Anime conventions. What is it about these nerd sanctuaries that draws in thousands of otaku from all over the globe? Back in the 70’s and 80’s we had Sci-Fi and Comic-Con conventions for all of the Marvel heads, DC freaks, Trekkies, and Star Wars fanboys. However it wasn’t until the 90’s when a new fandom made its way onto the convention scene; the anime fandom! Growing up I was into a lot of things, but the one thing that I was most into was in fact anime. I didn’t even know that these type of conventions even existed until the mid 2000’s when my mom told me about them, and the first one I went to once had the reputation of being the largest convention on the east coast; Otakon.
Yep, this was my first anime convention back in the 2000’s. Once I set foot inside this con, I felt like I was thrusted into a whole other world. It felt like a world where you can let your nerd flag fly and be who you wanted to be; literally! I didn’t even know what cosplay was until I went to this convention, and saw all of my favorite characters from my favorite anime and video games all inside one building. I was overcome with joy; like better than getting a Gamecube for Christmas type of joy. I never knew a world like this existed outside of my reality, and to be 100% honest with you, it felt like Heaven.
I had to put up with bullies, narcissistic teachers, and guidance counselors who didn’t exactly do the ‘guidance’ portion of the job, but when I walked into the doors of this anime convention…it felt like I was home. It felt like I was home to a community of people who loved the same things I did and didn’t make fun of me for it. I know nowadays things are a little divisive in terms of the ethnicity of voice actors, subbed vs. dubbed, and racism in the cosplay community (all of which we need to work on like yesterday), but back then…things were different – especially when you didn’t have friends who liked anime and video games as much as you did.
I spent the next eight years going to this convention until word got out that it was moving to Washington D.C. and I wasn’t too happy about that. Most of the convention goers were mixed on the situation, but for me it sucked because Baltimore doesn’t have a lot of anime-related things happening; we had Baltimore Comic-Con but I’m more of an otaku than a comic book guy. Just when I thought I wasn’t going to find another convention that was going to give me that same homely feeling that Otakon did, in steps AniMore!
It was the winter of 2016; the year of Snowmageddon, when this convention rose from the ashes that Otakon left behind. This was also the same year both myself and A. Goldman made our mark as D&A Anime Blog. I wasn’t sure what to expect from this convention; the location took place in a hotel (the Hyatt Regency to be exact), the space could only hold about 2000 people which would make this a rather small convention, and most of the voice actors I want to see probably won’t be able to come to this convention because the con’s budget won’t be enough to cover it. However it wasn’t until I went to this con that it felt like the way anime conventions of the 90’s used to be; about the medium! Sure, Otakon had workshops and panels, but AniMore felt more intimate and more like family – in fact they treated us like family when we made our debut.
AniMore had that ‘old school’ convention vibe of the 90’s where it was all about the fans and the medium. All of the artists and dealers there were both local and out of town (like PA, NY, and NJ), a lot of the panels were both fun and informational, and they had a screening room where you can watch the latest anime titles from FUNimation and Crunchyroll. AniMore also gave us some cool voice actors; like Felecia Angelle, Josh Grelle, Anthony Bowling, and Tia Ballard. Not only that we had a game that became an AniMore tradition every year called Cards Against Humanity (or Crabs Adjust Humidity). They also threw late night rave parties but they weren’t exactly ‘rave’ parties, they were just parties with a little bit of everything; shuffling, line dancing, twerking, booty shakin’, freakin’, and everything in between.
Otakon exposed me to a world outside of my own where I felt like I fit in, but it wasn’t until I came to AniMore where I felt more like family. This convention helped launch the overall presence of the anime blog that you see today, and they played a big part in our inception. Sadly COVID-19 took away any chance of AniMore expanding their run in Baltimore when 2021 arrived.
The way I see it; Otakon was the gateway into the convention world for me, as it showed me a place where I felt safe and free to express my nerdy passions without judgement and ridicule. AniMore took it a step further with its intimate and homely vibe where I felt like a family member and not just a guy who’s a part of the community. (Not to say that was a bad thing, but AniMore brought me closer to that family feel.) Even though those days are behind me, I will always cherish the time I spent with AniMore, and how much that convention made me and my friend feel like family. Who knows if I’ll ever find another con like that; but in the five years that I’ve attended, I have nothing but kind words to say about them, and awesome memories that will always be a part of me forever.