Flatlay photo of Naruto figure, Transformer figure, and several devices including an Android phone, PSP, and flatscreen.
Flatlay photo of Naruto figure, Transformer figure, and several devices including an Android phone, PSP, and flatscreen.

​2021 Annual Report: Old Favorites, New Norms

Last year was more of what we didn’t ask for: staying indoors, peeled to screens, creating whatever this “new normal” would be. Anime fandom landed firmly into the mainstream with this perfect storm! Hooray for streaming-on-demand, local movie screenings, and killer merch. Boo to the many large groups flooded with shouting matches, disinfo, and hate speech.

That’s why we’re so proud of AnimeChicago. Our members are all so kind, happy to answer questions, and ready for a good discussion. Thanks for making our community a chill space where we can be ourselves without the stress of… the rest of the internet.

What we achieved in 2021

Hosted .future/NOW Symposium
Four guest speakers reflected on netizen culture and how studios represent it in anime. We faced some challenges getting these in-person talks online, but we stuck that landing. Expect another this year!

Launched Art Anthology
Our weekly Art Circle will soon publish its 4th collection of fan-created work. Both programs continue in 2022. All members are invited to submit fanworks based on each quarterly theme.

Hosted two IRL Meetups
Over 30 members flocked to local parks for our summer picnic and ZooLights outing. We’re excited to host another IRL after the thaw.

Presented and Boothed at C2E2
Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo returned after a long break and invited us back. We staffed a booth and hosted two brand new panels. Thanks to C2E2 and everyone for dropping by!

Other Highlights

  • Continued the events you know and love without disruption
  • Moved from VIP Membership to traditional fundraising
  • Raised $1,416 in donations and spent $810 on costs
  • Doubled the number of active members on Discord
  • Presented five talks on topics like fan labor and live-action anime adaptations
  • Rebuilt AnimeChicago.com for better messaging and navigation
  • Hosted our annual board meeting, with all six board members retaining seats

What’s coming in 2022

A fund for local artists and creators
Anime lives in a weird space – animation itself is defined by Japan’s borders, but our community is international. We want to financially support Chicago-based creators so they can make new art and content right here. Stay tuned for the launch of this new program.

Anime Circle + Meetup Improvements
Our longest-running monthly meetup is on hold, and regular events are getting some minor updates. Please share your feedback at our February Mixer.

Quarterly IRL Evaluation
Discord is excellent at filling the gaps, but nothing beats socializing in person. We review Covid numbers quarterly. And we’re ready to schedule more IRL meetups once there’s steady, minimal risk.

In the Works

  • Fundraising for our new annual goal of $2000
  • Forming a network of local anime-inspired creators as a companion to the fund
  • Submitting more convention panels to increase our visibility when it’s safe to do so
  • Rebooting marketing and promotion, so you get updates faster across more channels

State of Chicago’s Anime Scene

Convention Reawakening
C2E2’s December comeback offered hope after some high-profile cons folded last year. We’re convinced that limited badges, booster requirements, mask enforcement, expansive floor plans, and increased airflow will let shows meet safely again. Our members’ risk tolerance spans a wide gamut, but there are plenty of risk-tolerant nerds here to renew our con scene.

The Show Will Go On
Assuming a new challenger doesn’t appear, MAPS will host Anime Central this May. The financial and morale cost is too great, convention centers and related businesses are hurting, and some fans are beyond their isolation limits. AnimeChicago is pitching panels, but our usual fanfare may be limited.

Japanese Comforts in Our Backyard
Konbini & Kanpai opened in Lakeview for all your senburo needs. Kinokuniya bookstore expanded last month. Izakaya at Momotaro and Gaijin serve great eats, and Van Paugam spins City Pop beats. Belle, JJK, and other anime films are showing at local theaters. There’s never been a better time to enjoy Japanese culture here in Chicago!

Our predictions for 2022

  • Con-goers have a tough decision: attend Anime Magic, C2E2, both? How are these the same weekend?!
  • Seasoned creators enjoyed significant financial and safety benefits from dropshipping in 2021, so expect more newbies at Artists Alleys going forward.
  • Dust off your cosplay! Local cosplay groups are bouncing back with safe outdoor gatherings.
  • More anime fans are starting families, and the industry must adapt to this growing demographic.
  • Crunchymation? Funiroll? Whatever the branding team settles on, it’s bound to cause a minor war within the fandom.
  • Sadly, animators will continue living on substandard wages despite giant media companies posting record-breaking profits.
  • Japan may open for tourism around Summer. Akihabara is a ghost town, so follow Tokyo’s nerd community in its newer home, Ikebukuro.

Thanks for believing in us!

Our mission is to connect local anime fans, celebrate Japanese pop culture, and increase Fan Studies awareness. Your time, participation, and donations help our charitable nonprofit reach more people. AnimeChicago wouldn’t be where it is today without all your support.

If last year was any indicator, this year will throw more curveballs for organizers like us. Thanks for trusting us. We hope you stick with us again. Our team can’t wait to host more events for you and conquer whatever 2022 has in store!