Right now anime conventions are temporarily a thing of the past. Hopefully, 2021 allows us to see a return of our cherished yearly events where we can celebrate our favorite shows, cosplays the characters dearest to our heart, and get up to some after-hours booze driven shenanigans. To fill that void, we’re serving up the digital OTAQUEST CONNECT featuring the legendary composer Yoko Kanno and Beastars creator Paru Itagaki among many other beloved creators. Leading up to it, we’re taking some time to look back at why anime conventions are so important for both fans and artists alike. One of the aspects of cons we’re missing most in the Corona year is the fan panel.
While many online events have since popped up over the summer to help ease the pains of no conventions or events, Anime Lockdown led the wave with a mix of industry and fan-created content. We don’t know the numbers for how many people watched what, but it was the perfect opportunity for those who never experience fan panels to get a taste of what they’re. Sure you’re not going to get to see your favorite idol or manga artists, but you’ll get an informed and extremely passionate look at something you either already care about or could be your next big thing.
At any given mid-size anime convention, you’re bound to see variations on these kinds of panels; A history of Gundam and where to start, Cosplay 101, or even how to sharpen your Jojo posing. Fan panels can be about anything! Often they’re not just about a single creator, series, or genre, but one specific facet of an anime or maybe about a series’ fandom. In-jokes and conversations you thought you could only have with anonymous denizens of Tumblr or Twitter all of the sudden come to life with the same nerdy, fiery passions for what you love that you have.
Fan panels can really be about anything, however broad or specific. Some of my favorite fan panels that I’ve attended over the years include ‘Anime Burger Time‘, a panel with a cult following celebrating the burgers of anime, ‘How Neopets Taught Me to Lie and Made Me a Furry’, self-explanatory, or any number of Japanese indie music panels that helped me discover musicians I’d never have found otherwise. If you’re lucky enough, some future con you attend might even be hosting ‘Anime Hell’, a delightful look at all the ‘so bad its good’ anime of yesteryear that guarantees a laugh.
Not all fan panels are going to be for everybody and a panelist’s charisma is often as important to the experience as the information they want to present. That said, the next time you’re able to thumb through a con schedule and see something that might strike your fancy, we urge you to take the plunge. Fan panels are something, putting the summer of COVID 19 induced digital events aside, you can only experience at conventions and help make any con a special experience that will reaffirm your love of anime, Japanese music, or whatever your poison is.