In an era where virtually every single anime is available at the push of a few buttons, your average anime con screening room is no longer the biggest reason why people attend conventions. Sure, if a bigger con like Anime Expo hosts a hypothetical world premiere of the next Katsuhiro Otomo movie, people would line up for that. We’re not talking about premieres or live Q&As with directors and voice actors though; We want to highlight the great and now overlooked classic anime convention screening room. Believe it or not, these weren’t just places to sit for a few minutes as your friend deshelled from their intricate cosplay; They were a place where you could go watch Berserk with a bunch of other nerds at 3 am
Anime conventions have existed longer than some of us have been alive. They certainly predate even the Toonami era, much less our current Netflix and Crunchyroll based easy access to anime. In a time where the only anime available on TV was, maybe, 7 am reruns of Sailor Moon and the same 52 episodes of Dragonball Z reran over and over, figuring out what series to spend your hard-earned money for a series of $50 dollar two-episode VHS tapes was no throwaway task. Unlike now where if you don’t like what series you’re watching on Crunchyroll after the first five minutes, back then if you didn’t like the show you bought it’s as if you threw a whole day’s paycheck straight into the trash.
You did have magazines like Animerica and later your Anime Insiders to help you make an informed decision, and we don’t want to belittle the great work those publications did over the years to help deepen western anime-fandom. However, there’s still a difference between reading a glowing review and getting to actually see Project A-Ko or an episode of Giant Robo before tracking it down. Simply put, the Anime Con Screening Room was the premier place to discover new anime stateside and your best tool in making an informed financial decision/
Sure the internet eventually came in with it’s less than ethical methods which did lead to making the sampling and discovery of new anime easier. $50 dollar VHS tapes switched to the much cheaper $30 dollar DVDs, and you even had magazines like Newtype USA giving out free sampler discs with every issue. Toonami and Adult Swim were in full swing and if you were lucky, you had access to ADV Film’s Anime Network on demand. Entering the mid-2000s, anime was a bit more accessible but the experience of getting to see your favorite anime on a gigantic screen still made the anime con screening room a prime destination.
Of course, that leads us back to now where, again, three taps on your Playstation 4 controller puts Attack On Titan all up on your 60 inch with minimal effort. While that convenience is ultimately a good thing, it does have some drawbacks; Namely, there’s too much anime to know where to start. If you’re itching to start a new show or have a desire to start doing your anime homework, the options available at your fingertips are almost so vast they’re terrifying. Even in 2020, an anime con screening room both gives you the excuse and eliminates the specter of indecision. ‘Yeah, I heard The Big O was pretty good and they’re showing the first two eps. Why not, what else will I be doing at 3 pm on a con Saturday?’