Summary of Event
Anime North is a massive fan-run anime convention held every year in Toronto, Ontario, Canada drawing more than 30,000 people. The convention is one of the largest in North America and the largest in Canada. You can find a variety of activities to keep you busy like the masquerade; panels on anime, pop culture and gaming; AVMs; discussions and meet-and-greets with actors, industry professionals and voice actors; and of course, the dealers’ room. We found some unique things on our trip there, too. There was a show by aerialists hanging from ropes and hoops in a Sailor Moon-inspired performance, a professional wrestling show in a tent in the parking lot, and live music on stages in the parking lot of the convention center.
The convention takes place around Toronto Pearson International Airport in six venues: at the Toronto Congress Centre, the Doubletree International Plaza Hotel, the Sheraton Toronto Airport Hotel (formerly called the Renaissance Toronto Airport Hotel and Conference Centre), the Crowne Plaza Hotel, the Radisson Suites Hotel and the Airport Holiday Inn Hotel (for the Friday Moonlight Ball). All of the locations are within walking distance of one another. Convention-run shuttle buses are available during daytime and the evening to connect the venues.
1997 by anime fan Donald Simmons
Length of Event
Friday, May 26th through Sunday, May 28th
How much does it cost?
The adult weekend single admission price is $60 USD or CDN, children are half price. You can buy single-day passes for Friday $35 USD or CDN, Saturday $45 USD or CDN and Sunday $35 USD or CDN. If you plan on attending more than one day it absolutely makes sense to get the whole weekend pass.
Hotels & Transportation
The following hotels did have rooms that were discounted for the conventions. We recommend you consider them if you are going to attend next year. The International Plaza is the one closest to the Toronto Congress Center, Radisson Suite Hotel Toronto Airport, Crowne Plaza Toronto Airport and Sheraton Toronto Airport all have free shuttle serves to the convention. The Marriott Toronto Airport, Quality Suites Toronto Airport, Westin Bristol Palace Hotel Toronto Airport, Holiday Inn Toronto International Airport, Hilton Toronto Airport Hotel and Suites, Hilton Garden Inn Toronto Airport, Fairfield Inn and Suites Toronto Airport, Hampton Inn and suites by Hilton Toronto Airport, Four Points by Sheraton Toronto Airport Hotel, Sheraton Gateway Hotel in Toronto International Airport, and the Quality Hotel & Suites Airport East are within approximately a mile and a half of the convention hotels and many offer shuttle service to the other hotels. The Holiday Inn Toronto International airport is about a 20-minute walk from the Toronto Congress Center, so use that when looking at the map to help you plan out your stay if you don’t want to drive (and sit in traffic).
What to expect
Anime North is a big convention -- and we mean big. The attendance is over 30,000. We weren’t overwhelmed by the crowds, though, due to the massive interior space and wide aisles between booths. The convention is also spread out at multiple venues, so you will need to take time to figure out the logistics of getting from point A to point B. You will have to plan in some travel time in order to get the most out of your convention. We noticed from our experience that this is not a panel-driven convention. You can attend some conventions and spend all day going from panel to panel to panel, and that’s the draw. We found some good – and even excellent -- panels, but the convention floor with the dealers’ room, artist alley, crafters corner, comic market and shows like the professional wrestling and aerialists are more than enough to pack your day solid and seemed to be the focus of most of the convention goers. You will have plenty of options as far as food. You could go off-campus to a number of stand-alone restaurants located in the nearby hotels. We were also pleased to see plenty of food trucks on the convention center property lending themselves to the festival-like atmosphere.
What to do while there and what to do:
The convention kicked off at its multiple locations on Friday around 5 p.m. and was already swarming with people. A Lolita Bootcamp began at five as a place to teach you all about the key fashion characteristics, where to buy Lolita fashion and the inner workings of the Lolita subculture. A panel called Cosplay Positivity took a good hard look at the cosplay community, including the good, the bad and the ugly parts like harassment and racism, while still creating a welcoming environment for cosplayers. The Toronto Congress Center had panels on Anime vs. Science and Martial Arts Weapons Portrayal. We all know that the anime fandom can have some very diverse opinions on what we think is good and bad anime, the Unpopular Opinions panel was a safe space for you come out and say what you really think about that show you love or hate. If you were curious about the BL and Yuri scene in anime the Holiday Inn East was the home of Yaoi North, a sub-convention focused on the LBGT&Q themes in anime and life.
The grandest activity of the evening was at the Holiday Inn International Airport, the home of the Moonlight Ball. It was a semiformal dance and dinner with dance lessons and activities that kept you on your feet until late into the evening.
The convention kicked off at 10 in the morning at its locations, which was perfect if you were an early riser. We decided to make a quick run into downtown Toronto to St. Lawrence Market for breakfast and were back before the doors opened to the dealers’ floor. You might want to convert that early start into getting over to the Toronto Congress Center to get to the dealers’ floor and artist alley before the masses wake from their late night of revelry. The workshops and panels and events are varied and covered topics from Silicone Mold Making, the Anime North Fashion Show featuring the best of J-pop fashion, and academic panels on Majou Shoujo Madoka Magica. If you’ve ever been curious about sex and sexuality you could’ve attended a panel like Ask an Asexual or Crossplay 101: Queens. The big show and premier event of most conventions is the masquerade. We found our seats with several hundred of our closest friends in the International Plaza Ballroom and watched cosplayers of all levels strut their stuff for ribbons and prizes. The masquerade was great; the emcee, the cosplayers, and even the stage hands were amazing and made it one of the best ones we’ve seen. We, being of age, finished our evening off at the hotel bar trading stories and opinions with fellow convention-goers over glasses of beer as we watched the endless stream of cosplayers pass down the hallways looking for their next panel, event, or ride home.
The convention ended Sunday but not until late afternoon. You had plenty of opportunities left to learn and shop and socialize. A Fabric Dyeing & Painting workshop taught you all about the foundations of coloring fabric and various techniques to get the color just right. It is well-known in my family that I can’t sing, but if I could I definitely would have tried out for Anime North Idol, a workshop and competition that lets you choose a song and compete against other idols for the title of Anime North Idol 2017. A convention this big can be hard on your feet and when we needed a chance to relax one of the video rooms was always had an empty seat with something on the screen to get lost in for a while. If you still wanted more activity a panel titled the Completive Side of Pokemon put on by a couple of game playing experts was still being offered along with a lot of other programing at all the hotels and the Toronto Congress Center.
The reality is there is just too much to mention in a convention that covers three days and multiple locations. You really have to choose that workshop on 3-D printing versus getting in line early for autographs and question and answer sessions with your favorite voice actor. You just need to pace yourself, know that you won’t catch everything they have to offer and that’s okay as long as you have fun.
The cosplay at Anime North was extensive, ranging to beginner to elaborate. You didn’t even have to go to the masquerade to see some of the most amazing cosplays, just take a walk around the convention floor or the parking lot or attend one of the many scheduled meetups for fans of the same shows. We only had one real complaint about the cosplay meetups, the locations weren’t really ideal. We understood that there was limited greenspace around the convention center, we just wished that it was easier to shoot around the traffic on the road behind the cosplayers.
Honey's Anime Final Thoughts
We had a lot of fun at Anime North. We of course learned a few things for the future, like book your hotel room early and stay at the International Plaza across from the convention center if that is possible. The con staff was pretty good at handling the large crowd and kept things moving at the choke points. We also found it quite funny that the Canadian Conservative Party was having a conference in the same building. The juxtaposition of the cosplayers and the well-dressed elite of the Tory party was really great. We also want to thank the baristas in the International Plaza who must have had a line 20 deep for 10 hours and still managed to greet each customer with a smile. The most important final thought is, will we visit Anime North again next year? Yes, we are looking forward to it.