Fanboi Funtime at FanimeCon

The annual festival for all things anime returns to the San Jose Convention Center
The costumes alone are a good reason to attend FanimeCon. And then there are the merch and celebrities. Photo by Geoffrey Smith II

Dust off that Saitama costume because Northern California's biggest anime convention is back for its 23rd year. For the uninitiated, FanimeCon is that time of year when thousands of cosplaying eccentrics descend on the McEnery Convention Center. But the annual celebration of all things anime is much more than that.

Speed dating, video game competitions, oodles of merch and even a formal dance are also on the bill this year.

One of the biggest draws at FanimeCon is hunting for collectibles. The Dealer Room is where attendees can find all the latest anime and manga merchandise. Typically the sellers are established vendors, so sometimes they end up having a lot of the same stuff. No matter what visitors are looking for, though, if it's anime and its current, some dealer will probably have it.

People in the market for more obscure anime collectibles or video games will get the best bang for their buck haggling at the Swap Meet, which has expanded over the years as FanimeCon has grown. It started off tucked away in a small room inside the Convention Center, but this year it returns to South Hall behind the center. The assortment of amateur and professional sellers helps visitors snap up good deals and rare items. But be forewarned: This year the Swap Meet is only open Thursday and Friday. Get there early to get a crack at the best selection of rarities.

The truly dedicated gamer doesn't even let sleep get in the way of winning. That why, unlike at many of these events, the Gaming Hall will be open 24 hours for the duration of the con. The hall boasts three distinct sections that appeal to different corners of the community and free tournaments for badge-holders.

In the arcade area, coin-operated machines will cover almost every genre. In the tabletop area, visitors can play all sorts of stuff, from card games like Yu-Gi-Oh and Magic: The Gathering to board games like Settlers of Catan and Munchkin.

The Gaming Hall will also have a section dedicated to popular consoles dating back to the GameCube. There will be set-ups for Super Smash Bros., Street Fighter V and the rest of the big fighting games. Just be sure to bring your own controller.

Every year, Fanime sets up many of the rooms of the convention center as film rooms that show anime all day. The programming sometimes follows a theme according to room, such as the Nostalgia Room, which will show anime from the '90s all the way back to the '60s.

In the Marathon Room, viewers can catch the most popular shows in their entirety, and in the Cutting Edge Room, the most current shows will run.

And then there's Stage Zero. This is where some convention staff put on game shows and live contests every day. Past years have included on-the-spot video game challenges as well. Many of the activities involve prizes for the winners, and they often pick contestants right from the audience.

In addition, many panel rooms have been set up for events featuring creators and voice actors, Q&A sessions and information about how to spruce up cosplay.

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Black and White Ball, a formal dance. The event has a strict formal dress code, but people who don't have a gown or penguin suit can pick one up cheap at a small thrift store specifically to help people get suited and booted.

There will also be multiple dances that are less formal, where the music usually swings toward EDM. DJs will spin a wider variety of different genres than in the past, as the staff is hoping to address complaints that there wasn't enough hip-hop in the mix.

Cosplay is welcome at all of these events, including the ball, as long as it fits the dress code.

May 26-29, All Day, $40+
McEnery Convention Center, San Jose

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