Anime North. A Geek Festival Like No Other.

What is Anime North? To put it simply, Anime North is one of the biggest geek parties in Canada. By geek I'm referring to those individuals that enjoy Japanese anime, comic books, science fiction, video games, and all other things geek culture.

It's a 3 day event held every year in Toronto around May. From Friday to Saturday the Toronto Congress Center, and 3 surrounding hotels near Pearson International Airport turn into one huge geek party. There are workshops, panels, game shows, raves, dances, maid cafes, sketch comedy shows, masquerades, speed dating, a huge dealer's room, and above all else costumes, costumes, costumes.

My friend and I went this past Saturday (only our second time to Anime North) and had a blast. The programming is jam packed with stuff to do (some of which I already mentioned), but honestly my favourite part of the convention was simply wandering around and looking at all the costumes. For above all else, Anime North is a giant costume party. People dress up as their favourite characters from their favourite anime shows at these cons. The detail of some of these costumes is remarkable.

Even more remarkable is that many of the attendees make the costumes themselves at home. Personally I'm in awe that most of these people aren't professional costume designers working in the film industry. On Saturday alone I saw Disney princesses, robots, ninjas, samurai, superheroes, supervillains, and lots of other characters that you probably wouldn't know but would be impressed with nonetheless. We spent most of the day wandering around inside the convention center and outside of it, just admiring these incredible creations that people were wearing.

In the massive dealer's room, con-goers can buy tons of swag. Imagine St.Lawrence Market, but instead of stalls selling seafood, meat, and pastries, vendors instead sell toys, comic books, videogames, costumes, DVDs, posters, and other geek paraphernalia.

At the international plaza hotel across the street from the congress center, there's a cafe where Japanese maids dance to J-pop music while customers eat fancy pastries and drink tea. At the same time, there are rooms where anime is being screened and attendees can come and go at their leisure. Geeks can try finding romance at geek speed dating where 13 guys and girls have 3 and a half minutes each to get to make a connection.

At the Sheraton hotel, the theme is videogaming, There are rooms and rooms dedicated to nothing but videogames. Con-goers can pick up a controller and play at their leisure or participate in tournaments for prizes. Everywhere you go at Anime North, you see people holding handheld gaming systems (Nintendo 3DS) usually as a means to kill time while they wait in line for a particular event.

When night falls, there are dances, raves, moonlight balls, and even a charity casino. At the outdoor rave, I passed by a person dressed up as a giant rock monster, dancing to the music.....truly Anime North is the best kind of insane asylum.

We came, we saw, we geeked out. From 10am to 1am, we experienced the best that Anime North had to offer and drove home thoroughly exhausted and ready for a good night's rest. For those non-geeks who are reading this, you may think that just because you're not a part of this culture, that you can't attend Anime North. Nothing could be further from the truth. There is no place more welcoming than a geek convention. Attendees are friendly and helpful. I think that tourists and locals alike should go to Anime North at least once, just to experience stepping into another world and immersing yourself in all the amazing sights and sounds that the con has to offer. At one point during the night, I said to my friend that it felt like we were on vacation in a far away place, because Anime North is so otherworldly. If you want a truly unique Toronto experience, then visit Anime North when it's in town again next year. Here's a list of other geek conventions that take place all throughout the year in Toronto: http://bit.ly/1ipoNnI. Do yourself a favour and go visit one for a day.