mind… What am I learning from this? How is this relevant to my personal life? Is attending these really going to be considered the highlight of my trip here? Am I really going to miss out on the other fun stuff that could be happening out there? To top it all off, one of my group-mates told me that he fell asleep in the middle of the panel – that says MUCH about it, and we left 10 minutes prior to the end of it. Since then, I’ve never set foot in a panel, and the only way I’d be there is if I got forcefully dragged in there.

A “Guess The Song” panel at Anime North in 2017.

To sum it all up, the crux of why I don’t go to panels? It’s simple – they’re boring, unenthusiastically delivered, and the discussions aren’t that thought-provoking, and unsurprisingly even one of my group-mates didn’t like the idea of sitting down mundanely at these places either. Some of the panels dedicated to the show only revealed really basic information about who the voice actors are, general plot information and other supposedly interesting tidbits about it. I mean, come on, I paid $60 to this, you expect me to make use of it by sitting down in rooms just to get lectured about this and that, when you could do the exact same thing by signing up for an extra university degree? Heck, I might as well just do a Google search about these topics on my own time if I wanted to rather than go to a panel here.

I am in no way disparaging those who put their effort to organizing these meetups, or those who use it to take a break from the walking – I know it can be tiring, and I offer liberty to those who wish to go here if it’s their thing. However, panels just aren’t worth the bang for my buck. However, in my opinion, experiences like being in the middle of a “battle scene” in chess, catching your favorite cosplay of a character you like, or having a discussion with someone in the convention grounds is worth more than any of the panels I’ve attended combined, and something I’ll always look forward to coming across.

CONCLUSION

One week ago, on the feast of St. Josaphat Kuntsevych, following Low Mass I traveled to the Toronto Congress Centre and its surrounding hotel for the first time in months to roam through the empty lots and halls. As soon as I reached the place, nostalgia and good vibes returned as I thought about how Anime North took place here – in my head I could still see the colorful cosplays lingering under the sun, loud music and the hubbub taking place, and the various shenanigans that I’ve witnessed replaying themselves. As I wrote up this post, I also looked through the various photos I’ve taken for reference, and it’s my hope that I and the many regular patrons of this event can once more recover those good vibes once this charade over Covfefe-19 starts to teeter away for a somewhat normal-looking life. I just hope that masks, social distancing and limited event choices won’t be part of that scenery, God willing.

A sight of the convention grounds the previous week. All too quiet, and dreary out here.

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