Montreal may not be the first city that comes to mind when someone mentions anime conventions, especially with Toronto’s Anime North dominating the Canadian scene. But there’s one bilingual, fan-run event in the heart of my city that is doing its best to get Montreal noticed by anime, manga and Japanese pop culture fans the world over.
Otakuthon, Montreal’s premiere convention for the aforementioned interests, took place two weekends ago, from the 7th to 9th of August. On top of the usual festivities, attendees were also busy celebrating the event’s 10th anniversary. A pretty impressive milestone for any convention, especially one with such humble beginnings.
The first edition of Otakuthon (then named Animethon) took place in 2006 and was an anime viewing event hosted by Concordia University’s Anime Club. It was a small enough that it actually took place within the university itself. Now, Otakuthon takes place at the gorgeous Palais des Congrés convention center, spanning 3 floors, the main exhibition hall and various presentation rooms.
While Otakuthon has always attracted fans from across the province, it’s begun to reel in attendees from across the country as well as the United States. This year was a standout in terms of numbers and talent. More than 20,000 people visited the convention center over the weekend, beating out last year’s attendance by over 2000 people.
In terms of guests, Otakuthon’s 2015 roster was graced with big names, including Colleen Clinkenbeard, Rikiya Koyama, Wendee Lee and Todd Haberkorn. Milling amongst them were grossly talented cosplayers, both locals and invitees alike, which is no surprise since Otakuthon has been hosting the Canadian preliminaries of the World Cosplay Summit since 2014. Let me tell you, THAT is quite the show.
Each year Otakuthon is gaining more and more corporate and industry sponsors but it still feels very much like a fan-run event (in the best way). Little things like the convention’s Garage Sale area, where attendees can sell items from their own collections to other fans for discounted prices, and (my personal favorite) the Manga Library, where attendees can sit and read manga from the private collections of volunteers and local clubs, show how in-tune Otakuthon is with those they are catering to.
As a long-time attendee, I’m impressed with and proud of how Otakuthon has transformed over the years. A transformation for which, I believe, fans are responsible. Whether it’s those planning and managing the event or those who attend, fans are the ones working to make Otakuthon the next big anime convention.