The search for clarity amid Oni-Confusion

May 8th, 2014
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The last time I wrote anything about Oni-Con Hawaii (OCH) in this space, I was stressing the importance of communication for the fledgling anime convention, particularly for the people who believed in it enough to buy into this.

2014-prereg-sign

That was more than six months ago. The fact that I'm addressing this here for the first time since then ought to say a fair amount about how much the story has advanced: not much at all.

onicon screenshotSee, after the end of last year's event, OCH just kind of ... disappeared. The website became a single placeholder page (seen at right) that has offered the same message: "A very heartfelt 'Mahalo gozaimasu, y'all!' to everyone who attended and participated in Oni-Con Hawaii 2013 and to our awesome volunteer, staff, and friends who made our first year a big success!! We'll see you all next year, at Oni-Con Hawaii 2014!" Several opportunities to promote OCH at other events -- the New Year's Ohana Festival and Kodomo no Hi at the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii, the Honolulu Festival and Kawaii Kon immediately come to mind -- have passed without a peep. We know more about Taku Taku Matsuri 2 (Aug. 9, Manoa Grand Ballroom at the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii; voice actor Kyle Hebert attending, monthlong Kickstarter preregistration campaign underway) and Kawaii Kon 2015 (March 27-29; first announced guest: voice actor Bryce Papenbrook) than we do about OCH 2014.

Only two official statements have emerged from the OCH camp, both posted within the past few weeks. This statement went up on the OCH Facebook page on April 20:

Sorry all for the long wait. Unfortunately the venue and time frame we wanted is not available. However we are currently looking at different venues and time frames. Which now comes to you. Where would you like to see OCH be next? We look forward to hearing from you! Also updates to the website will be done shortly! Thanks for all your patience!

And this on May 1:

Had some great meetings all this week, and should have narrowed down to a venue and date by the end of next week. Thanks again for all your patience! We are currently already getting our guest all lined up and once the date and venue are secured, announcements will be made!

There was already some buzz on social media about the fate of OCH soon after Kawaii Kon ended early last month, before that first statement was posted. I emailed inquiries to info@oniconhawaii.com and the "parent" convention, Oni-Con in Galveston, Texas, around then; neither have responded as of this posting. Whoever's running the Facebook page has been sporadic in responding to posted comments as well; responding only to say that yes, it won't be long before a date is posted, and no, there's no truth to the rumor that someone ran off with the preregistration money.

There were, as far as I know, three men involved locally in putting together OCH 2013. On Jan. 7, Kell Komatsubara announced on his Facebook page that he would be stepping away from OCH and Babel Entertainment, wishing the volunteer Babel staff well in their future endeavors. Shion Francois, head of Babel Entertainment, told me via email that Oni-Con has been booking guests through his company but couldn't tell me more than that.

It was the third person and one of the most public faces of last year's convention, Steve Okubo, who shed the most light on the matter. Steve told me via email last week that he hasn't had access to the convention's social media accounts and email since December, "so I assume that my services are no longer required with OCH." He believes the Oni-Con Texas board is running those communication channels now and has expressed his concerns to Shion that someone take charge in answering inquiries.

A few other answers from Steve follow. On the matter of why the Facebook page sprung to life only now, and in general, why the information coming from it since last year's event ended has been so vague:

I do not know. I tend to be the naturally trusting type, so my initial thought would be that it is as they said, that they are having trouble finding a venue the right size to accommodate the dates they need for whatever guests they might have lined up, as I understand.

In regards to what happened to the preregistration money:

All the pre-reg money taken in at OCH was collected by JSHOXX/Babel Entertainment, because they had staff available to take care of this at their table and they had the means to take credit card payments. Babel will still be working with OC Texas, booking guests for both Texas and Hawaii. In a conversation I had with Babel, they said that OC Texas told them they will be honoring all the pre-reg sales made at OCH 2013.

And as for whether OCH 2014 will go off as intended:

Again, since I've have no access and have had no communication with whomever is calling the shots, I can't say, for sure, but it is my understanding that they plan to hold the event in the later part of the year.

So that's the story as best I know it at this point.Will any new news show up as promised toward the end of this week? We are in that time frame right now, so we shall see, I suppose.

Truth be told, I'm not sure how this post will be taken by whoever is running OCH. If it gets me blacklisted from attending their future shows, I can live with that. I just think I, as well as anyone who has a stake in whatever they have planned, deserve better treatment, as well as more concrete information, than what's been demonstrated in these past six months.

3 Responses to “The search for clarity amid Oni-Confusion”

  1. William Doc Grant:

    Agreed. Pretty strange doings. Lets hope the comments I made to Babels rep on the conventions lack during the con, and the cons great potential was wasted by the gaffes the organizers should have known to avoid. They killed the Hexxp brand and badly damaged the Onicon brand with this for Hawaii fans.


  2. Steve Okubo:

    Doc,

    Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but let's be clear, and fair, about this.

    Babel Entertainment books talent for conventions. Their primary focus is on music and voice talent mainly associated with anime and Japanese pop culture. They do this for conventions across the United States. Babel Entertainment does not run conventions, nor wield as much influence over them as you seem to think they do, so it is inaccurate to say that they "killed" the HEXXP and Onicon "brands".

    The suggestions you made to the conventions (and, I'm guessing these are the same you made to Babel) were biased towards your personal interests, which happen to not be in J-Pop/J-Rock bands and anime and more towards the sci-fi genre. As you know, while I was involved with Oni Con Hawaii, we did, indeed include some sci-fi (inviting "The 501st" and "The Last Outpost"), but you have to understand that the target market of these conventions is still and will be, for the foreseeable future, anime, cosplay and guests, musical and otherwise, associated with those genre.

    Don't get me wrong, I'm a big sci-fi fan, myself. If the sci-fi fan base grows, so will related offerings at these conventions, but as we've seen, Hawaii doesn't have a large enough sci-fi fan base to support that, at least not yet. Years ago, the "big boys" of sci-fi conventions, the Creation Star Trek Convention people came to Oahu for several years, but ultimately, they stopped because attendance couldn't support the events.

    I'm not saying your suggestions are without merit, but I would ask that you refrain from making judgmental and condemning statements until you've held a key role, organizing such large-scale events here, yourself, and you know exactly the roles particular people or entities play.
    Thanks.


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