Sunday, October 21, 2012

Anime: It's a Family Affair and Growing

Day 2 of Anime Bonsai's three day event is done and anime is on the brain. I am mesmerized and catching the fever that 4000 - yes 4000- people today so brilliantly portrayed at the Layton, UT Davis convention center. The attendance is up, there are more cosplayers, and the atmosphere is fantastic! 

Anime Banzai is officially in it's eighth year and is enjoying its  most successful event to date. Anime Banzai started as most cons do, as a simple idea for lovers of a hobby to "get together" and bond. The idea blossomed and took off. The convention now reaches not only into the corners of Utah and surrounding states, but boasts of attendees traveling from as far as Florida and California. 

Adam Bates, Jose Cruz-Rojas,Aaron Gordon
Half way into the cons growth spurt it was decided to move from Salt Lake City, UT  (SLC Community College Campus) to Layton UT Davis Convention Center to accommodate the growth.  Aaron Gordon, Convention Director, stated "[a] major spike in attendance occurred when we moved to the Layton Davis Convention Center. Approximately a 25% increase. Larger than we expected and it has grown every year. We attribute this to an excellent staff here at the Convention Center and of course to the crew that helps us make the con possible. We have volunteers every year who are dedicated. Very dedicated. It is 6 weeks of intense preparation right before the con and then 4 days of no sleep but in the end you know it was all worth it. It just feels great." 

As I mentioned before, the swag one receives for pre-registering is pretty nifty.
Adam Bates, Graphic Designer for the Con, and one of the founding members of the original con stated: "We treat our guests very good, and we want them to have the best experience. We want to go out of our way for them and make them feel special."

It is the little things that you notice at this con that  do make a difference! For example, the  3-day event schedule is printed on an impressive fold out and color coded program. The program book is loaded with volunteer art that is beautiful.
I was also introduced to Grant and Jeana Bradbury - The Guest Liaisons. I am currently unaware of another con having such a thing.  Basically their job is to help the special guests and make them feel more comfortable in the new environment and around the con.  In my opinion, this is fantastic PR! Way to go Anime Banzai! You win the PR award! 
I was also impressed with the amount of volunteers.  The attitude to help is phenomenal. I have yet to encounter one single person with an attitude that is unwilling to help or explain yet another character to me. 

So exactly who is the other half that makes the con possible? 
The loyal following of course. They come for the panels. They come for the exhibits. The interactions with other loyal fans. The cosplay. They come for the game room - a room dedicated purely for gaming! The dances - yes I said dances! Friday and Saturday night there are dances till 12:30 and 1:30 am. This con is serious about entertainment! They come for the chance to buy swag and art. They come to meet special guests. But most of all they come for the chance to interact. Aaron Gordon stated all ages are present at the con every year, however about 60% of attendees are female with the approximate age demographic in whole (male and female) being between 14-21. While we were chatting I laughed and said considering all the comic cons I have been to the higher percentage is male, it sounds as if we need to merge. 

Adam Bates stated: "There is not another con around here so about 1/3 of the cosplay is non manga [anime]" I was sincerely shocked to see this myself. Especially when a herd of Deadpools came running by! Avengers seemed to also be a popular theme this year as well as Dr. Who and GI JOE. Basically anything goes...I even got a picture of Mary Poppins and she was practically perfect in every way!

Japanese anime is made for all ages. It is ultimately a family affair.  It is a large part of their culture.  Anime Banzai in Utah is treated the same way.  It is family friendly.  It is volunteer run by loyal fans.  For three days from dawn until dusk and into early hours of morning again it is a culture where everyone is accepted and encouraged to give anime and manga a try.                                                 

"While we spend energy and imagination on new ways of cleaning the floors of our houses, the Japanese solve the problem by not dirtying them in the first place."

                                                             -Bernard Rudofsky 

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