Charles Dunbar, the Anime Anthropologist, posted a section of his masters thesis on his website, Study of Anime. Entitled “All Roads Lead to Otakon – Pilgrimage and Anthropology of the Anime Convention,” the essay discusses the connections between anime cons and religious pilgrimages.
To make his case, one idea that Dunbar stresses is that a “religious experience” need not be, well, religious – at least in the typical use of the word. As Jolyon Thomas mentioned in an interview here, spirituality and religion are not the same – one can be spiritual without having a specific faith, viewing anime can be a spiritual experience although he series is a-religious, and a con that includes merchants whose signs might be insulting to Christians can be considered a spiritual pilgrimage.
Other similarities between the two types of events include travel, liminality, reverence for certain figures, and divisiveness among “followers.” The roles Dunbar assigns various groups (ex. panelists are “priests”) is also fascinating.
Please have a read: