Last weekend, AM2 returned to Anaheim Convention Center for another weekend of anime, manga and music. The annual event is relatively new to the convention scene -- this is its second year in Anaheim -- but it's made a splash due to its unusual price structure. The main floor of the convention, featuring vendors and artist booths, as well as a number of events, is free. Attendees have the option to buy a convention passport to attend special events and get priority seating at the general events.
The arrangement appears to be working well for AM2. Let's face it, if you're at an anime convention, you're going to see the bulk of the crowd on the convention floor. Shopping in the dealer hall or artist alley is part of the convention experience. At anime cons, you'll find many of the same items you'll see at comic book and sci-fi events -- DVDs, plush toys, collectibles, books, fan art and T-shirts -- but there are some items that turn up more frequently in between aisles crammed with kids dressed like characters from Bleach and Tiger & Bunny. Check out our list below and let us know what you see most often at anime conventions in the comments.
5. A rainbow array of wigs
Anime conventions are always heavy on cosplay. If you go to one, you might want to consider dressing as a character you love. Of course, if you're going to do this, you will probably need a wig. Wander through the exhibit hall at an amine con and you'll find some.
At the cons I attend, Epic Cosplay's booth draws a big crowd. They sell a variety of hair pieces in styles and colors that go with many of the hottest cosplays. According to Christopher Yoshida, the company's shipping manager and "convention go-to guy," the incredibly popular web comic Homestuck is responsible for a lot of their wig sales. There are plenty of fans who want to dress as the trolls from the series. Long-running anime series, like Naruto and Bleach, are consistently popular at the cons. Otherwise, wig trends tend to follow whatever media is popular at the moment. "You really have to keep on top of stuff," Yoshida says.
4. Anime body pillows
Remember when James Franco turned up on 30 Rock with a special attachment to his anime body pillow? Those really exist -- you can find them en masse at any anime convention. They feature full-sized renditions of the most popular, and typically very attractive, anime characters. Brian from Anime Haus, the company that brought in a large amount of body pillows to AM2, says Sailor Moon, Gurren Lagann heroine Yoko Littner and wolf-eared girl Holo from Spice and Wolf are among the more popular characters. He adds that body pillows are actually quite popular with women as well and some of their best-selling pillows are male characters, like Zero from Vampire Knight.
Brian says the popularity of body pillows, which people like for "sleeping companionship," varies from region to region. From his experience of attending 22 conventions a year, they tend to be most popular in Los Angeles. That makes sense. L.A. can be a lonely place.
3. Japanese fashion
Not every anime fan is into Japanese street fashion. Similarly, there are plenty of people inspired by the Harajuku fashion scene who aren't into anime. However, there's enough overlap between the two worlds that you'll definitely find references to Japanese labels inside anime exhibit halls. At the very least, you'll find some off-brand versions of frilly Lolita dresses mixed in with costumes. Oftentimes, young local designers will showcase their Harajuku-inspired work at booths. If you're at a convention with a bigger fashion presence, there are definitely opportunities to buy brand-name items. Popular brand h. NAOTO and its subsidiary labels frequently show up at conventions; at AM2, they brought out IBI, lead singer of the band Sixh. and designer for the Sixh. fashion line, as a guest. Check out h. NAOTO's website for more convention appearances this year.
Meanwhile, Harajuku Hearts, a San Francisco boutique that features a number of great Japanese designers, set up shop at AM2 this year. Though the store carries a number of different styles of Japanese street fashion, Yuri of Harajuku Hearts says Lolita items are the most popular at conventions. As for which brands get the most attention from attendees, it depends on which designers the shop brings to the convention. At AM2, they introduced the duo behind Putumayo to Southern California.
2. Cute accessories
If you're looking for super cute accessories, like jewelry covered in stars, rainbows and cupcakes, your best bet is an anime convention. You're likely to find a handful of booths in the artist alley dedicated to adorable wares. A lot of the items are inspired by Lolita fashion and Japanese stationery characters, both of which have long had followings at anime cons.
Holley Khuzaie started vending four years ago. She used to sell fan art, but when she realized that more people were buying the buttons she made featuring her own character designs, she switched gears. Now her shop, Holley Tea Time, is stocked with goodies, including polymer clay rainbows, laser-cut charms with acrylic prints of her own characters, and resin hearts and stars. Her big seller, though, are tights. "Not many people sell their artwork on tights," says Khuzaie. That's given this young artist an edge. In fact, most of the legwear already sold out at her web shop.
1. Slash art
Looking for a sketch of your favorite male characters sharing a loving embrace? You may find that at an anime convention. Known as slash pairings, these fan-made couples have long been a part of fandom. At anime conventions, though, the popularity is coupled with that of yaoi, male-male romance manga that's most popular with young women.
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Maru-Sha sells slash art at anime conventions. She says anime-based pairings tend to come in and out of style. "Demand is pretty high, but it's pretty hit-or-miss these days," explains the college student. Naruto and Sasuke, once the best-known pairing in the anime scene, are dropping in popularity. So are characters from the once-hot series Death Note. These days, Hetalia and Black Butler are getting the most attention, Maru-Sha notes.
For JD of Scuttlebutt Ink, co-creator of the comic book series Mahou Shounen Fight (which I bought at Bent-Con last year and really enjoyed), anime itself is less popular in the slash world. The San Diego-based artist is seeing a better reaction from work based on U.S. and U.K. media. The Avengers are really popular right now, particularly Thor and Loki. Characters from shows like Sherlock, Supernatural and Doctor Who also are popular. So is slash art based on The Lorax and My Little Pony. Yes, really.
JD sells slash art at comic book conventions and says that, while the demand is about the same, the younger and female-heavy crowd at anime cons tend to be more vocal about their passions.