When I went to my first anime convention in 2001, I was expecting to see maybe a few card tables of merchandise, perhaps a video room, nothing fancy. What I found was a phenomenon in mid-explosion. There was an entire ballroom dedicated to the dealers room, a music video contest, and a cosplay contest with a fervor a rock concert. Today Sakuracon can pack the Seattle convention Center with over 15,000 attendees. Even though the anime industry is in a slump, the convention continued to grow all over the world. It’s hard to believe they all started out as a twinkle in the eyes of scattered pockets of fans.
The images you see in this post are by lionboogy, a celebrated con photographer and Transformers cosplayer. When he posted these pictures on IRC in 1994, his friend balked at the idea that anime conventions could ever get this big. At the time they would have been right. What changed over the past 15 years to bring us what are essentially mobile theme parks dedicated to anime?
The answer is the personal computer. Anime fans, being interested in futuristic stuff, were quick to use their gadgets to plan their activities. When the Internet came to prominence, and from all over the state or province could find out where to gather. They were even distributing entire anime episodes over the net a full seven years before YouTube hit the scene.
I find it ironic when people talk about technology and the force of the isolation. I found Sakuracon over the Internet, and through it I’ve met very dear friends that I’ve had for almost a decade. Sure, you could use the Internet to sit in your basement all day and play MMOs, but if you’re willing to make full use of the technology they can make your life more real than you ever thought possible.