Ai-Kon is an non-profit organization that holds an annual Japanese and pop culture convention in Winnipeg.
This convention, holding the same name as the organization, is held at the RBC Convention Centre and lasts for three days. It includes all kinds of events, from costume contests to video game tournaments, as well as a marketplace.
On Feb. 24, Ai-Kon will hold Winterfest, a shorter, single-day event focusing on the celebration of animation, to allow all attendees to explore and celebrate Japanese culture, animation and costume play, also known as “cosplay.”
“We have anime on display in our showing rooms, fan-run panels that offer information or discussion on a variety of topics and an amazing Maid Café (where) patrons can sit back and enjoy a break,” Tracy Nauss-Laurie, Ai-Kon’s communications officer and promotions co-ordinator, says.
Anime, an abbreviation for “animation” is an artistic style widely known to the world as a practice by Japanese animators, creating works like Pokémon and Dragon Ball Z.
“Outside of the types of stories, Japanese culture is very different from North American culture. So their stories are different from what (North Americans) are used to,” she says.
Besides culture, there is also a difference between the styles of animations that North Americans use compared to their Japanese counterparts.
Anime characters are known for their large eyes, small noses and mouths, with the minimal use of lines that animators need to use when planning and drawing their animations.
In contrast, American animation shines in the amount of original animated motion they create, in a frame-by-frame sequence. In anime, however, only specific portions of scenes change, such as a character’s mouth, rather than their entire body.
“Personally, I prefer Western comics more, because the characters and art style are more appealing to me,” Gabriel Frias, a local cosplayer says.
Ai-Kon and Comic-Con, another convention that recognizes popular culture through film, comic books, science fiction and fantasy literature, have similar traits, as well as different aspects.
“Ai-Kon is a more focused, programming-orientated convention. Our mandate requires that we focus specifically on Japanese pop-culture and, by extension, Japanese culture, whereas Comic-Con covers pop-culture more generally,” Nauss-
Anime can be seen not only as a genre of animation but also as a medium for people with the same interests and those who wish to explore anime and popular culture regardless of their age, she says.
To some, both Ai-Kon and Comic-Con conventions can be considered the same in a way that brings like-minded individuals together to celebrate their interests.
“I believe the two fandoms are two sides of the same coin. Groups of people that wear their passion towards a medium like a badge and coming together to socialize and enjoy the environment,” Kade Hare, an attendee of both Ai-Kon and Comic-Con, says.
See ai-kon.org for more about the convention.