This was Sunderland’s first ever anime convention, and was a huge success selling over 900 tickets and already confirmed to be taking place again next year!
The first of what is hoped to become an annual event took place on March 24 and 25 in Sunderland town centre at the Crowntree leisure centre. It was surreal on the first day of the event to see anime fans walking around as characters from Pokèmon, Sailor Moon and even Residential Evil.
The weekend was full of events and stalls that brought people as far as Australia – who bought tickets to fit in the event into their holiday in the UK. The main attractions were guests Veronica Taylor – voice of Ash from Pokèmon and Chris Sabat – most well known for his voice over on Dragon Ball Z.
One of the four organisers, Tucky, stated his surprise as to how easy it was to get the pair from America involved with the event, “I was surprised Sabat said yes to coming here.
“It was odd to see him sitting in MacDonald’s in the middle of Sunderland just eating a Big Mac so casually despite him been famous all over the world.”
And Veronica who has voiced Ash in the series and Pokèmon movies – the first Pokèmon movie has sold over 1,000 million copies. Tucky explained he was particularly interested in Sunderland history, the Angel of the North and our National Glass Centre of all things.
Chris and Veronica were just two of the many guests that came along to the event including guests such as Akami Solloway Tanaka, an ambassador of Japanese culture, who carried out a Chinese tea ceremony and traditional dancing. To fashion and music idols Aisha Masood Bio and Sonia Leong were a few of the nine guests.
On top this were various events such as Cosplay competition, booking signings, gaming area, live kendo demonstrations and even a Japanese fashion show.
Phil from The Geek Show – the UK’s only geek radio station – who has been to a number of conventions including MCN Expo in London said, “This is tame compared to MCN Expo which had 64,000 visitors last year.”
However he was full of praise for Sunny Con, “It was organised and beautifully put on, almost full and brilliant for their first year and everything ran on time which never usually happens.”
Over the weekend, what made the event was the fans themselves. Almost everyone was in costumes, which were either commissioned or made by themselves. Their enthusiasm made the weekend really special, for example people who didn’t know each other would strike up conversation over Yu-Gi-Oh! card games or the characters they were dressed up as and their associated books, films or TV series.
It was really nice to see and gave the event a welcoming atmosphere as fans of all ages and backgrounds enjoyed the event side by side. It was an eye opener for me when talking to various stall owners that there was such a diverse selection of anime genres and types of manga.
One of the best and extreme costumes was “Robot Unicorn Attacks” made and worn by Heather Bradder a regular to anime events, “I have been to a lot of events since 2006 and this one is really cheap as usually in travel and hotel costs it can be an expensive hobby.”
But Heather has found a way to fund her love for conventions by making commissioned outfits for other fans, “I started since 2010 and recently got an orders that are paying me over £100 so it’s really exciting.” As a self-taught seamstress under her guise of Pup Custom Cosplay she is making a career out of her passion – an unexpected but great twist.
Overall, the main message I felt from talking to those selling merchandise was that Anime is not fully understood by the west and often misconceived as simply for children.
Claire from Manga Market – online market for manga books and DVD’s explained, “I have been in Waterstones before and they have age restricted magna novels in children’s reach unwrapped. People just think because they see the cartoons, that it is for children but some books are for adults and not suitable for children.”
With soap operas and manga books dedicated to older fans, I discovered that manga is accessible to everybody; even those who wouldn’t expect to enjoy the anime culture. Over the weekend the manage craze was embraced in Sunderland and with a turn out of more than 900 people over the weekend and after its success I look forward to its return next year.