Toronto's Anime North 2019 brings thousands of fans together

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Friday, May 31, 2019

Canadian singer and cosplay model Jillea as Charizard.
Aerialist performance from Illuminair Entertainment.
Voice actor Alexis Tipton.

Many thousands of anime and manga fans descended on the Toronto Congress Centre for Anime North, a fan-run convention launched in 1997. Spread between four venues over three days, May 24 to 26, the event featured J-pop maid idols, voice actors, writers, and more. Wikinews attended.

Despite the ample indoor spaces, the parking lot of the Centre is also a hub of activity, with cosplayers posing for photos. Attendees were sent running for cover on Saturday, as heavy rains and a severe thunderstorm warning put a damper on festivities.

The event is organized by a massive team of volunteers, and known for its specialized programming for fans, by fans. On the night of May 25, for example, attendees could catch "Pokemon Biology", "Kimono Obi Tying", and "Underappreciated Sports Anime/Manga."

US voice actor Alexis Tipton marveled at the growth of the anime industry in the last decade. "Back when I was going as a fan, there wasn't as much anime, so it was easier to know about everything," Tipton observed during a question and answer session. "I'm so overwhelmed by how much there is."

Tipton held a panel on her career, dubbing anime for US distribution company Funimation Entertainment. While many anime voice actors weren't fans going into the industry, Tipton recalled going to anime conventions with her friends during middle school and high school. Once she was an invited guest, Tipton recalls realizing "oh, I'm not here to just have fun, I'm here to work; I have a set schedule and I can't just, like, you know, go do what I want."

Early in her career, Tipton was cast as a voice for My Bride is a Mermaid, a role that required singing. Then just 19 years old, she looked at the role as a "chance to face my demons," having questioned her abilities for years. "I was in an extremely competitive [singing musical theatre] program in high school. I had started working at Funimation when I was 19, so I was just barely in college. And so those scars were still like, really fresh. I had a lot of competition and people would find what your perceived weakness was, or what your actual weakness was in the program, and they would take advantage of it. And so I had people trying to make me feel like I couldn't sing my way out of a paper bag, and then I would get so nervous when I would sing that I couldn't support my notes, and so it would just prove them right."

Tipton was devastated when she got a sinus infection, the week of the audition. "This director doesn't know me, I haven't worked with him, he's going to think that this is what I sound like," she recalls thinking. "I don't know if I had a shot to begin with, but now I really don't have a shot." She was thrilled when she was cast.

Another voice actor, Lauren Landa, would list Sailor Neptune and Sailor Uranus as dream roles, when asked at conventions. She was given a chance to audition for the characters years later, when Vizmedia dubbed the first two seasons of Sailor Moon. When she was cast, "I swear to you, I was speechless," she told an audience at her Q&A session.

Cosplay model and professional singer Jillea attended the Saturday of the convention dressed as Pokemon species Charizard. Wikinews spoke with her by email, after the event:

Wikinews waves Left.png((WNWikinews waves Right.png)) What got you into cosplay modelling?

Jillea: My love for cosplay started with the community, what started as a fun hobby I would do periodically quickly became a huge part of my life, and the reason for that being how amazing the cosplay community embraced me and my work. I've always been a creative person, so getting to make my costumes and have people say 'oh my gosh, I love that character!!' got me hooked right away. They're just my people, what can I say, they really make me feel welcomed and I love them for it.

Wikinews waves Left.png((WNWikinews waves Right.png)) How did you choose Charizard?

J: I'm a 90's baby so you could say I’m a bit of a Pokémon OG! I had a Game Boy as a kid and my very first purchase was Pokémon Red, solely based on how cool Charizard looked on the cover. Charizard has always been my favourite Pokémon and I can’t resist a challenging cosplay... and the nostalgia!

Wikinews waves Left.png((WNWikinews waves Right.png)) What was your favourite part of Anime North?

J: This was my very first time attending Anime North and I was blown away! The booths were incredible and unique, every time I turned around I was seeing something different I've never seen at a convention before. Everything was easy to access and I even made use of the Cosplay Recharge station that literally saved the day with their hot glue! Extremely friendly environment it will not be my last time back for sure.

Wikinews‍' Nick Moreau photographed the event.

Attendees play tabletop and card games, in a devoted hall.


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This article features first-hand journalism by Wikinews members. See the collaboration page for more details.

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