No matter which side of the Pacific Ocean you’re on, anime and manga is big business. Where there is big business, there are passionate fans, and where they are passionate fans there are conventions for them to gather. For decades now, anime and manga conventions have popped up in all corners of the United States and Japan with the largest topping over 100,000 attendees! That’s not even the biggest convention on either side of the Pacific however as you’ll soon learn that anime and manga conventions are here to stay.
In 2017, the largest anime convention in the United States was easily Anime Expo. Taking place over a hot July weekend in Los Angeles, this convention boasted over 107,000 attendees. Holding the top spot for the fourteenth year in a row, Anime Expo is THE place to go to get your anime and manga needs met. A literal who’s who, industry guests from all over the world attend this convention in order to sell their latest merchandise and inform guests on what shiny new releases will be hitting store shelves over the coming months. In 2017, Anime Expo hosted over eighty special guests from both the United States and Japan. Everyone from creators to voice actors flocked to Los Angeles over the Independence Day weekend in order to meet fans and sign autographs.
Jumping down into the far southern region of the United States, the next two conventions on the list were also able to claim an increase in attendees. Both Anime Matsuri and A-Kon (the longest running annual anime and manga convention in the United States) were able to say that they increased their attendance numbers by at least ten percent over the previous year.
Taking place in early April, Anime Matsuri in Houston, Texas featured over forty guests and an attendance figure of over 36,000 which was a jump of over twenty percent from the previous year. For comparison sake, the neighboring convention A-Kon (which has been running since 1990) had just over 33,000 attendees which was a growth of eleven percent over the previous year. This number was still large enough to have it barely squeak past Anime Weekend Atlanta which only had a growth figure of just under four percent (approximately 31,000 attendees in 2017).
It doesn’t matter what area of the United States you live in however because there will always be a large anime and manga convention near you. Do you live in the rainy Pacific Northwest? You have SakuraCon in the spring to attend (which housed around 25,000 attendees in 2017). Live on the east coast? There’s Anime Boston, Otakon, and newcomer Anime NYC in the spring, summer, and fall to attend respectively. Do you live in the lush areas of middle America? You have Anime Central taking place in the Chicago area.
These are only a fraction of the anime and manga conventions which take place in the United States however as there are new conventions popped up each and every year and all of them want to nail down one of the top spots on the annual list of most heavily attended conventions. Some of them are great, some of them aren’t. Some of them are large and some of them are small. If you’re a fan of anime and manga in the United States, however, all of them are worth attending if you want to meet others who share your hobby.
What about Japan, however? Surely, there are conventions in the country that gives us all of these fantastic titles that fans from all over flock together to celebrate. Well, you would be correct. While it’s difficult to get exact attendance numbers for the anime and manga conventions held in Japan, they are not shy about promoting their products to fans on a yearly basis.
Easily the most famous of these conventions would be Comiket (short for Comic Market). Held twice a year in Tokyo, this convention started as a place for fans to buy, sell, and trade their doujinshi. In recent years, however, the convention has become a hot spot for industry reps to unleash their latest trailers and promote upcoming titles.
First, run in 1975, the convention started with a mere 700 attendees at the first incarnation. However, over the last few decades, the convention has grown by leaps and bounds with the most recent Comiket (taking place at the end of December 2017) housing an estimated 550,000 attendees and over 30,000 doujin circles! That’s approximately five times the largest convention in the United States.
Maybe collecting doujinshi isn’t your thing though. Maybe you’re more focused on the official anime and manga that is put out by major publishers in Japan. In that case, you’ll want to flock to one of the newest industry conventions in Japan, AnimeJapan. Also held in Tokyo, AnimeJapan 2018 hosted over 150,000 visitors which was a five percent increase over the previous year. At this convention, almost 250 different anime exhibits were set up for fans and industry alike in order to inform, educate, and entertain.
Then there is Jump Festa. Held every year since 1999, this convention is sponsored by one of the largest publishers in Japan, Shueisha, this event takes place every December in Makuhari Messe in Tokyo. Over 150,000 attendees flock to this event every year in order to see the latest special episodes for the favorite Jump anthology series.
We’ve covered doujinshi, anime, and manga so far though but did you know that this hobby extends even further into special figures of your favorite characters? It’s true and the best place to learn about these special limited edition items would be at WonFest (short for Wonder Festival). Held twice a year in Chiba, this convention is the ultimate place to go window shopping for upcoming figures and toys which will be released in Japan and hungrily ordered by fans around the world. Everything from full-size figures to the pocket-sized nendos are put on display twice a year for fans to gawk, gaze, and drool over. Be sure to bring your camera and wallet though because these figures are not cheap!
Finally, we come to the world of cosplay! Starting in 2003 in Nagoya, the World Cosplay Summit is an annual competition to determine the world’s best cosplayers. By 2012, over twenty countries had submitted entries and that number has only grown since. In 2017, thirty four nations/regions had submitted entries making it the largest to date. In 2018, the competition will span a total of nine days lasting from late July to early August with the winners being crowned the best cosplayers in the world!
However, we’ve only scratched the surface. Every year, Japan hosts dozens of much smaller gatherings, festivals, and special events aimed at the hardcore fans of every series where new seasons are announced and new special episodes are shown to fans who are eager to spend their money on the latest offerings.
In conclusion, no matter where you live and no matter what your interest is, there will always be conventions on either side of the Pacific for you to attend. Sometimes you might have to travel great distances or even cross state lines in order to get there but there are always fantastic times and new friends waiting for you at these gatherings whether they be via fan panels, industry presentations, or even just at cosplay photo shoots.
Whether you travel just a short distance or cross an ocean to attend these conventions, you’ll always be able to learn something new when hitting these places. Just remember the golden rules of being respectful and treating your fellow attendees as you would want to be treated. There is tons of fun to be had at these gatherings but you should never cross the line of being a jerk to anyone around you. We’re all there for the same reason; because we love anime and manga. Let’s all celebrate it together and have a great time!
See you at the next convention and I hope that we can all have a great time together!
Author: LB Bryant
L.B. has been writing about anime professionally since August 2005. With credits that range all the way from Anime Herald to Viewster, he has seen and done it all. His favorite series include Assassination Classroom, Princess Nine, Sword Art Online, and many others. Currently he lives in the Seattle area with his many cats and his very understanding and supportive wife.