This past weekend was Anime North 2011. I think this was my 9th AN in 10 years. I missed one year because I was in Australia, so can't help that!
When I was younger, AN was all about the dealer's room. The convention was just one or two hotel floors, and the dealer's room was tiny. But for a high school kid like me, it was really the only place to buy anime. Think back 10 years. Ninja Scroll and Perfect Blue were basically the only things you could find at a Sunrise Records or Future Shop. I remember how excited I was when I found Evangelion for rent at Rogers Video! So imagine how I felt walking into a giant room filled with anime dvds and manga from wall to wall (and this was before I even started reading manga)! They were good times.
Anime North is a lot bigger now, and uses a good chunk of the Toronto Congress Centre. The dealer's room is absolutely massive now. But in reality the power it holds has diminished significantly. When there's a decent selection of dvds at HMV, Future Shop and Best Buy, and the manga section at Chapters is growing everyday, you can get your anime fix any day of the year now. And lots of dvd sets and art books are cheaper on Amazon.
So what keeps me going? Everything else. The past couple years I've been spending more and more time in the artist's alley. Everyone's drawings and art are just so amazing. I just couldn't decide what to get (expecially with my limited budget). I bought a few drawings and bookmarks, but wish I could have got more. It makes me want to get my own booth next year. But I doubt it's the place for me. My anime art is not original enough. I good at copying an image, and doing something different with it, but making original creations? My mind just can't work like that. That's one thing I realized this year at the convention. Even if people are selling works based on characters they don't own, they're still able create new scenes, positions and make the character their own. Maybe one day I'll get to that point, but it'll take some serious work.