The Anime Matsuri Hawaii preview: It's kinda con-plicated
There have been six major conventions this year in our state. I know I keep writing that fact in this space over and over again, but it's something that's boggled my mind all this year. It's a profound time for the local otaku community, one that's grown from roots in anime and manga to encompass general animation and sci-fi/comic culture as well.
You'd think a friendly neighborhood anime/manga blogger would be having the time of his life with all these cons coming in. Yet as the year's worn on -- and it HAS been wearing on me; note how I've only had the energy to write fragments of posts about Con-athon 2015, that period between September and October where we had events going on for five straight weekends -- the storylines, and figuring out what to write about and not write about here, have become increasingly complicated.
Sure, the first half was just fine -- Kawaii Kon was Kawaii Kon, Comic Con Honolulu was a nice sci-fi/comic twist on the Kawaii Kon formula, and HawaiiCon was the vacation-with-some-con-fun of my dreams that I'd really love to return to next year. But then things took a turn for the strange. Amazing Hawaii Comic Con proved that at my age, there really IS a cap on how many attendees and lines one can tolerate before wanting to run screaming back to the safety and solitude of the Otaku Ohana home office. A few weeks after that, Anime Ohana went in the opposite direction, snatching the title of "the state's most intimate con of the year" away from HawaiiCon (albeit likely unintentionally).
And now we've come to the year's last major convention: Anime Matsuri Hawaii, the local spin-off of a convention that's been held in Houston since 2007. On the one hand, it's an anime convention with a heavy dash of professional cosplay and J-fashion. Guests include voice actors Crispin Freeman, Johnny Yong Bosch and Maile Flanagan; Masahiko Otsuka, president of Studio Trigger (Kill la Kill, Little Witch Academia); professional cosplayers Vampy, Goldy, Stella Chuu and Reika; music guests Brilliant Kingdom and DaizyStripper; Shunsuke Hasegawa, Putumayo designer; Chinatsu Taira, Metamorphose designer; and Yui Minakata, KERA and Gothic Lolita Bible model. Over in the exhibitor area, you'll see a number of familiar faces including Gordon Rider/Star-Advertiser "Calabash" cartoonist Jon J. Murakami, Crazy Shirts artist Kevin Sano, Lorenzo Trinidad and Trinigrafx Comics, Charisma Industries, the MangaBento gang, A Bit of Sugar, Crappy Kids, and ... umm ... Hen Da Ne, otherwise known as "that dealers room space with that guy who always shouts about 'fresh hot yow-weeeeeee' and stuff." Other highlights include:
- Two screenings of Little Witch Academia: The Enchanted Parade (touted as the "U.S. premiere" on the schedule, although Trigger representatives screened the finished OAV at Anime Expo earlier this year), at 3 and 7 p.m. Saturday.
- The first formal Funimation industry panels at a local convention, hosted by company representative Justin Rojas.
- The J-Fashion show (8 p.m. Friday) and Cosplay Showcase (4 p.m. Saturday).
- DaizyStripper, with opening act Brilliant Kingdom, performs live in concert at 9 p.m. Saturday.
You can find the full schedule at animematsurihawaii2015.sched.org.
On the other hand, there are a number of factors that have hurt the convention. It's going up against Black Friday and the opening weekend of the Christmas shopping season. Two major craft fairs -- the Winter Craft Fair at the Hawaii Okinawa Center in Waipio Gentry, and the Islandwide Christmas Crafts and Food Expo at the Blaisdell Exhibition Hall -- will also be running over the weekend, meaning some vendors who might have been all-in for AMHI are instead either selling at those craft fairs or splitting staff and merchandise among shows.
Then there are the events touted on the convention's website in March that disappeared over the next eight months and aren't on the final schedule -- Club AM (advertised as a late-night dance party for the first two nights of the convention), AM Idol (a talent competition), a formal dance, an anime music video competition and a car show among them. A few days ago, the maid cafe was converted to a cosplay recovery lounge. "Nerdlesque," a show combining burlesque performance with geek culture, morphed into "Intro to Nerdlesque," a panel in which Chuu talks about the show. Finally, while I was working on this post early Thanksgiving afternoon, it was announced that cosplayer Yuegene Fay would be canceling her previously announced appearance due to problems with her U.S. customs and immigration paperwork.
Those are easily chalked up to, and forgiven by, logistical issues. But perhaps the biggest elephant in the room, the one that's spawned an online petition calling for a boycott of everything Anime Matsuri LLC touches and a fair amount of discussion in social media, are the allegations of sexual harassment and general malfeasance levied against con directors John and Deneice Leigh based on what's happened in Houston and several other places. The Houston Press, an alternative weekly newspaper (think of it as being like the old Honolulu Weekly), ran a pair of articles on the subject; you can read them here and here. You can look up many of the main players and their blogs elsewhere on the Internet if you so choose.
It is what it is. I respect those people's views, and I can understand why they would want to boycott the show. I also know there are volunteers on the AMHI staff -- people who have joined and have stayed on despite knowing this info -- who are working hard to present the best show to their attendees this weekend. If I were a full-time blogger rather than a full-time copy editor/page designer who fits blogging in between Tsum Tsum and Ingress sessions and trying to rest and recuperate from all that editing and designing, I certainly would have liked to have had a sit-down with the Leighs to talk about the allegations. But I'm not, and as a journalist by trade, I don't feel it's fair for me to pass judgment on covering or not covering a show unless I gave them a chance to respond first.
And so, the show goes on, and I'll give them the benefit of the doubt for now. If I hear anything otherwise, though ... we'll see. If you'd like to join me at the show, prices at the door are $60 for general-admission 3-day passes; $25 for children's 3-day passes; $30 for Friday passes; $35 for Saturday passes; and $25 for Sunday passes.
And after that I'm going on another mini-vaca... wait, what? Kawaii Kon has a bazillion guests now? Comic Con Honolulu's built a respectable guest roster, too? And HawaiiCon has Chekov, Uhura and Troi on their 2016 guest list, and they're moving to the Mauna Lani Bay Hotel & Bungalows? Well. Otaku blogger better blog...