[I figured I’d write some thoughts on Makkon, but then my writing just sort of devolved into a rant on the sorry state of anime fandom in Slovenia. Below is the edited version of the initial attempt.]
I was running a panel on anime pilgrimages at Makkon 2016, the annual anime convention in Ljubljana running for the fifth year now. Here are a couple of slides from the presentation. I put a lot of hours into this one, but the response wasn’t what I’d hoped for.
I named my panel “Po stopinjah risanih romanc krog jezera Kizaki” (tl. Following the Footsteps of Animated Romances ’round Lake Kizaki). I thought it was clever, I thought it captured everything that I wanted to talk about. Big mistake! I should have just titled it “6 Places You Need to Visit While in Japan”, “Anime IRL”, or anything similarly stupid with enough baiting potential. I actually submitted a brief description of the talk to my handler before the event and said that the title alone would probably not be enough to capture people’s attention. I was right. In the end Makkon’s schedule didn’t include it, it wasn’t published on the event’s Facebook page etc. I sort of expected that to happen, but whatever.
The panel didn’t draw much of a crowd compared to last year’s. I accepted the 30 minutes that were offered to me, in retrospect it wasn’t enough to have a comfortable panel. The presenter before me didn’t prepare well enough and went over time, and so I put myself under even more pressure to finish my bit early. I do think the presentation itself went well, as I had a stern critic scrutinizing it during my practice runs. The response from the people that actually attended was so-so. Due to the aforementioned time constraints I couldn’t develop a conversation with them, something I wanted to do. As for the nature of the material, I knew of the pitfalls beforehand. Generally people don’t like listening to other people’s travelogues, they want to be experiencing those places themselves. I pessimistically assume this because I’m like that. It’s just that I’ve been a regular customer at a travel-themed bar for the past five years now which hosts travelogues throughout the year. Every time one took place, the house was packed. The sense of security I got was false.
To those of you that did come, thank you. Still, even though the panel was a passion project, I expected to see more interest. I would have been far more at ease had I seen people walk into the lecture hall just to see what was going on. Couldn’t even get that! The signaling here is that the local fandom simply doesn’t have an interest in more studious topics (seichi junrei is a big topic). That, coupled with the way things have been for the past three years, has filled me with disappointment and disgust over the casual nature of local fandom. Even though it has grown tremendously and more Slovenians are watching anime than ever before, there hasn’t been much fan activity in Slovenia outside these events. Now let me tell you why that’s bad and why I fear for the future of it all.
Obviously conventions are run by people. Some time ago I was reading about Uppcon, which used to be a Swedish anime convention hosted in Uppsala, growing at a tremendous rate, boasting attendance numbers of over 3000. This was a fan-run event, dozens of volunteers, it had its own convention culture. There was little reason to intentionally discontinue it after 2012, it had a steady stream of volunteers, and yet it did close its doors. The founders wanted to do other projects and didn’t want to deal with economics of scale, so decided to end it on a high note. In any case, fan projects end for one reason or another. People grow up and find other interests – that is the way of anime fans. In Slovenia it happened to Second Impact, it happened to AnimeSlovenija, in happened to SloDub, AnimeSeirei, and even SloAnime. And yet, there was always somebody else there to pick up the slack. Not any longer.
Even though there was a lot of infighting back in those days, our fandom was productive. Anime translations, fanzine and magazine articles, anime news websites, discussion forums. It. Was. Active. That Makkon had found success and that attendance is growing has blinded us from the fact that outside of these events there’s barely any public fan activity happening. Worse, all these events have had the same core staff for a number of years now, and that by now it’s safe to say they joined us oldfags.
Don’t think for a second that what happened to Uppcon can’t happen to Makkon! In a couple of years when current heads graduate and decide to maybe build their families and take on more responsibility, who is going to take over the helm? And I’m not just talking about Makkon here. We have a couple of events similar to Makkon spread across the year, but they have the same issues Makkon has. They represent a concentrated fan fix, and are currently ran by relatively old fans. Our generation was producing fan output in our teens, whereas I struggle to find any active fans anywhere near those years.
The situation could probably be worse, however it’s important to recognize that we had a relatively productive scene in the past, levels above today’s. For example, I only need one hand to count the number of active Slovenian fans who are highly knowledgeable about anime, manga, or fandom studies.
I encourage every Slovenian reading this rant to share it around and step up their game. People need to be aware what is (not) happening. I suggest that if you love something about anime or manga, find some time to do fan stuff and share it with others. Your knowledge, your fan works, take on new projects, display your passion. Publicly, not just behind closed doors or on foreign websites. Perhaps even (*gasp*) in Slovenian language. We have zombie forums that need activity. Joker’s ancient Japanka subforum, Akazukin.moe‘s Slovenian exchange, or maybe some other website outside walled gardens that are your online social networks. It’s great to see so many cosplayers at Makkon, and a few artists making a name for themselves, but aside from that this fandom doesn’t have much going for it. Please recognize this and act!
I’m doing my part. If you’re not doing yours and don’t feel like getting involved with the scene either, at least show your gratitude to event organizers that are doing all of this on their own dime and time. Believe me, it helps with motivation. But when that motivation fails us or old age takes us, someone else will have to take over. Start preparing for that day, or watch the local scene fall to even bigger ruin.