Friday, June 14, 2024
spot_img

Fanime 2024 Celebrates its 30th Anniversary

Memorial Day weekend in the Bay Area means one thing to anime fans: FanimeCon, a huge anime convention drawing in attendees from all around California and beyond. The four-day weekend was a celebration of anime, manga, and gaming, as it has been for literally decades — yes, decades, as 2024 celebrated the 30th Fanime Con (give or take the few years it skipped due to Covid).

So, how was this year’s Fanime? Read on and see all that it had to offer and the obstacles along the way.

Shopping

What’s a convention without a dealer’s hall? Fanime is known for having a massive dealer’s hall, where attendees can shop around for any anime paraphernalia they desire. Vendors were selling wares like figurines, prop weapons, art prints, plushies, and so much more, including some rarer goods or handmade items.

Interestingly, there wasn’t too much anime or manga on sale — but when anyone can walk into their nearest Barnes & Noble and find entire walls dedicated to manga, conventions are now more of an opportunity to find less common items.

Across from the dealer’s hall was the artist alley, where local artists could sell their works. The artist alley was packed full of attendees squeezing through the aisles, supporting local artists while finding prints to cover their walls.

And for those looking for well-loved goods, a swap meet on Thursday and Friday presented an opportunity to buy items for cheap. Attendees could purchase spots in the swap meet to sell their old goods, including figures, cards, props, and more.

So for those with cash to burn and looking for things to buy, Fanime had plenty of options.

Panels and Events

Fanime’s motto is “By Fans, For Fans,” which is most commonly reflected in its programming. The convention weekend featured many panels from attendees, featuring everything from examinations of the mecha genre to a Kids BW retrospective.

Naturally, the guests of honor all had panels and Q&A sessions of their own, which were packed with fans eager to meet their favorite voice actors, cosplayers, and creators.

Two of the biggest panels were from the Cosplay Wrestling Federation (CWF), a group of cosplayers who perform pro wrestling-style promos on stage and compete for the audience’s cheers and boos.

This year, CWF celebrated its 10th anniversary with the Masters 8 tournament, where some of the biggest competitors went head-to-head in an elimination tournament until one was left standing. (Full disclosure: I am part of the CWF, competed in the Masters 8, and won as Mumen Rider.)

CWF also featured its Fanimania 9 event, with a mix of newcomers and recurring characters competing for the heavyweight prize. This year, Parappa the Rapper and Cooking Mama faced off against reigning champion Larry (from Pokemon Scarlet and Violet), with Parappa eventually claiming the championship belt.

But what about those who wanted a little entertainment without needing to wait in line for a panel? Stage Zero stood in the center of the convention, featuring a full schedule of programming. These included musical numbers, interviews, games, and more, so even those stopping to rest their feet could catch a show.

What else? Fanime also featured a game show, karaoke, speed dating, a music fest, and the black and white ball, so attendees could pack their schedule and still not see and do everything there was.

Guests of Honor

Fanime’s guests of honor this year included a mix of music, actors, industry experts, and more. The 2024 guests included:

  • Music group Survive Said The Prophet
  • Author and anime industry veteran Hirokatsu Kihara
  • Voice actor Casey Mongillo
  • Voice actor Kira Buckland
  • Voice actor Yuu Hayashi
  • Gaming industry veteran MarkMan
  • Cosplayer Maguma
  • Cosplayer VampyBitMe
  • Anime expert Gilles Poitras
  • Fashion designers Belladonna

Each guest had panels and programming where they could speak with fans and attendees, as well as autograph sessions.

Cosplayers

If there’s one thing Fanime always has in abundance and excellence, it’s cosplayers. One couldn’t walk outside or through the halls without seeing it filled with attendees dressed as their favorite characters.

This year’s convention theme was racing, with banners advertising the “FanimeCon 30 Fan Prix.” However, the cosplay attendees seemed to have their own theme in mind: fantasy. Some of the most popular cosplays of the con were from Delicious in Dungeon and Frieren: Beyond Journey’s End, along with Baldur’s Gate 3 on the video game side.

Hazbin Hotel and Helluva Boss also had plenty of cosplayers. Those costumes tend to be on the more complicated side, requiring plenty of makeup and prosthetics, so they were exceptionally impressive.

Fanime also allows fans to host cosplay gatherings. This year, however, the Cosplay Gatherings Department had walked out, so the gatherings were less organized. Fans still worked together to sort out their gatherings, with the Extravaganzas department stepping in to make everything official, but the lack of convention support was still evident, especially when the organizers were given QR codes for attendees to upload their photos rather than having dedicated staff photographers.

Regardless, whether one was there for a gathering, a cosplay group, or just to enjoy the costumes on display, there was no shortage of talented cosplayers at the con.

Gaming, Video Rooms, and Manga

Fanime was once known for its 24 hour gaming hall. This year, however, the Gaming Department had also quit, leaving the convention scrambling to recover. In the end, they did still have a gaming hall, although it was only open until 10.

The gaming hall featured a free-play arcade, as well as several tables set up for video games and card games. The video games were primarily fighting games, and the card game tables hosted tournaments for games like Magic: The Gathering, Pokemon, and Yu-Gi-Oh. Fanime also had a lending library of tabletop games for attendees to borrow and enjoy.

Two players face off in a Yu-Gi-Oh tournament

At first glance, it seemed like the gaming hall had recovered from the walkout well, but the cracks were still showing. For instance, in addition to the reduced hours, video game tournament attendees reported that the organizers had to oversee multiple tournaments at once. But more on that later.

Outside of gaming, Fanime featured a few anime screening rooms. While these featured a nice variety of series, they were also offsite, held at The Oasis (a quick trip away in another hotel), so attendees couldn’t stop by and catch a show as they rested their feet.

Where attendees could rest, however, was the manga lounge. This featured racks filled with manga for attendees to enjoy in quiet, along with a shelf where they could donate their old books and take another in return.

Location & Food

Fanime 2024 was held in the San Jose Convention Center, as it has been for most of its history. The convention center has two connected hotels (a Hilton and a Marriott), both of which were fully booked with the weekend’s attendees. (In fact, just booking a room for the full weekend is a challenge for many attendees, as reservations for every hotel block filled incredibly quickly.)

Attendees had a few parking options: they could park in the convention center garage, use their hotel’s valet parking, or find a parking lot within walking distance. None of them were free options, of course, but it came down to convenience vs price. The convention center did offer a discounted parking pass with in and out privileges, but those were limited to only 200 guests. Additionally, they went on sale at 8 AM on Friday morning, so anyone who arrived on Thursday for Day Zero still had to pay the full day’s parking before they could get their weekend parking pass.

Downtown San Jose is home to a wide range of restaurants, from fast food to fancy restaurants, most of which were within walking distance. Food joints like Iguanas and Pizza My Heart tended to be very crowded throughout the weekend, although the convention center also had its own food options, albeit at the usual inflated convention prices.

However, those who wanted to walk a little further could find more, less crowded options. Going as far as San Pedro Square opened up a number of options, although it could also be equally crowded with non-congoers. Sadly, the Johnny Rockets that had once been a staple for FanimeCon attendees had closed down years ago, and the building remained as a reminder of what they once had.

Other Offsite Activities

A few blocks away from the convention center, Guildhouse hosted several video game tournaments and other events for convention attendees. These included musical performances, game tournaments, and more, making it a popular stop for attendees.

Additionally, the MINIBOSS bar and arcade was a few blocks up the street, and provided attendees with drinks and arcade games throughout the weekend.

Security & Safety Measures

This year, Fanime increased its security measures by installing metal detectors at the convention center’s entrances. For the most part, there were enough metal detectors that they didn’t slow down the lines much, if at all. In fact, it typically took longer to get past the convention center staffers checking badges, as they had to check the front and back of each badge to make sure attendees weren’t trying to use a one-day badge for a full weekend.

With that said, the swap meet on Thursday and Friday night only had one metal detector, which slowed down the line significantly. But for the rest of the weekend, the increased security wasn’t an issue.

Covid Safety

For the past two years, Fanime required attendees to wear masks and show proof of vaccination against COVID-19. This year, they initially relaxed the policy to make masks required, but not vaccinations. However, they eventually pulled even that back, changing the policy to “strongly recommend” masks and vaccines.

This decision split the community. Some were tired of wearing masks to conventions and felt requiring masks was an overreach, while others were happy to still have the safety measures in place and felt betrayed by the decision to change the policy just weeks before the convention. In the end, several attendees still wandered the halls in masks, but the majority appeared maskless; it has yet to be seen if any attendees have caught COVID after the con.

The convention also tried placing fences around the sidewalk to manage traffic. Unfortunately, it did nothing to stop religious demonstrators from walking up and shouting at attendees through a megaphone about how they were all sinners who were going to hell. At the end of the weekend, they failed to convert a single attendee, and accomplished nothing more than wasting their time and annoying everyone around them.

Check-in

Fanime has had a bit of a reputation for incredibly long lines during badge pickup, giving it the nickname “LineCon.” And as attendees lined up on Day Zero to pick up their badges, it seemed like it would be another long wait, but the reality was pleasantly surprising.

Badge pickup was at its most efficient yet, with attendees reporting that they could just walk through the line, present their registration, and grab their badges with minimal waiting or difficulty. Credit must be given where credit is due, and Fanime deserves praise for how efficiently they handled checkin throughout the weekend.

A Year of Controversy

This year, Fanime encountered a bit of controversy, as some behind-the-scenes issues made themselves public. As mentioned earlier, both the Cosplay Gatherings and Gaming Departments quit, citing grievances including a lack of communication/transparency, poor allotment of resources, and a failure to properly respond to reports of sexual harassment.

While Fanime attempted to recover by having other departments take over for gaming and gatherings, it was not without its difficulties or setbacks. Although they did still manage to host cosplay gatherings, feature a cosplay repair room, and host a stocked gaming room, the limited support for cosplay gatherings and gaming events was evident upon close inspection.

Additionally, Fanime has made some steps towards addressing the grievances, including a new Code of Conduct and an increased food budget for staffers. However, that was not enough, as the group of former staffers are calling for a boycott of Fanime 2025 until the remaining issues are addressed.

It’s also worth noting that the former staffers have been very clear that they do not do this out of hatred for the convention, but out of love. These are people who have spent years working hard for the con to make it as great as it could be, and are only calling for this boycott as a last resort.

So hopefully Fanime will be able to address the remaining issues in time for the 2025 convention, so that next year will be even better than ever.

ParkCon

Fanime was not a 24-hour con this year, so what did those who didn’t want to sleep do? They went across the street to ParkCon, an all-night party in the park. This was not associated with FanimeCon in any way, but was still a popular stop for attendees.

ParkCon had a rotation of DJs providing music throughout the night, while people partied the night away. However, this also featured no small amount of drinking, smoking, and allegedly some drug use, so it was not an event for all ages.

Those who would in previous years spend the night away in the gaming hall or screening rooms had to find other ways to pass the time, whether that was at ParkCon or in their hotels.

Overall

While Fanime 2024 faced a number of internal conflicts that created new challenges, the convention was still a great weekend for attendees. It was filled with excellent cosplayers, engaging panels, and plenty to do, see, and buy, as any good convention should.

While there were issues leading into the convention, attendees and boycotters alike are sincerely hoping that these issues will be properly addressed by 2025, so the 31st Fanime will controversy-free and better than ever.

For now, though, Fanime remains a staple of the NorCal anime con scene.

Related Articles

Stay Connected

15,000FansLike
1,724FollowersFollow
1,248FollowersFollow
382FollowersFollow
690FollowersFollow
319SubscribersSubscribe

Latest Articles