Otaku USA Magazine
Are Online Anime Conventions the New Way Forward?

Anime conventions won't be online forever — but what can we draw from this temporary move?

At least for the time being, we’re not going to anime conventions in person — there’s no two ways about it. Lots of us remember ripple over the spring of con after con shuttering for the year, rescheduling, or moving online in the face of lockdown. July 2020 kicked off with multiple online events, most notable Anime Expo Lite and Funimationcon. While marketing for these online events gamely plays up the positives, we all know this is a stopgap — the best we can get for the time being.

That said, between the changing face of fandom and the nature of how we get our anime, there are a few things these online events field well as compared to their in-person counterparts. This begs the question: could online anime conventions be the future of congoing?

Well, okay, not in and of themselves. But they could offer us some good options for making conventions more accessible and flexible when they’re back in person — and help us streamline our activities there.

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While some things remain consistent — socializing, for instance, and showing off our latest cosplay — a lot of what we do at anime conventions has changed over the years. Where video rooms were once where many people saw new anime, streaming simulcasts are now the order of the day. And while major cons (like our online conventions this weekend) use their time to run industry panels and host big booths, non-corporate events are less likely to have major studios representing at their events. The one thing that remains constant is fans: their desire to meet, create, and have fun.

So an anime convention has to go one of two ways: pour money into big guests, big press, and big premieres; or have solid programming and be a place that people want to be just because they love anime conventions.

Where does our current online status fit into this? If anything, it could be a lifeline for events trying to find ways to keep running without resorting to overspending. More than one event has gone under in an effort to attract more guests with guests and media they can’t afford. This weekend we’re seeing that certain con events do translate well online: interviews, industry panels, and some screenings. Some events have already experimented with simulcasting select programming to Twitch or YouTube during the weekend — either as a free sample or with a lower-cost digital pass.

Anime conventions are, of course, always at their best in person. We love seeing our friends, meeting our favorite performers, sharing out hobbies, and showing off our costumes. But in future, we may well see some of our streaming practices integrated into live events. Imagine getting to tune in to a masquerade in another country for the price of a superchat, or getting access to a library of an event’s past panels. It could be possible! Be sure to let your favorite conventions know which parts of their current streaming events you like best; it may help them improve their events in future.

Kara Dennison

Kara Dennison is a writer, editor, and presenter with bylines at Crunchyroll, Sci-Fi Magazine, Sartorial Geek, and many others. She is a contributor to the celebrated Black Archive line, with many other books, short stories, and critical works to her name.