Ai-Kon is an anime convention that happens here in Winnipeg every year during the summer. This year it ran from July 15th at noon to July 17th at 4PM at the Winnipeg Convention Centre. It runs all night, with anime showing rooms open as well as a gameroom open overnight. It is run by a committee of individuals, and is operated mostly by volunteers. They had 4 special guests this year: Greg Ayres, Jonny Yong Bosch, Christopher Sabat, and Eric Vale. This was my first time attending Ai-Kon, and it was their tenth anniversary, so they went a bit further than normal apparently to make it special.
The convention was split into panels, showings, contests, an art/vendor room, and dances.
The panels included things like a cosplay panel from an experienced cosplayer, discussions with the special guests, autograph sessions, a Japanese Tea ceremony, etc. They were interesting, but not always the best labled, as for example the cosplay panel was labled ‘cosplay 101’ but was really more geared towards experienced cosplayers not beginners.
The showings were various sub-titled/dubbed animes including Evangelion, Slayers, Axis Powers Hetalia, .hack//sign, and many others. The showings were all on fairly good sized projection screens with space for anywhere from 20-30 people to as many as around 50 in some rooms. And at any given time there were generally 2-3 different animes showing, so there was quite a variety. And it was a nice drop in format so you could pop into any room and just watch for an episode – easy way to see if you’re interested in an anime or not!
There were 3 contests I saw, the art contest, the AMV(anime music video) contest, and the cosplay contest. Not being an artist myself, I didn’t go to the art contest – but the AMV contest was quite cool, I’ve always been fascinated by AMV’s so it’s good to see what the local talent is doing. The cosplay contest was the biggest one, and unfortunately the least well-organized one. They had seating room for barely a third of the people who wanted to go – and despite having a live-stream didn’t have any of the other showing rooms offering showing of it on their projection screens for people to still be able to watch it if they couldn’t get a seat in the main event.
They also had 2 dances – one that was closer to a ball, and the other was closer to a rave. Not being much into dancing myself, I didn’t attend these, but the overall impression I’ve gotten was that they were quite fun for people interested in them.
The vendor area was awesome. They had 2 squares comprised of 2 tables each on a side with artists selling their work. And the artists at Ai-Kon this year were incredible, I couldn’t resist buying so much – probably more than I really should have. I think I spent close to 200 dollars just on artwork from these artists. They also had an auction table where you could bid on various larger pieces of artwork from the artists. I bid on 2, but didn’t win either. But I’m glad to have boosted the price the artists got for their hard work! There were also various tables from various stores either online or in winnipeg, such as a cosplay store and a few anime/manga stores. The prices on those were a little high, but it’s nice to just be able to look at a shelf and pick stuff out – even if you pay a bit more than if you’d just gone to e-bay. And it’s nice to support an actual retailer sometimes. And then there was a Japanese themed snack food table which had like 12 varieties of pocky and a ton of different kitkats… among other candies. But really, who cares? You have 12 varieties of pocky. What more does a person need?
The convention itself had an incredibly friendly, personal atmosphere that really made it just fun to be there. There were people in costume everywhere, more than I’ve ever seen in one place to date. The costumes ranged from beginner to expert, from simple to incredibly elaborate. And I didn’t see a single person being looked down on – even the ones whose costumes were obviously less expert affairs. It was a really positive atmosphere and one I wish more events tried to emulate.
The price was a very reasonable 45 dollar and included access to everything – except one panel which was a sushi making panel which you got supplies and lunch – and you could also purchase individual day passes if you were only going for one of the days.
I’m certain setting up a convention is an organizational nightmare, so I am not saying the following without understanding; but there were definitely some organization problems that happened this year. For starters, as I mentioned above, there was fairly limited cosplay seating and no alternate rooms showing it. Also, they had anime showing rooms immediately next to the dance, and the rather thin walls did nothing to keep the loud music out, which made it nearly impossible to really enjoy the showing. The format for the autograph signings was somewhat disorganized, with people coming in and sitting down, and then after the event started them calling just for a free-for-all lineup – giving no benefit to showing up early and they seemed to run short on time so some people got rushed through.
Overall if you have the ability to get to the Winnipeg area during the event, and have any interest in just enjoying some anime, cosplay, and general Japanese-inspired entertainment and events in a friendly atmosphere, I can see absolutely no reason not to attend the convention. Here’s hoping it continues to grow in the years to come, and under the Ai-Kon committee’s new president.
I was able to get some pictures of some of the cosplay I saw outside of the costume contest, the pictures can be found below. Note: please forgive my poor crappy camera, the quality is definitely not up to par. And also, I didn’t know some of the character names or shows, so I titled a few of the images based off of a description to help me remember which one it was. Enjoy the images!
Sorry Ai-Kon, I forgot to include your website’s URL – http://www.ai-kon.org/
Oh, and as an afterthought… the gryphon in a few of the pictures is not a part of their respective costumes… that’s mine. But it’s cute, eh? ;)