Jamie · Published · Updates

2020 Annual Report: Sayonara, Dumpster-kun

We won’t sugarcoat this update – 2020 was challenging for Americans, nonprofits, and our community. The dumpster fire that was this year raged worldwide via global pandemic, systemic inequality, and rampant racism. Suddenly, meeting people and enjoying anime seemed trivial.

Despite the hardships, we found a unique opportunity to serve our nonprofit mission within our constraints. Social distancing is not social isolation! Unlike conventions and festivals, AnimeChicago is able to directly engage our audience on a daily basis, without ever leaving the safety of our homes. Read on to see how we did it.

What we achieved in 2020

Produced four C2E2 events
C2E2 invited us to create anime programming for February’s convention. We hosted three panels, several casual meetups, and Anime Lounge: City Pop Party with our friends DJ Van Paugam and Chicago Cosplay and Photography Meet-Ups. The weekend was an unforgettable blast!

Launched our Discord server
“Stay Home, Save Lives” was our new reality in March. Immediately, we migrated all programming to Discord and closed our Facebook group. This effort reconnected former members who had moved, introduced new members from outside Chicago, and helped many fight loneliness through quarantine. We will certainly continue to leverage Discord post-pandemic for daily chat, remote meetups, and more involved events like conventions and travel.

Expanded to 10+ monthly Meetups
Discord’s features are perfect for testing ideas. We launched Deep Dive to uncover anime gems and relaunched Art Circle to encourage creative projects. These weekly events promote socialization, media analysis, and greater exposure to Japanese pop culture.

Other Highlights

  • Shifted from physical address to remote structure
  • Supported Japanese Arts Foundation’s Tokyo House Party
  • Overhauled our policies to improve safety and clarity
  • Interviewed VIPs to better understand our impact and opportunities
  • Improved AnimeChicago.com for better navigation and accessibility
  • Raised $454 and spent $723 on annual costs and remote overhead
  • Approached 2000 Meetup.com members!
  • Held our annual board meeting

What’s coming in 2021

More action on Discord
This year will be unpredictable. Online meetups were widely welcomed, and we’ll stay there until Illinois is prepared for IRL gatherings again.

Discover good anime faster
First, Anime Samplers are now free to all members! Second, we’re publishing seasonal recommendation articles, so you don’t have to wade through every title. Third, our Advice Bot goes live to help you discover the best of every genre out there. Look forward to it!

Goodbye VIPs, hello Donors
We’re retiring the VIP program and hosting donation drives once per quarter to simplify building our membership and support our signature events. These donation drives help cover our annual bills, like website hosting, website fees (Meetup.com and others), and legal filings. Your donations will allow us to continue our positive impact in the anime community.

In the Works

  • Rebooting our marketing engine after Spring 2020 derailing
  • Planning for a new stream-only Symposium event
  • Assessing professional development opportunities for membership

State of Chicago’s Anime Scene

Canceled, canceled, canceled
What was 2020’s most significant impact on anime? Cancellations. And not just local conventions like Anime Central or Anime Magic. It meant delays and uncertainty worldwide: international tours, guest appearances, and even show premiers. Expect more of the same in the coming year.

One Billion Dollars
Streaming vendors saw their most lucrative year to date. Crunchyroll, which outplayed piracy for the last decade, was sold by AT&T to Funimation’s parent company Sony Pictures Entertainment for a jaw-dropping $1.2B. We’re still unsure how this will affect the U.S. anime distribution and dubbing industry. Many of our members feel anxious. The general consensus is that nothing good happens for consumers when a market’s largest players consolidate.

Our convention itch grows
We haven’t left the house much since C2E2 – literally! Con-goers are eager for mass vaccination, and hotel refund policies remain flexible. This was especially significant in Fall when C2E2 announced their December 2021 date, and Anime Central’s room blocks sold out in one hour. We’re less optimistic about events within the next 9 months given the long vaccination timeline here.

Primetime for Japanese snacks
Local grocers Mitsuwa, H-Mart, and Joong Boo appear to be doing okay as essential services. Mitsuwa has multiple safety measures, including limiting capacity, routing Kinokuniya’s line outside, and banning reusable bags.

Theaters closed, drive-ins make a comeback
Our pals at Logan Theatre are closed until it’s safe to gather again. The Music Box and Siskel Film Center have moved online and substantially reduced the anime films they offer. One bright spot: two anime films did screen at the Pilsen drive-in theatre back in Fall.

Our predictions for 2021

  • Anime Central will likely be canceled – but we seriously hope otherwise.
  • In-person conventions will resume no earlier than October.
  • Cons will be forced to sell fewer badges until the state mandate is lifted.
  • Guests will decline con appearances. No Japanese guests until 2022.
  • Events will be overrun by fans aged 18–28. They will mostly go maskless.
  • Anime Parents and parents of Anime Fans will continue to limit their exposure to the virus and enjoy any streaming conventions at-home.
  • Cons will be less profitable for indie vendors, forcing career changes.
  • Many Japanese restaurants will close due to a lack of government support.
  • Indie theaters will continue to struggle and face permanent closure as well.
  • Hoping we see more anime films at Pilsen’s indie movie drive-in!
  • Cosplayers will arrange Covid-safe photoshoots at Chicago landmarks.

Thank you for your support

A huge thanks to our VIPs and Donors who believe in our mission! Your contribution directly impacts our ability to operate our nonprofit, connect anime fans throughout Chicagoland, and educate folks on all things Japanese pop culture. We are super grateful for your continued support.

Thank you to the AnimeChicago team for giving what limited time and energy you could to making the most of 2020. Your passion and determination clearly enhanced the quality of our work and our community.

Nobody could have predicted such a brutal year. We’re cautiously optimistic about vaccination and will continue distancing to protect as many people as possible until it’s safe to meet again. Thanks for joining us online and aiding in that effort. The marathon isn’t over yet, but we’re glad you’re with us and we hope to make your 2021 a little better along the way.

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