I have been attending this convention for a decade now, starting when I was in high school and when I was very much embarrassed of my love of animation (particularly Japanese animation). A couple of unfortunate instances with classmates made me hide it from most people. But at my first Anime NEXT, I distinctly remember being on my phone the first night, walking around the hotel lobby after things had quieted down, telling my mom how comfortable I felt, being surrounded by a proper community. It was a much smaller con then, as conventions weren’t the pop culture juggernauts they are now. Nonetheless, ANEXT has maintained the charm that initially drew me to it. And, although I’m not the active fan that I was, I can still appreciate everything the medium and fans have to offer.
Although the dealers room and artist alley are always jam-packed, the beautiful grounds of the Garden Sate Exhibit Center allow for people to spread out and appreciate all of the costumes and props designed. This year, a Japanese rock band my brother and I really like, FLOW, headlined the convention, and did not disappoint. It was pretty interesting for my brother, our friend, and me to attend a concert and then immediately after go to a rave, but somehow it worked. The DJ had a very interesting mix of trance, house, chip tunes, and video game soundtracks mixed together. In addition to FLOW, another huge celebrity attended, Trigger Studios. They are well known for hit shows like Gurren Lagann, Panty and Stocking, and Kill la Kill. They also received a lot of positive attention for their short film Little Witch Academia, which had a very, very successful Kickstarter campaign that is funding a sequel due out this October.
Most years, I don’t really do much in terms of convention day-time programming, but I am very happy to say that this year I opted to attend a few panels. Growing up, voice acting was something I was interested in (if only to find a career I could possibly have in the animation industry) so it was interesting to attend a couple of panels hosted by professionals. I also attended a nostalgia-fueled panel about Cartoon Networks Toonami block with some friends who also grew up watching it. We also attended the annual unofficial Digimon Vs. Pokemon soccer game, which is in it’s 5th year running. My friend, who dressed up as a character from Digimon, got to play in the game, which I am admittedly jealous of. Perhaps some day!
One of the panels I went to was called “Women in Animation,” ended up being one of my favorite things about the con this year, all thanks to one woman. The panel featured three American voice actresses, and one animator from Japan, Ms. Aya Suzuki. My favorite activity of the weekend (other than seeing so many friends) was a panel called “A Video History of Anime,” which was educational, funny, and entertaining. I’ll be writing more about both of these panels in separate posts soon, as I believe they warrant larger coverage!
There were a few other panels I’d have enjoyed attending, but didn’t get to. But it’s very reassuring that the convention continues to provide some more slightly serious/educational content for fans. This post is already a bit longer than I’d like, so I will simply end it by being generally grateful to have a convention like this one be in my life for as long as it has, and to encourage any readers to consider attending one in their lifetimes, whether their interest be anime or comic books or even any other random thing like tattoos. There are conventions /expos/gatherings/meetups for all sorts of things. Finding a broader community is a pretty nice thing.