The Con-athon 2016 players, part 1: Kawaii Kon
Welcome to the starting line of Con-athon 2016, this year's gauntlet of six major anime/sci-fi/fantasy/comic conventions on two islands and a whooooooole buncha smaller events in between. "Con-athon," short for "con marathon," started off as an internal reference among me and a few other friends and grew to the point that Gordon Rider/Ara-Rangers/Star-Advertiser "Calabash" cartoonist Jon Murakami and his lovely assistant, Gwen, printed up some T-shirts for a bunch of us who attended most, if not all, of those events, distributing them at last year's "finish line" of Anime Matsuri Hawaii.
So yeah, it's totally a thing.
Over the next few months or so -- I was going to try to do these profiles over a week, but holy cats, this entry's been brewing longer than the Ghibli Festival post -- I'll be profiling the key entrants in Con-athon 2016. Amazing Hawaii Comic Con, Comic Con Honolulu, HawaiiCon, Anime Ohana, Anime Matsuri Hawaii and a few other smaller events will get their turns in time. But of course, we must start with the con that's staring at us in the face right now: Kawaii Kon.
It's Kawaii Kon. Hardly any introduction is necessary. They're pretty much the foundation of the modern local convention scene, having been around since 2005, and the standards they've set -- both in terms of event programming and community outreach -- have been largely unmatched by other events. Heck, they have a mayoral proclamation assuring that by decree of Mayor Kirk Caldwell, your calendar will now proceed in the following sequence: today, then KAWAII KON DAYS, then April 11.
Yet some of the glow from last year, the largest Kawaii Kon to date -- all three levels of the convention center in use, weekend attendance growing for the 10th straight year, going over 10,000 attendees for the first time -- was dimmed by Amazing Hawaii Comic Con arriving in September and leaving claiming more than 30,000 paid admissions.
Still, being the largest anime convention in Hawaii and having the most experience in this market are two major advantages to have. And Kawaii Kon's definitely using those advantages to make 2016 yet another in an escalating string of best con years ever. In fact, for the first time in its 12-year history, they've broken my schedule. That's right: Unless I can figure out some way in the next 24 hours or so to perfect Naruto Uzumaki's Clone no Jutsu technique, it's going to be physically impossible for me to attend every panel and event that I'm interested in attending. The schedule is that loaded.
It's a good problem to have, a testament to just how far Kawaii Kon is going to ensure that, even if Amazing Hawaii Comic Con is going to make a strong play for being the biggest pop culture convention in the state, they're sticking around as the state's premier anime convention of record.
Key question for this year
From 2006 through last year, we've seen 10 straight years of attendance growth. Will the biggest biggest Kawaii Kon to date continue that streak, or will the fact that local fans' con budgets are stretched with so many options now steer some people away?
When/where: KAWAII KON DAYS (the days formerly known as Friday-Sunday, April 8-10), Hawai'i Convention Center
Admission: Three-day memberships ($60 adults, $50 children ages 5-12) are available from 5:30 to 7 p.m. today, then again starting at 9 a.m. Friday. Single-day memberships (all ages $35 Friday, $40 Saturday, $35 Sunday) and two-day memberships ($50 for Friday/Saturday or Saturday/Sunday) will be available starting Friday. Already preregistered? You can pick up your badges from 4 to 7 p.m. today and throughout the weekend.
Your starting guest lineup
American voice actors
Johnny Yong Bosch. You know him. You love him. Ichigo in Bleach. Former Power Ranger. Been in Hawaii way more times than I can count, the last time at last year's debut edition of Anime Matsuri Hawaii.
Lex Lang, voice of Goemon in Discotek's newer Lupin III dubs and Ryousuke Takahashi in the original Tokyopop dub of Initial D. Isle debut.
Sandy Fox, voice of Sumomo in Chobits, Chibi-Usa in the Viz Sailor Moon franchise dubs, the Tachikoma in Ghost in the Shell: Stand-Alone Complex and the current voice of Betty Boop in pretty much anything that character appears in these days. She's also married to Lex Lang! Isle debut.
Cherami Leigh, voice of Lucy in Fairy Tail, Asuna in Sword Art Online and Minako/Sailor Venus in the Viz Sailor Moon franchise dubs. Isle debut.
Grey DeLisle (Griffin), voice of Vicky in Fairly Oddparents, Mandy in The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy, and (since 1997) Daphne in the Scooby Doo franchise. Isle debut (although she was originally scheduled to visit Kawaii Kon in 2014).
Mary Elizabeth McGlynn, voice of Julia in Cowboy Bebop and Motoko Kusanagi in several Ghost in the Shell projects; ADR director for Cowboy Bebop and the Naruto franchise, and singer of several songs that have shown up on Silent Hill soundtracks ("You're Not Here" and "Your Rain" come to mind). McGlynn's making her first appearance at Kawaii Kon after making her first isle appearance at HawaiiCon on Hawaii island last year.
Steve Blum, voice of Spike in Cowboy Bebop and Tom, robot host of Cartoon Network's Toonami block. His last appearance at Kawaii Kon was in 2007; his last local convention appearance was with McGlynn at HawaiiCon last year.
J. Michael Tatum, voice of Sebastian in Black Butler, Ryousuke Takahashi in Funimation's dub of Initial D and Dororo in Sgt. Frog. This is Tatum's Kawaii Kon debut; his last visit here was at the only edition of Oni-con Hawaii in 2013.
Curtis "Takahata101" Arnott from TeamFourStar, masters of "abridged" versions of long-running series like Dragon Ball Z, Final Fantasy VII and Hellsing Ultimate. Isle debut.
Japanese voice actors
Note: It looks like Lisle Wilkerson, the voice actress who's been serving as translator for Japanese guests at Kawaii Kon in recent years, will be returning to that role this year as well.
Natsuko Hara, an up-and-coming seiyuu who has all of three roles credited to her on her Anime News Network encyclopedia page: Reina in JK Meshi, about three high school girls who prepare simple, B-class meals; Amaterasu in Onigiri, debuting this week, an adaptation of a massively multiplayer online role-playing game; and Mirai in Crane Game Girls, about a group of girls who must save the Earth from being destroyed by asteroids by ... playing ... crane games. You know, those games with The Claw (ooooooooooh). Isle debut.
Yumiri Hanamori, voice of Remo in Garokawa -- Restore the World (for which she'll be sitting in on a screening and participating in a Q&A afterward), Uritan in Etotama and Chiaya Misono in The Rolling Girls. She's sung character songs for those shows, too. Isle debut.
Asami Shimoda, voice of Ami and Mami Futami in THE IDOLM@STER and source voice for Vocaloids Rin and Len Kagamine. Isle debut.
Note: Due to an injury to their drummer, Japanese rock band Loverin Tamburin, originally announced as performing this year, will instead be appearing at Kawaii Kon 2017.
Eyeshine. You know them. You love them. It's Johnny Yong Bosch's band. Also been in Hawaii way more times than I can count, the last time at Kawaii Kon in 2013.
EMKE. You know them and love them as well as the girl group that's rocked Kawaii Kon for several years running now. If you're one of the few who hasn't heard of them, check out their YouTube channel and be amazed.
Pungdeng-E, a three-member girl group best known for their song "Ppi Ppi Ppa Ppa" that will be Kawaii Kon's first venture into the world of K-Pop. Isle debut.
GARNiDELiA, the duo known most for their song "Ambiguous," the Kill la Kill opening theme. Isle debut.
Joe Inoue, a multitalented musician who grew up recording his own vocals and playing his own instruments (guitar, bass drums), then produced, arranged and mixed his own songs. He's best known for "Closer," the fourth Naruto Shippuden opening theme, used from episodes 78 through 102.Isle debut.
Industry representatives and others
Toshio Maeda, hentai manga artist, creator of Urotsukidoji and La Blue Girl, and self-proclaimed "tentacle master." Suffice it to say all his panels, featuring himself and in conjunction with FAKKU manga, will be in the nighttime hours and tagged as 18+ (only those 18 and over will be allowed in; ID checks at the door). Isle debut.
Kouichiro Natsume, anime industry insider who's served as representative director and president of Aniplex and representative of A-1 Pictures. He was the executive producer on the Anohana movie, several Bleach movies (Fade to Black, Hell Verse) and Gintama: The Movie, and was involved in planning a number of Aniplex favorites including Black Butler, Kill La Kill, Puella Magi Madoka Magica and Sword Art Online. Isle debut.
Hiromi Wakabayashi and Shigeto Koyama, staff member and designer, respectively, at Studio Trigger, the production house responsible for shows including Kill la Kill and Little Witch Academia and its sequel, The Enchanted Parade. Kawaii Kon debut; representatives from the studio last appeared at Anime Matsuri Hawaii last year.
Jessica Nigri, cosplayer who last appeared locally last year at Amazing Hawaii Comic Con.
Representatives from Aniplex of America, Crunchyroll, Funimation and Pony Canyon USA will also be hosting panels. Learn about their upcoming anime lineups and win cool merchandise from them. Prefer to immerse yourself in the world of J-fashion? Representatives from h.NAOTO and galaxxxy will be presenting fashion shows and hosting Q&A sessions. And fans of Nendoroids and Figmas will want to meet Mamitan from Good Smile Company, who'll now be making appearances all weekend.
Will cartoonist Jon Murakami be here?
Yes! Look for him in Artist Alley, table F1, with new issues of Gordon Rider and Gordon Rider vs. the Ara-Rangers, the "Anime Characters in Hawaii" series of original sketches, and an array of shirts, prints, books and buttons.
(By the way: Jon's going to be our measuring stick for Con-athon 2016, considering he's going to almost all the things.)
Anyone else of note?
>> Brady Evans (table E4) has been previewing on Instagram some new prints and postcards and a comic that he'll be selling, and I want to buy all the things.
>> Survey master Ivan Sanidad, who's been working Kawaii Kon for as long as I have, will be at table H5b. Will he have another survey for attendees to fill out? All signs point to "probably."
>> At the Anime Garage Sale at the Blaisdell in February, Marisa Gee at Kawaii Mono kept swinging by the space where tag-team partner in fandom Wilma J. and I were selling things and buying more and more of my DVDs. So in return, go visit them at table A8 and buy some jewelry from her and her mom. There's a free gift with a $10 purchase; with a different gift for each day of the con.
>> Aiea Library young adult librarian Diane Masaki will be holding down the Hawaii State Public Library System table (F2), giving away free stuff to anyone who shows her or her assistants a library card ... or hey! There's also a state library card app now, in iOS and Android flavors! There's really little excuse for not getting something now!
>> Two of my Star-Advertiser colleagues will have tables: Lorenzo Trinidad, the son of late Star-Bulletin cartoonist Corky Trinidad, will be there with his own comics and art under the Trinigrafx banner (tables W8-9), while freshly anointed Star-Advertiser Crave contributor Erika Engle will be selling handmade jewelry and charms at tables G7 and G8.
>> Other conventions will have tables as well: Otakon Vegas, the Las Vegas edition of the long-running Baltimore convention, will be at table K10, while Anime Matsuri Hawaii will be at table Q10.
Other tables you should go check out: Michael Cannon at artildawn (F8); Murphy Milburn at Smurphy Graphics (P4-5); Charisma Industries (P2-3); Kevin Sano (D3); beadspriters extraordinare Dinner Crew Crafts (W13-14); Hachi Maru Hachi (Q9); HeadShotHeroes, sharing space with the Human Camera (W17); the MangaBento crew (I1-2, I8); and Michi's Cool Stuff (J2-3).
Over in the dealer's room, team nemu*nemu, Audra Furuichi and Scott Yoshinaga of Kimonokitsy Studios, will be celebrating the 10th anniversary of their plush pup-turned-action/adventure-turned-who knows what's next web comic with their usual blend of merchandise and original sketches. Their next-door neighbors this year: idkwhat2wear, Terri Dux and Karl Miyashiro's one-stop shop for local apparel with clever phrase twists. Other local vendor highlights include MiniQ, Hakubundo, Millennium Hawaii, Pono Comics and -- if you're already missing their bread and pastries ever since Shirokiya closed March 31 -- Brug Bakery.