Anime Central: Largest Anime Convention in Chicago & Midwest

Cosplay expos, gaming fairs, and anime cons are events that make our kawaii hearts sing. Being surrounded by people who share similar interests is such a fun community experience, and attending events like these can gift us with new friendships and adventures!

Maybe you’ve heard of a small little get-together known as Anime Central. If so, we know you just shook your head — Anime Central is anything but small! This show-stopping affair is the biggest anime convention in the Midwest.

Anime Central doesn’t take that title of “The Largest Anime Con in the Midwest” lightly. With the Midwest being home to millions of anime fans, the Chicago area is the perfect place to host a huge event like Anime Central.

Just imagine attending one of the largest anime conventions in the United States. Are you hyped up yet?

We’ve got you covered on everything there is to know about Anime Central, so we can guarantee you have more fun than Spike Spiegel hunting bounties.

What Is Anime?

The word “anime” comes from “animation,” which makes a lot of sense. Anime is a Japanese style of animation that is influenced by manga. 

Japanese graphic novels — also known as manga — often have a very specific art style. This translated from page to screen with the introduction of anime in the late 1950s. 

In fact, many anime series originated from manga! There’s a good chance that your favorite anime started off as a book series first. 

Anime is unique these days, too, because the majority is storyboarded and drawn by hand. Sometimes computer animation is also used, but CGI is a lot less common in the anime genre of filmmaking.

Once anime became mainstream in Japan, it began taking off in other areas of the world. Many anime series quickly became popular in the USA over the course of many decades. 

Some examples include Death Note, Dragon Ball Z, and Ghost in the Shell. We bet you’ll see someone dressed as Goku at Anime Central!

When Was the First Anime Convention?

It only makes sense that we would want to pay homage to the events that paved the way for Anime Central. Let’s learn a little bit about the origins of anime conventions.

The first major anime con in the United States took place in 1990 after the 1980s saw more and more Americans being introduced to aspects of Japanese culture. Anime Central itself was one of the earliest American cons, with its first convention being held in 1998!

The first anime conventions were put together by fans to meet other fans and discuss their favorite anime. We often find a special kinship with characters in our favorite movies or shows. 

Realizing this, fans of anime quickly began cosplaying — dressing up as a character from an anime, manga, or game. Thus, anime conventions as we know them today were born!

Combining cosplay elements, vendor booths, discussion and panel opportunities, anime cons are a must-experience event for any anime enthusiast.

What Events Are at Anime Central?

Anime Central provides all of the necessities that make for a well-rounded and super-fun con.

We know you can’t wait to get to Anime Central to show off that cosplay you worked so hard on. 

There are a ton of Cosplay Meet Ups and groups, with plenty of fandoms to choose from! Meet people who are just as devoted to your favorite anime or video game as you are — now that’s the foundation of a beautiful friendship!

If you’re seeking unique gifts for friends who didn’t get to attend Anime Central this year (womp, womp), you’ll want to check out Artist Alley. Artist Alley shows off makers from all over the US, helping them sell their crafts and artwork.

If you still haven’t found the perfect plushie, you can head to the Exhibitor Hall. In the exhibitor hall, you will find mainstream retailers, as well as gaming companies and sponsors. 

Anime Central also boasts events, panels, and special guests. You can expect to hear beats from DJs, and peep your fave voice actors. Each year brings a new set of guests, so there is always a reason to get excited when Anime Central releases its lineup.

Those who want other types of entertainment won’t want to miss all of the gaming opportunities at this con! There is an area for table-top gaming and a spot to play video games, too. 

Indie game devs will sometimes premiere their games at Anime Central, which serves as the perfect spot for beta testing. After you’re done gaming, hang out at the Manga Library. You probably won’t want to leave!

Where to Stay for Anime Central

Anime Central is located in the Chicago suburb of Rosemont, Illinois. You can fly into O’Hare, get into your car and drive the I-80, or hop on the Blue Line train. Since Anime Central is centrally located, there are a lot of hotel possibilities to choose from.

The closest hotels to Anime Central’s home of Donald E. Stephens Convention Center are:

  • Hyatt Regency 
  • Embassy Suites 
  • Doubletree Hotel 
  • Crowne Plaza
  • aLoft
  • Westin
  • Comfort Inn

Many of these hotels give special discounts to Anime Central passholders, so be sure to be on the lookout for that when booking season starts!

Cosplay Ideas for Anime Central

Now that you know that Anime Central is the next con where you belong, it’s never too early to start planning your cosplay outfits!

A good place to start is to think of all the anime, manga, and video games you like. Do any specific characters stand out to you? Think of your favorite anime, video game, or manga, and consider whether any character has a style you want to emulate. This is a great first step to creating your cosplay for Anime Central.

Once you’ve decided on who you’d like to dress up as, it’s time to break down the aspects of their outfit. You will want to determine what costume pieces you can source from where or if there are elements you want to create yourself. 

Here’s our little PSA: It’s okay if you’re not making your entire cosplay by hand. We all have busy lives and may not have the time to devote to creating a complete outfit on our own! There’s no shame in having a little help to make your cosplay dreams come true. 

At the end of the day, cosplaying is about having fun and feeling confident!

Fun and Flirty Cosplay Ideas

Here are some cosplay ideas to get you started!

Remember those creepy nurses from the Silent Hill franchise? Try our Chaotic Nurse Outfit to really grab ahold of one of survival horror’s greatest monsters. All you’ll need now is some makeup or gauze for your face — and some body paint, if you’re feeling extra. A little smattering of blood never hurts anyone… except maybe James Sunderland.

D.Va from Overwatch is one of the cosplay community’s favorites. She has a lot of skins to choose from, each equally adorable. Her black cat skin is no exception! You may have luck finding a dress that suits this cosplay at a thrift store, but our Danger Cyber Cat Headband was practically made for a D.Va cosplay. Nerf this!

Cosplaying doesn’t mean you have to stick with a specific character. We’ve seen plenty of cosplays of everyday objects and cute animals! We can’t think of anything cuter than our Soft Spring Cow Set or Dripping in Milk Dress. Combine one of these looks with our adorable Cow Ears Headband, and you are going to look SO GOOD.

Our Cyber Bunny Set combines the best of both worlds: cute and sexy. With enough elements to make this cosplay stand out on its own, there’s room to customize and add your own personal flair!

If you’re looking for another sexy cosplay concept, look no further than our Hell Rider Succubus Lingerie. Grab a copper or auburn-colored wig, maybe a sheer cover-up for some allure, and our Devil Horn Headband for good measure.

Anime Central: A Must-Do for Any Anime Fan!

Anime Central has fandoms and fun around every corner of Donald E. Stephens Convention Center. It’s of course the perfect place to flaunt your favorite cosplay and mingle with fellow fans! Armed with artist booths, exhibitors, music performers, special guests, games, and manga, there is no shortage of things to do at Anime Central.

Can’t make it to Anime Central this year? There are many other options as far as anime conventions go. If you’re located on the West Coast, you’ll feel right at home at Anime Expo in Los Angeles or Anime Pasadena. East Coast cosplayers and anime fans should check out North Carolina’s Cosplay America and Otakon in Washington DC.

As for the ultimate anime convention in the Midwest and Chicago, Anime Central is the only right answer. 


Japanese Animation | Britannica

A Beginner's Guide to Manga | The New York Public Library

To the Beginning: Anime and American Fandom in the 1980s | Cultural Heritage Informatics Initiative