This is my fifth year attending San Diego Comic-Con (or SDCC, as fans know it). Of course, it's not the only con I have ever attended. I have also gone to Otakon, Tokyo Game Show, Anime Expo, E3, Dragoncon, Wonder Festival, and a host of smaller cons I am probably forgetting. In the con world, five years isn't much - there are veterans with decades of con-going under their belts.
Even after only five years, I am sure of one thing: every time I go to SDCC, something is missing. That's because when it comes to San Diego Comic-Con, the otaku classes are treated like second-class citizens.
I know what you're thinking: Comic-Con is for comics, not anime, or otherwise it'd be called Anime-Con. And since there are literally hundreds of different anime series screening throughout Comic-Con weekend that you can watch, and plenty of anime cosplayers running around in between all the Batmen and Spidermen, that SDCC gets anime just as well as it gets every other nerd they cater to throughout the weekend.
I don't agree.
It's obvious to anyone that saddles up to SDCC on a yearly basis that the comic book presence there is only a slice of a much larger pie. It might be called Comic-Con, and the history of comics does help to define the culture. However, comic books aren't the only influence on the con's inner works anymore.
SDCC is a pop culture convention, and to turn a blind eye on the influence that anime, manga, and cosplay have had on pop culture is an insult to otaku.
Naturally, there are different types of cons for different types of con-goers. There's tons of anime cons in the United States and outside of it, and they cater specifically to the self-declared "otaku" of their respective countries. You can go to one of those and instantly be awash in "Bleach" cosplayers, cries in the hallways as people recognize costumes and late night panels all about anime. In other words, otaku heaven.
And while I can go to Anime Expo or Otakon and get nothing but anime shoved down my gullet, I'd still like to enjoy a bit of it at other cons that are geared for nerds. When I go to Comic-Con, I just don't feel it.
It's not for lack of effort.
Comic-Con has an active schedule dedicated to anime, although its mostly screenings. That's cool, although I can just as easily stay at home and watch all my favorite shows. But there is something to be said for watching a show in a gaggle of people with the same interests at you. It's a rush, a feeling of belonging that people with alternative interests don't always find so easily. Maybe someone will like your cosplay, strike up a conversation, and you'll make a new friend.
Walking the con floor is the first place you really notice that something's missing.
Comic-Con is impressively large, using the majority of the San Diego convention center's 2.6 million square footage. You can spend hours wandering up and down countless aisles dedicated to designer toys, comics, collectibles, movies, and more.
Where's the anime section, you ask? Why, jammed all the way down in the 100 block – literally, the armpit of the con. Except for a few large scale retailers located closed to the heart of the show floor like Kotobukiya (who also just so happen to have a large comic statue offering along with their anime figures), finding stuff for anime enthusiasts is hard unless you're willing to wander far away from the heart of it all.
As long as we're talking comics, manga are technically comic books, right? So surely you should be able to meet a few manga artists at Comic-Con. Rumiko Takahashi of "Ranma 1/2" fame, perhaps, or Akira Toriyama, creator of "DragonBall"? It'd be fun to get an autograph from them and actually talk a bit, wouldn't it?
Sorry, my friends. Not even one Japanese mangaka on the guest list.
Yes, we can buy stuff, if we go all the way to that one dark, sad little end of the con hallway. Yes, we can watch anime on a big screen. But we deserve a space in the heart of it all, a block thriving with the same community energy that the designer vinyl section has. In the movies section, people wait with excitement all weekend long on giveaways or chances to meet the actors and actresses from their favorite shows. But where are the major anime companies?
Maybe those companies don't see fit to spend the money to go to a comic-based convention, especially when there are other conventions to go to that cater directly to what they offer.
But as an anime fan, I can't help but really miss the otaku element when I go to Comic-Con. I wish there was more of it. When games, movies, and even collectible toys have such a strong presence next to comics at SDCC, I don't think I should have to slink into the edges of the show floor to buy myself an anime figure.
How do you feel about otaku presence at Comic-Con? Do you wish there was more of it?