Anime Weekend Atlanta 2016 has come and gone, and by the convention’s end a record 28,871 people from all over the country had convened at the Renaissance Waverly Hotel and Cobb Galleria. It was a record number and one fitting for what organizers are calling one of the most successful shows in the con’s two-decade history.
“It was one of the best years yet,” AWA CEO Faisal Ahmed said. “We had more industry guests than ever before. We had more programming, more people and more fun.”
EASY ACCESS TO ANIME MEANS GREAT GROWTH FOR AWA
Darius Washington has watched Anime Weekend Atlanta’s steady growth happen first hand. That’s because the convention’s director of video programming track has been working with AWA as a volunteer for 23 years.
“People keep getting more and more into anime,” he said.
He’s watched trends in anime ebb and flow, and he’s watched more and more people attend AWA each year. Washington is not only happy with AWA’s growth, he’s also not really all that surprised by it.
“It’s so easy now to get into anime,” he said. “A long time ago fans were tape trading VHS with each other. It slowly moved to where you could order tapes and DVDs online and find them in stores but now you can stream online. Over the years it’s become more and more easy for people to absorb anime. The easier it gets to get anime the more people discover it and the more people who want to come here and hang out and celebrate.”
Two of the anime industries top streaming service providers had a strong presence at AWA; Funimation and AWA sponsor Crunchyroll. Both companies have been instrumental in providing easy access to a public eager for anime with their own channels, and at Anime Weekend Atlanta plans were announced for a new joint venture in VRV.co
“It’s a new streaming service that has a lot of different channels,” said Alex Segura, fan engagement coordinator with Funimation. “You sign up and can watch channels from Funimation, Crunchyroll and others.”
A POSITIVE ENERGY
Shellyta Chatman has been coming for 3 years, traveling from Chattanooga, TN. She’s been to several regional shows, but says the vibe at Anime Weekend Atlanta is a unique one making the trip more than it.
“I really like AWA,” said Shellyta Chatman, who was cosplaying as Blossom of The Powerpuff Girls. “I think there is some room for improvement in certain areas, but I like the atmosphere.”
Her sisters, Jessyka (cosplaying as Bubbles) and Zoe (cosplaying as Buttercup), agreed that the atmosphere was top notch. They said a large factor was the AWA staff.
“The staff here is amazing,” Jessyka said. “I appreciate them and their attitude.”
Zoe added, “They’re super nice.”
While highlights of the show differed from attendee to attendee, the consistent theme in everyone’s comments was the positive overall atmosphere of Anime Weekend Atlanta. In recent years, many conventions have drawn fan ire and online criticism for overly negative atmospheres. That’s not the case for AWA.
“There’s no real negatives on the show floor that I’ve seen,” said Lauren Stevens, associated events manager for online streaming service Crunchyroll. “It’s a much kinder, welcoming audience. Not that others aren’t kind and welcoming, it just seems there’s this greater respect and kindness here. It’s like it’s a priority for people.”
2016 was the first time Houston-based anime licensing had a presence at AWA.
“It’s been great to be out here,” said Jay Perez, event coordinator for Sentai Filmworks. “Atlanta fans are great. They’ve been welcoming and we’ve had such a great time to talking to everyone all weekend.