If you're anything like us, the convention season has been over for a while, and you're anxiously counting down the days till you're in one again. You have your cosplay waiting to blow people's minds, you're keeping up with all the guest announcements, and of course you're recharging your funds after the last con. Anime cons are almost as much part of the game as the shows themselves, and thankfully Boomslank needs only wait till this December 6 for our next one. We attended Aniwave (http://www.aniwaveinc.org/) in Wilmington, NC for the first time last year. Some of you might remember our blog about our very positive experience at this small, young, one-day con. This time around, I had the pleasure to talk to Adachi Trieu, President and Director of Aniwave Inc., and she has been generous enough to give me a picture of what it takes to make an anime convention happen. Suffice it to say, I couldn't appreciate this opportunity enough.
The first thing you will notice about Adachi if you met her in person is that she is super young! At 21 she has been president of Aniwave Inc. for 3 years! I asked if her age has posed any challenges:
“Usually when I introduced myself as president I get a funny or surprised look but it doesn't bother me one bit…...I understand being young can cause people to think negatively but once they have a chance to see and enjoy it for themselves they usually have a change of heart.”
It is an unfortunate yet very real situation, but Adachi and her staff have remained unwavering in their courage and dedication to Aniwave, which is a good thing for the rest of us. I also can't help believing that their youth has helped them build the con into what it is today.
Adachi and her staff
When asked what the biggest challenges were for bringing a con to life, she mentioned staffing as one of the most critical. The actual Aniwave staff is just 5 including Adachi, with the rest being volunteers. As much as Adachi would appreciate a larger staff, I got the feeling from talking to her that her interest is more in quality than quantity.
“We prefer the smaller number because it's easier to communicate…...It's always great that our artists and vendors know who the workers are. It makes them feel comfortable and know that they can count on our volunteers. Even if it's just the bond for that day, it makes for a great atmosphere.”
In my opinion, customer service has been lacking in some of the bigger conventions, and that unfortunately makes for an unpleasant experience especially for vendors. Boomslank’s experience at Aniwave 2014 was a perfect example of the difference a positive and friendly staff can make. Adachi also pointed out that word-of-mouth is very vital for small young cons such as hers. As a result it is so much more important for things to go as well as they can, which is why she takes special care in selecting her staff.
Even more important than the experience for the vendors is the experience for the regular attendee. Adachi was quick to point out a very important policy for not just Aniwave, but cons all over.
“The most important policies we've been keeping an eye on is definitely ‘Cosplay is not consent’ and ‘cosplay positivity’. We are a very family friendly convention so when it comes to harassment of any kind it is taken very seriously..... Aniwave is the place for people to make friends and respect one another. So many kids are being bullied in schools for loving anime or for being different. I don't want them to feel that way at Aniwave too. I want them to find people that can become their friends and a support network for one another.”
There have been unfortunately many instances of cosplayers being harassed in one form or another at cons, and it is truly a shame that this is happening at all. On the other hand, it is important to choose your cosplay wisely as to not create an offensive atmosphere for other attendees. A healthy cosplay environment is vital for a positive con experience, and Boomslank is fully supportive of the work Aniwave and cons everywhere do to create policy that promotes this.
As most of you probably could guess, the all important funding is definitely one of Adachi's biggest challenges. In spite of what you may have heard, anime cons don't just happen. Everything has to be paid for. The venue has to be locked down, the guests have to be taken care of, it all adds up. This is one of the first things Adachi has to figure out before she does much else. Throughout the year she holds various fundraising events, but even that has its challenges.
“Aniwave is possible through fundraisers we hold with additional funding from staff. It's also so difficult to get a venue to hold fundraisers because not everyone is open minded to working with us because we are seen as ‘different’. Despite that we do the best we can to have maid cafes and just fun events to help raise money for Aniwave.”
Though the situation is greatly improving, the appreciation for Japanese culture is still not as widely understood as we'd like. Anime Conventions are an important part of spreading that awareness, as well as giving people a place to practice their love for all things Japan. Throughout the year Adachi and her staff have had several events including maid cafes, and even a crowdfunding campaign. We encourage you to check out any fundraising event being run by cons around you. Trust me, you'll be sad if they were gone.
It was a lot of fun getting this unique insight into the inner workings of an anime convention from Adachi, whose favorite shows include YuYu Hakusho, Chobits, and Heaven’s Lost Property. Aniwave will be held on December 6 at the Wilmington Convention Center, and more information can be found at http://www.aniwaveinc.org/. If you have the opportunity, I strongly recommend you stop by and check it out. Boomslank is looking forward to our second trip, and hope to make many many trips to Aniwave in the future. We thank Adachi and the rest of the Aniwave organization for all their hard work.