Former Oni-Con Hawaii chairman speaks out about show

With 149 days left in the year and no news on where, if anywhere, Oni-Con Hawaii 2014 will be held since the last time I wrote about it, the chances of the convention actually taking place this year are becoming increasingly remote, if not entirely unlikely.

Now comes word that Steve Okubo, former Oni-Con Hawaii chairman, posted a statement both to the Oni-Con Hawaii Facebook page and his personal page this morning. The statement, uncut and unedited, is reproduced below.

Regarding Oni Con Hawaii.
My apologies for the length.

I have remained largely silent about Oni Con Hawaii and the Hawaii Japanese pop culture convention scene for the past many months, partly because of a personal family loss, partly because I’ve had no official access to the various social media sites and email channels we setup for OCH 2013, and partly at the request of intermediaries who told me that a second year of OCH was being planned.

If this message is deleted from the OCH page, please share with others that it is also posted on my personal Facebook page.

First, I want to give a long overdue thank you to all of those who worked so hard to make OCH 2013 successful beyond everybody’s expectations. I know you all sacrificed a lot and I truly appreciate everything you did. It was a great honor and privilege for me to, literally, work along side such awesome people as the members of our “Team O.H.A.Y.O.”! I wish I could have done something for you, but unfortunately, the needed support from the mainland that I was promised never materialized. OCH has cost me, personally, in several ways, just to insure the inaugural convention happened at all, and unfortunately, I can currently do no more than offer you my humble, heartfelt, and long overdue thanks. Not being able to do more than that is one of my biggest regrets.

It is unfortunate that OCH never received the resources and support that were promised us and should have been provided at the outset, from Texas, but despite the lack of that support, our Hawaii ‘ohana came together to create a first-year convention that was incredibly successful. Of course there were issues and things that could and should have gone better, but all things considered, we did what most thought couldn’t be done. We were told by the convention center that OCH went much more smoothly in it’s first year than others did after several years. This I attribute to our awesome staff, our wonderful partners, vendors, and artists, but mostly because of all the great fans who attended. I’ve been told that a convention is only as good as the fans make it, and I truly believe that to be the case. In my opinion, Hawaii has the best fans, anywhere, bar none!

I wish I could tell you exactly what was up with OCH, but I do not know what Texas has planned, as I’ve had no direct contact from them. I had heard, a couple of months ago, that they would be having another event and would honor the pre-registrations taken at OCH 2013, however, you may want to consider seeking a refund. That’s up to you. I had heard of one case where someone tried to get a refund from a credit card company (I believe it was VISA) who refused to refund them, citing the reason that the “event had already occurred.” Of course that is not the case, and if it would help anyone at all who wishes to have their charges reversed on the credit card they used to pay for the $20 pre-reg, I would be more than happy to speak with your credit card company, as the chair of the first year of OCH and verify with them that the event you paid for, OCH 2014, never happened.

Hawaii really needs another Japanese pop culture convention to bring our local fans what they deserve. We’ve grown far beyond one annual event for this genre. The unprecedented success of OCH 2013 proved how true this is. Although there are some visionless people who, unfortunately, can’t understand this and continue to foster an “us or them” mentality, I feel the exact opposite is true.

Diversity fosters creativity and growth. As chair of OCH 2013 and the “new kid on the block”, I reached out to try to make this happen, but ultimately, my efforts were fruitless. My philosophy, from the beginning, was for conventions here to work together for the common good of all. First and foremost, these events should be for the benefit of Hawaii’s fans; the fans shouldn’t be used for the benefit of the event.

We deserve better and shouldn’t always have to go to the mainland to get it. It can be a total win-win situation, if you have leadership that has the clarity of vision to see it and understand it. I am hopeful an established mainland convention with local name recognition that gets it, one with commitment and integrity to make this happen, will emerge and bring Hawaii what it deserves. I know our fans will support any event done right. Hawaii is the perfect place for better such events and I can totally see us having conventions that offer our local fans, as well as those from our Asian, Pacific, and mainland neighbors, exactly that.

I look optimistically towards a better and brighter future. See you out there!

“Mahalo gozaimasu”,

This would normally be the part where I say “I’ve reached out to OniCon for a response,” but seeing as how they never responded to my prior inquiries, I feel any further outreach from me would be moot. But if I see any formal response comes from OniCon in coming days, I’ll post it in this blog.

4 thoughts on “Former Oni-Con Hawaii chairman speaks out about show”

  1. I have heard through the grapevine that OniCon has no desire to continue with OniCon Hawaii. Although I have also heard that another established Texas show is looking into starting up a show in Honolulu. No word as to when it will take place or what it will be called.

    I am very curious to find out what exactly Steve is referring to by this statement. “OCH has cost me, personally, in several ways, just to insure the inaugural convention happened at all, and unfortunately, I can currently do no more than offer you my humble, heartfelt, and long overdue thanks.”

  2. I fully join Steve in the desire to see another convention happen for Hawaii, and not just for Japanese pop culture. I’d enjoy seeing a comic, scifi, fantasy, mystery and horror con aimed at the general audiences currently unserved. The Hawaii Entertainment Expo, or HEXXP or just HEX Con, started as a kind of general con, then flailed about looking for an identity it seemed to me. It’s first year was promising despite the first year lumps that started with the unholy din from warring djs at a car show the con split the venue with. The second year was the best, low attendence, pricey entry and some programming glitches but the HEX team was learning. Fewer events, and the dealer room was remote and hard to locate at first, but we had the best sales ever as lots of comic fans were in that crowd. Third year we skipped, many vendors in the sun with no shade, astronomical entry fees ($65 on Saturday), low attendence at the venue in the Aloha Tower Mktpl, which had no cheap eats, shared the venue with a popular haunted house, high parking fees, and a number of guests added last minute. HEX had chronicly poor marketing and this I felt held them back. Their third show in 2012 was their last under their old name. On their facebook page they announced that they would become Onicon Hawaii for the 2013 show. Some of the same problems that plagued their HEX incarnation held true in their first year as Onicon, yet the reason I prereged for OH 2014 was the VOLUNTEER STAFF that truly did go out of their way to make the problem plagued show the best it could be. In this I completely concur with Okubo-san, they truly did their very best for guests, dispite the slim pickings for events, lack of anime or movies one expected at an anime themed event that caught many attendees short. Despite the sometimes frayed tempers and problems, the team pulled together in an amazing way that made me want to give them a real chance to get it right in 2014. That showed even though their appearance faltered, they had a strong core dedicated to the customer and their experience… and THAT’S WHAT COUNTS. I look forward to seeing them strengthen their offerings and kick real ass in the next show. I also give a measure of applause to Okubo-san for independent command under trying circumstances. Hearing Texas left you high and dry does not sit well with me at all, and made me appreciate the effort you did pull off.

  3. William, in case you haven’t heard, there will be another convention on this island with a main focus on comics, sci-fi, and fantasy called Hoku Kon. The full convention will happen next year but this year they will present a one day mini convention.

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