By Jason S. Yadao
It was 10 years ago April 21 when I wrote the following for what was then the Star-Bulletin:
(Anime/manga fans') passion will be on display throughout the weekend as Kawaii Kon, the first anime convention to be held in Hawaii, starts tomorrow at the Ala Moana Hotel. … All of this comes courtesy of a team led by convention director Stan Dahlin. Kawaii Kon is a homecoming of sorts for Dahlin, a 1983 Radford graduate who has helped stage a similar convention, Anime Weekend Atlanta, for the past 10 years.
"It all started with a conversation with my friend David Williams of ADV Films," Dahlin said. "He knew I was originally from Hawaii and suggested that maybe there should be a show there. I dismissed his suggestion at first, but then I really gave it serious thought."
Since then, Kawaii Kon has grown into the first name people have thought about when considering local anime conventions. Heck, the show drew more than 10,000 people this year. While there's been a competing event here and there these past few years, it's a reign that's gone pretty much unchallenged.
And then came this year.
If you've been reading this blog for a considerable amount of time, you already know that this year has been the most remarkable one I've ever seen in terms of incoming conventions. Kawaii Kon's in the books, but to recap, there's still Hoku Kon in July, HawaiiCon (on Hawaii island) and Amazing Hawaii Comic Con in September, and Anime Matsuri Hawaii in November. That's five conventions that we knew about before Kawaii Kon kicked off in late March.
Soon after Kawaii Kon ended, though, tag-team partner in fandom Wilma J. alerted me to some buzz making the rounds during con weekend. A sixth major convention -- and the third anime-related one, to boot -- had emerged as a new challenger on the local scene. And after a few weeks of looking at the website, monitoring some of the social media chatter about it and securing a contact from within the organization, I finally have enough confirmed information to pass along to you, dear Otaku Ohana readers.
Meet Anime Ohana, a convention that's happening Oct. 9-11 at the Pagoda Hotel. As someone who posted a confirmed registration receipt noted, the event is being presented by Hawaii Anime Fairs LLC, a business partnership that formed in Texas in December with two names on the paperwork: Stan Dahlin and David Williams. That's right: The founder of Kawaii Kon, who left that con's leadership team in 2013, has created a new convention for local fans, and will be running and managing it with help from the longtime ADV/Sentai Filmworks producer.
"It is amazing how great things can grow out of something as simple as a phone call." Williams told me via email. "I was very happy to see what has become of my small comment to Stan. We have long felt Hawaii deserved a good second convention later in the year and had hoped one would come along, but finally decided to start our own. We have some exciting plans to cover what we think are some neglected areas in the future that will make Anime Ohana stand apart but for now are focused on a general first-year convention to get ourselves established and the ball rolling."
Along for the ride are Anime Ohana's first confirmed guests, voice actresses Jessica Calvello and Monica Rial. This will be the first isle convention visit for Calvello, known for her roles as Hange Zoe in Attack on Titan, Yuri in Dirty Pair, and the voice of Excel for 13 episodes of Excel Saga before she had to withdraw due to vocal chord damage. Rial, best known as Kaede Kayano in Assassination Classroom, Bulma in Dragon Ball Z Kai, Hyatt in Excel Saga and about a bazillion other roles (seriously, look at her Anime News Network encyclopedia page) was a guest at the first five Kawaii Kons but has not been back since 2009.
"Our guest list, both currently announced and possible announcements, is focused on people who haven’t been to Hawaii before or haven’t been back in many years," Williams said.
There's also been a bit of discussion on social media on whether the event is, indeed, legitimate, with conflicting reports on whether the Pagoda had even been locked up as a venue in the first place. Williams reassured me on that front as well.
"The Pagoda Hotel is indeed the confirmed venue for Anime Ohana," Williams said. "We are looking forward to working with the people there, and they are excited to have our event at their facilities. As we are starting off with a smaller first-year convention, it doesn't make sense to jump into as large a space as, say, the (Hawai'i Convention Center). Thus we looked around for a location that would have the space we needed and was available during the times we wanted as well. The Pagoda Hotel fit both needs wonderfully."
Interested? If you preregister before May 1, you can get a three-day pass for $25. VIP passes -- which include a free T-shirt, head-of-the-line autograph privileges, early entry/seating to all con events and the dealers room, and special one-on-one events with con guests -- are also available for $150. And you can order a T-shirt for $25. All of that is available at animeohana.ticketbud.com/anime-ohana.
"We are working hard to put on a good show for the fans, and we hope they enjoy our events and meeting our guests and just have a good time," Williams said.