Another anime convention has come to an end. The Fellow Anime Lovers Convention 2011 was a success enjoyed city-wide by all who attended.
Oh wait, let me modify that. It was a success enjoyed venue-wide by the 30 give-or-take who attended, the greater numbers occurring on Saturday, while the 30 some-odd people who attended until the end of the convention at Sunday night showed their faithfulness through to the end of the event, despite showing up late to the panels taking place early in the morning and, according to a couple of interviews I conducted for an unrelated panel, were not entirely satisfied with the event.
I don’t want to diminish the value or the importance of the convention. I also don’t want to insult anyone who attended. After all, they are the guests, it is up to them what ways they enjoy the convention. The only reason I bring this up is to point up a very specific problem we’ve had in general hosting anime conventions in El Paso. The fact that attendance was enormously lower on the second day of the con was a problem that Fal-Con shared with its nearest competitor, Las Cruces Anime Days, which took place in January and had the same grievances with both attendance and negative feedback of the convention.
Under attended and unsatisfied. That is the current state of anime conventions that take place in El Paso and Las Cruces.
The way I see it though, neither convention is actually doing anything wrong. I think LCAD and Fal-Con were both well run conventions that begun in the same grassroots manner as some of the country’s most well-known conventions: A-Kon…Anime Expo...The people who run these conventions do everything possible, and yet somehow they’re met with animosity by the fans for not doing all they can to keep their attention.
But are they really? I staffed at Fal-Con and I know personally that the head of staff did all he possibly could to make sure there were two full days of activities going on. If there were any issues with the scheduling it was because some staffers were late and some early morning panels went temporarily understaffed or cancelled. The attendees were also often faced with the choice of going to a panel scheduled at the same time as a major event, such as the Cosplay Masquerade, leaving those panel rooms empty.
And let me throw in here that while those sound like major problems they happen at EVERY convention.
The people on either side of this issue are doing what they’re supposed to: The staff is filling the time of the convention to the best of their ability and the attendees are attending in a way that is to no surprise or extreme. So, why do we have this problem?
It’s because we’re not sure why we’re there.
Think about it. We’re sure that all anime conventions are a product of the fans, brought to life by people who were fans during the birth of the mainstream American anime culture. However, that initial stage of development only resulted in the most major events like A-Kon and AX. Later conventions sprung up because there was a need for an anime con to take place in a more remote state like Georgia or Ohio.
We in El Paso are in a unique category, because we are neither a major site for anime, nor are we a major state. What’s more, A-Kon takes place in a city that is a several hour drive from here. If we ever feel inadequate about our conventions, it is because one of the great grandfathers of anime conventions takes place a stone’s throw away and is a decade too fast for us to keep up with.
Despite these shortcomings, we certainly do want El Paso to HAVE a successful convention. Why is that?
Well, because it’s part of our heritage.
I had explained in my previous article how I first got interested in anime, and I used to think I was alone in my belief that anime was innately more popular in El Paso by virtue of the fact it was originally aired here on Spanish language TV. Since then I’d written an article on LCAD for Borderzine, and I’d found out that there were several people who shared the same ideas as me.
We here in El Paso are an anime culture. We liked it before it was cool. We’d seen the full Dragon Ball Z saga several times before American audiences got their first chance to watch it aired in English on Toonami, to say nothing of our light years-ahead comprehension of series that had yet to even hit in America like “Knights of the Zodiac,” “Samurai Pizza Cats,” “Magical Do-Re-Mi…”
But do we ever try to celebrate that heritage when we throw a convention? No. We just try to follow the same model as the big conventions. The problem with that is the big conventions are the big conventions and they are already successful in doing things we haven’t yet done, so our growth is stunted.
We forget that we are El Pasoans, and the one thing El Pasoans are known for more than anything else, it’s doing things differently. El Paso is different from the whole state of Texas. People here live in different houses, eat different foods, and live different lives. We’re mostly a minority, but the way we are a minority makes us a majority in our own personal city. The traditional model for throwing an anime convention hasn’t been working here, no matter who has tried it and how. So what should we do?
We should invent a whole new model.
How should we do that?
Well, that I’m gonna save for a later article.