The Biggest Can't-Miss Anime Conventions In Japan And The U.S.

Think Anime Expo marks the end of the anime convention season? Think again! There's enough manga and anime-centric conventions in North America and Japan to fill an entire calendar.

There's no denying that Anime Expo in Los Angeles, CA is the biggest convention of its kind in North America. However, Comiket in Japan brings in 5x its attendance number and it's held twice a year! What makes it even more astounding is that it's a convention focused on doujinshi - fan-made manga and light novels.

But Comiket and Anime Expo just barely scratches the surface when it comes to anime conventions. Some events are geared more towards manga, while others cater to memorabilia or are exclusive to industry professionals. If you're looking to take a trip to a few Anime cons, Anime Mojo's got you covered.

Click the next button below for a comprehensive guide to all of the year's biggest and baddest anime and manga-focused conventions.

Note: The list is organized in chronological order, not by attendance.

Katsucon (Metro DC area) - February; Est 1995

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For many North American anime fans, the convention season begins in February with Katsucon in National Harbor, Maryland- right outside Washington, DC.  Starting out in 1995, the convention's attendance is now pushing 20,000.  

Notable past guests include Vic Mignogna (dub-voice for Edward Elric in Fullmetal Alchemist),  and Sonny Strait (dub-voice for Dragon Ball's Krillin).

Over the years, Katsucon has taken on more of a cosplay identity, with the finals for the  World Cosplay Summit taking place there several times.  One thing to note is that the convention takes place in a fairly upscale location, the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center, which regularly hosts government and business conventions.  Because of that, food options in the area are fairly expensive.

It should also be noted that lines at Katsucon are notoriously long, with the conventions now known in some circles as "Linecon."  

The event occurs in February and the hotel is located right off the water so venturing outside of the convention is a feat of bravery. 

Over the years, Katsucon has developed a reputation for having one of the better after-hours scenes so if you're looking to dance the night away in your cosplay, this is the con for you.

Anime Japan (Tokyo) - March; Est 2014

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Launched just 4 years ago, Anime Japan is an annual March consumer show that's definitely geared towards industry professionals.  That's not to say it's not open to the public but the goal of the trade show is to attract foreign fans and investors, not resident Japanese otaku.  

The 4-day event is split down the middle- with the first 2 days open only to investors and industry professionals and journalist while the last 2 days see the doors opened to the public.

Anime Japan is also a career fair of sorts as several big name studios have booths specifically designed to attract local and foreign students looking to become professionals in the industry.

Anime Boston (Boston) - March/April; Est. 2003

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Jumping back to The United States, if you're still itching for another anime con after Katsucon, then Anime Boston is the next biggest gathering.  

This is one of the few anime cons that actually has a theme, with past events adopting a retro or kaiju vs mecha aesthetic.  

Another highlight is the Anime Music Video (AMV) contest, which has become the convention's signature event. The cosplay contest also attracts a lot of interest as a $1,000 prize is given to the top winner.

Pre-purchased Con passes are capped at around 20,000 to prevent overcrowding.

Sakura-Con (Seattle) - March/April;  Est. 1998

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For a lot of West Coast anime and manga enthusiasts, travel costs prevent them from attending Katuscon and Anime Boston so their convention season starts a bit later with Sakura-Con.

Because of it's West Coast location, Sakura-Con (like Anime Expo) tends to have more Japanese guests than some of the East Coast cons.  Past guests have included Eir Aoi, yoshitoshi ABe,  Reki Kawahara and more.

Like most conventions, food choices around the hotel are limited and require lengthy wait times, so if there's something you don't want to miss, it's better to bring food and snacks from home.

Anime Matsuri (Texas) -April/May;  Est 2007

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Like Sakura-Con, Anime Matsuri might be the first convention of the season for Southern anime and manga fans if they can't afford to travel east for Sakuracon and Anime Boston. The 3-day convention in Houston is the second largest anime convention in North America after Anime Expo (per 2017 convention attendance reports).

Lolita fashion and the anime-inspired car show are a few of the highlights that sets this one apart from other anime conventions. Guests primarily attend this convention for autographs, rather than Q&A sessions.

There's current controversy surrounding one of the convention owners, John Leigh, stemming from sexual harassment at the lolita fashion show in 2015 but that hasn't adversely affected the con's attendance.

Kameha Con (Irving, Texas) - Apri/May;  Est 2017

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If you're into all things Dragon Ball, Kameha Con is the convention you don't want to miss. Launched just last year, buzz about Kameha Con is quickly propelling it into one of the elite anime conventions of the year.

The focus at this convention is all about the guests.  Though it was just the first year, special attendees included a bevy of Dragon Ball voice actors, including Brian Drummond (Vegeta), Dameon Clarke (Cell), Peter Kalamis (Goku's original dub voice),  Ryo Horikawa (Vegeta's Japanese voice actor), Monica Rial (Bulma), Chris Sabat (Vegeta, Piccolo and host of other characters) and many more.

For the 2019 convention, an emphasis is being placed on having more Japanese and international dub actors attend.

Anime North (Toronto, Canada) - May; Est 1997

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Anime North is one of the oldest, currently-running anime conventions in North America.  Located near the  Toronto Pearson International Airport, the con's events are actually spread out across 6 nearby hotels, with shuttles transporting attendees to and fro.

The emphasis at this con is placed on cosplay and the "dealer's room" rather than panel guests.  If you're looking for some rare items, Anime North is your best option.

A-Kon fka Project: A-Kon (Fort Worth, Texas) - June; Est 1990

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Another Texas anime convention, A-Kon follows right after Anime Matsuri and is just as popular.  Holding the honor of the longest-running anime convention in North America, it's situated at the Fort Worth Convention Center, where attendance for the 4-day convention is usually in the 30K+ range.  

The convention is listed as beginning on Thursday but vendors are usually just setting up so most veterans of A-Kon consider it only a badge pick-up day.  Though it's advertised as a 4-day con, you'll only get the full A-Kon experience for 3.

Cosplay is a focus here, however, it's more community-centric rather centered on famous, well-known cosplayers.  Merchandise is also slanted more towards figures whether than DVDs or Blu-rays.  By this point of the year, many vendors have had their inventory whittled down or are saving the good stuff for next month's Anime Expo.

What truly sets A-Kon apart is its use of the Optic Arena, where numerous video game tournaments and contests are held.  Because of this, A-Kon takes on much more of a video game convention, with an emphasis on what's currently hot in Japanese.

It's also one of the rare conventions that offer free entry and lodging for staff volunteers who work at least 20 hours during the event.

Anime Expo (Los Angeles) - July; Est 1992

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This is the big one, the biggest North American anime convention of the year. Anime fans travel from all over the globe to attend and they rarely leave disappointed. 

All the major anime studios, streaming platforms and manga publishers will be present at the con and major announcements and surprises will be revealed.  

Organized by the Society for the Promotion of Japanese Animation and former Anime Con staffers, the most recent AX saw over 300K fans attend, more than double the second-most-popular North American anime convention.

There's no particular focus at AX as everything is well-represented- voice actors, mangaka, video games, cosplay and merchandise all receive the very upper echelon of support and care.  If you're familiar with San Diego Comic-Con, this is the anime version.

Otakon (Washington DC) - July/August; Est 1994

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One of the longest-running North American anime conventions, Otakon's roots begin at Penn State before cementing itself in Baltimore, MD for a number of years.  Recently, the event was moved to Washington, DC to accommodate the event's growing population.

One of the unique aspects of this con is an auction for rare memorabilia and merchandise and a late night rave party that's achieved legendary status.

For food options, there's the typical convention and food truck arrangement, however, DC's Chinatown is just a few blocks away if you want some Asian grub.

There are a few hotels connected to the Walter E. Washington Convention Center via an underground tunnel, however, the convention center is also a Metro stop so that significantly opens up hotel accommodations if you're comfortable with riding a subway.

Summer Comiket (Tokyo) - August; Est 1975

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If you've watched any slice-of-life anime that's focused on otaku life in Japan, a trip to Comiket is almost a prerequisite.  Short for Comic Market, Comiket sees fan-made manga and light novel creators gather at the Tokyo Big Sight to sell their wares, where attendance regularly surpasses 500k across 3 days.

Though Comiket has expanded over the years to include commercial interest and cosplayers, the main focus remains the dōjinshi.  

As it's attended by half-a-million people, lines at both Comikets become extremely long.  However, it's Japan so lines are very orderly and efficient.  It's highly recommended that you bring snacks and a backup battery/charger for your phone or game system.  

The most popular doujin can have 5-hr ques and the wails of despair when it's announced that whatever's being offered has sold out is the very definition of agony.

And with so much of the Comiket experience revolving around lines, it's important to plan your trip ahead of time and see where your favorite dojinshi circles or cosplayers are setting up their booths so that you can quickly make your way to the right que.  

As soon as the doors open, there's a humorous " mad dash" (it's Japan, so people don't run, they speed walk) as attendees navigate Tokyo Big Sight to make their way to their desired que.

Also, be aware that public cosplaying in Japan is frowned upon as otaku is a very much underground lifestyle.  As such, there's a male and female changing area at Comiket where cosplayers can change into their costume.  There's also a ¥800 yen fee for cosplaying.

Anime Weekend (Atlanta) - September; Est. 1995

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The biggest Southern anime convention not in Texas, Anime Weekend in Atlanta is a 4-day con taking place at 3, nearby hotels-  the Renaissance Waverly Hotel, Cobb Galleria Centre, and Sheraton Suites Galleria. 

All the usual anime convention staples are here, but Anime Weekend gets high praise from most attendees for its orderliness and 24-hr programming.   Be forewarned, the late night panels and screenings get pretty strange and erotic.

Another boon for the convention is that free parking is available right across the street.

The convention is also noted for having a heavier police presence than normal and a very strict dress code so make sure you read up on all the rules before attending.

Crunchyroll Expo CRX (San Jose) - September; Est 2017

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Though it just launched last year, Crunchyroll Expo had a staggering 16,000 attendees - a very impressive figure for an anime convention debut. That's really a testament to the anime streaming platform's popularity around the globe.

Given Crunchyroll's status, a number of corporate sponsors backed the affair, including Toei Animation, Funimation, Bandai Namco and Aniplex.  A number of early premieres from the upcoming anime season were also screened for attendees. The early premieres and panels are definitely the focal point of this convention.

Anime NYC (New York) - November; Est 2017

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Anime NYC is another new convention that owes its creation to New York Comic Con.  Previously, the owners of NYCC had an anime-centric convention, the New York Anime Festival, which ran for a few years before being absorbed back into NYCC.  

However, it seems the NYCC owners believe it was time to launch a new anime convention, so Anime NYC is presently scheduled to take place a month after NYCC at the  Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York City. 

Though it takes place at the same location as NYCC, Anime NYC only utilizes half the space. Regardless, the first year of the con boasted 20,000 attendees, a strong showing.  As with most first-year conventions, Anime NYC is still trying to carve out its identity so there's a little bit of everything and no clear focus on any particular element of the industry.  That actually makes it a good destination for first-time anime convention attendees. 

Jump Festa (Tokyo) - December; Est 1999

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If you love Weekly Shonen Jump then Jump Festa is the place you want to check out.  That's typically the place where Shuiesha announce what the next big shonen anime adaptation will be from the manga magazine and its many affiliates ( Jump SQ., V Jump and Saikyo Jump, as well as digital manga app Shonen Jump+ at Makuhari Messe in Chiba).  

The best part about this con is that it's absolutely free to enter.

Want a clear example of just how big Jump Festa really is in Japan? Last year's event was where the new Dragon Ball Super: Broly film was officially announced, the first trailer for My Hero Academia season 3 dropped, the new Yu Yu Hakusho OVA was revealed and Naruto creator Masashi Kishimoto announced that he was working on a new series.  In terms of shonen, it doesn't get any bigger than Jump Festa.

Winter Comiket (Tokyo) - December; Est 1975

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As previously discussed for Summer Comiket, it's all about making purchases and being efficient with your time.  Prioritizing is the key as you'll likely be in line for most of the event if you're trying to get your hands on any rare items.
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