Neomo talks about a topic that came up in the UK anime community this year.

Some people would see compensation for paneling at an anime con as a sort of given. People who actively put in an effort to produce a presentation on their favorite topic, from classic shows to cosplay, from josei to JRPGs, literally anything anime-related. I’ve been to my fair share of panels at cons, as you may have as well but here in the UK, it has worked a little differently, and it took British writer and editor of Anime Feminist, Amelia Cook, to bring the topic to light.

I decided to add this in 12 Days of Anime as, while it doesn’t relate to any shows or anime news, it is something that does bother me as a member of the UK anime community for nearly 20 years, and someone who wants to see it expand beyond scattered fan conventions that only seem to take place in the summer.

After attending brand-new UK convention Hibanacon in Milton Keynes, Cook decided to air her opinion on something that has in fact been happening at UK cons for as long as I can remember: panelists here are usually not given any kind of compensation. She details what happened, and the backlash she received concerning it, in the Twitter thread below (click the Twitter bird to read the full thread):

Having not paneled before, I had no idea that panelists were not really given compensation here in the UK, and I was even more shocked that attendees actually got angry at someone for even bringing the topic up. Now I’ll say straightaway that the UK anime community is by no means on the scale of the community in the US. We started small, we are still relatively small despite reaching out to the mainstream media every now and then. But here, some of the media’s opinion of anime is still the same somewhat medieval one as it was 20 years ago: violent or obscene cartoons unsuitable for children…or for the Pokemon-loving kids.

I think this attitude of “do it for free because you love it!” that some fans in the UK have is more to blame here. Special guests (voice actors, etc.) are paid to come of course, and some cons here compensate cosplay artists who show off their latest outfits, but that’s where it seems to draw the line. It seems also that said fans also appear to have the impression that US cons (that have bigger budgets) are all run by corporations, which is absolutely ridiculous. I know fan conventions in the US have attendances in the thousands, but over here it’s a different story; the longest running UK fan convention, Minamicon in Southampton, is lucky to reach 1,000, although that number is increasing by the year.

The UK anime collective Animeleague, that run events across the country big and small, choose to compensate their volunteer staff by giving them free entry and one free meal for the day they do their volunteering. The idea is a sound one, but having done this twice in the past, I can say on first-hand that the volunteers are not treated well at all. As for panelists? Well as far as I know (feel free to correct me), they are expected to pay full price just like everyone else. This shows that con committees are on the right track, and feel that people who put in the effort to run an event/do a panel/etc. should be compensated for the work they put in, but that sadly doesn’t remove the attitude that some fans here have, who feel that we should not have this, and that so-called “real fans” do it purely for the community they love the most, and thus have no right to ask for any form of compensation. Elitism in the UK anime community is nothing new…or any anime community, for that matter. We squabble about shows, sub-genres, waifus vs. husbandos, sub vs. dub…you name it, we fight over it. There’s that old saying of how anime is cool, and that it’s just fans that can suck, well that definitely applies in the UK. But I will still defend it, despite all of its flaws.

In these last few years, I have looked at the fan convention scene in the US, and while I accept that no UK fan convention is likely to have the budget they all do, I admire the fact that they understand those who choose to panel for their cons ought to get something back, whether it be free admission, discounted admission, free food…not the full package of free hotel/VIP treatment, of course. Panelists choose to summon the courage to speak about something they love for 30-60 minutes and prepare their panels long and hard for hours and days beforehand, so the idea of putting in all of this hard work and effort so we can be seen by some fans with rather elitist points-of-view as “real fans” doesn’t feel right.

I have always entertained the thought of paneling at a con (Amecon in particular), but have never been sure on what until now. Now that I have joined the team at Japan Curiosity, I could put together a panel on anime blog writing, which is an area that strangely I have seen precious few panels on. Do I want some kind of compensation? Well, I’ll explain the circumstances that I personally have for Amecon 2018…I have recently learned that I have received a discount on registration, but this is all due the fact that I volunteered for them in 2016. I don’t know if you could call this motivation for me to apply to panel there, but this is hardly comforting for others who may be paying full price and end up paneling. I have no intentions to criticize the committee at Amecon, as they are all fine people to work with. We haven’t been given any news on what their plans for 2018’s convention will be, but I know that the committee (along with other UK con committees) have kept an eye on what Amelia Cook has said.

Amecon 2016, at University of Warwick, UK.

In the future, I’d like to see this elitist attitude disappear, and for those in the UK anime community to finally catch up with the rest of the world and understand that panelists (as well as artists, cosplayers and the like) do what they do for the love they have for anime/manga/Japanese culture, but still want the comfort in knowing that all the work and the preparation they do beforehand was actually worth something.

My thanks go to Amelia Cook of Anime Feminist, who gave me permission to use her tweets in this post.

12 Days of Anime is a series of posts from bloggers regarding the best, worst, or in between anime moments of 2017. Here’s the initial article from Appropriant inviting bloggers to take part.