Engaging with grassroots communities proves beneficial to the Ottawa geek industry

For Ottawa’s retailers of geek culture goods, like comic books and collectibles, Gatineau’s bilingual anime convention, G-Anime, is a chance to connect with a passionate niche market.

By Marc Shaw

With the worldwide popularity of convention culture, big conventions like Ottawa Comic Con are a mecca for fans of anything ranging from Ghostbusters to comic books and everything in between.

Businesses that set up booths in convention dealer rooms have the potential to gain exposure and make sales due to the massive amount of foot traffic that the bigger events draw.

G-Anime pares down its scope and focuses specifically on providing for fans of Japanese animation, known as anime, in a format that brings in businesses and attendees from out of region.

Luc Biron, president of the Société d'Animation Japonaise de Gatineau, believes that past conventions had long ignored the French demographic.

"The work towards G-Anime started in 2008 because of social injustice of content," said Mr. Biron. "The only way to fix the situation was to bring a convention to Gatineau."

The convention happens twice annually and this year’s summer convention was held at the Quality Inn & Suites on Rue Bellehumeur where 13 businesses in the dealer's’ room, like Ottawa’s Toys on Fire and The Comic Book Shoppe, provided the 685 attendees with niche wares.

"As a retailer, we always do well at anime conventions," said Stevens Ethier, owner of the Comic Book Shoppe on Merivale Ave. "You can find the product almost anywhere for comic related items but it’s a lot different for anime. It’s very hard for these fans to find the product in comic stores."

For Mr. Ethier, another key difference from the bigger conventions is how G-Anime allows access to a younger crowd.

"A lot of them save their money to be able to come to these conventions and look for these items, which they treasure, that they haven’t been able to find," he said.

He travels to out of region conventions like Montreal Comic Con and Toronto’s Anime North but makes a special note of being present at Ottawa-area community events, especially the niche ones. He finds G-Anime is unique because its bilingualism helps bring in more people to what would have otherwise been an even smaller event.

Bleem Divertissements, a game company from Quebec City, made the trip to sell their trading card game, Dark Mages. The game was funded through Kickstarter last year, 648 backers pledged $26,049 to bring the project to life. The game is now sold at various boutiques throughout Quebec with their distributor providing product to Ottawa as well.

"Our game is in both languages and we wanted to promote the game on the English side," said Eric Bleney, co-creator of Dark Mages. Mr. Bleney would like bilingual conventions like G-Anime expanded  "I think it could be a great opportunity to present more games, artisans and stores on both sides from Quebec and Ontario."

While events like this are, first and foremost, about fans and their favourite media, they attract a very dedicated community willing to support both established and startup businesses that cater to their interests. The next convention will be held Jan. 20-22 in 2017.