Monday, January 20, 2014

Otakus Unite!: My Very First Anime Con

Because I am sometimes a glutton for punishment and like to do REALLY HUGE programs, I decided that I would like to try my hand at an after-hour anime convention for teens.

My anime club has been fairly successful for the past year and a half and I thought an anime con might be something that the teens would enjoy doing. As a bonus, there's a neighboring library 10 minutes down the street from mine that also has a successful anime club. We decided to partner up and co-host a 2 part anime con at each of our libraries. We held the first part at the their library back in July. The second part was hosted by my library earlier this month.

I decided to hold the program on a Saturday from 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. (we close at 5:00 p.m. on Saturdays). The next time, I wouldn't begin the program until 6:00 p.m. in order to give me an hour for set-up after closing. I found that this time around I was in a bit of a panic trying to set up the entire first floor without disturbing any patrons that were still in the building. I felt that 4 hours felt like a good amount of time for the program as well.

As states above, I ended up using most of the first floor of our building for activities. We used caution tape and chairs to mark off forbidden areas, such as the Children's Room and the second floor.

Below is the schedule of events:

I did have registration for the event. I opened it to grades 7 to 12 as a lot of the 6th graders in our town skew young (age 11). When the teens registered, I made sure to give them a permission slip which they needed to bring signed to the con. 

As they arrived the day of, the teens turned in the permission slip and checked in at a table. I also had blank permission slips on hand in case they didn't sign up ahead of time or forgot theirs at home. Then they moved to another table to receive a program and a badge on a lanyard. I purchased badge holders and lanyards in bulk from Amazon. At the bigger anime cons, attendees love to collect badges to show the years they've attended. I thought this might be a cool tradition to start for ours! I also included a staff badge with the same design but in a different color scheme so that attendees knew who we were.

After the teens checked in and received their badge/program they gathered in the lobby for announcements. I went over the rules and activities. Then they were free to go off and do whatever they like. Here's a breakdown of the activities:

Anime Screenings
This activity was a given. I used half of our meeting room to screen Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, Hetalia: Axis Powers, and Ouran High School Host Club. These anime titles are all perennial favorites at my library.

In the other half of the meeting room, I set up our Wii and had both Mario Kart and Super Smash Brothers Brawl available to play. I also had tables where the teens could play card or board games. One small group was entrenched in a Magic: The Gathering game all night!

Candy Sushi
I decided to try this as an ongoing activity in our Rotunda. I Googled pictures of different kinds of candy sushi in order to get ideas for ingredients. Here is a list of some of the sweets we had:

  • Rice Krispie treats
  • Swiss cake rolls
  • Twinkies
  • Swedish fish candy
  • Skittles
  • Twizzlers (both regular and Pull 'n Peel)
  • Fruit by the Foot
We made examples ahead of time. The next time I think I would shorten the time that the teens can make candy sushi. I found that they were only interested in it for so long before they just started noshing on the candy itself!

Of course, no teen program would be complete without food! I served pizza, pop, and chips in the Rotunda starting at 7:00 p.m. This gave the teens time to get into some of the activities before worrying about pizza.

Anime Pictionary
This game was a big hit and a blast! I just quickly made up some cards with anime words on them, printed onto cardstock. You can find my card here. I know some Anime Pictionary games use the Pictionary board and timer, but we found that the teens just wanted to keep it more casual. So we just used the stopwatch on someone's cell phone and awarded points if the team guessed correctly in time. At the suggestion of another librarian from a listserv, I also included "You Choice!" and "Hum a Theme Song" cards.

I set out some Origami paper and Origami books from our collection. This was a passive activity in our Artist Alley area (a.k.a. the Teen Room). This one didn't seem to be as popular with the teens.

Artist Alley
My anime teens are hugely into drawing. So I set up some tables and chairs along with pencils, paper, colored pencils, and manga drawing books in our Teen Room. I dubbed this room Artist Alley and decided to host all of the art activities here, such as Anime Pictionary and the Manga Drawing workshop (see below). The teens seemed to really like this room. There was a group that pretty much hung out here all night!

Art Contest
Going along with Artist Alley, I also hosted an Anime Art Contest. Well in advance I created rules and took submissions. The day of the con, I set out the art onto tables and numbered them. The staff helping me run the con and I acted as judges for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place. We also had a People's Choice category and let the teens vote throughout the night for their favorite entry. I awarded craft store gift cards to 1st through 3rd place so that they could purchase art supplies. The People's Choice winner received colored pencils, a sketchbook, and a manga drawing book.

I had two panels this year:
  • Manga Drawing - a local artist was kind enough to volunteer to lead an hour long workshop on how to drawing manga. This workshop was a hit!

  • Cosplay Petting Zoo - some of my friends are really good at cosplay and had a lot of creations to show off. I set up tables in the Rotunda and ran the Zoo as more of an informal Q & A than structured session. Teens could stop by between certain times and check out the cosplay and ask any questions they might have to do it themselves. This seemed to be a huge hit as well.

Cosplay Runway
Anyone that dressed in cosplay was invited to show off on our runway, which really was just the floor of our lobby with rows of chairs on either side. Then the same people who ran the Petting Zoo acted as judges and named two winners for the best costume. Those winners received weekend passes to Ohayacon, a major anime convention here in Ohio.

Door Prizes
As the teens checked-in at the beginning of the program, they also received a raffle ticket. After the Cosplay Runway and while the judges deliberated, I announced the winners of the Art Contest and also raffled off prizes I purchased from my local comic shop. This helped the teens from getting restless while waiting to hear who won the Cosplay Contest.

All in all, I would call this program equal parts of a success and a learned experience. The important thing to me was that the teens had fun and had an outlet to share their love of all things anime. I can't wait to do it again next year!

Have you done an anime con at your library? How was yours similar/different?


  1. Great program - well thought out and lots for teens to do! Looks like an excellent crowd of involved anime lovers!!

  2. Thanks so much, Marge. It was a LOT of work but also so much fun!

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