[Kawaii Kon 2015] Dawn of a new con era

Day 0 program and badgeWell, folks, we made it to the fireworks factory. Again. We’re standing here on Kawaii Kon Day 0, preregistration and dealer/Artist Alley load-in night, ready for another three-day weekend packed full of cosplay, entertainment, special guests from the animation industry and music world, panels, games and pretty much what you’d imagine otaku heaven to be like without actually moving to Japan itself. And there’s your annual look at the convention guide and your friendly neighborhood anime/manga blogger’s press credentials at right.

There’s a bit of a different feel to this year, though … and not just because registration ops has moved to the ground floor, next to the hall with the dealers room and Artist Alley. It’s because this year, Kawaii Kon isn’t just the big event on the local otaku community calendar, but the first event in a string of big events. As I mentioned in my post introducing Anime Matsuri Hawaii, it’s a remarkable time to be a local fan of anime, manga, science fiction and/or comics, with Hoku Kon (July), Amazing Hawaii Comic-Con (September) and Anime Matsuri Hawaii (November) all on deck on Oahu, and HawaiiCon (September) on Hawaii island. I mean, heck, Amazing Hawaii Comic-Con unveiled its first four guests — living legend Stan Lee and artists George Perez, Mark Kubert and Adam Bagley — on Wednesday, and the shares pretty much lit up my Facebook feed all day.

But the people still show up at Kawaii Kon. Ohhhhhh, do they ever show up. Here’s the sea of otakuness that descended on the convention for preregistration tonight, as seen from the escalators leading to/from the second-floor parking garage.

Day 0 lines

A final number will probably come at closing ceremonies as it has in previous years. By my estimates, though, there are about a bazillion people attending this year. Some of whom are even carting around replica basketball backboards.

Some last-minute notes as we head into this year’s event:

  • The policy change that’s generated the most social media discussion: For the first time, convention center staff will be checking for con badges on the ground floor, near the escalators to the third floor. That effectively ends the practice of nonpaying attendees lounging around the public areas outside the panel rooms, soaking up the atmosphere and taking pictures of their favorite cosplayers. It also makes complete sense from a security standpoint; as much as we’d like to think that the convention environment is a bubble world that protects us from all the bad things that go on outside, there are trolls out there who just want to come in and disrupt things for their own amusement, Besides, if you really wanted to socialize with your non-con-going friends, there’s always Ala Moana Center down the street.
  • The Great Hawaiian Rubber Duckie Race, the annual fundraiser for United Cerebral Palsy of Hawaii that sends a swarm of yellow ducks down the Ala Wai Canal, is happening Saturday. (The ducks launch at 1:28 p.m. from the Kalakaua Avenue bridge, if any of you want to head down from the convention center and watch.) So is the Prince Kuhio Day Parade in Waikiki, traveling down Kalakaua Avenue between Saratoga Road and Kapiolani Park between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Expect heavy traffic congestion if you’re aren’t already at an area hotel and are going to be driving.
  • Kawaii Kon flyerI’m pleased to note that despite a vehicle plowing into the 7-Eleven at the corner of Atkinson Drive and Kapiolani Boulevard Wednesday evening, the store remains open (albeit a bit boarded up) and ready to sell completely out of all their bentos, nori rolls, musubis, hot dogs and whatever other prepared foods you can think of to hungry, budget-conscious con-goers on all three days. (If you go late, hope you like chewing on breath mints for your dinner!) As a bonus, if you have your badge, go to that store starting at 10 a.m. and are one of the first 200 people to do so on Friday, Saturday or Sunday, you’ll get a free limited-edition Kawaii Kon lanyard. Look for the flyer in-store that looks like the one at right — psst, look above the hot-foods warmer! — and scan the QR code for a chance to win a trip for two to Las Vegas. Winner will be announced at closing ceremonies on Sunday. (Bonus trivia note: The artwork for this flyer was drawn by none other than Jamie Lano. You might have heard of her.) There is also a large Naruto wallscroll hanging over the ice cream freezer, so you know they’re into the mood.
  • Buy all the things in Artist Alley. All. The. Things. To go through and list-link everything I’ve seen crossing my Facebook news feed over the past few days would probably last me well past midnight, and I’d kinda like to get some sleep before stopping in at Jamie’s drawing panel around 10 a.m.-ish Friday. Also of note: nemu*nemu artist Audra Furuichi’s limited-edition 10-card set, the “Modern Kitsuke” series (color drawings of girls in kimono) for $25, which 39 of you must go out and buy immediately. Maybe fewer of you, if some of you buy multiples. But the 40th set must be miiiiiiiine.

Time to rest up. See y’all tomorrow for Day 1. Feel free to follow me on Twitter and Instagram, too (both @jsyadao) for all my spur-of-the-moment updates over the weekend ahead. It’s gonna be crazy. But fun! But crazy.

The Jamie Lano File, part 4: Kawaii Kon ahoy!

Chibis drawn by Jamie LanoThis week, in the days leading up to Kawaii Kon Day 0, I’m publishing excerpts from my conversation with manga artist/blogger/Princess of Tennis author Jamie Lano, who moved to Oahu last year and will be hosting three panels at Kawaii Kon. In case you missed it — and maybe you did, you never know; I mean, I kinda missed promoting on social media the fact that Part 3 of this series went live yesterday, whoops — and subscribe to the Star-Advertiser, you can check out my profile of her that ran in Sunday’s paper. You can also check out the other parts of the series below:

Part 1 (Sunday): The great adventurer
Part 2 (Monday): Making a market
Part 3 (Tuesday): The Prince of Tennis legacy
Part 4 (Wednesday): Kawaii Kon ahoy!

In this installment: Kawaii Kon! It’s a thing! It starts in two days! And Jamie talks about what she’s going to talk about there. There are also a few more notes about her life in Japan and her manga philosophy, for those of you who can’t make it to con but still want to learn more about her.

Continue reading “The Jamie Lano File, part 4: Kawaii Kon ahoy!”

The Jamie Lano File, part 3: The “Prince of Tennis” legacy

Jamie working in Konomi studioThis week, in the days leading up to Kawaii Kon Day 0, I’m publishing excerpts from my conversation with manga artist/blogger/Princess of Tennis author Jamie Lano, who moved to Oahu last year and will be hosting three panels at Kawaii Kon. In case you missed it — and you’d better have been out claiming Ingress portals in the name of the Enlightened if you did — and subscribe to the Star-Advertiser, you can check out my profile of her that ran in Sunday’s paper. You can also check out the other parts of the series below:

Part 1 (Sunday): The great adventurer
Part 2 (Monday): Making a market
Part 3 (Tuesday): The Prince of Tennis legacy
Part 4 (Wednesday): Kawaii Kon ahoy!

In this installment, Jamie talks about her manga assistants, how she’ll treat them differently from how Prince of Tennis artist Takeshi Konomi treated her and his assistants, why The Princess of Tennis will never be printed in Japanese … and a certain Konomi character that bears a striking resemblance to her.

Continue reading “The Jamie Lano File, part 3: The “Prince of Tennis” legacy”

The Jamie Lano file, part 2: Making a market

This week, in the days leading up to Kawaii Kon Day 0, I’m publishing excerpts from my conversation with manga artist/blogger/Princess of Tennis author Jamie Lano, who moved to Oahu last year and will be hosting three panels at Kawaii Kon. In case you missed it — and where have you been? We missed you! — and subscribe to the Star-Advertiser, you can check out my profile of her that ran in Sunday’s paper. You can also check out the other parts of the series below:

Part 1 (Sunday): The great adventurer
Part 2 (Monday): Making a market
Part 3 (Tuesday): The Prince of Tennis legacy
Part 4 (Wednesday): Kawaii Kon ahoy!

In this installment, Jamie talks about her goals with her new manga studio, Jamieism Pro … and how the Prince of Tennis live-action musicals helped make her a small pile of cash on the side in Japan. Continue reading “The Jamie Lano file, part 2: Making a market”

The Jamie Lano file, part 1: The great adventurer

Jamie in KamakuraA few weeks ago, when I was pondering what to write about for my 11th Annual Kawaii Kon preview article — a preview that over the years has seen me talking to people like the MangaBento gang, nemu*nemu artist Audra Furuichi both in and out of her Riza Hawkeye wig, Stan Sakai and Mari Iijima, among many others — the profile subject came to me more quickly than usual: It had to be Jamie Lano, the cheerfully chipper manga artist/blogger/Princess of Tennis author who moved to Oahu last year and will be hosting three panels at Kawaii Kon.

My interview with Jamie ended up being one of the best interviews I’ve ever done. You can see the first fruits of that interview in today’s paper (Star-Advertiser subscription required to read that link; c’mon, spring for it, it’s cheap!). But it’s also a very teeny tiny cross-section of our conversation, one that (a) lasted more than 90 minutes and (b) has a transcript that spans 24 pages of largely single-spaced 9-point type.

So let’s face it: One story in the paper isn’t nearly enough to share the Jamie Lano story. A four-part series this week leading up to Kawaii Kon Day 0? We can do that here in Otaku Ohana, where one of the only limits on what we publish is the time and energy your friendly neighborhood anime/manga blogger has available to write and edit content. I’ve broken up the best interview portions as follows:

Part 1 (Sunday): The great adventurer
Part 2 (Monday): Making a market
Part 3 (Tuesday): The Prince of Tennis legacy
Part 4 (Wednesday): Kawaii Kon ahoy!

Part 1, looking at Jamie’s travels over the years and just why she’s so willing to travel begins after the break.

Continue reading “The Jamie Lano file, part 1: The great adventurer”

Anime Matsuri Hawaii schedules post-Thanksgiving treat

Anime Matsuri logoIt looks like 2015 will be the year you snarf down your turkey, brave the sea of humanity descending on various retail establishments for the sake of cheap TVs and bath towels … and then turn around and attend an anime convention.

Anime Matsuri Hawaii — they of the website countdown — took a bit of time after that countdown expired to do some internal housekeeping, but they finally launched their website, hawaii.animematsuri.com, this afternoon. With that launch, we now know that the newest player in the local pop-culture convention scene will be operating out of the Hawai’i Convention Center during the first few days of the Christmas shopping season — Thanksgiving weekend, Nov. 27-29.

Some of the other highlights:

  • Heidi Shimada, who’s been part of Yu x Me Maid Cafe & Host Club locally, is listed as Anime Matsuri Hawaii liaison. She’s also been serving as Anime Matsuri’s guest relations director.
  • Look for the standard anime con accouterments, including a Japanese fashion show, a tea party, a concert, a cosplay contest and a maid cafe. There’s also going to be a car show; “AM Idol,” a talent showcase equivalent to Kawaii Kon’s Karaoke Competition; and “Club AM,” a nightly rave running from midnight to 3 a.m. I just hope the car show’s in a separate area from the convention proper, because the last time there was a convention/car show hybrid, it didn’t really mesh well.
  • The first two guests listed on the website are cosplayers Stella Chuu and Reika.

Pre-registration prices for three-day passes have also been released; the sooner you get your passes, the better, of course. That page I linked to in the last sentence shows a table of increasing rates as the con nears, but here’s what you need to know for now: Through April 15, adult passes will cost $40; the rate for groups of 10 or more people start at $35 per person; and the VIP-level Superpass, limited to 150 attendees, is $110. Passes for children ages 6-12 will be $20 through Oct. 15. Would-be vendors and Artist Alley sellers, we’re still waiting for registration information for you.

Obviously, there’s much more content to dig through, but I have a Kawaii Kon preview article that I need to write. Busy busy busy! A full press release is below. (3/20 note: Press release has been revised to the latest info.)

Houston, TX, March 20, 2015 – Anime Matsuri, the ninth largest anime convention in North America, is proud to announce the debut of its second convention. Anime Matsuri Hawaii (AMHI) will take place on November 27-29, 2015, at the Hawaii Convention Center in Honolulu, Hawaii. Pre-registration will open with the launch of the new convention’s website for individuals interested in purchasing their passes in advance.

Anime Matsuri is excited to bring the production value it offers to attendees of its Houston convention, out to Hawaii. AMHI main events will include a Japanese fashion show, tea party, car show, concert, cosplay contest, and Club AM. Also featured will be a maid cafe, various panels and workshops, vendors, industry guests, voice actors, and cosplay guests from all over the world. With this expansion comes many opportunities to provide unique experiences to individuals who are unfamiliar with the company, as well as the most dedicated fans. Anime Matsuri is fortunate enough to enjoy a fantastic community of attendees that it hopes to extend to AMHI.

“My husband, John Leigh, and I founded Anime Matsuri almost a decade ago. We have been privileged to be among the pioneers promoting anime and Japanese culture over the years, connecting people and companies in the East to the West. During a work trip to Hawaii a few years ago, we were astounded by the hospitality and general care that we received from complete strangers. Our growing friendship with the local communities in Hawaii have helped connect us to networks that have allowed us to expand our event. Thank you for this opportunity to further strengthen anime and Japanese culture in Hawaii. We look forward to working with existing organizations, cultural events, charities, local businesses, and fans to bring a new and unique experience to Hawaii,” said Deneice Leigh, founder and chairman of Anime Matsuri.

Anime Matsuri is an annual anime, Japanese culture and related arts convention based in Houston, Texas. We strive to bring the latest and greatest from Japan’s catwalks, anime studios, and concert stages to our own backyard here in the United States. Anime Matsuri’s inaugural event began in 2007. Since then, the convention has grown to over 19,000 unique attendees. With so many in attendance, we have recently made the George R. Brown Convention Center our permanent home. Here we will host our three-day festival on April 3-5th, 2015.

 

Dawn of an anime con: Aloha, Anime Matsuri Hawaii

Today in Otaku Ohana, we’re considering the countdown, that string of ever-declining numbers that leads to the launching of a spaceship, the naming of the top something of something, a victory in sports, a new year, breaking the walls doooooown, whatever you prefer. One of the first posts in Otaku Ohana version 1.0, in fact, was about a countdown. (Now that I think about it, I don’t think I ever figured out what that countdown was counting down to. That’s going to bother me now.)

In any event, countdowns build anticipation. We see them all the time. And hey, there just happens to be one with local implications running right now.

Here’s what you’ll see right now at hawaii.animematsuri.com (albeit with more time off the clock).

Screen shot 2015-03-10 at 2.15.54 PM

Indeed, as this and a teaser video posted on Anime Matsuri founder/chairman Deneice “Trinity” Leigh’s Facebook page have revealed, we’re getting another anime convention in Honolulu: Anime Matsuri Hawaii, an offshoot of a Houston-based con that, since it began in 2007, has grown into the city’s largest anime con and the ninth largest in North America. Here’s what we know so far:

  • It’ll be held sometime in November
  • It has a website, dedicated Twitter and Facebook accounts and links to the parent con’s YouTube and Instagram accounts

… that’s pretty much it for now. The countdown for the website’s formal launch leads to 9 p.m. Sunday, when I’d expect we’d see the when and where and maybe even who’s showing up to this shindig.

It remains to be seen on which end of the convention spectrum Anime Matsuri Hawaii will land. Kawaii Kon, of course, has been around for a decade, and HawaiiCon, the sci-fi convention on Hawaii island, is looking very strong going into its second year. (I mean, heck, they announced Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry’s son, Rod, as a guest on Tuesday.) But on the flip side, the Hawaii Entertainment Expo (HEXXP) lasted only three years with modest attendance before folding. And we can’t forget about the last longtime anime con from Texas that showed up in Hawaii, Oni-Con, which staged one event before dissolving into a haze of mysteries and silence. With the arrivals of Hoku Kon in July and the Amazing Hawaii Comic Con in September, we’re also about to see whether the crossover fan base for anime/manga, comic and sci-fi culture can support five conventions in a year, four on one island. If you’re one of those people who can attend all five, I salute your enthusiasm (and humbly ask if you can send me some reports and pictures, because I certainly don’t have the time/money/energy to do so).

I’ll see about getting some answers from the people involved in the weeks ahead. For now, though? I have some interviews I need to transcribe. Pretty good ones, too. It’s the crazy busy season here at Otaku Ohana Central, and we’re trying our best to get stuff out to y’all.