Like pretty much everyone else, I am quite bummed about the 2020 anime convention season ending before it even had a chance to start. Unlike me, however, there are people out there in the world willing to step up and do something about it. From May 1st through 3rd, a group of individuals banded together to host an online anime convention the likes of which has rarely been seen. It was called Anime Lockdown.
The history of this convention goes way, way back to the distant time of March 14th, 2020, when the con chair, JP, decided to hold a new convention online to replace the recently canceled local con that he frequents, Anime Detour. In an interview, JP recounted to me how the idea came together in such a short amount of time.
Originally, the plan was to throw a few panels together and stream everything the following week. I was going to do it alone, which is wild to think back on. It became clear very early that I’d need more time, and that I would need help. The decision was made to plan the convention over the month of April and hold the event the first weekend of May.
For the most part, Anime Lockdown boasted a strong panel lineup but, unfortunately, not every panel was a winner. The weekend got off to a rocky start with ‘Weirdest Anime Ever’ which presented some genuinely weird titles but also featured hosts who constantly uttered the phrase “I haven’t watched this but…” which led to very little in the way of discussion about the titles they were presenting.
That isn’t to say that the entire weekend was filled with panels like this, however. In fact, most of the panels I attended were fun and informative. Every day of the con boasted at least one standout panelist. On Friday, that panelist was Doug W. who presented a panel about anime’s connection to heavy metal music. While the panel was a little heavy on the clips (one clip even caused the YouTube stream to be shut down), it was still a very informative panel that taught me a lot.
On Saturday, there were multiple standout panelists. In the morning hours, presenter Ink took the audience through the world of sports anime and even figured out a way to involve the audience, despite being in a virtual setting, which was a very nice touch.
In the later hours of the day, Mike Toole presented the Anime Cult Classics panel which is nothing like what you’re imagining right now. In fact, it was rather a literal take on the title, with clips from anime that were created by actual cults in Asia. My only complaint about this panel is that Mike was constantly audibly worried about running out of time and so was directing the moderator to skip ahead. That tells me there was potentially a lot more to this panel we didn’t get to see, which is a shame because it was very entertaining.
The real panel highlights of the weekend (and what most people tuned in for), however, were the industry and guest panels. On Saturday, special guests Kyle Hebert and Veronica Taylor answered burning questions from the audience. The entire convention peaked with the Discotek industry panel which, if I’m not mistaken, was the only panel of the weekend that ran over its allotted time.
Where it Went Wrong
Being that this was a first-time convention (and a virtual one at that), everyone attending had to assume that there would be hiccups and glitches along the way, and Anime Lockdown did not disappoint in that department.
The biggest problem of the weekend was the length of the panels. Presenting convention panels is hard enough, but presenting virtual convention panels is at least ten times as hard. Unfortunately, it was obvious that many panelists didn’t take this into account and ended up blowing through their material way too quickly, which caused their panels to end upwards to 20 minutes early, leaving the poor moderator having to fill up extra streaming time in-between presenters.
That wasn’t the only problem with panels though. The secondary problem happened during the actual panels themselves; while the moderator tried their best to adjust things on the fly, often times the text on the slides being presented during panels was terribly small and hard to read. Even when viewing on a television screen rather than a computer monitor it was very hard to read all the information being presented.
Overall, it’s difficult to call Anime Lockdown anything but a success. It attracted hundreds of virtual attendees and presenters from around the world (many of whom said that this was their very first convention experience), and despite some technical glitches along the way, everyone seemed to have a great time. While there is naturally room to improve should this event happen again in the future, I know that I’ll be clearing my schedule that weekend!