The biggest little event that could is bigger than ever

Nine months in to my newfound freedom to attend pretty much ALL THE THINGS~! when it comes to local otaku culture, I’m finding the experience both exhilarating and exhausting. And that’s just counting the major con circuit. Here, for instance, is the bulk of my coverage of HawaiiCon, the fourth stop of Con-athon 2018 that happened a few weekends ago at the Mauna Lani Bay Hotel and Bungalows on the Big Island.

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I really did attend the con in spurts, though! The five pages of original Archie comic artwork I won at the art auction will attest to that. Photo by Jason S. Yadao.

I needed that bit of R&R. For while there may be only one more stop for the Con-athon circuit this year — Maui Comic Con, Oct. 26-28 at UH-Maui College — the schedule of special events going forward may be one of the busiest fall seasons I’ve seen in the past few years.

It’s fitting, then, that the season kicks off from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday with one of the longer-running events of the modern otaku era: McCully-Moiliili Library’s ninth annual Mini Con. This year’s edition was already shaping up to be the biggest one yet even before the surprise news hit Wednesday evening of a Super-Secret Special Guest of Honor: Usagi Yojimbo creator (and, of course, Groo the Wanderer letterer) Stan Sakai. He’ll be signing books and drawing sketches in exchange for donations to the library, something he also did last November after a talk there.

Stan Sakai at McCully-Moiliili Library
Those are a bunch of original scripts and sketches in the foreground, too. Photo by Jason S. Yadao.

Returning for another go-round are event mainstays Jon Murakami, Audra Furuichi (in a rare-these-days appearance!), Brady Evans and Kevin Sano. Here are some previews of what they’ll be debuting at this event:

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Kevin Sano has been working on these original sketches on comic backing boards. Photo courtesy of Kevin Sano.
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Audra Furuichi has these original nemu*nemu sketches, as well as some new prints, available for sale. Photo courtesy of Audra Furuichi.

Joining them this year is rising art star Derick “7Sketches” Fabian. He’s best known for his original sticker art, or “slaps,” that mash up characters from cartoons, anime, and comics with hip-hop and local culture. He even contributed a mural to this year’s POW! WOW! Hawaii jam in Kakaako. He has a trio of designs debuting on Saturday.

Also on hand will be representatives from the next mini-con event coming down the pipeline, NEET, which recently announced its autumn event will be held Oct. 12 at the nearby Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii; and Wasabi Magazine editor-in-chief Antonio Vega, who’ll be talking about the publication’s focus on Japanese culture and island life.

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Not to mention a certain Kirby-obsessed friendly neighborhood otaku blogger, shown here with McCully-Moiliili Library branch manager/Mini Con chief Hillary Chang and volunteer Alyssa Au. Photo courtesy McCully-Moiliili Library.

You’re going to want to meet everyone, too. Back for another year is the stamp card promotion, where attendees can go around getting stamps from the exhibitors, then turn in completed cards in exchange for free comic books and other stuff. Other activities, like showing volunteers your library card and filling out a program evaluation form, will net you a set of three Mini Con 9 pins.

Mini Con cards
Photo courtesy McCully-Moiliili Library.

Cosplay, as always, is encouraged, and a variety of anime, including Boruto and Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card, will be screened. There also will be a number of craft activities and talks throughout the day.

Mini Con 9 is brought to you by the Friends of the McCully-Moiliili Library, Collector Maniacs and Hawaiian Graphics. The library is located at 2211 S. King St.; parking can be a bit tight, but it is possible to find some if you look hard enough. Any questions? Call 973-1099.

Also on the otaku calendar

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Hawaii’s first UNIQLO opens: The Japanese clothing retailer renowned for comfortable, cheap attire and otaku-friendly T-shirt designs has been teasing local customers for several months now with a pop-up store near Ala Moana Center’s Centerstage. That experience is about to expand quite a bit, as the full-service store is scheduled to open on the third floor of the mall’s Ewa Wing at 9:28 a.m. Friday, 9/28. (Get it?) I understand some friends of the blog are members of the store’s opening-day staff, so lotsa luck and good fortune to you all.

Shirokiya Matsuri

Shirokiya Matsuri: The fourth monthly edition of the showcase for local crafters and entertainers hosted by emcee extraordinare Remy Zane is taking place from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday at the Shirokiya Japan Village Walk complex, street level on the Ewa end of Ala Moana Center. It’s also Kids’ Day at JVW, so children ages 12 and under can get a free token to spend at one of the complex’s 100 bazillion gachapon machines. Seriously, look at how many there were in August:

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You haven’t really lived until you’ve seen this many gachapon machines in one place. Photo by Jason S. Yadao.
It’s GachaponCon, yo.

My-Neighbor-Totoro

My Neighbor Totoro in theaters: Chew on this for a bit: This story of two girls and the gentle forest spirits they befriend has been around for 30 years. Feeling old yet? Playing at 12:55 p.m. Sunday (English dubbed), 7 p.m. Monday (subtitled), and 7 p.m. Wednesday (dubbed) at the Regal Dole Cannery 18 theaters, 735-B Iwilei Road. Get your tickets here.

Con reschedules; community regroups

A little more than a day after Amazing Comic Con Aloha postponed its show scheduled this weekend. organizers have already announced replacement dates … as well as the first batch of guests. Set aside Feb. 22-24, folks, because Amazing’s now kicking off Con-athon 2019, with legendary artist George Perez and Power Rangers actor Jason David Frank among the first guests announced.

The official statement:

Amazing Comic Con Aloha! in conjunction with Collider is thrilled to announce that their show from this weekend that was postponed due to Hurricane Lane will be rescheduled to February 22nd to 24th 2019! They are also excited to announce that some of their scheduled talent from the postponed show will return to Honolulu, HI along with all new guests to be announced in the coming months. Avengers Infinity Gauntlet/Thanos creator Jim Starlin will return and will be joined by original Infinity Gauntlet artists George Perez and Ron Lim, appearing together in one place exclusively for the first time in several years at Amazing Comic Con Aloha! They will be joined by legendary DC/ Batman artist Neal Adams. Also, in a triumphant return to Amazing Comic Con Aloha!, Power Rangers star Jason David Frank will join us to celebrate 25 years of Might Morphin’ Power Rangers.

Further guest announcements will be coming over the next few weeks. Stay tuned to Amazing Comic Con website and socials for all the latest news.

” We were disappointed to cancel our original dates due to circumstances beyond our control but we are happy to be able to announce replacement dates expeditiously. Hawaii has been great to us and we can’t wait to come back in February 2019 with some of our original guests and all new talent to share their Aloha spirit with the people of Hawaii!!” said Jimmy Jay, Founder Amazing Comic Con.

Attendees who purchased tickets and packages for the original show will be able to use their already purchased tickets for the rescheduled dates including those who purchased tickets through groupon. Further instructions and alternatives will be posted to the Amazing Comic Con website in the coming days. Tickets will go on sale beginning after Labor Day starting at $25.

While Amazing may not be running this weekend, there are a number of activities and sales that have popped up around the island in case you have a con-shaped hole in your schedule that you’d like to fill. (The con’s Facebook page has even been resharing some event notifications as they come in.) Some highlights:

  • Shirokiya MatsuriThe third edition of the monthly Shirokiya Matsuri will be taking place from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. tomorrow at Japan Village Walk, the street-level food court on the Ewa end of Ala Moana Center. This celebration of local and Japanese culture features crafters, an entertainment stage hosted by Remy Zane, and family-friendly activities. (That’s a picture of the first Shirokiya Matsuri at the top of this post.) As a bonus, there are plans for an impromptu Comic Jam in that venue as well, so you can fellowship and draw with a bunch of local artists if you’d like.
  • Artist Neal Adams has been popping up around the Rainbow Tower of the Hilton Hawaiian Village, taking and delivering commissions, signing autographs ($50 each) and selling art. Check on https://www.facebook.com/NealAdamsDotCom for details.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles co-creator Kevin Eastman will be making an appearance tomorrow at Other Realms, 1130 N. Nimitz Highway, suite C-140. Keep watching Other Realms’ Facebook page for details on that.
  • Kevin Sano of Sanoevil Collectibles has a bunch of comics that he was going to sell at the con this weekend at Ideas Music and Books, 670 Auahi St. The store’s open until 7 p.m. today and from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. tomorrow.
  • Fans of gunpla (Gundam models) can swing by Animeya and Collectibles (98-027 Hekaha St., Bldg. 3, Unit 19) for the August Gunpla Meet-Up from 3 to 7 p.m. tomorrow. Bring your favorite kits, show off your completed work, and get some tips from fellow fans.
  • Finally, Dragon’s Lair Comics in Mililani (95-1840 Meheula Parkway; take the Mililani Mauka offramp from the H-2 Freeway to get there) has a weekend sale going on, with 20 percent off all current comics, board games, and trade paperback/hardcover comic collections, and 50 percent off the back-issue bins. The store’s open until 7 p.m. today and 10 a.m.-7 p.m. tomorrow; artist Michael Cannon will be hanging out and drawing sketches for a little while today as well.

Amazing Comic Con Aloha postponed

Quick update on the developing situation with Amazing Comic Con Aloha: The three-day convention, scheduled to take place today through Sunday, has been postponed.

The official statement:

AMAZING COMIC CON ALOHA! RESCHEDULES CONVENTION DUE TO HURRICANE LANE SAFETY CONCERNS

Due to the circumstances beyond our control and the impending arrival of Hurricane Lane, Amazing Comic Con ALOHA! regretfully has to reschedule its planned show this weekend in Honolulu, HI.

“We watched the weather closely and as Hurricane Lane weakened we made a decision to utilize the vendors, talent and media that had made it to Hawaii to still move forward with our show but due to circumstances beyond Amazing Comic Conventions Control the convention center became unavailable for use. The safety of our attendees and guests is paramount to us. ” said Jimmy Jay, founder of Amazing Comic Con ALOHA! ” “We are actively rescheduling and look forward to returning to Hawaii in the very near future with the best Architects of Pop Culture!”

Information on rescheduled dates can be found at AmazingComicConaloha.com and on @AmazingComicCon Socials as soon as we have information.

Additionally, we will doing our best to get back to everyone today answering any questions or concerns you may have.

We thank you for your continual support. We love you, Hawaii.

This marks the first postponement of a major event since Taku Taku Matsuri was postponed two days before it was scheduled to take place in August 2014 due to the dual threats of Hurricanes Iselle and Julio.

UPDATE 9:56 a.m.: Here’s the Hawai’i Convention Center statement on the cancellation.

Due to severe and variable weather conditions from Hurricane Lane, the Hawai‘i Convention Center and the Hawai‘i Tourism Authority (HTA) have made the decision to cancel the Amazing Comic Con, previously scheduled to run today through Sunday at the Convention Center. We regret the inconvenience this may cause to organizers, vendors and participants. The safety of our guests and staff remains our top priority as this storm approaches. Please contact the Amazing Comic Con directly for information related to the event.

The Amazing Comic Con-undrum

This isn’t going to be your typical convention preview.

Amazing Comic Con Aloha, the third stop on the Con-athon 2018 circuit and the last 3-day geek con on Oahu for the year, is scheduled for this weekend at the Hawai’i Convention Center. It’s arguably the state’s largest comic marketplace, boasting a healthy lineup of local and national comic talent in the combined Artist Alley/Dealers Room.

37921010_1347447408719057_5946462936632393728_oThe guest list has traditionally been stacked as well. This year’s pop culture roster includes actress Evangeline Lilly, fresh off her starring stint in Ant-Man and the Wasp; Charles Martinet, the voice of Mario in Nintendo’s long-running franchise; voice actress Tara Strong, the voice of Raven, Harley Quinn, Timmy Turner, Bubbles, Unikitty and Princess Twilight Sparkle, just to name a few of her roles; Justin Briner and Mike McFarland, repping the My Hero Academia dub; and Keith Silverstein, Chloe Hollings and Lucie Pohl, the voices of Overwatch’s Torbjorn, Widowmaker and Mercy, respectively. (Update 10:12 a.m., 8/23: Lucie Pohl has canceled.) Notable artists include Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles co-creator Kevin Eastman, legendary creators Neal Adams and Marv Wolfman, and a good selection of artists from the Hawaiian Comic Book Alliance. (They have a special print available this weekend, too.)

There’s a pretty big elephant in the room, though — an elephant that’s currently at Category 4 and projected to make an impact on the state over the next few days. That’s the Central Pacific Hurricane Center’s latest projected path of Hurricane Lane as of 5 a.m. today at the top of this post.

It’s sent 99 percent of the state into lockdown mode. City, state and federal offices are keeping non-essential workers at home and cutting off services. Schools are closing. Sporting events, the Greek Festival, Blaisdell shows, Honolulu Museum of Arts programming and movie screenings are being postponed or canceled. Heck, even Zippy’s is closing. (Here’s a complete list.)

That other 1 percent? Amazing Comic Con Aloha. Con organizers have repeatedly insisted on social media that #TheConIsON and that they’ve been in constant contact with the proper authorities to ensure the show goes off as scheduled. In fact, VIP members and those who bought premium ticket packages can pick up their passes on the second floor of the Ala Moana Hotel from 6 to 8 p.m., then make their way over to Nocturna Lounge at Waterfront Plaza/Restaurant Row for a pre-show mixer.

I have mixed feelings about all of this. I’m stopping short of urging that people not go, but it’s hard to ignore the fact that the rest of the state is effectively shutting down to prepare for Lane, and that other organizations and venues have deemed the risk too great to proceed with their scheduled events. Something is going to happen over these next few days. The questions are, to what extent? For how long? And how much are we willing to risk our safety for stuff that’s nice to have, but we don’t necessarily need to have?

Here’s where I stand: Con-athon community, I love you guys, but I’m just not willing to commit to attending this weekend. As a result, you might not see my usual flurry of con updates on my social media channels. I’m admittedly someone who looks at things in terms of worst-case scenarios, and Lane just looks too scary right now to leave my shelter-in-place for at least Friday, and probably for Saturday, too. We’ll see about the aftermath on Sunday. I’d love to be proven wrong, but we’ll just have to play the waiting game for that.

There will be other events like this down the line. I just urge you all to use your better discretion in deciding whether to attend.

The road to Con-athon is paved with melting radiators

Day 0 of Comic Con Honolulu was supposed to have a simple schedule for your friendly neighborhood otaku blogger: Check in to the hotel, finish up writing a quick preview of what’s happening this weekend, fetch the Otaku Ohana Anonymous Director of Forced Social Interaction, have a nice dinner back at the hotel, fall asleep in bed while completing Tsum Tsum missions.

Naturally, my car decided that now would be a lovely time to take a vacation as well, promptly melting its radiator in neighboring mall stop-and-go traffic and sending its owner into FLAIL SCALE OVER 9,000! mode.

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The moral of this story, kids: If anyone ever offers to sell you a Ford Fiesta, run away screaming. Photo by Jason S. Yadao. 

And so my schedule was radically reworked, I ended up falling asleep in bed working on this quick preview, and I’m probably the most discombobulated going into a convention since a few years ago, when I attended Kawaii Kon a few weeks after being hospitalized with pneumonia. Whee!

But the main thing is that I’m here, safely ensconced in the con hotel with this lovely view, ready to cover the con!

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There’s a fabulous mountain view here somewhere. Allegedly. Photo by Jason S. Yadao.

… well, OK, I’m ready to cover the con, at least.

Comic Con Honolulu does rekindle the flame of Con-athon 2018, after all, with four major geek culture cons happening on three different islands over the next three months. It can, admittedly, be hard to keep everything straight. And that’s where I come in.

First, a disclaimer: This is only one person’s opinion on what he thinks are the highlights of a particular convention, so you’re going to want to check the show’s website and social media accounts to get a fuller picture of what’s going on.

OK, enough with the introductions. Let’s roll.

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This weekend’s shark-themed con artwork is provided by Michael Cannon. He’ll have these prints available at his Artist Alley table, #422; pick up singles at $2 each, or the full set for 14 for $20. Photo courtesy of Michael Cannon.

Comic Con Honolulu
Today-Sunday, Hawai’i Convention Center
$65 for 3-day pass; $40 Friday; $55 Saturday; $40 Sunday; children 10 and under free with paying adult

It’s the one with: Jeremy Shada, the voice of Finn in Adventure Time; Felicia Day, Internet darling who’s starred in Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, The Guild, and the recent revival of Mystery Science Theater 3000; kamaaina actress and Miss Hawaii USA 1993 Kelly Hu; Jason Isaacs, Lucius Malfoy in the Harry Potter movies; and Kevin Sussman, best known as Stuart the comic store owner in the love-it-or-loathe-it geeky sitcom The Big Bang Theory.

Helping put the comics in this comic con: Captain Marvel and Wolverine creator Roy Thomas; Strangers in Paradise creator Terry Moore; Stan Sakai, kamaaina creator of rabbit ronin Usagi Yojimbo; and current Deadpool artist Scott Koblish, who apparently likes drawing many different ways of killing himself.

Your Overwatch voice actor squad: Junkrat (Chris Parson), Zenyatta (Feodor Chin), Mei (Elise Zhang), Hanzo (Paul Nakauchi), and Roadhog (Josh Petersdorf). Writer Michael Chu will be there, too! And they’ll all be part of what’s being billed as “Blizzard’s Official Overwatch Panel” at 11:30 a.m. Saturday in the Main Events room. The live art auction on Sunday (starting at 10:15 a.m., Panel Room 314) will offer a unique opportunity: The winning bidder will get to play on an Overwatch team with the voice actors against six runner-up bidders. And the auction proceeds go toward supporting Pu’uhonua o Puna, a group set up to help Puna residents displaced by Kilauea’s ongoing activity, so everybody wins!

Notes of note: Event programming has been one of Comic Con Honolulu’s strengths over the past few years, which is to be expected from an offshoot of Kawaii Kon, the anime con that remains the local standard for activities crammed into every day. Here are some highlights:

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Sketches drawn during the 2017 edition of Comic Jam Hawaii’s Art Improv panel cover the floor at the end of the panel. (And attendees get to take home all this free art, too!) Photo by Jason S. Yadao.
  • Traditional favorites include Iron Cosplay, in which contestants cobble together costumes from a random assortment of materials (1:15 p.m. today, Room 312); Comic Jam Hawaii’s Art Improv panel, with artists drawing audience suggestions on the fly (1 p.m. Saturday, Room 314); the cosplay contest (6 p.m. Saturday, Main Events); a pair of cosplay sketching sessions (1:30 p.m. today and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, both in Room 314); and the aforementioned live art auction (10:15 a.m. Sunday).
  • Main Events room concerts include the orchestral stylings of Hitbox Music Ensemble, bringing a program with the theme “Music of the Elements I: Water” at 8:15 p.m. Friday, and the rock ‘n’ rollin’ Otakus at 8:15 p.m. Saturday.
  • Sci-fi fan group The Last Outpost Hawaii is presenting five panels throughout the weekend: “How to Catch an Alien” at 6:30 p.m. today in Room 315; “Build Your Own Superhero” at 4:15 p.m. and “Mad-Lib Theater” at 8:30 p.m. Saturday, both in Room 312; and “Whovian Trivia” at 10 a.m. and “Starship Smackdown!” at 1 p.m. Sunday, also both in Room 312.

[Japan Report] Cruising ’round Kansai

Hey all, Lancen here.  I’ve been in Sapporo getting orientated for the exchange program, so I finally have some downtime to write up a post.  I’ll be summarizing my experiences in the Kansai area (Kyoto, Fushimi, an Osaka).

On June 21, Roy and I went to Fushimi Inari.  If you had a chance to read my blogs from January, I wrote about my first visit to the famous shrine.  However, unlike last time, I had enough time to hike all the way up to the top.  We arrived at the station after a good downpour, so the air was heavy and humid.  However, that didn’t stop us from making our way up to the top.

We got there a little before midday, so the place was crowded.

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This gentleman hand-carved numerous foxes out of wood as souvenirs to commemorate reaching the top.

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Amazake, Sweet Sake (non-alcoholic)
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This nice lady is the one who makes home-made Amazake for the hikers at Fushimi Inari. Her effort is found in the taste of her work. It was really good.

The street food at Fushimi Inari is really good too.

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On Friday, we took the time to go to Kyoto, where I revisited the Manga Museum.  Just like last time, pictures are not allowed, but I highly recommend visiting the place at least once.  You really learn about just how much manga has impacted the world.

After the Manga Museum, we met up with Dr. Jayson Chun again.  This time we were joined by his colleague, Professor Furmanovsky from Ryukoku University in Fushimi, and Chris, one of Dr. Chun’s former students.  We ate and talked about life and how Roy and I were feeling before the program.  All the while, the professors were discussing their presentation the next day.

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After eating dinner, we said goodbye to Professor Furmanovsky and decided that it would be a good experience for Roy and I to check out the Kansai Bar scene.  Dr. Chun and Chris took us to one of their favorite places, Bar Joker.  This place was a lot of fun.  Japanese bars are a great place to meet people and chill.  The drinks are there to soften the barriers, and there’s no pressure to try pick someone up.  You’re just there to talk.

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The bartender, Pauline, was a young, 18-year-old woman from France.  She came to Japan to study Japanese 8 months ago, but she’s already light years ahead of Roy and I.  Why come to learn Japanese?  Because she loves manga! I’m definitely gonna go back after the exchange program.

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Right-to-Left: The Master, Dr. Jayson Chun, Pauline-san, ME, Roy, and Miho-san

Oh, we also got asked to show off some of our art skills, and we drew the other  bartender.  Now our drawings are up on the wall, and we scored huge favor with the bar’s owner, simply known as the Master.  I highly recommend this place if you find yourself in Kyoto at night.

On our final day in Osaka, Roy and I went to the famous Kaiyukan Aquarium.  I’ll let the pictures do the talking for me.

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I don’t know how often I’ll be updating during the program, but please look forward to it.  There’s probably gonna be stuff I can only experience because I’m on the program.  Till next time!

AO Fest ready to celebrate community

The journey from the first (and ultimately only) Anime Ohana convention in 2015 to the inaugural edition of AO Fest on Saturday has been a rather … interesting one, to say the least.

I’ve covered local three-day conventions since Kawaii Kon launched the modern con era in 2005, and Anime Ohana was the most sparsely attended con I’ve ever covered. Even with Kawaii Kon co-founder Stan Dahlin and anime producer David Williams running the show and voice actors Monica Rial (returning to Hawaii for the first time since 2009), Jessica Calvello and David Matranga as guests, hardly anyone showed up. Those of us who did come became very good friends by the end of the weekend, mostly because we kept seeing one another at everything.

Perhaps it was the show’s venue at the Pagoda Hotel and people having trouble finding it, the con’s position on a very crowded 2015 calendar that included HawaiiCon,  Amazing (Holy Cats It’s STAN FREAKING LEE In) Hawaii Comic Con, and McCully-Moiliili Public Library’s Mini Con in September, Kawaii Kon’s Anime Day at Windward Mall in October, and Anime Matsuri Hawaii in November, or the fact that there wasn’t much publicity for it that led to its downfall. But the powers that be vowed that they would regroup and return for more the next year.

They ultimately never did.

About a month before Anime Ohana 2016 was supposed to take place, organizers postponed it to 2017, citing a need to build more awareness with a new marketing and promotions team. About a month before Anime Ohana 2017 was supposed to take place, the show was outright canceled. And that, as some of us in the fan community assumed, was that.

cropped-AOBut then in December, news broke that AO Fest — a single-day event, including the Anime Ohana Festival during the day and the Hawaii Anime Awards at night — was A Thing. How could a brand that seemed dead in the water a few months ago suddenly be actively planning a summer comeback?

The short answer: It’s a different path for the Anime Ohana brand, one separate from the original vision for a more traditional three-day convention. And it’s a path being charted by the people who originally came on board to help Anime Ohana with its 2016-17 promotional push, who didn’t want their work to go to waste.

So with the blessing of David Williams, AO Fest was born. And festival organizers Jeremy Lum and Quincy Solano, along with Gavin Shito of the University of Hawaii at Manoa Anime Manga Society and YouTuber Kyuubikaze, have been working hard to make sure that Saturday’s festival is a fun, unique experience for anyone who attends. So while there are several elements that come standard with events of this nature — a cosplay contest, performances by Close the Distance (the three-member group formerly known as EMKE) and the Fresh Preps, a cosplay cafe, and a space for video games and tabletop games — there are other things to see as well.

“A lot of what we’re doing was based off what we were doing for Anime Ohana,” Jeremy said. “We decided to do a lot of activities and events that we thought were kind of unique, or at least things we want to see in conventions, but realize that we were kind of lacking in terms of the other major conventions.

“One of the things we decided to put on was the Anime Awards, and also the Shokugeki competition (a cooking competition a la the anime/manga series Food Wars) and so forth. So I feel like those different elements that we’re creating and planning kind of help diversify a little bit better, giving people more of a reason to turn their attention to Anime Ohana Fest, in addition to all the other major conventions.”

A full schedule of the day’s events is available at aofest.com/schedule/

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With a different vision comes a venue change. Forget about the Pagoda; AO Fest is taking advantage of the space at the UH-Manoa Campus Center, utilizing the courtyard, space on the second floor, and the ballroom and meeting rooms on the third floor.

“Where all the other major conventions, they focus on Blaisdell area, the convention center, we’re doing it at UH because it’s a smaller venue, but they are offering competitive pricing, so financially it’s a lot easier and better for us,” Gavin said. “Also, the demographic that we’re looking at, students — you know, high school students, college students — especially during the summertime when most of the high school students may be transferring over to UH, it would be a great opportunity for them to come and inspect the campus and possibly learn their way around.”

As for what you can expect during the day, Gavin and Jeremy offered the following narrative:


Gavin: Well, first up, when you’re walking toward Campus Center, you’re coming from the main parking lot, the parking structure, the first thing you’ll see is the open courtyard, where we’ll have the Manoa Medieval Combat Club doing their demos … what else do we have? We have the taiko drummers …

Jeremy: We also have iHeart Media, they’re gonna have their radio personalities. We have a lot of things planned outside, a lot of things to attract people in, like YouTube meetups and different things like that, kind of having something that’ll always be active outside. It’s kind of cool because … I guess different from most conventions, we’re going to have a lot of activities that are going to be happening outside.

And then most of the major attractions are going to be inside, on the stage. We have a full schedule from beginning to end, which includes the Shokugeki. It includes Ohana Feud, which is like Family Feud. We have the cosplay contest, and we’re going to be doing panel guests …

Gavin: From there, second floor, we have a lot more YouTube meetups, talking, just meeting people off to the side, coming in. And from there, they can go upstairs to the third floor, where we’ll have the main events with the guests, the panels talking, along with the vendors.

So we’ll try to move people up along as they come in. They’re going to go to one attraction, then be pulled to another attraction, and just keeping them flowing up and around to the entire area. And from there when they finally reach the third floor, from there they can go and explore the different rooms, and then also come back down or go back up. So we designed a flow that’s easy for the customers to look around.


AA_logo-copyAnd then there’s the wild card in the equation, something that’s never been attempted before on the local fandom circuit: the Hawaii Anime Awards, honoring local artists and businesses, YouTubers, and even anime itself. The evening awards show, hosted by Remy Zane and Rei Jun, will also feature a buffet-style dinner catered by UH-Manoa campus food provider Sodexo.

AO Fest organizers see the awards as an opportunity to showcase local talent and recognize their hard work in making the local community, well, the local community. Quincy Solano has organized his share of awards ceremonies over the past 9 years, honoring experts in business and social media, and he’s seen how awards have stimulated confidence and good feelings within a community, raising it up as a whole.

“Maybe there’s an artist that’s undiscovered, but by bringing them to the limelight, then all of a sudden they really feel confident in their skills,” Quincy said. “And I’ve just seen it — once it’s done and executed well, you just get a good feeling from throughout the community. Then people want to try out for next year, and then people are like, ‘Oh, how do I make it, then,’ they look at themselves like, ‘oh, maybe I just need to do better,’ like, ‘this is what I’m up against.'”

As for anyone wondering why AO Fest is debuting a local anime awards show now, Quincy asked in response: Why not?

“It’s never been done, we have the expertise to pull it off, and our venue is fiscally, financially within reason, range, so we can do something on a small scale, but make it big,” he said. “Start it off, make it big, expand it. If it does need work somewhere, it’s still small enough that we can adjust. We’re not going completely all out at the convention center or the Blaisdell and putting all this hype into it. But we’re starting small.

“It’s a really noticeable event, but we’re starting small to gain recognition and just to have people just try it out. If they want to try it out, OK; if they see it and they see that they want to try out next year, OK, we can add more to it, they can try out next year; and we can just continue it, on and on.”

If you’re interested in attending, you have a few more hours to buy tickets online at aofest.com; general admission is $30 ($35 at the door) or $50 with VIP seating. Cosplay cafe tickets ($10) and tickets for the Hawaii Anime Awards ($15 general seating only, as the awards dinner is sold out) are also available.

Oh, and one final note: AO Fest also happens to be on show host Kyuubikaze’s birthday. And he’s pretty excited about that.

“Me being host for it, it’s something that many people would dream about, you know, getting to host or even getting to work with or participate in an event that’s just starting, as such, so that’s one part to it,” he said. “The other part would be that I am a very hard-working social media influencer, and I know that I’m getting to see my close fans and my friends. I’m also expecting a lot of family there, too, because it is my birthday.

“Just seeing them all mingle together in a community that I’ve tried to grow into and sharing my interests with so many people, that whole aspect is what draws me to what I can expect the most from this.”