[Kawaii Kon 2012] The year of the cat

kawaii-kon-logoThis is the eighth year I’ve covered Kawaii Kon in some way, and in that time I’ve seen many trends come and go. Back in 2005, everyone seemed to be cosplaying as Naruto characters. Then there were the Inu-Yasha and Fullmetal Alchemist years, the year that every fifth person seemed to be wearing the powder blue school uniforms of Ouran High School and its Host Club, and the year Hetalia ruled the world.. There were the “Hare Hare Yukai” and “Motteke! Sailor Fuku” years. Nyan Cat and Leekspin made appearances. Every guest was asked one year whether they’d like to try a Spam musubi. Things like that.

I think I can say that this year’s trend, though, as laid out in the opening ceremonies, may be the most inexplicable of all.

Meet Magician Kaulana, local illusionist and emcee extraordinaire. From what I can gather, he’s the one who launched the trend last year.

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Meet Lisa Ortiz, the voice of Lina Inverse in Slayers. She’s holding the focal point of this trend: a plush kitten.

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And apparently the objective, as best as I can figure it out, is to punch out the kitten, but to find a humorous way to do so. The person who manages to make the judges (yes, there are also judges involved!) laugh the most at closing ceremonies will win a fabulous prize. To illustrate this, Ortiz went all out, acting like she wanted to save it, yet getting upset when it “whispered” awful things in her ear and eventually punting it from one end of the stage to another. The kitten would make more cameo appearances throughout the day on the large video screens on each side of the day. Attendees were waving around different plush cats — well, okay, what they were waving around may not have been “plush cats” as they were “giant circular blobs of cute with cat ears on them” in front of the cameras as well. Even Erika Engle — yes, that Erika Engle, intrepid Star-Advertiser Buzz-er — noted that the most commented-on feature at her Artist Alley table was a single, not-for-sale decorative ornament: a small cat, curled up in a basket.

Umm. Yeeeeeeeeeaaaaaah.

I know that several times in recent years, I’ve wondered if I’m getting too old for this. This … may be another tipping point.

But while I may not necessarily understand what’s going on, many other people do, and they’re really digging it. That’s what’s important at Kawaii Kon, really: finding your little niche and having as much fun with it as you possibly can. And my little niche, discovered last night in the video game room, is definitely hard-core old-school.

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Yes, that’s a Ms. Pac-Man cocktail table machine. I think the last time I saw one of these babies was at the Pearlridge Fun Factory in the early ’80s. Sure, the monitor’s out of focus. But there are several variants of Pac-Man and Ms. Pac-Man to choose from to make up for it.

And here’s an actual, honest-to-God Discs of Tron upright machine.

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I can’t remember the last time I saw one of those. Best part? Both of these machines are set on free play. I could probably stay there all day, if not for the fact that, y’know, there’s an entire rest-of-the-convention to cover.

And so we head into day 2, typically the busiest day at the con. Coming up here in Otaku Ohana, tag-team partner in fandom Wilma J. will chime in with her report on Friday’s panels featuring voice actors Ryo Horikawa and Kenichi Miya, and I’ll show off some of the pretty artwork that’s up for auction at this year’s silent and live auctions. And maybe, just maybe, if you’re all good, I’ll show you how this picture relates to what I’m doing today.

Pekepekepeke desu ka? Ne, sugoi desu ne.

Stick around.