Does Comic-Con really cater to otaku?
We're willing to bet not too many people recognized this "Black Rock Shooter" at last year's SDCC.
July 10th, 2012
11:08 AM ET

Does Comic-Con really cater to otaku?

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, E3Dragoncon, 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?

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Filed under: Comic-Con 2012 • Otaku
soundoff (28 Responses)
  1. MoeMio

    Personally, Ive only been to comic con once last year and I live in SD (sad ain't it) "Its been very difficult to get in" I must a agree with everyone above me its called San Diego COMIC Con. Im an otaku who isn't really into comics, but that does't mean I can enjoy a little bit of super-hero in my geek life. I didn't come to Comic Con with the same expectation I would at Anime Expo or Anime Conji. I was intrigued at some of the western artwork that was on display there. Also you should be glad that SDCC actually get booths and panels for Anime. Im also looking at the Video Games, and everything else that SDCC has to offer. But one things for sure AX and SDCC are what make me proud to live on the west coast.

    July 14, 2013 at 1:49 am |
  2. Black Rock Shooter

    Why must everything be an arguement in the comments area? i mean really? why fuss over it, be happy its here and you get to see everything.And whats wrong with having some asian culture in a comic book convention if you didnt notice or dont go tehres other things there besides mervel super heroes, theres nickleodon and other social media that has nothing even to do with comic books, heck even this year i seen a HUGE Assassins creed both for the new release of the game but that has nothing to do with comics either plus people call it SDCC because some like to abrivate instead of saying "san diego comic con" if you dont like it, SUCKS. Stop crying over the little things and enjoy whats there like me and everyone else does.

    August 26, 2012 at 10:42 pm |
  3. lilyqueen

    I think you're going to a Chinese buffet and complaining that the sushi selection is only one small corner, and people who want to eat sushi are treated like afterthoughts. Well, duh. Don't blame something for not being something it's not.

    SDCC is a media zoo. It used to focus mostly on American comics. Then it included spinoff media. Now the spinoff media has taken over. It's a huge thing and it's already way out of control. You want to add to it? That's nuts. Go to Anime Expo, Fanime, etc. Are people who want to watch Avatar or the animated Spider-man less catered-to there? Well, yeah, duh. There's probably room (especially on the west coast) for something like an all-animation convention covering everything from Pixar to Production I.G., but starting and running a convention is expensive, risky, and time-consuming, so it's not surprising that no one has done it.

    I think it's great that people in Doctor Who costumes are welcomed at Fanime and people in Lum (!) costumes are welcomed at Wondercon, and heck, guests in steampunk or Gothic Lolita or Klingon getups are even tolerated at Renaissance faires, but I always assume that when we do that kind of thing, we know we're kind of bringing our fandom with us, not looking to make others change their event to accomodate our fandom.

    July 24, 2012 at 7:58 pm |
  4. Reality

    I think otaku should be banned from SDCC (by the way real fans just call it "Comic Con," not "SDCC") just because your article is so unbelievably stupid. I'm glad there isn't more lame anime. No one cares about otaku. You're the only one.

    July 19, 2012 at 4:00 pm |
  5. Reality

    Colette Bennett is just another reason I usually read and watch MSNBC instead of CNN. CNN used to be the best, but now they have really become a pathetic news organization.

    July 19, 2012 at 3:53 pm |
  6. Daughter of Evil

    I hit enter too quickly and didn't get to finish my comment, but basically, comic cons cater to comic fans, and anime cons cater to anime fans. It's isn't that hard of a concept. Sure, there is overlap here and there, but if you're looking for a huge gathering of anime fans (I do not like to use the term "otaku" because its original meaning is very negative) and merchandise, hit up Otakon or Anime Expo.

    July 16, 2012 at 7:53 pm |
  7. Daughter of Evil

    You answered your own questions and complaints: SDCC is not named that for nothing.

    July 16, 2012 at 7:46 pm |
  8. Mikee

    Are comic book fans given equal treatment at anime festivals, and why not?

    July 16, 2012 at 6:35 pm |
    • Radio

      From what I have seen personally at Anime Expo 2010, 2011, and 2012, comic book fans are very well received and not shunned like some sort of lesser creature.

      You'll have a gazillion of Naruto, Bleach, and various other anime/game cosplayers and then every now and then you see a Captain America, Iron Man, or X Men cosplayer and guess what – the other cosplayers are always excited and kind to them and love to take their pictures and pose with them. It's really not an exclusionist kind of environment.

      July 17, 2012 at 3:30 am |
      • lyna

        You're more talking about the popularity here. Most anime fans I talk to are at least minor fans of comics or at least have a passing familiarity with them. Not necessarily the other way around. I know for me a large amount of it is I have no idea who half the characters are when it comes anime.

        July 19, 2012 at 1:57 am |
  9. DigitalPanther

    Your argument, while not without merit, is flawed. Major US anime distributors were there. Funimation and Viz Media both had large scale booths. There was another booth screening an anime series Kaijudo(hadn't heard of it before) on a circular screen. While I agree that Anime fans are not as well treated as the "standard" comic characters or other pop culture characters. They are hardly ignored.
    Funimation and Viz are the two largest Anime distributors in the US. They were both there and their booths were regularly pretty packed that I saw.
    my .02.

    July 16, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
  10. real_personn

    Yes, more of it indeed...

    July 16, 2012 at 10:51 am |
  11. Stuffy wrinkled shirt

    Why in the earth do they hold Comic Con in San Deigo? How can a typical Con attender stand so much sun light? Wouldn't Chicago Ill in the middle of February be more appropriate?

    July 15, 2012 at 6:07 pm |
  12. Chris

    You should come to MomoCon if you want a pop culture convention that caters towards the otaku. March 8th – 10th 2013 in Atlanta GA

    July 14, 2012 at 8:19 pm |
  13. erinH

    July 13, 2012 at 10:28 am |
  14. Der Kommisar

    I happened to read this and the comments, and I wanted to note that this article about Otaku and Comic-con has some of the most on-point, literate, least stupid and least abusive comments on all of CNN. If this was regarding politics or the latest tragedy, the comments would be full of vile reminders that a few of us are really bitter, lonely and nasty (those few like to write comments, all the time). Power to the GEEKS! The last refuge of humanity. That is all.

    July 12, 2012 at 3:19 pm |
  15. amagee

    Having attended a number of conventions, some being like Comic-Con and others specifically anime conventions, I've seen how both tend to function. For events like Comic-Con which have always catered to general sci-fi/cartoon/comic fans in the U.S., anime/manga are relatively new and considered inferior; this doesn't help that many younger anime fans tend to slam American sci-fi, comics, etc.

    This leads to a system wherein anime is generally considered second class at these general fan conventions; from talking to staff, it seems to be due to the older nature of those who run the events. On the other hand, these conventions must accept the fact that anime is a permanent part of the future of their target audience and that it brings in a significant amount of money so they will always have it.

    Comic-Con's intensive industry presence makes it rather unique and difficult to classify but it will be many years before anime truly moves out of it's secondary status in the eyes of classic American sci-fi and comic fans.

    July 11, 2012 at 9:50 pm |
    • Wrenn_NYC

      It's back and forth, amagee. You have some sci fi fandom old fogies who look down on anime and its fans. You also have some anime fans who look down on the sci fi/fantasy literary fandoms (most notably the 'look how much bigger we are now, in 10-15 years than they are in their 50-90 year old fandoms... not understanding that most literary fandoms don't want the 15-20k member conventions, with all the headaches, costs, financial liability and space needs.*) Then you have some lit fans who look down on the media tie in crowd.. Why people like these kinds of factions and splitting and us/vs them paradigms, I really don't know.

      Having been on the executive committes of both regional literary sci conventions (and Worldcons) and one of the larger non profit anime conventions, I've heard it all. (And, for the record, it's all devisive and stupid).

      *– I've been involved with groups that run small conventions that had reserves that could cover the next2-3 years. And on large ones where they routinely went into it in the red and broke even sometime mid saturday every con... a harrowing ordeal if you're treasurer. At least I got that con to buy weather insurance.. because one major weather event would have knocked them out, bankrupted them.

      July 13, 2012 at 8:59 am |
  16. Eh?

    Comic Con is geared more towards US comics and Hollywood productions. While they show anime and generally get one good anime guest a year, Comic Con is not an anime con. You should not be surprised to be treated like a "second class" fan at a convention geared more towards US products.

    Simply put, the larger the convention, the less intimate it will feel. At large cons, like Anime Expo, you're treated more like a number than a person. Your complaints, and you will have at least one by the end of the con, will go unanswered. And if the way you're treated makes you angry, you'll simply be told to find another con. Large cons like AX and SDCC, are like family renunions – You're in a stiffling area, dealing with odd smells and people you wish you'd never have to talk to, but because it includes some people that do interest you, you force yourself to put up with it.

    July 10, 2012 at 9:45 pm |
  17. Mike

    You know who else is jammed into the far end of SDCC? Comic dealers. The market that the con is named after basically stuffs them away out of the way. While almighty publishers DC and Marvel are in the thick of the action, as it were, I believe that's largely because of their corporate overlords...they are the big guns and they are treated like it.

    To be honest, anime is not my favorite...the "Avatar: The Last Airbender" cartoon on Nickelodeon was probably the most I'll ever be interested in the form and that excitement was muted by the horrendous live action travesty.

    Now, I myself haven't been to SDCC in the past 4 years, in part because of the difficulty getting a ticket and after attending 7 years in a row, I saw the erosion of what SDCC was and the mega super pop con it has became a frustration to attend because of the HUGE crowds but even still, if you wanted to find something, you always the writer says, her interest may be stuffed down in the 100's...but she can still find it.

    So, yes it may popular with you and your "Free Hugs" brethren, but the way to look at it is either they treat you shabbily or they are making a space for you, however small, at the table.

    July 10, 2012 at 6:40 pm |
    • jmg

      Couldn't agree with you more. It's now about the movie studios and TV networks hawking their latest and greatest that may or may not even have a scifi/fantasy twist to it. It's become more of a scifi/fantasy convention than a comic book convention. Yeah, you still see comic stuff, but most of it is now tying in to some sort of movie on the sales floors. Now if you want to go to the comic programming, that's probably pretty easy since everyone wants to get into Hall H for the big movie stuff or wherever the TV panels are. It's more of a go to see celebrities type of thing now sadly. I did get to see one year of geeky goodness and then when I went the next it had gone even more Hollywood. I wish they would just move it up there.

      July 10, 2012 at 10:05 pm |
    • Radio

      I agree with almost everything you posted, except for one small detail – Avatar shouldn't even be considered anime. Avatar is solely an American product that was maybe inspired (art wise – and not very well IMO) by anime.

      Other than that, it is true what you said about SDCC. After going for many years dating back to the 90s, I haven't gone in over 5 years. It's just too crowded, impersonal, and so far skewed away from what it used to be for my tastes.

      July 15, 2012 at 9:56 am |
  18. lyfeforce

    I don't think it's even SDCC, but the majority of Nerd Media conventions that give Otaku the short shrift. Any con I've been to seems to regard Asian culture fans as an afterthought on the floor unless you fall into niches of Naruto, Kung Fu flicks or Hangry and Angry fans. It's improved a bit as Funi, Viz, Aniplex, Yen Press and others have had booths, but I still wish that there would be more retailers that could offer non-bootleg things at a better price.

    July 10, 2012 at 2:24 pm |
  19. gia

    I have definitely felt a little under-represented in terms of guests and the lack of manga nominations at the Eisner awards, but it's worth noting that Funimation and viz usually have significant booths, with both near the major players. Square Enix is also a major booth. So i guess i haven't felt it too much on the show floor...but i also have diverse geek interests. 🙂

    July 10, 2012 at 1:24 pm |
    • wrenthefaceless

      Agreed, though the demise of Tokyopop who always had a substantial booth left a hole in the Anime/Manga showing

      Viz and funimation always have seen to have substantial booths, along with Bandai.

      July 10, 2012 at 1:26 pm |
  20. wrenthefaceless

    I beg to differ, one of their biggest GOH was the creater of the popular Anime/Manga series Bleach who I met my last year at SDCC

    The con doesnt even cater to Comic Book fans anymore, its a mess. It should be called Mass Media Con these days.

    July 10, 2012 at 1:13 pm |
  21. worus

    Osamu Tezuka died February 9,1989, of stomach cancer, so it will be hard to get his autograph.

    July 10, 2012 at 12:23 pm |
  22. Wrenn_NYC

    You'd probably have to look at what you mentioned and glossed over. Cost. Many publishing companies and the like have tightened their belt. As have many a convention, though with SDCC that's unlikely since SDCC doesn't have a history of fronting money to bring in guests, it's so large that it doesn't have to (even Dragoncon fronts, gives stipends, comps hotel rooms for it's major guests). It's been the publishing companies and media companies that front the cost of sending their people to it.

    (Disclaimer.. I'm something of an 'insider' having exec staffed (treasury) AnimeBoston twice a few years ago and my partner is a scifi/fantasy author/comic writer. He only goes to SDCC when a publisher covers the tab.)

    July 10, 2012 at 12:12 pm |