International Fan Festival Toronto 2019: Wrap

Two weekends ago was the International Fan Festival Toronto. The con itself has been run technically once in Osaka in 2018, on the same weekend as October Machi Asobi and WUG Final Tour part 2 Osaka. That’s how I remembered it: it was the fact that a bunch of somewhat-senior seiyuu got to do photo sessions in Japan yet conflicted with these other events of interest that stuck in my head. Still, IFF Toronto was a first-year con as we know it in Toronto.

But more relevantly, IFF Toronto was run by the same guys who did AniRevo Summer, as I recognized a lot of the interpreters and guest folks from the year I went to Vancouver to attend that con. In fact even some of the guests overlap, mainly in Ueda Kana and how Takadera Takeshi did a lot of stuff to help run the various aspects of the con from the JP side. Speaking of which, I saw him all con long in the background because he would shadow a lot of the JP guests and that were the events most of us went to.

As an anime con in Toronto, IFF Toronto was in its first iteration and it had first-year-con pains. The crowd was quite hardcore for a first-year and the badge sales were skewed heavily towards the VIP style, with a 5000CAD (Master) and 2000CAD (Diamond) tier available. Most of the spenders went with Platinum, or 400CAD. A better cost performance tier, Gold, at 250CAD was also available but there were maybe twice the Plats than the Golds. I won’t get into which tier got you what here but most of my acquaintances and friends were either Plat or pleb, and a few Golds.

Guest-wise, I don’t think there were a first-year con anywhere North America with a better JP guest list. It is partly made possible because GTA area is critical mass in terms of weeb and asians. They even have wotagei game, which made all the DJ Kazu sets a lot of fun, both to watch and to participate. On top of DJ Kazu, there were Tokyo Active Neets, which are TAM and Akai Ryusei, doujin anison cover artists. Then there were the Fate/Stay Night lead casts: Saber, Shiro, Rin and Sakura (Kawasumi Ayako, Sugiyama Noriaki, Ueda, Shitaya Noriko). There were also Nakajima Megumi and Suzuki Konomi, who did panels and sang for us during the Saturday Concert.

Besides the JP side, there was also some local Japanese anime-adjacent actors that you probably have heard from Sailor Moon, but I forgot. I got a photo with ProZD, who is at least an influencer/tuber who knows his stuff (and also because Plat badge comes with a photo ticket). There were cosplayer guests.

The con itself was in the MTCC, which is a wonderful venue for a small-ish event. I would say the con probably didn’t even crack 2000. I (and a lot of folks from out of town) stayed at the Intercontinental, which was really close to the action. It would take literally 5 minutes from line to hotel room, and vice versa. Parking in downtown Toronto cost money, but you could have taken the local mass transit around, or walk to a nearby place to eat as there were quite a few.

I drove up with 3 friends for the weekend, leaving Thursday night and crashed at around Rochester. Then we left at around 8am and made it to the con by 11-ish. Since we didn’t care too much about the Friday schedule, we went to CN tower and had lunch at the famous rotating restaurant. It was kind of worth it, tell you the truth, but it was kind of expensive. It also helps that the CN tower was literally right next to the con center, along with Rogers Centre. The Blue Jays were out of town, the weather was wet and dreary, so it was a quiet weekend downtown along with people doing their Easter stuff. More in the PS.

Well, I certainly didn’t spend much time outside! Friday night the local wota/anikura folks threw a panel which was just a DJ set, and it was fun to get warmed up to some of this stuff. Other than taking a photo with ProZD I didn’t do much at all. The dealer’s room really is just a giant artist alley with a couple dozen booths of nothing really interesting. It’s kind of unavoidable given Sakuracon and Anime Boston going on at the same time, I suppose. So we spent some time watching lives and just hanging out, eating ramen or whatever. Toronto definitely also has a ramen game, and I’m not sure if it’s a good thing.

I did catch the showing of MechaUde Friday night, which was always a neat thing. With CyberConnect2 picking up the pieces maybe it’ll get a proper airing sometime? I don’t know. Takadera is the sound director for it, so he was there to present it. Since I watched it a long while ago this was a nice refresher, being a backer of the Kickstarter.

Saturday morning was the first time the con got busy as far as I can tell. The 50 or so Plats and few dozens of Golds lined up to go up the escalator to enter the exhibit hall, which is where not just the AA but also the photo and autograph areas were located. The line up was a bit of a mess because they generally didn’t start any lines until about 20 minutes before the start time. It worked okay because in the end there weren’t too many people, but it was enough to create some havoc especially since they have to stage 3 different lines (Plat, Gold, Plebs) and that took up a lot of space if there were multiple sessions going on in a staggered manner.

I don’t know, as a Plat everything worked out well. There was one Diamond tier guy who bought it, but he was no show until the Kawasumi Ayako autograph and panels in which a bunch of the plats cheered him on. On Sunday even Ayako caught on to it and cheered along with the rest of us. In essence he got to cut everybody and get all his stuff signed. That Diamond guy was kind of a running gag throughout the con in a “the legend of” kind of way, and it wasn’t even a bad thing.

There was a community stage kind of thing also at the dealer’s hall and that is where DJ Kazu spun his first set. Since we already know where the level was at from Friday night, this turned out pretty well. The only problem was I chose to run out half way through (a 30-minute set) to go to an autograph panel.

The autographing went well. Not sure what there is to say. I even took it easy on day three and just went with whatever the flow of the schedule is, skipping some autograph sessions instead for panels.

Sticking to the highlights, I think it had to be the Fate content. I only actually attended the live dubbing panel, which had the four cast members run through some recording while the sound director guy perfunctorily showed us how it kind of works, what adjustments may be done, and the whole walk-up-to-mic quietly thing, or the flipping of the script pages. Same stuff. More so, we got to see live dubbing of those iconic Fate UBW lines, which was great.

Besides the dubbing panel, there was a screening of Heaven’s Feel II and a Q&A panel. Somehow I skipped them. Or the Ueda panel. And the Sugiyama panel. And a good portion of Ayako’s. I stuck to all the Shitaya content in the end, including the 2shot. I guess that’s just how the schedule shaked out given that I wanted to go to all the DJ Kazu events.

The AniMaple stuff I mentioned, but DJ Kazu is one of item of interest on my list at this con. So I went to see him spin. He didn’t have any other content so it was kind of odd. He jumped on stage Friday wearing a happi with his Heisei Anisong Taisho album cover, which I had the CD of and used it as prop.

The last major things were the programming for Konomin and Mamegu. Mamegu had a lot of fans! Some of them rushed to center aisle during her set at the Saturday show. Konomin had this dude who solo rushed the center, but hilariously broke his penlight while trying to crack UOs on the ground. I was laughing badly in row 2 so that was also not a great look, but this is some high grade shamefur display. Otherwise the Saturday night show was really 4 acts in one, with TAN, DJ Kazu (WUG WUG WUG), Konomin and Mamegu. Feels like because DJ Kazu really let out the “tigers” the other two sets had the fans in really high gear out of the gate, as the saying goes.

Their respective panels were a little boring, I guess, but Konomin’s turns into a WTSK at the end, which was a nice treat given she did not have any other event, such as an autograph session. There were a few singles

Other than anikura, seiyuu guests, the anisong guests and visiting friends and local eats, IFFT was pretty hollow. The dealers room was really 90% AA 10% actual vendors. Some even had bootleg wares. The AA was really diverse–there is even a chikaidol scene in Toronto so I saw a few perform. It was interesting when you can go to the said idol group’s AA booth and buy chekis.

But being hollow is okay–this is a first-year con that was extremely tailored to my interests, so to speak. It is a real question if the con will continue in the longer run, and if it will be this good in the future. International Fan Fest Toronto probably pleased a lot of the locals because ANorth is really the opposite kind of experience. Plus, since I can drive to it, it is a mighty good get.

PS. The main eats to share on the blog is the aforementioned the 360 at the CN Tower. Literally around the block from the con center, this iconic restaurant is fairly high class as tourist joints go, and comes with a lift ticket so in essence you’ve bundled ~42CAD in that meal. I had a full 3-course thing plus a drink, so it came to be about $100 CAD, or just under $90 US bux after tip. That’s a really good deal for what we got. The food was good for what it is, but it is also overpriced–a big surprise here. The views was great, despite zero visibility some of the time due to low-hanging clouds (and a rainy day). You can see wisps of the cloud coming in and out as the wind blows, but most of the time you could at least see the immediate area, like the airport Porter flies in and out of, or the local high rises in the downtown. The menu allows for some degrees of ala carte ordering so you could have had a similar experience for much less, but it is structured so you spend at least the lift ticket price, to nobody’s surprise.

Below is a picture of the con center and the Intercontinental hotel attached, which is a short skywalk across to the Union train station. As for the eats, I liked the dessert, a proper temperature gradient with a local peach cobbler (but they aren’t in season so the peaches were just OK) topped with some maple syrup ice cream. Really aiming at those tourists.

After meal it’s good to walk around a bit to digest, also let that adrenaline run a bit when you stare into the depths from those transparent floor panels. Well, thanks for the poor weather we had no problem getting a window table at the 360 or finding much of a crowd inside the observation deck. I say that is a win.

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