The banners are hung on light poles around the Hawai’i Convention Center, the schedule’s been posted online, and #KawaiiKon has been getting a fair amount of use on Twitter in recent days, which can mean only one thing: Kawaii Kon weekend is upon us, and we are … ready? Sort of?
It’s already proving to be a Kawaii Kon like no other. Con officials opted to maintain COVID-19 safety protocols, including mask-wearing and requiring either proof of vaccination or a negative test, which prompted some people to opt out. Not everyone willing to play by the rules is coming back, either; I know some of you out there are sitting out this year, not quite sure if now’s the time to return to large-scale events when the COVID threat never really fully went away.
But as they say, the show must go on. And for the 16th time since this con began in 2005, Wilma and I will be experiencing … well, not everything, since that’s been impossible since even year 1. But we can certainly give you highlights! (Also, be sure to swing by my Instagram page to see photos throughout the weekend.) Here’s just some of what piques our interest this year.
Artist Alley (yes, the whole thing!)
Friday: 11 a.m.-8 p.m.
Saturday: 10 a.m.-8 p.m.
Sunday: 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
One of the advantages of going to an in-person con again is that you have a chance to chat with your favorite artists, catch up with what they’ve been up to, and perhaps even pick up whatever new things they’ve produced since the last time you saw them. There’s also a certain thrill that comes with finding new artists that have a print or a sticker or whatever that just hits you in those “SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY” feels and establishing a rapport with them that ends up lasting years.
… or, of course, just throw Kirby on something, and I’ll buy it. Those of you who know me just know that’s A Thing with me. In any event, I’ll be browsing quite a bit this weekend. — Jason
Panel: Friday, 2:45 p.m., Room 311
Concert with Teddyloid: Saturday, 9 p.m., Main Events
I’d not heard of this 25-year-old rapper/singer/animator/music video producer before she was announced for this year’s con. Apparently there are a good number of people who have heard of her, though. Consider that on Monday, three tiers of VIP meet-and-greet packages went on sale: 20 $200 packages, 55 $145 packages, and 100 $75 packages.
The packages sold out in less than 48 hours.
After listening to some of her music, I can see why she’s popular. Take her most popular video on YouTube, “Alkatraz,” which matches her rapping/lyrical/animation skills with a catchy electro-swing beat:
Here’s hoping there’s enough room for me to stop by and learn more about her. — Jason
Twitch Hawaii Presents: KyoItami
Friday, 3 p.m.
Of course Hawaii has Twitch streamers! Although I follow only a couple of local streamers, I try to support the community when I can. Combine that with the love that we here at Otaku Ohana have of speedrunning, and KyoItami’s “Kingdom Hearts 2: Final Mix” run is an event to watch.
It’s also a randomizer, which means that, depending on what settings KyoItami chooses, anything from items to abilities to entire towns will be in random locations. Randos add another layer of amazement and hilarity to speedruns and are always great fun to watch. — Wilma
The Princess Bride: Battle of Wits
Friday, 9 p.m.
Certainly, I enjoy “The Princess Bride” the movie. However, this is the first I’ve heard of “The Princess Bride” the board game. Its seemingly simple yet tricky premise of trying to (figuratively) poison other players draws me into at least watching, if not participating.
(My lack of bluffing skills means I certainly would not go up against a Sicilian — or anyone, really — when death is on the line, haha.) — Wilma
Avatar Panel: Jessie Flowers, Jack DeSena, Grey DeLisle
Saturday, 11:30 a.m.
The chance to see not one, but THREE voice actors from “Avatar: The Last Airbender”? Yes, please! Making their Kawaii Kon debuts are the voice actors for Toth (Jessie Flowers) and Sokka (Jack DeSena), accompanied by the return of the VA for Azula (Grey DeLisle). I’ve missed several past appearances by Dante Basco (who voiced my favorite character, Zuko) so I’m looking forward to what will be my first “Avatar” panel. — Wilma
Live Art Auction
Saturday, 1 p.m.
Remember everything I said above about Artist Alley? Take that pretty art and then put it up for sale to the highest bidder for another in-person experience that has to be seen to be believed. You can get some pretty good bargains sometimes, and entertainment from the bidding wars that break out at other times. And then you get those “Yu Yu Hakusho”-tier bidding wars where two people are willing to bid hundreds against each other in an attempt to win a signed SOMETHING from that series. Fun stuff. — Jason
Adventures of a Blonde Geisha Podcast with Lisle Wilkerson
Saturday, 3:15 p.m.
Nine years ago, Lisle Wilkerson made Kawaii Kon 2013 the Year of the “KYAAAH~!” She’s been back many times since as a translator for many of the con’s Japanese guests, and this year, she has a fresh creation in tow: her new podcast, “Adventures of a Blonde Geisha,” focusing on her experiences as a “TCK” (third culture kid) born in the United States, raised in Japan, and trying to navigate between the two cultures. I’m looking forward to hearing about another side to a longtime con fixture. — Jason
The Princess Bride: I Hate to Kill You
Saturday, 4 p.m.
ANOTHER tabletop game based on “The Princess Bride”?! Clearly, I have been living under a video-game rock. This game has players re-creating various duels from the movie, but adds in dice and cards that could change the outcome of each battle. — Wilma
K-Pop Dance Workshop
Saturday, 4:45 p.m.
Ever since the Otaku Ohana Anonymous Director of Forced Social Interaction went from “Who’s this group on 99.1 now?” to “Now listening to #Jungkook of #BTS sing #StayAlive produced by #Suga also of @BTS_twt” over the span of the pandemic, I’ve been paying a lot more attention to the tight choreographies of K-pop groups. K-Era, a local K-pop dance cover group, will teach attendees a simple routine, followed by “K-pop Random Play Dance,” in which, as the panel description notes, “fans can come out to the middle of the floor and dance to a playlist of recent and/or old K-pop songs, without knowing the order or song that’ll play.” While I’m too much of an uncoordinated doof to think about taking part in the dance class, that random dance portion has me curious to peek in for a bit. — Jason
A Brief and Largely Fictitious History of eSports
Saturday, 5:45 p.m.
The rise of esports has drawn its fair share of criticism, but there’s no doubt that it is a huge — and I mean HUGE — industry. I’m certainly not expecting to hear much in the way of accuracy, but I am looking forward to an hour of humor. — Wilma
Saturday, 7:30 PM
Kawaii Kon has been a source of popular-yet-unknown-by-me musical gems, and it continues that tradition with the introduction of J-rock singer NANO. This hourlong concert also helps mark NANO’s 10th year as a musical artist, with a robust catalog of songs featured in various anime and video games. — Wilma
Twitch Hawaii Presents: kekumanshoyu
Remember what I said earlier about following only a couple of local Twitch streamers? Kekumanshoyu is one of them. Over the years, we’ve watched his channel and his reputation grow to being recognized by some of the world’s top “Metroid” series speedrunners. Keku will be putting his skills on display with a no-major-glitches run of “Metroid Dread” for the Nintendo Switch. — Wilma
Ace Attorney: Turnabout Let’s Play!
Sunday, 3 p.m.
Speaking of anniversaries, this year marks the 20th (or so) for the “Ace Attorney” video game series, which may not be as popular as other Capcom franchises, but has a devoted following nonetheless. Among other things, this panel promises to bring the games’ wacky hijinks to live action with some voice acting and improv. TAKE THAT! — Wilma