Amelia, Caitlin, and Peter discuss their experiences at Otakon, AnimeFest, and Crunchyroll Expo, including convention culture, events, panels, and special guests!
0:02:00 Past experiences with conventions
0;10:00 Con evolution
0:13:26 How has being a feminist affected con going?
0:19:00 Feminist programming at conventions
0:28:10 Conventions as a safe(r) space
0:31:16 Importance of American audience to anime production
0:35:16 Diversity in audiences
0:38:17 Diversity in cosplay
0:50:57 Feminism in the industry
0:53:50 Running panels
1:11:22 Future convention plans
Recorded Saturday 3rd September 2017
Music: Open Those Bright Eyes by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License
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AMELIA: Hi, everyone, and welcome to Chatty AF, the Anime Feminist podcast. My name’s Amelia and I’m joined today by Caitlin Moore and Peter Fobian. If you guys would like to introduce yourselves?
CAITLIN: Hi, I’m Caitlin. I am a writer and editor for Anime Feminist, as well as running my own blog, I Have a Heroine Problem.
AMELIA: “Heroine” with an “e.” Very important.
PETER: I’m Peter Fobian. I’m an Associates Features Editor at Crunchyroll, and a contributor and editor for Anime Feminist.
AMELIA: And today we’re going to talk about conventions as a concept. I am still horrendously jetlagged. Just got back from a three-week geek tour extravaganza in the United States of America, where I attended three cons with Anime Feminist writers at each convention. So, I went to Otakon in Washington DC for the first time this year, and we had most of the AniFem writing team there, which was fantastic.
And then I went to AnimeFest in Dallas with Caitlin the following weekend. And then the final weekend I went to the very-first-ever Crunchyroll Expo, which Peter was at but I barely saw him. And Lauren was also there. And, at Crunchyroll Expo. Lauren and I did our first Anime Feminist panel together. And we also hosted an Anime Feminist mixer in collaboration with the organization Woke Weebs.
So, we’ve just finished that. This is our first weekend since that AniFem tour ended. And we thought we’d look at the concept of conventions and how being a feminist affects how we use them and how we approach them and also what we’d like out of them that might be a bit different.
So, I’m gonna hand it over to Caitlin to take us through some questions around this. You alright to go ahead, Caitlin?
CAITLIN: Alright, so, I’ve been going to conventions for a really long time. My first convention was Anime Expo 2002 when I was 15 years old. So, I’ve been going to cons for about–
AMELIA: [Crosstalk] Oh my goodness.
CAITLIN: Yeah, for about half my life. And I went every year through high school and college. In college I also went to Otakon as well. And then I moved to Japan. They sort of stopped being an option for me for a few years. And then the last couple of years, I’ve been living in Seattle. I’ve been going to SakuraCon. This was my second year picking Otakon back up. So, you know, I’ve sort of seen how the convention scene has shifted and evolved and how my personal experience of it has changed.
What have you guys been doing with cons in the past?
AMELIA: I’ll let Peter go first, ’cause the UK landscape is so different.
PETER: Geez, I don’t know how long I’ve been going to Fanime Expo–just “Fanime.” But it’s been a really long time. That was the only con I went to for maybe seven or eight years. I went to one called Animagic. I don’t know if that’s still going on. It was in the middle of nowhere. I think it was one that tried to start up and didn’t really go anywhere. If it’s totally still going and I don’t know about it, then I just insulted the convention, but…Then I went to Expo…I think, this year, it was my third Expo. And it’s also the first one where I wasn’t basically working a booth at for Crunchyroll. Then I went to some gaming conventions and stuff like that.
So, as far as anime is concerned, it wasn’t until…I think this year’s probably been my most active. I went to SakuraCon one year as well. That’s an important convention.
Yeah, but outside of anime, I’ve mostly been doing industry, press-related stuff. So, this was my first year at Otakon and kind of my first year seriously, actually working a convention, too–not just a booth, but actually working with convention ops. ‘Cause I was working with Crunchyroll at Crunchyroll Expo.
So, I think I’ve gotten a lot of different perspectives just from this year.
CAITLIN: It’s interesting seeing how different roles really affect how you experience a convention, because I’ve really…I’ve only ever staffed a couple, but I’ve done prep and I’ve done regular attending, and I’ve done panelist. I’ve never done vendor or artist or anything. But they’re totally different conventions.
AMELIA: The experience is totally different.
CAITLIN: Yeah. Yeah. It really is. I’d say press is the best one. [Laughter]
AMELIA: Yeah. Having now experienced it, I would completely agree. The UK landscape is very different. We don’t …I think the smallest con I went to of those three was probably about 10,000 people. We don’t have conventions, anime conventions, with 10,000 people of them.
CAITLIN: And that’s not a particularly large convention.
AMELIA: No. And we just don’t have the infrastructure for it, on two levels. We don’t have the physical infrastructure, a building that can house a convention in a meaningful way hosting that many people, plus surrounding accommodation options, plus the transport options to get between venue and accommodation. We don’t really have spaces like that that can house 10,000-plus.
And we also just, as a UK anime community, my experience has been that it’s much harder to plug into. I mean, I run a fairly high-profile website at this point. I think we learned while I was in the US that we have 25,000 unique visitors a month. I mean, that’s pretty decent traffic for where we’re at. And I know very few UK anime fans off the back of that. Very few. I think something like 2, 3% of our readers are Brits. And as a Brit myself, I feel like I’ve let that side down, in a way.
So, it’s quite difficult to find a way in to that community. I’m not even sure there is a cohesive community. I’m still kind of finding my feet there. I’m planning to attend more UK conventions from now on, kind of under the Anime Feminist banner, and see what kind of community I can build up. But at the moment there aren’t the obvious entry-points that there are through Ani-Twitter, which is largely American. It’s quite a different landscape.
So, there’s two types of convention that I’m aware of. Maybe three. Two-point-five. One is the Comic-Cons. We have MCM Comic-Cons throughout the UK. I say that. I think we have them in England and Scotland. Sorry, Wales and Northern Ireland. And they are kind of omni-geek gatherings. So, it’s not just anime, but it is a convenient place for a lot of cosplayers to gather and to nerd out over industry announcements and that kind of thing.
CAITLIN: So they’re more like small-scale Comic-Cons?
AMELIA: Yeah, and it’s very much a trade show, almost. It is a place for exhibitors to set up and for fans to gather and meet their friends. But it’s not a convention of the type that I’ve just come back from. So, fan panels, not really such a thing. They do have stages and people do host events on them, but it’s not the same atmosphere at all.
Then we have the fan-run conventions, and I went to, I think, two or three of these back before I went to Japan for the first time. So, I’d never been to Japan. I didn’t identify as a feminist. Those are kind of my only experiences around fan-run Comic-Cons to date. And my experience…I went to a couple. I went to one with friends, where I did the full weekend and had a lovely time.
But it was there with friends, and I don’t remember there being…I don’t remember there being guests, at all. There may well have been, but I don’t remember there being guests. This must have been around 2005. And I remember there being lots of video rooms, things like a karaoke room, stuff like that. So it was more about partaking in fan activities, Japan-related activities with other anime fans. That was kind of the point of it.
And then, another time, I just went on my own for a day. And I just…I think I went to try and get stuff for my anime society. I was the secretary at the time, and I wanted to get free stuff to give away for our recruitment drive at the beginning of the year. Ended up doing very well out of that. Exhibitors were very accommodating. And I met some really interesting people. And as a result of that, I actually met Andrew Partridge at that time. He runs Anime Limited, which is a big distribution name in the UK. They have…They ran releases for A Silent Voice, Your Name, Ordinal Scale, big cinema releases.
But they’ve been doing special Blu-Ray editions of high-profile shows like Cowboy Bebop for years. And Andrew, at that time, was kind of a standard marketing staffer back at Beez, which is the European division of Bandai. And we became friends. And, as a result, I kind of helped him on the Beez booth for a little while after that. So I worked behind the stall, then. But this is a long time ago. I mean, this is over ten years ago. And my recent experiences have been much more Comic-Con, and that’s it.
So, going to the US and experiencing what you guys have as standard, that has been such an incredible experience, and a real education, actually.
CAITLIN: Yeah, and you know, US cons have evolved a lot over the last few years as well. I mean, they’ve always sort of had the same basic structure of dealer’s room, artist’s alley, fan panels, guest panels, but, for example, Anime Expo is completely unrecognizable from when I first started going. My first year it was at Long Beach Convention Center, which is a much, much smaller capacity con. And they had guests. They’ve always had really good guests from Japan. But they were way, way less emphasized. You didn’t have to pay extra to get in to any events.
They didn’t have the maid cafe or…It was just…It wasn’t small. It was the biggest con in the country already when I started going, but it felt a lot less packed in. You know? And, like I said, it was always more industry-driven than a lot of cons, but…Part of that comes from how anime fan culture has changed with the times. You would go to conventions for the big announcements, ’cause this was the age of DSL. Things were not…Even though there was the internet, things were not as instantaneously accessible.
So, yeah. Just seeing all the ways that it has changed…And in a lot of ways, there’s a lot more mainstream acceptance from the public in general.
AMELIA: Yeah. I mentioned before that there are three–actually maybe two-point-five–cons in the UK. The third type is…We have something now called “Hyper Japan.” Which I think happens twice a year. And it’s basically a convention for the fandom of Japanese-ness. Sounds a bit odd. But basically…It’s obviously a place where anime fans gather. But, basically, it’s for anyone who has an interest in Japanese culture. So, they have food stalls set up serving Japanese food. They have something called “The Sake Experience,” so sake producers…You go around this course and take sips of sake as you go along from quality producers as they explain all the differences between the types of sake. They have a cosplay masquerade. They have a karaoke stage. They have people who produce anime-influenced things or manga-influenced things. They have stalls there to sell them. And absolutely local Japanese-owned businesses are there with a presence.
It’s not quite an anime convention, but of course anime fans make up a good proportion of the people there. And that’s something that, as you say, that’s the mainstream acceptance that we see. It’s not just anime fans, this tiny niche in a hotel in the middle of nowhere, which is what I experienced in 2004, 2005. This is in…not quite central London, but it’s in London. It’s in a well-known convention center. And it is something that normal people–I’m making air quotes–“normal people” can go to and feel like they’re having a cultural experience, not just a geek experience. Not just a fandom experience.
CAITLIN: So that’s, I think, a good point to move into our next topic. So, how does being a feminist or ally affect the con-going experience?
AMELIA: Why don’t you tell us about your experience, first? Because I only have this kind of three weeks as an experience, ’cause I’d not been to a con as a feminist before, if that makes sense. So, yeah. I’m very keen to hear how your experience has changed.
PETER: You’d probably be the best for this, Caitlin, actually.
CAITLIN: It’s really…It’s definitely affected what panels I attend, and also I’ve got this real drive to do my own panels, ’cause I have topics I want to talk about. And I have topics that I think are important to talk about. I’ve done my “Romance and Abuse in Shoujo Manga” panel every year at every convention I’ve been going to for three years now. So, it’s…These…Being able to discuss these topics has really affected my focus. And also the growth of feminist-aimed convention panels has really changed a lot.
AMELIA: In what way?
Caitln: There’s…I mean, I don’t have any old programming books from my first years at Anime Expo or anything.
In 2003, people weren’t doing feminist convention panels. People weren’t…There might be one or two women in anime panels but it wasn’t something that was at the forefront of people’s minds, and now…It’s something that people take into consideration. There’s usually three or four panels, at least, about those sorts of topics at cons that I go to. It’s become a standard, and it’s become something that people are really invested in. Which is really cool to see. I think it was my first year at SakuraCon, and I wrote a detailed report of this panel on Heroine Problem and on Tumblr, but it was “Objectification in Anime, Manga, and Video Games,” and there was this dude who’d sit up and was like, “Men are being objectified.”
AMELIA: Oh no. [Laughter]
CAITLIN: When you have…”In Senran Kagura, the girls are talking about the harem lead and calling him a battery ’cause having sex with him charges their magical powers. That’s them objectifying him.”
So, the whole thing was really strange and the room was so…The room was full of women. SakuraCon is a pretty progressive convention, but this room full of women were just getting more and more agitated as the panel…His points were completely ridiculous. He called the male gaze a “slippery concept” and then talked about “female gaze” in depth, about how Free! is the female gaze, ’cause this was when Free! was really hot.
AMELIA: And, just to be clear, these are absolutely great topics for a panel discussion, but they need to be led by somebody who understands them from all angles, and can lead a constructive conversation around it. And that doesn’t sound like that’s what was going on.
PETER: That’s the thing. I heard a lot of complaints in regards to feminist panels being put out mostly on Twitter.
AMELIA: [Laughter] Oh, you’ve heard some complaints? One or two?
PETER: Yeah, yeah, yeah. In pretty much all the conventions. But I notice there’s never any panels for the other perspective, and…Yeah, I don’t know. They seem to complain that there aren’t panels either, but…
CAITLIN: I mean, I think a “Masculinity in Anime” panel would be really interesting.
PETER: Nobody’s submitting these panels though.
CAITLIN: Well, you know…
AMELIA: Guys, if you want to see this content, do what we did. Prepare a panel application, submit it, and then see how it does. I have quite limited sympathy.
CAITLIN: But the convention crowd in general is very supportive of this sort of stuff. And there’s the whole “Cosplay is not Consent” movement, which…I mean, it’s sad that it had to come about, because female cosplayers were getting really badly sexually harassed. But that’s another thing. I’ve seen that mentioned at every convention I’ve gone to in the last few years.
AMELIA: And really clearly and explicitly, too. This isn’t just a footnote. These are on multiple banners throughout the convention center. I was so impressed by that. And, as you say, that was at every convention I’ve been to this month. I think it’s just become a new normal, and that’s what we need. We need this stuff to just be ingrained in the convention experience.
PETER: Yeah. They were very prominent. This is the first year it was unmistakable and at every convention. I noticed it at Fanime Expo, Otakon, and Crunchyroll Expo as well. I’m assuming AnimeFest…
AMELIA: Yeah. Absolutely.
CAITLIN: It’s definitely become a huge thing. And I think that’s great. Because the attitude for a while was, “If you’re gonna dress up, you have to expect certain things.”
AMELIA: Yeah. And I think what you said is true. Lauren and I talked about this a bit on the panel, but the idea that anime fandom is majority male and anyone who’s not a cis man just needs to accept that that’s the way things are. That’s the price of admission. That myth gets completely shattered as soon as you step into a convention.
CAITLIN: Cons have been at parity for years.
AMELIA: Yeah, or majority not-cis-men. So, it’s…It’s a bit of a mistaken impression of conventions to think that that’s the way things are. They must have changed a great deal.
Even within these three conventions that I went to, I thought something was quite interesting. Otakon is the most established of the three, I think. And that was probably, to my mind, the most conservative in terms of feminist content. So, I did go to the “Women in Anime” panel and things like that. But it seemed like it was more…They just didn’t include certain content that would have been anti-feminist, I guess. There was no anti-feminist content, and that’s kind of as progressive as they got.
And then, at AnimeFest, it seemed that the fan panels were most progressive. And it was…They actually…I don’t think Otakon had any fan panels that had the word “feminst” or “feminism” in the title or in the description; whereas at AnimeFest, obviously, Caitlin, we had your “Is This Feminist or Not?” panel. Which was absolutely fantastic, by the way.
CAITLIN: I feel like people do tend to shy away from using the word “feminist” explicitly, even if it is feminist-themes. And I understand. I’ve…I do it. I’m very careful about applying the term “feminism” because I want it…I keep to a very narrow definition of it. So that’s sort of why. But I also…There’s probably some people who see it as limiting…as potentially limiting their audience or driving people away.
AMELIA: I think there are people who are probably worried that panels are going to get turned down. I mean, I’ve been worried on that basis, obviously. We submitted our panel, which was “A Feminist Survival Guide to Anime Fandom.” We submitted it to Otakon and it got rejected for whatever reason. I will say that it must have been at the very last stage, because we got very late notification of it. So they clearly were considering it. But it did get rejected. And I do wonder if the name had been different, would we have been accepted?
CAITLIN: I mean, I think part of it has to do with the fact that everyone who was specifically enlisted for it was a first-time panelist. Because my “Abuse in Shoujo” panel got waitlisted last year.
AMELIA: Well, Lauren was on the list as well. She’s far from a first-time panelist. I mean, we have on the list…We had…It was all of us, right? You, me, Lauren, Peter, and Vrai and Dee. We’ve all got a background on the internet now. We’ve all got our own followings to an extent. But I don’t know if we can dismiss it and say…
CAITLIN: Yeah, I know. It’s impossible to really know exactly what happened.
AMELIA: And that’s the thing. But looking at Otakon as a whole, its programming as a whole, because it makes me wonder. Its other panels, even where they had feminist themes, even where they were clearly talking about something from a left-wing perspective, let’s say, they were not explicit about it. And I wonder if we toned down the language, which is not something I’m prepared to do, would we have increased our chances of being selected?
So, I understand why people choose not to use such a loaded word in their title front and center. And, actually, it just makes me more impressed when conventions say, “Yes. We want that despite this word being front and center.” We know what reaction it can evoke. And we all saw that in the weeks running up to our panel at Crunchyroll Expo. We had a one-star review for our panel an hour before it actually began, which was just amazing. And that’s still the response that the word “feminist” in any kind of panel is getting.
CAITLIN: Well, and I think…Because I’ve seen “feminism in anime” panels that people have done in the past. And they…Part of it set off a whole thing on Tumblr.
AMELIA: On Tumblr? That’s surprising.
CAITLIN: Yeah. Okay. So, there were a lot of “feminism in anime” panels for a while, and they were generally pretty basic. And one of them set someone off because they were all very, very basic. Like: “This is un-feminist. This is feminist-friendly. These tropes are un-feminist. These tropes are feminist-friendly. These tropes are feminist.” And it was saying stuff like, “Magical girl anime is inherently feminist. All-female casts are inherently feminist.” And, like I said, “feminism” is a word that needs to be assigned to series sparingly. A Japanese trans woman just went off on that post, talking about how she’s tired of Americans assuming these things when the cultural context is different. And so for a while, talking about feminism in anime sort of went out of vogue.
AMELIA: I can understand that. That sounds like a really difficult exchange.
CAITLIN: It was. It was. And then “feminism in anime” panels kind of dried up. And now I think people are looking more at specific topics. But, you know…’Cause talking about feminism and anime you’re not going to be able to do anything but the most shallow discussion in the time that you get for a panel. So it’s…I think that might play a role in what happened. Not specifically about our panel. But I think that is probably a contributor to why people don’t necessarily assign that word to it. I think there’s a lot of factors.
AMELIA: Something that I found very interesting in this trio of cons…So, I mentioned Otakon…It’s programming was broadly, more conservatively-approached. There were feminist themes in there, but it was not front and center in the descriptions. That was not the point of appeal for people when reading through the program.
There was AnimeFest, which did have explicitly feminist programming. And then there was Crunchyroll Expo, where the programming was broadly progressive, not just in the fan panels, but also in the types of guests they invited, how they framed the guest discussions. I was really impressed by that. I wasn’t impressed by everything that Crunchyroll Expo did. I’m writing a con report about it where I’ll go into more detail. But in terms of being a convention showing its values, Crunchyroll did a good job of putting progressive values in the very fabric of the convention.
Examples: We had Johnny Weir as a big guest of honor. And, you know, Olympic figure skater, also queer icon. We had the Dream Daddy creative team, which is a game that has built up a reputation for being particularly diverse and inclusive. We had a “Diversity in Anime and Manga” panel that focused on Black-owned, Black-created companies producing anime and manga. We had…The fact that they had our panel there was, I think, said something.
But it was the official panels that really impressed me. The fact that Urahara was there. And Urahara is an anime that’s coming up on Crunchyroll soon. I think it’s part-Crunchyroll-produced. And the creative team is almost entirely women. So, they had three women sitting in front of us talking about their professional lives in anime. And that is something that we just don’t get a lot of, at any convention. So, that was really at the very core of Crunchyroll Expo was this very progressive approach to a convention, which I thought was fascinating.
CAITLIN: Yeah. And something that Otakon did have a lot of…Jaime McGonagal is one of the guests and I had a chance to sit down and interview him…And this isn’t specifically a feminist thing, but it’s a connected issue. So, he’s not a huge voice actor, but he’s gay and he’s really into activism, and I actually had a chance to sit down and interview him and he was sort of talking about how he uses this as an opportunity to travel to conventions and to give people a space to meet and to connect and to talk.
Because for a lot of people, conventions, they’re not, in his words, “not a safe space, but a safe-r space.” And this is sort of…They’re a place where people…Gay teens and transgender teens, and transgender adults too…They’re a chance for them to be out for a weekend when they’re not at home. And this is something I’ve seen in my own friends. It’s not just about feminism, that specific aspect of feminism, but people feel safer to be themselves in that way, as well.
AMELIA: Yeah. I was thoroughly impressed with that at all of the cons I went to, but particularly at Otakon, you would see queer couples holding hands. You’d see either transgender people or just gender-nonconforming people who are wearing whatever they wanted. You saw fully-grown male-presenting people who were wearing cute clothes and makeup. It’s like, “Yeah, absolutely!” You should be able to feel comfortable doing this in the real world as well, but since that’s not an option right now, having any space where you can be yourself, do some things that make you feel comfortable, make you feel good about yourself, that’s so important. And that’s something that anime fandom does offer.
CAITLIN: “Let’s experiment and see if this is a better fit.” It’s a space where it is okay to…How do I put this?
PETER: Less judgmental.
CAITLIN: I want to say…Yeah, a less judgmental space. ‘Cause it’s a space where it’s okay to be a little bit weird. But I don’t want to say that…It’s a space where it’s safe to be different, and that’s…
AMELIA: Kind of challenge conventions a bit.
CAITLIN: Yeah. It’s really cool that way.
AMELIA: I was really struck by that.
PETER: Yeah. I think conventions are a great thing in general to go to to dispel any sort of…There’s a lot of lines on social media about what the fandom is like and what the industry is like and just by being in a convention I think you can see that that’s not true. For myself, personally, I think this is one of the…Me going [openly as a] self-identified feminist, with that being a prominent aspect of it, but also attending a lot of panels for different reasons, as well. So, I don’t know quite what I’m looking at from which perspective, but I definitely see that…I mean, as we were saying, the gender composition of any of these conventions was roughly 50-50, if not leaning towards female. And I think that’s probably very reflective of audience. But also more on the industry side, the way you get a lot of pushback in regards to feminist criticism of anime is that the Western audiences aren’t really an important consideration for Japanese companies, but I can say…I think I attended five world premieres at American conventions this year.
CAITLIN: Yeah, no, it’s not…I mean, that’s just straight-up not true.
PETER: Yeah. The fact that they want to screen their anime in America first before Japan…So, I watched Ancient Magus Bride, Violet Evergarden, Card Captor Sakura…Anime Expo also had Welcome to the Ballroom. And then Otakon had Eureka 7: High Evolution. That was the first screening opportunity anybody in the world had to see those movies was in America, not Japan. If America is not a big part of their consideration, and, therefore, American tastes…They want to make stuff that the Western audience is going to consume if the Western audience is important to them. And then they’re screening these things in America before even their Japanese audience gets to see it.
AMELIA: Yeah, there were a few panels at Crunchyroll Expo, actually, that directly addressed this myth of “Anime is 100% Japanese pureblood industry,” and it’s just not the case.
CAITLIN: Right. I mean, obviously, Western audiences are secondary, and some creators don’t care. The industry is not a monolith.
AMELIA: Sure. But that’s the point, isn’t it? The industry is not a monolith on either side.
CAITLIN: Right. The industry is not a monolith. Some creators care very deeply.
AMELIA: And some creators don’t care, but the people who are paying their bills do care, because they know they can make more money out of certain things abroad than in Japan. And this is not a recent thing. There was…Miles ran a panel at Crunchyroll Expo looking at the long history of international co-productions that are technically anime, but also, you might think, technically not anime. And this goes back absolutely decades.
PETER: Yeah. It’s from all angles. On the industry side, the West has been co-producing anime for years. Years and years. And also they’ve been making anime specifically…I mean, it depends. Some anime studios and creators specifically focus on a Japanese audience, but Trigun, I remember, was very specifically–and I think Cowboy Bebop, as well, both–were very targeted toward Western audiences. That was the idea. And more presently, I think Studio Wit has a massive emphasis on their Western audience. Above and beyond their Japanese audience. I think their focus is on the West.
‘Cause Araki, he first did Death Note, which was huge in the West. And now they’ve been focusing on other series that have been very popular in the West to the point where I think that they’re trying to identify what Western tastes are and specifically cater to them. That’s why they made…After Attack on Titan, they made Kabaneri, which was even more Western, ’cause it had American grindhouse elments. And I believe when they were discussing Ancient Magus Bride, it’s based in the UK, and they knew the manga was popular in the West as well. So, it seemed like a good choice, because it would likely be popular in the West.
AMELIA: Yeah. One of the things that made up my mind on what panels to attend and what screenings to attend and so on were: does it challenge myths in some way? That was one of my criteria. And, as a feminist…I went as an AniFem representative, so I missed out on a few things that I really would have liked to go to, because there were some really great-sounding panels that were on at the same time but they were explicitly feminist and I just had to go to them. But I went to some of those, to my mind, strongest panels at those times and I was like, “Well, I don’t really know what to expect from it, but it says it’s gonna be talking about diversity in anime and manga.”
I went to…Probably the most emotional response I had to a panel this month was at the Diversity in Anime and Manga panel in Crunchyroll Expo. Because they had two companies up onstage as the panelists, creators and producers from a company called Noir Ceasar and a company called Saturday AM. And these are people who grew up as giant anime nerds, and they just never saw themselves represented onscreen, or very rarely and how often was it positive? How many role models were there for them?
And this is something I, as a woman of color, completely identify with. And it really choked me up listening to this panel of people talk about how they didn’t see themselves represented, they understood the power of seeing yourself represented, and then they decided to make what they couldn’t see. So they now make anime and manga in the West with people of color creating these stories and presenting them in a format and an aesthetic that they, themselves, have grown up loving.
And that was so inspiring to me. But what was really interesting about that was looking around the room. There were so many white people in the room who were all nodding and saying, “Yep. Absolutely.” And it just…It was a really strong example of how speaking about something like diversity in anime and manga–it’s not niche. Every one of those people, presumably, I can only imagine, had their own experiences where they saw themselves represented for the first time and it was meaningful to them. So, maybe they saw their own queerness represented. Maybe they saw their own mental illness represented. Maybe they saw their disability represented. It doesn’t have to be about race when we talk about diversity. The fact is they had that experience and they identified with these black creators talking about an experience that they had technically never had, but they had a close-enough experience they can map onto it. This isn’t a niche discussion.
PETER: Yeah, like A Silent Voice.
AMELIA: Oh my goodness, yes. Absolutely. And it was really powerful for me. I think that was the most powerful panel experience I had for the entire month. And I would not have gone to that, because there was some…I think there was a Q&A with Kore Yamazake, the creator of the Ancient Magus Bride, on at that time. And I decided against going to that. And it sounds like it was incredible. She did a live drawing on stage! But I’m so glad I was at the Diversity in Anime and Manga panel. And that is something that I only chose because I went there as a feminist looking for feminist-related panels.
CAITLIN: Yeah. And another thing that I’ve seen crop up more and more is panels specifically related to diversity in cosplay as well. And…racial diversity, body diversity, gender diversity…I’ve seen a lot of that coming up, which is great, because I was pretty involved in the cosplay community for a few years in my teens, but I haven’t really been as much. But I’m sure there’s still plenty of people like that. But people can get just absolutely vicious about…”You have to cosplay to your body type. If you’re too big and you’re cosplaying as this character, you’re too old and you’re cosplaying as this character, then you’re opening yourself up for this.”
So, the fact that there are so many…a ton of panels at conventions these days that are talking about this and promoting cosplayers from different backgrounds is a huge shift.
AMELIA: Just on the cosplay panel. I went to one of those at AnimeFest, and I just want to say how impressed I was, because it was called “Positivity and Support in the Cosplay Community,” I think, and I was thinking, “Okay, it’s gonna be women leading the discussion,” I thought. I walked in and it was these three kind of burly guys. [Laughter] Leading a discussion on mental health, on discrimination, on anxiety, on depression. Talking very openly about their own experiences with all of these things. And inviting the audience to do the same.
And I was so impressed. I mentioned this in my con report, but “the patriarchy hurts everybody” is a line that we use often, and rightly so. And mental health and the stigma around talking about it is still something that is extremely relevant for men in particular. And to see men leading that discussion…They submitted this panel. They volunteered to do this. They stood up as three men and said, “This is a conversation we need to have.” I was so impressed by that. And if this is something that has proliferated through the convention landscape, I’m very pleased about that.
CAITLIN: So, we’ve been talking a lot about panels and how that’s shifted. So, that sort of brings us to our next point, which is what the best parts of the experience in con-going is for you. ‘Cause going to panels has always been really huge, but more and more for me, also social networking. So, how has that been for you guys?
AMELIA: I mean, networking has been a huge part of my con experience, what limited experience I have. But, like I mentioned before, I went to a convention and met Andrew from Anime Limited, and ended up working his booth, and ended up, as a result…I met, at the time, people who worked at Manga Entertainment, people who worked at ADV films. These are big names in the UK, guys. Who worked in these big companies who were kind of the people to know. I remember a very starstruck dinner where I ended up sitting next to Brad Swale, and I just didn’t know what to do. [Laughter]
CAITLIN: [Crosstalk] Wow. Oh my god. He played Quatre in Gundam Wing! Oh my god. I would have died.
AMELIA: [Crosstalk] I kept thinking, “You’re Quatre! You’re Quatre!” I almost did. I almost did. This is how I learned not to interview voice actors. I get too starstruck.
But I remember that so clearly. And then I dropped out of anime fandom, which is well documented, for 10 years. And I have had to kind of…I am now in a position of reconnecting with these people under quite different circumstances, ’cause I now run a website called AnimeFeminist.com. And I’m not sure, based on discussions at the time, how on-board everyone I met then is with that concept. So, I’ll find out, I guess.
But this time around, it was walking in with people knowing full well that I run a website called “AnimeFeminist.com.” And it was gratifying to me, the welcome that we received on that basis.
AMELIA: And actually it was…There were three levels. Each con was a very different experience for me. So, the first week…That was my first con. It was Otakon. It was huge. I knew a few people, but probably my social and networking triumph was being invited to a room party with somebody that I never met before. And it was just off the back of both of us being in a panel and striking up conversation afterwards. And…
CAITLIN: Yeah. Long-time industry people.
AMELIA: Yeah. So, it was really…It was good to see that that is still an option. You can just be an interesting person talking to an interesting person and end up making friends. And the great thing about conventions is that you can capitalize on that immediately. There are options to socialize with people immediately. And, as it happens, that same person then attended our mixer two weeks later.at Crunchyroll Expo, which…It was great to return the favor. So, that was one experience.
And then at AnimeFest, obviously, you and I, Caitlin, and our room of other people, we hosted a room party.
CAITLIN: Yeah. That was a lot of fun. And, I mean…Another thing at AnimeFest was that, after I went to Susan Napier’s panel…She’s a huge name in anime academia.
AMELIA: Yeah. I read her book years ago.
CAITLIN: Yeah. Yeah. And, after her panel, I just walked up and I introduced myself, and I talked to her about my work, and she came to my panels after that. We got coffee one morning. We walked over to Starbucks. The fact that I can do that…It’s incredible. I got to sit down and…This is something I do get with press privileges, but getting to sit down with Sayo Yamamoto was just mindblowing. It’s…She’s absolutely incredible.
AMELIA: You say you have press privileges. I just want to break this down a little bit so people understand what we’re talking about. Because when I first heard, “Press pass,” I thought, “Oh, you have to be ANN. You have to be Crunchyroll. You have to be the Anime Herald.” It was…I assumed you had to be a big site. I assumed you had to be more of a news site. And that’s just not the case.
We got press passes as Anime Feminist for AnimeFest, and that had not even occurred to me until you said, “Hey, do you mind if I apply for this?” And I was like, “Pfft, go ahead, Caitlin. You can give it a try if you want.” And then they gave them to us, and, actually, yeah, as long as you have a blog with decent readership, and you’re willing to write about your experiences…I mean, nobody’s told us how we should write about anything. We’ve been putting out con reports without having to seek approval or anything like that.
So, that’s…It’s more accessible to you than you might think. So, if anyone is listening to this and thinking, “Well, it’s okay for you,” if that’s the con experience that you want, create a blog. Build it up. It is not shut off from you at all.
PETER: Yep. Even more prominent…I don’t think [unintelligible] has been around that long. But they are…I think it’s three or four guys who have a unique perspective. They’re very motivated and interested in the subject and they started their blog, got it together, and now they have press access to most places.
But, yeah, there are people with individual blogs going. So, I think–
CAITLIN: I think…I mean, I’ve been doing SakuraCon as Heroine Problem for a few years now.
PETER: Otakon had a 2-year…”your site has to be around for 2 years” requirement. But I think that’s actually a higher bar than most conventions. I think if you start up your own blog or join up with another blog, your odds of getting in with press access are pretty good. It’s not super exclusive, you-have-to-be-working-at-some-big-outlet, for sure.
CAITLIN: Yeah. It varies from con to con, but if you do any sort of writing about anime at all, it’s definitely worth looking into. There’s one that’s–is it Kurumi Con? It’s Pacific Northwest area. I think it might be in Victoria, British Columbia, where you have to update your site with a certain level of frequency, but if you’re just off from certain requirements, try it anyway. Heroine Problem is not two years old yet, but it’s close, and I went to Otakon as press for Heroine Problem. It is achievable. If you’re willing to put in some degree of work.
AMELIA: And I want to just make it really clear to everyone that the things that we’re talking about are accessible. I mean, when I say, “I went there representing Anime Feminist,” actually, a lot of people spoke to me before knowing who I was. And a lot of people, by the end of the conversation, still didn’t know who I was. But getting access to these spaces very often was…To be honest, the English accent helped. I’m not gonna lie.
AMELIA: I’m pretty sure that’s how my room party invitation…I’m pretty sure that’s how the conversation started, with, “Oh, you’re from London?” It’s like, “Well, yes. Now we can have a conversation.”
But it could be anything. I mean, we were at a panel where the person who invited me actually asked a question. And I could have easily gone up to him afterwards and said, “Oh, I really thought your question was interesting. Can we discuss that for a minute?” And I think he would have been open to that. And I think that’s the case for a lot of people. You just have to come across like you’re interested in them as human beings, and what they have to say, and not as starstruck celebrities around people like Brad Swaile.
CAITLIN: Yeah, and I mean, I’m not gonna say you can just walk up to any old person and say any old thing and they’re gonna be your best-est best friend, but if you are someone who has something, who’s thoughtful and cares a lot and has an interesting perspective, that alone will open a lot of doors for you.
AMELIA: And there’s also groundwork that you can lay. The final social experience that I had on this trip was obviously hosting our own official Anime Feminist mixer in collaboration with Woke Weebs, and I spoke to Ally on Twitter months ago–Ally heads up Woke Weebs, which is an organization…I think they’re based in LA and they do social mixers regularly, just for feminist anime fans, effectively. It’s exactly our target audience. And she hosts these things, and she has experience hosting them, and so, I said, “Oh, we’d kind of like to do a meetup, Ally,” and she said, “I’m on it.” And she just took care of it, basically. And she reserved a space and we showed up. And we showed up with a lot of people relatively speaking, because I’ve spent most of the last year talking to people on Twitter.
Twitter is a hugely valuable networking tool. You end up in a Twitter bubble where you feel like that represents the entire fandom and it doesn’t, and you need to be careful of that. But it is an incredibly useful way to make contact with people in advance, and also afterwards. Since attending these conventions, I have had people contact me through Twitter and build on a conversation that we had in person that lasted maybe two minutes. Because we had that two-minute conversation, they’ve now come up to me on Twitter and said, “Hey, it was great talking to you.” And they followed me. I followed them. And we have a new connection. And the next time I go to a convention they’re at, maybe we’ll get a drink together. That’s how these things work.
It takes a bit of time, perhaps. You can have the kind of spontaneous, “Hey, do you wanna come to my room party? We’ve had an interesting conversation. I’d like to continue that.” But you can also have, “I’m gonna be at this convention in six months. Let me speak to people I find interesting. Let me ask them in advance if they’re gonna be there and see if they’d like to meet up for a drink where I’ll be.”
PETER: Yeah. I’d say another super-gratifying thing for me was I know a lot of people in industry who are self-described feminists, but…And I was expecting, just the way a lot of other people who I knew I would be meeting spoke, that they were…They didn’t outright say, “I’m a feminist,” but their viewpoints seem to be somewhat aligned.
But I don’t think I met a single person at any of the conventions who was industry-related or a guest or anything like that who was, at all…Most of them outright claimed they were feminist, or in conversations stating…hearing you say you were at Anime Feminist in proximity, or my describing my work with them, it only made them more interested. It seems like across the board, I think every industry person I spoke with was actually interested in this subject, if not already proactive about it, themselves, in some regard. And that was somewhat unexpected to me. Just…I figured one or two, you know? There would be people who would disagree, but that wasn’t my experience. It was literally everyone.
AMELIA: There are very few people at the Crunchyroll industry party who I didn’t introduce myself to in connection with the website, ’cause I didn’t think it would go down well. But that’s not people that I would consider “anime industry,” and it’s not people I would consider “anime fandom,” specifically. So, I think that is broadly true, though. You just have to look at the people who came along to our party. It was people across anime industry. It was people across anime fandom. People you might not necessarily expect to be totally keen to go to a feminist anime party on a Saturday night at a convention. But they showed up and they had a good time and they were there ’til the end of the night. And that just speaks to how much more accepted feminism is now in the mainstream of anime fandom, which is broadly liberal despite all the neo-nazis with anime avatars.
PETER: Yeah, I was pretty optimistic about that mixer. It was pretty wild, the turnout we got and the people who showed up. It was very validating.
AMELIA: It really was. And now we’re gonna plan to do this at as many conventions as we can. An Anime Feminist meetup, so people who are like-minded can join in one place and drink together and have a good time, and we don’t need to be talking about feminism all the time. I don’t think we spoke about feminism once at that party. But it was…I think it’s something that you can use as a tool, now, to make connections, say that you have a feminist viewpoint on anime. And when people respond well, they will respond really well, and they will want to connect with you, and they will want to spend more time with you. And if they don’t respond well, maybe you don’t want to spend time with them.
So, it’s certainly been a good litmus test for me, to say, “I run animefeminist.com” and see how people respond. But as Peter said, it was overwhelmingly positive.
CAITLIN: So, we’re running low on time, but I do wanna quickly talk about a couple of other things. Specifically, two things that are…have been integral to our convention experiences this year: panels and guests. Specifically, our panels and the guests that addressed the cons, because I think, at least with AnimeFest this year, it was unusually major.
So, we all participated in panels, I believe. Peter, did you work…were you involved in any panels this year?
PETER: I did not. Not at Otakon. And at Crunchyroll I was working the actual convention, so…
CAITLIN: Okay. Yeah, okay. Nevermind. We did not all do panels this year, but Amelia and I both did.
AMELIA: Yeah, we did. [Laughter] My first one.
CAITLIN: Yeah. Yeah. So, talk about the experience of putting together panels.
AMELIA: Okay. I’m laughing because I had several sleepless nights leading up to the panel, just putting it together, because there was so much going on. And I was specifically there to network and to gather content for AniFem. So, I spent as much of my day as possible in convention programming. And then I spent as much of my evenings as possible meeting people that I wanted to meet and spending time with them. And sometimes they went on very late.
So, for Crunchyroll Expo, I’d spent the week doing things like visiting the Crunchyroll offices. I visited Viz. In the evening, I was spending time with people that I knew in the San Fransisco area. And it was really busy and it was really fun, and I didn’t have a block of time…I really wanted an afternoon when I could just sit down and work on the panel, and it didn’t really happen because I was doing too much other good stuff. So, I got to Crunchyroll Expo, and that first night I stayed up…No, it was Friday night. I think….Thursday night, I stayed up until, I think, 4 AM working on our panel, and then I got an hour’s sleep and woke up and did more. And it was a really long night. And then the second night…I’m glad I did, though. Because on the Friday night, I went to a party, and we stayed out until 5 AM, so I didn’t get anything done then, either.
So, then I woke up…Lauren woke me up at 7, 8 o’clock, I think, and was like, “We should really run through our panel.” I was like, ‘You’re so right, but I’m exhausted.” And then we ran through our panel. But we did pull it together. And when we actually got in the room, I was somewhat hungover. I was absolutely shattered from several nights in a row of basically no sleep. But we just started talking, and because we knew our subject matter so well–it was “A Feminist Survival Guide to Anime Fandom.” We’ve both got stories–we were able to just bounce off each other.
I mean, the time running through was invaluable, but, actually, more important was that we had focus, and we knew exactly what we needed to cover in each section, and we…Either of us could have covered either section, I think, and there were times when I think our back-and-forth was a little bit awkward, because Lauren expected me to cover something that I thought she was covering…Actually, both of us could have done it, but we didn’t want to tread on each other’s toes.
But I think that was the worst scenario for it. And I think the biggest frustration that I’ve had with panels that I went to is when they were unfocused, and they would just chit-chat. I want to go to a panel to learn something or to gain some kind of insight, and if the only insight I get is, “You’re really charming and I’d love to room with you,” then that’s not good enough. That’s not a good-enough hour of my time.
CAITLIN: I agree. I agree. I go to…Fan panels are probably the biggest thing for me at cons. And I go to them because I think it sounds like there’s something interesting for me to learn. That’s sort of always what I aim to impart at the panels that I put on myself.
AMELIA: One aim that we had was that the slides be so useful that people want to see them afterwards. We’ve had more requests for our slides since then. And that kind of makes me feel like we did our job. We provided information people want.
CAITLIN: Yeah. The…I was laughing at your story too, because one of my panels that I think has gotten the strongest response…Well, no. Okay. So, the panels that have gotten the strongest response is the “Abuse in Shoujo.” Most…Even though the slides have been up for over a year, close to a year and a half…Those articles are still regularly the top hits on Heroine Problem. So, that’s been huge.
But my panel, “Is this Feminist or Not?” has gotten a pretty strong response. And, literally, I made that presentation the morning of. I spent weeks and weeks agonizing, not sure…no idea what the format was going to be. And then I woke up that morning. I was like, “Okay, I really have to do this now.” And I sat down. And I put it together. And it came out really well.
AMELIA: And it’s great. I got a chance to see that panel in action, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I feel like it was a really educational experience. I’d highly recommend people look up the slides.
CAITLIN: And I ran into a girl who went to the first time I presented it at SakuraCon, and she said that it changed the way that she looked at media. I’ve gotten a lot of people complimenting me, saying it’s a lot more moderate than a lot of similar panels, which…I take it as a compliment.
AMELIA: I’m a little bit suspicious of that phrasing.
CAITLIN: So, yeah…”Measured” or “even-handed.” Basically…the way I think of it is I’m fine with it, because my goal in that panel is not to tell people what is or is not feminist, it is to challenge people to think and provide a framework for how to think about if this is something that interests you, and to draw their own conclusions.
AMELIA: That was hilarious, by the way. Caitlin spends 45 minutes explaining, in great detail, with examples along the way of why “Is this feminist or not?” is not a useful question, and there are better questions you should be asking. Then, you have 15 minutes of Q and A, about half of which is people saying, “Ok, but is Kill La Kill feminist? Okay, but is Fushigi Yugi feminist? Is whatever feminist?”
People still want those answers even after you’ve gone into great detail.
CAITLIN: Yeah, and, I mean, I don’;t want to sit there and be like, “Well, what do you think?” But yeah. That has happened both times I’ve done that panel.
AMELIA: I’m not surprised at all. People love categories, and I include myself in that. I completely understand the wish to want to figure out if what you’re watching is going to be problematic or not, but the content of your panel is excellent in breaking down why there are better approaches to it.
CAITLIN: Yeah, and, so, that’s sort of what I like to do with panels is to teach people about things. And when I go to panels, I want to learn about things. And people have always responded really well. One year, when I did my “Abuse in Shoujo” one, there were a couple of twelve-year-old girls sitting in the audience, just sitting there, like, “Oh my gosh, guys.” I didn’t actually say or directly address them… “I hope you absorb this,” you know?
AMELIA: Yeah. Absolutely. You want to feel like you’re having a positive impact on your community. And that was a really gratifying thing for our “Feminist Survival Guide” panel. Where we stepped out afterwards, and we were surrounded by people who wanted to talk to us.
There was one person who’d bought a day pass specifically to attend our panel. There were people who said, “We’ve been following your work.” There were people who said, “We’ve never heard of you before, but now I’d really love your advice on this, that, or the other,” and we made some good connections with people. And actually running a panel is, in itself, a really good way to network.
CAITLIN: It is. And it’s, like I said, that opened up my getting to hang out with Susan Napier. And it’s also such a different connection from having a blog, because when I post on Heroine Problem, I sit there and I watch the numbers go up and sometimes people will comment, and I respond to that. But actually seeing an audience of people listening to you and then, at the end, there’s always someone who wants to come up and talk with you about it. It’s just such an incredible experience.
And fan panel culture is definitely something that is unique to anime conventions.
AMELIA: Oh, really?
CAITLIN: Oh, yeah. Other conventions, comic conventions and video game conventions…
AMELIA: Is it all guests?
CAITLIN: Yeah. They tend to be more industry-given. More guest-driven. So, guests usually aren’t a super-high priority for me at cons. Mostly because I don’t care so much what men have to say. [Laughter]
AMELIA: But there were plenty of female guests in the ones I attended this month.I was really impressed by that.
CAITLIN: Yeah. Otakon I thought was pretty lacking. I didn’t end up interviewing any Japanese guests. I interviewed Stephanie Sheh and Jaime McGonagal, and that was really cool, but AnimeFest had an incredible guest lineup. Not just the Yuri on Ice people, but Saiyan Saru, Unyong Choi…
AMELIA: They had Atsuko Tanaka. They had a Studio Ghibli animator. That’s amazing.
CAITLIN: Yeah. It was…The guest lineup this year was really cool, and, once again, going back to being press, having the opportunity to sit down and interview them is really cool. I mean, like I said, if you want to get a press pass to a convention someday, there are ways to do it. You just have to put in the hustle and you have to earn it. But you absolutely can do it.
PETER: Something Otakon did really well, as well, was they made their guests really accessible. Mariyama and Masubaro hosted a panel after In This Corner of the World, basically discussing the movie, which sort of became an open forum for people to talk about it. And…Although, I thought that [unintelligible] had his own focus panel for High Evolution, although I thought that one was a bit weird ’cause it was before the movie came out. There wasn’t as much to talk about since nobody had seen it yet.
CAITLIN: Yeah. A lot of times those will just be promotional. And a lot of Japanese guests come to cons sort of to promote properties. They don’t just come to meet the fans and be accessible to the fans. They come…They are able to take time out of their busy schedule ’cause there’s something the studio wants to promote, which is why you’ll see guests come either before or after a really big property is gonna come out, like Blood Blockade Battlefront was new. We got Rie Matsumoto at SakuraCon, which was pretty cool.
But yeah. So, Japanese guests, a lot of the time, are not a huge draw at conventions, ’cause conventions are not very good at saying, “This person worked on this, this, this, this this,” all these properties that you care about. So they just see a name. Or they don’t…It’s an animation director. People don’t know how huge of a role animation directors have. So they skip those.
But this year, AnimeFest had a lot of guests that were really important to me.
AMELIA: Yeah, I think AnimeFest did…Of the trio I went to, AnimeFest did the best, from my perspective, in pulling together a roster of guests who were kind of fairly evenly divided between prestigious men and prestigious women.
One point of interest from AnimeFest, though…For example, there was the “Women in Anime” panel…I think it was “Women in Voice Acting,” sorry. And they mentioned there that there was a “Directors in Voice Acting” panel, which had no women on it. There was an element, perhaps, of maybe ticking a diversity checkbox by having this “Women in Anime” panel, and then not actually extending that to the rest of the panels.
Which is, to be honest, something that I felt the conventions needed to work on. There were a fair number of all-male panels or all-male guests of one type, for example. That happened at all the conventions to one extent or another. And that was a bit of a shame, but I can see how it’s on the right lines.
CAITLIN: Right. And that sort of…That was something that came up in a lot of my interviews and a lot of my interactions with guests, is that people talking…’Cause, you know, I’m interviewing for Anime Feminist. Not all my questions are gonna be about, “What is it like being a woman working in anime?” But that’s going to be the theme. How they perceive women in anime and their experiences in the industry. And a running theme was guests, both from the US and from Japan, is that anime needs more female creative staff to create more authentic female characters.
That came up in my interview with Stephanie Sheh. That came up in my interview with Unyong Choi. It came up in my interview with Sayo Yamamoto. Jamie McGonagal was talking about how there needs to be more authentic LGBTQ perspectives. So, you know, getting to meet guests and actual industry people can be really affirming because these are things that people have been telling me that no one actually in the industry cares about. So, that was really cool.
AMELIA: Yeah, I think it’s really important. I mean, this is a principle that AnimeFem is based on as well is that it’s really important for people from a community to lead discussions about that community. So, we see it as very important to provide a platform where people can discuss their own experiences with representation of their own communities. This, unfortunately, hasn’t really spread through the behind-the-scenes, creative side of any media, I think. You have to really go to independent media to see that kind of consistent representation.
But it was nice to see some female creators represented, especially the Urahara panels at Crunchyroll Expo. I really appreciated seeing three professional women onstage at one time, talking about their professional relationships and professional contributions. And one thing they said that really struck me was that they…I think the writer…She’d written perhaps all 12 episodes of Urahara, and went back and scrapped everything and started again, because they felt they hadn’t infused it with the theme of creation enough. So, the story of Urahara, it’s set in Harajuku, I believe, and everyone who’s in the cast is a creator. And they felt that that didn’t come across enough strongly in the dialogue. And I thought that was such a strong decision, and I questioned whether it would have come about, had it been an all-male writing team. Had it been an all-male creative team.
Because, frankly, that kind of decision–that immediately guarantees agency. It immediately guarantees non-romantic motivations. So, that’s going to come through in the characters more strongly. And I question whether an all-male creative staff would have made that decision to scrap 12 episodes of writing in order to start again. In order to connect these women more strongly with a theme like that.
CAITLIN: So, we should…We’re way over. We should probably wrap this up. So, just really quickly: what does the future of con-going hold for you guys?
AMELIA: Well, for me, I just had it confirmed I’m going to be running our panel, “A Feminist Survival Guide to Anime Fandom,” at first-year convention HibanaCon, which is taking place in Milton Keynes–sorry, guys. It’s taking place in Milton Keynes in November. And I’m very interested by this. I got a response back within 24 hours confirming the panel’s acceptance. And that has made such a good impression on me. So, I’m really looking forward to this. I know one person going. I don’t know anyone in UK fandom, so if any of our readers or listeners are actually going to this, please let me know so I have some friends there. I don’t have anywhere near the network that I have in the US.
So, I’m trying to build up that community for myself here now. Before that, I’m going to be at Scotland Loves Anime in October. That’s more of a film festival. But, yeah. Say hi to me there as well, please.
And then next year, we’re looking at taking AniFem to SakuraCon. It’s a big con, I understand, and you…I saw so many photos last year…this year…and I was so jealous the entire time. And so I decided I want some of that. [Laughter] So, I’m planning to book tickets and head out there and hopefully we can get a few more AniFem team in a room and maybe do a panel there as well. And maybe have another party, ’cause the first one was very successful.
CAITLIN: Yeah. Peter, what does your con-going future look like?
PETER: Well, I pretty much go to Expo every year now, and Fanime is probably one of my favorite conventions because I know a lot of people who go there. It’s really chill, fan-run convention I highly recommend to anybody, although it’s more local, so, make it if you can, I guess.
Otakon was great. So, I’d like to go back there and see if…I think they’re gonna continue working it out of DC. If that really works out…If AnimeFest has a similar lineup to this year next year, I’d definitely be interested in going, because they had a really good lineup of guests.
I’ll probably be working Crunchyroll Expo again. And I’ve been to SakuraCon once as industry, but I would really like to attend as a fan, especially after seeing how many people went this year. It seems like a really cool convention to go to.
So, I guess I’ll be going back to all the ones that I did this year next year, and hopefully I’ll be adding AnimeFest and SakuraCon to that list.
AMELIA: Conventions are a very expensive hobby. Especially when you live in England.
CAITLIN: Yes, they are.
So, yeah. I will be doing…I have one more convention this year. I will be doing my “Romance and Abuse in Shoujo Manga” panel at Geek Girl Con, which is at the end of this month. It’s a more general-purpose nerd-culture convention. It actually has a smaller anime presence, but it’s really cool. It’s very much about inclusivity and acceptance within fandom, so that’s gonna round out the year for me.
Next year, I’m local. I’m gonna be at SakuraCon barring something major happening. I’ll try to go to Otakon. I don’t know about AnimeFest, because, honestly, this year, the big draw for me was guests, and if they don’t get…It would be hard to make an equal or better roster for me. If it’s not something that’s…It’s not a group of people that are gonna grab me super-hard like this year, I’m not gonna trek out to Dallas for that.
So, I probably won’t…It was a perfectly fine convention, just enough to keep me coming back. So, yeah. That’s sort of what I’m looking at next year. I’m trying to figure out if I have any new panel ideas. ‘Cause I don’t want to keep doing the same one year after year. And, yeah. So…hopefully I’ll get to meet more people next year, and this year’s con season was intense. It was a lot of fun.
AMELIA: Yeah. It was very intense. Three cons in three weeks. Actually, if you’re doing nothing else, I highly recommend it. I had a great time. It started to feel like my job. And then I came home and I had to do my actual job and it was a big downer. So, I recommend that.
I will just say that we’re gonna have the slides from our panel available. We are going to put them up for you with slight editing to correct some of the stuff we noticed afterwards, and also to trim out certain things. We’re gonna make the survival guide as a whole into more of a feature. We are going to make sure that everyone at the team is involved, not just me at 4 AM and Lauren the morning of. [Laughter] And we’re going to make it into a proper resource that people can actually use, so please look forward to that.
I’d just like to thank Caitlin for bringing up the idea of doing a podcast about this topic. It really has been a nice way to kind of close off what has been a month of convention-obsession for me. And then a lot of months beforehand. I booked my tickets back in February. So I’ve been thinking about this for a long time. And when you put it all together, yeah, we actually did learn a lot. Cover a lot of ground. We’ve got a lot of experience on the team that I intend to tap into so that we can make more use of conventions as a resource going forward for Anime Feminist and for our community.
AMELIA: So, speaking of which, you can find us on www.animefeminist.com. You can find us on Twitter: @animefeminist. You can find us on Facebook, at facebook.com/animefem. You can find us on Tumblr, animefeminist.tumblr.com.
And we do have a Patreon, which covers 100% of our funding, which is patreon.com/animefeminist. We have a good number of patrons. We have more funding than most people. We still need more. We want to pay everyone fairly for their work. That is a core principle of Anime Feminist.
So, we do appreciate, of course, the higher rollers, the $20+ patrons. But, at the same time, $1 patrons are our bread and butter. That gives us huge stability. It’s massively appreciated. It really does add up. And if you give us $5 a month, then you get access to our private AniFem Discord, which is where we’re building up a space for like-minded fans to be able to discuss amongst themselves as we, as a team, have been communicating privately for the past year.
So, thank you so much to Peter and Caitlin for joining me today to discuss this very interesting topic, and we will be back next time, I believe, with more of a watchalong on a different series.