January 1, 2008

Looking Back on the Anime Conventions of 2007

by Patrick Delahanty

Looking back on 2007, there was a lot happening in the anime world. Our convention database lists 251 events taking place in 2007. That's up from the 217 we listed for 2006. While it's not humanly possible for us to cover everything related to every event, we'll take a look at some of the significant events along the way.

The year 2007 got off to a rather rocky start as Anime Tour for the Cure rolled into Las Vegas with the promise of promoting awareness for breast cancer and raising money for research. Unfortunately, reports from the event descried it as falling far short of its promises and prompting the promoter to skip town.

On January 17th, news came in that Llamacon, a small one-day convention in western Massachusetts, would be postponed. (We still haven't received word about when it may be held.) Germany's AnikiCon was canceled two days later followed by the Kami Kon fisaco on January 20th. (More on that later.) On the 27th, Gen Con So Cal, Garden City Anime Festival, and Anime Express all canceled, making January 2007 clearly take the record for most convention cancellations in one month.

This began a year that seemed to have a higher than average number of canceled events. ShikkariMatsuri, Houkocon, FanimeCruise, Rochecon, East Meets South, YamiCon, Holicon, AniZona, and Shichimencho each fell victim to cancellation or long-term postponement. Anime-Arkansas was the latest cancellation of the year, with the announcement reaching less than 30 minutes before midnight on December 31st.

Kami Kon popped up in December 2006 and was scheduled for late February in Nashua, New Hampshire. It immediately created controversy in New England since nearly all the content on the site had been copied word-for-word from the web sites for Anime Boston and ConnectiCon. Although the text was replaced with new text, the convention, which claimed on its web site to be run by high school students, still seemed to promise more than it could deliver (including day care services for children). Many people found its claims to be outlandish and some reported that the hotel said they had no signed contract with the convention. On January 20th, the convention announced its cancellation.

February's New York Comic Con stirred up a bit of controversy with its list of nominations for the "First Annual American Anime Awards". Perhaps the most notorious nomination had the film Akira listed as a comedy. The actual awards ceremony was very well attended by those in the anime industry and fans alike. IGN streamed a video feed live while The Anime Network aired a tape of the show later in March. At only an hour in length (and shorter if you don't count the excessively long taiko drum performance at the beginning), the show seemed to fly by. However, we have yet to hear any word about any American Anime Awards for 2008.

In March, MomoCon had to shut down a day early after fireworks were found inside and set off outside the Student Center building at Georgia Tech.

April brought a bit of good news. At closing ceremonies of Anime Boston 2007, Patrick Delahanty (Hey, that's me!) announced that the New England Anime Society would be creating Providence Anime Conference, the world's first anime convention for people 21 and over. This limited registration event promises "academic, professional, and industry-related events in a friendly, relaxed atmosphere."

The following weekend, Anime Matsuri was held in Houston, Texas. The convention had invited me down to run some events for them, but unfortunately they stopped returning e-mails in mid-March. Although I had made several attempts to contact them and waited as long as possible, I eventually had to announce that my programming would be canceled. Although I was not there personally, various reports from the convention confirmed my suspicions that the convention was "disorganized". Apparently one guest even walked out and went home!

Unfortunately, the troubles of 2007 continued in May when Michael McKeithan, an Animazement attendee, was reported missing. His family had not heard from him since Sunday, May 27th when he used his cell phone on Interstate 40. Tragically, he was later found dead in his car after an apparent suicide.

Among the announcements leading up to Anime Expo was the news that the continent's largest anime convention would have a screening of the new Transformers movie on July 2nd, two days before the nationwide release. Although it was big news at the time, many theaters around the country also started showing the movie on the 2nd.

Houston's AtsuiCon was held on the first weekend of August. On Saturday, people were called into main events and told that if they could not raise $12,000 within two hours, the convention would have to be shut down. Fortunately, everyone was apparently in a generous mood and the money was reported raised in about 30 minutes.

If we had a "strangest combination of the year" award, we'd give it to Naruto Trek Convention. Announced in September, the two fandoms will collide in Fort Lauderdale, Florida this March.

In October, the new New York Anime Festival stirred up some controversy when they announced that they would be hosting the USA competition for the World Cosplay Summit. The worldwide competition had not taken place in the United States for several years after the previous American team received poor treatment (including being abandoned without a translator in the streets of Japan) during the previous final round of competition. NYAF assured contestants that they were aware of the situation and that WCS officials had promised that a similar situation would not happen again.

Later in October, the Pennsylvania Convention Center posted a notice on their web site that TandokuCon had been canceled. After a couple days, the notice was removed and TandokuCon said it had been posted by the PCC "due to an error". For people who had their doubts over whether the convention was a scam or not, this only added fuel to the fire. The convention's cancellation of Crispin Freeman without mentioning it on their own web site reinforced these thoughts. When the convention took place in early November, it seemed to be plagued with problems. Although some people had a good time, people were flooding their forums with complaints. The convention, which seemed to be lightly staffed to begin with, seemed to leave its volunteers to handle the complaints on their own. Eventually, the convention's web site was taken down completely and it seems unlikely that there will be an attempt at a second year.

In mid-November, Steve Pearl, the former moderator of the newsgroup and "American Otaking" passed away. Steve had regularly posted information about North American anime conventions on anime newsgroups. Those newsgroup posts were referenced extensively when the convention database used by was created. While it's unfortunate that Steve is no longer with us, it's good to know that his work will live on.

There was also a bit of news here on our own site. In 2007, underwent a site redesign and also introduced our worldwide convention map, an expanded reports section, a forum where convention planners can advertise open staff positions, and an ad swap program for anime conventions.

In terms of attendance at conventions, has continued collecting attendance figures from anime conventions around the world. Sometimes a convention will report the total number of paid attendees and other conventions will report the total number of people with a badge (which includes paid attendees, staff, guests, dealers, and others). We strongly encourage conventions to release both figures. Whenever available both figures are available, we list them on this web site.

In the event one convention's total and paid numbers fall in the range between another convention's total and paid numbers, we will give preference to the total number. Our reasoning is this: Even if people didn't pay, they are still a part of the convention. Staff, guests, dealers, and press are able to enjoy a convention just as much as paid attendees...and they each take up seats and hall space just like everyone else.

The ten largest anime conventions in North America during 2007 were as follows:

  1. Anime Expo: 44,000 estimated total
  2. Otakon: 22,852 paid
  3. A-Kon: 14,500 estimated paid
  4. Anime North: 13,500 estimated total
  5. Anime Central: 12,769 total; 10,987 paid
  6. FanimeCon: 12,000 estimated total
  7. Anime Boston: 11,500 total; 10,559 paid
  8. Sakura-Con: 11,000 estimated total; 10,500 estimated paid
  9. Anime Weekend Atlanta: 9,825 paid
  10. AnimeNEXT: 7,100 estimated total

The two largest conventions saw slower than average growth. Anime Expo grew about 3,500 people in their Long Beach location. Otakon only saw and increase of 550 people after lifting their attendance cap for the first time since 2004.

A-Kon grew by 2000 people while Anime North and Anime Central grew by about 1000, increasing the distance between A-Kon and the fourth and fifth largest conventions which seemed to be dwindling over the last few years.

FanimeCon came in at sixth largest again this year with Anime Boston a close seventh and Sakura-Con in the eighth position. Dropping to the ninth largest is Anime Weekdend Atlanta which was in the seventh position last year. would like to welcome AnimeNEXT to the list as the tenth largest North American anime convention of 2007, slightly edging out Katsucon which had an estimated 7,100 total attendees (6,200 paid). Also closing in on the list is Ohayocon which reported 6,240 total attendees (6,124 paid) in 2007.

The above list only includes conventions with a majority of their programming dedicated to anime and manga. Therefore, it does not include large events such as Dragon*Con and San Diego Comic-Con.

Notably absent from the list is New York Anime Festival. Although there are attendance estimates of "15,000" floating around out there, has not received a statement from Reed Expositions with an official attendance figure. Based on personal observations by a number of press, exhibitors, industry representatives, and attendees, an attendance figure of around 8,000 warm bodies seems more accurate. If a 15,000 figure were to be released, it would likely count the number of badges issued. Considering that dealers were issued up to ten badges per space and some press, exhibitors, or professionals were seen wearing up to three badges at a time, a simple badge count would seem to be an inaccurate representation of actual attendance.

As usual, would like to stress that the above list is not a list of the "best" conventions, but only the largest. There are many, many other great anime conventions out there worth checking out. Each year, thousands of anime fans have a great time at many of the smaller conventions that are out there and many people say that some of the smaller cons are their favorites.

As for what's ahead in 2008, there are even more new conventions in the works and most of the ones that survived 2007 seem to be returning. If the coming year is anything like last year, there are sure to be plenty of surprises along the way and plenty of interesting twists to talk about.

We encourage everyone to head on over to the Forums to talk about their experiences from 2007 and their plans for 2008. The forums are a great place for anime convention attendees, guests, and planners to come together to share information.