Anime North is a social utopia. Attracting as many as 20,000 nerds per day, this three-day convention is the largest of its kind in Canada. Against a mundane backdrop of hotels, a corporate convention center, suburban strip malls, and chain restaurants, legions of anime nerds, gamers, LARPers, furries, ravers, steampunks, goths, and various other fanatics dress up in elaborate costumes and celebrate their weirdness. This year’s convention included geek speed dating, a dealer’s room packed with everything from hand-crocheted My Little Pony dolls to replica weapon vendors, a costume masquerade, outdoor and indoor raves, gaming rooms and LAN parties, workshops, and a host of panel discussions. The atmosphere is radically inclusive. One attendee, Kevin, explained, “You just come to Anime North and everyone treats you like they’ve known you for years even though you’ve never met them before. It’s pretty nice. It’s the best community ever.”
While in mainstream society you are generally ostracized for dressing up as Pokémon or living in your parents’ basement to pursue a life of World of Warcraft, Anime North affords attendees an opportunity to transcend their day-to-day reality and become something else. “If you want to be a robot, you want to be an animal, or you want to be a buff, shirtless warrior, you can be it,” offered Protoman.
Attendees of the convention are united by the same embarrassing hobbies, fostering the kind of environment where nobody is cool and nobody is discriminated against. The convention’s programmers have taken cues from this egalitarian ethos, including discussion panels such as Gay Sex 101, 4chan, Transphobia in Anime and Gaming, Sex and the Single Otaku, and Black Folks Like Anime, Too! One attendee, who would only identify himself by his gaming alias RShadowKirby, told me, “If the United Nations was as accepting as the people here at Anime North, world peace would pretty much accomplished just like this... People from all around the world from different races just come together not only just to look at anime but just to have fun and laugh together. Why the fuck can’t the world do this?”
These utopian sentiments were pretty commonplace at the convention. Beth Anne Jones, an Anime North staffer dressed from Inuyasha, said, “I know this sounds kind of cliché but anime could bring world peace if people just sat down, watched it, enjoyed it with each other and resolved their differences.”
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