Calgary’s Otafest is bringing a virtual anime convention to the fans for 2021

Calgary's Otafest will head online this year. CONTRIBUTED

Otafest is hoping to deliver a big experience for its growing base of anime fans, with a virtual experience for this year’s event.

First started in 1999, Otafest is a non-profit convention that is run by anime fans for like-minded individuals to interact with each other and to generate some money for a local charity.

The original convention drew a crowd of fewer than 1,000 people and had no special guests. The most recent event saw 9,000 people attend. It hosted special guests like famous voice actor ProZD and dance-rock band The Slants.

Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the convention was forced to close for 2020. To comply with public health guidelines it was once again forced to close for 2021.

Otafest chair Jenny Chan said they’re disappointed with the shutdown of in-person attendance.

“It was heartbreaking the staff had spent all year planning and to be that close to the convention for it to get cancelled was tough,” said Chan.

Going online with anime

This year, Otafest is going digital so that fans can still enjoy the convention from the safety of their homes. Though fans may not be able to have the traditional convention experience, this year they have something to look forward to in the form of Otafest online.

“We are going to be streaming through Twitch, and the programming is full of the things that you would expect from a traditional in-person Otafest. We are also going to have a virtual exhibitors hall which is just a map that shows your favorite vendors and exhibitors,” Chan said.

Otafest is also known for its various cosplay contests during the convention. Don’t worry cosplayers, those contests will still be held. Just virtually.

“We have a craftsmanship contest and folks have just been submitting photos to us on the projects that they have been working on. we have a panel of cosplay artists reviewing the work and we will crown a winner,” Chan said.

Picture Courtesy of Otafest

Otafest is a largely community-driven event and with the online event that will be no different. Fans have shown large amounts of support to ensure that this event will be one to remember, Chan said.

“It’s so heartwarming to see the community come out and support us like this. Our artists and our vendors have also expressed such support. They were very appreciative to be able to do something for the community,” Chan said.

For more information on this year’s programming, visit the Otafest website.

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