We've made it to the midpoint of Con-athon 2016, our coverage of this year's major local anime/manga/pop-culture conventions, and ... whoof. Man. I don't remember Con-athon 2015 being as much of a grind as we're seeing this year. A quick recap: Kawaii Kon kicked off the convention season strong in April; Amazing Hawaii Comic Con returned in May, but while they announced a second, smaller event for October, the accounts I've heard seem to indicate that attendance was down this year; and Anime Matsuri retreated back to Houston. Meanwhile, planning for HawaiiCon (in September) and Anime Ohana (in November) continue apace. So while there are still six major conventions planned for this year, the faces have shifted somewhat.
Next up to the starting block: year 2 of Comic Con Honolulu, the pop-culture con from the organizers of Kawaii Kon.
Jurassic Park cosplayers pose in front of a replica movie Jeep at Comic Con Honolulu last year. Photo by Jason S. Yadao.
Confession time: Among the six conventions that comprised Con-athon 2015, Comic Con Honolulu was the event at which I spent the least amount of time. Three hours, to be exact, enough time to sit in on the Art Improv panel, say hi to a bunch of friends, make a few quick purchases in the Dealer's Room/Artist Alley, and then dash off to work.
Part of it was out of necessity. There's only so much vacation time I get every year, after all, so I have to be choosy about which events I commit to visiting for the full run and which ones only get a commitment of a day or shorter. But part of it was also the fact that there wasn't much of a "wow" factor there for me. Sure, there was a decent guest lineup over which people got excited, but nothing that really grabbed me and said that I absolutely had to go. Besides, Amazing already had Stan Lee in their corner, HawaiiCon convinced me to give them a try based on their booking of three Cowboy Bebop voice actors, and Anime Ohana and Anime Matsuri Hawaii had the whole "hey, we're new, and we're right in your anime/manga-loving wheelhouse, please come check us out" sparkle-sheen to them. It's just the way things work out sometimes.
This year, though? Different story. HawaiiCon and Anime Ohana have joined Kawaii Kon in my con rotation, Anime Matsuri Hawaii went *poof*, and I felt I needed to prioritize a full weekend visit to CCH over braving Amazing again. CCH's guest roster and the show's smaller size certainly helped in that decision. Now, of course, the key is in holding my attention ...
Pepe the Chihuahua shows up via Tardis for his daily kalbi feeding at Roy Chang's table at Comic Con Honolulu 2015. Photo by Jason S. Yadao.
When/where: Friday-Sunday, Hawai'i Convention Center
Admission: Three-day passes, $65; Friday- or Sunday-only pass, $30 each day; Saturday-only pass, $40. Pass prices apply to attendees ages 5 and up.
Social media: Facebook page; @ComicConHNL (Twitter)
Key question for this year
How will CCH try to distinguish itself from Amazing, its biggest competition in the market, and draw sufficient numbers to remain a viable show in the process? CCH's main advantage may lie in its programming diversity -- there are far more fan panels and more activities available than just "shop," "buy themed VIP packages and convention-exclusive comics" and "sit in giant space and listen to featured guests talk." CCH has also been doing well promoting local talent selling their wares in Artist Alley on their social media accounts ... and let's not forget about the support they're throwing toward neighborhood eateries with their list of con weekend discounts.
But there's also no denying that the buzz for the show on my Facebook feed has been more muted. Or maybe that's just because everyone on my Facebook news feed is talking about the upcoming elections and Pokemon GO and my news feed algorithm is horrifically screwed up as a result. In any case, a quick look at the Dealer's Room and Artist Alley listings reveal only a fraction of the local vendors and artists that Amazing had in May.
Five Six guests to get hyped for
In past Con-athon roundups, I would've used this space for a complete roundup of all the guests appearing at a particular show. But let's face it: Kawaii Kon had more than 20 guests. Amazing had more than 25. Faced with the prospect of writing another 22 mini-bios for this convention and another 100 gazillion for HawaiiCon, I finally tapped out and said, "OK, I'm just hitting the high points and picking five guests I'm most excited about seeing going forward."
And then I went and picked six people anyway. Because the sixth person really deserved to be mentioned. Plus I'm writing this blog, so I get to make up all the rules and then break them, right? The full guest list is available at comicconhonolulu.com/guests.
George Takei: Every convention has its "OMG moment" during the guest announcement phase, that one guest over whom people rub their eyes over and over again and pinch themselves and wonder, "Holy cats, is that guy really going to be part of my hometown convention?" Takei is this year's OMG moment for Comic-Con Honolulu ... and arguably the entirety of Con-athon 2016, to boot. Whether you know him as Sulu from Star Trek, a gay rights advocate, the man behind Allegiance (a musical set in the Japanese-American internment camps during World War II) or a huge social media influencer, you know who he is. And you'll have exactly one chance to see him speak: 2:30-3:30 p.m. Saturday in Main Events (Room 316 ABC). Good luck, folks.
Grant Imahara: Spoiler alert: Our Steven Mark got to chat with the animatronics engineer, modelmaker and Mythbuster in an interview running in Friday's paper. Definitely worth checking out if you have a chance. Scheduled to appear at two panels: "Bustin' Myths and Building Robots: The Story of Grant Imahara," 11 a.m.-noon Saturday in Main Events, and "Discover Grant Imahara," 11 a.m.-noon Sunday, also in Main Events.
Sean Astin: He's been a Goonie and a Hobbit. He's the son of Patty Duke and John Astin, who played Gomez in the original Addams Family. And he's the voice of Raphael in the ongoing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles animated series. If you need any more convincing than that to see him, then man, you're tough to please. Scheduled to appear at two panels: "Face to Face With Sean Astin," 4-5 p.m. Friday in Main Events; and the Voice Actor Round Table (with Jennifer Hale, the voice of female Commander Shepard in the Mass Effect video games, and Phil LaMarr, the voice of Hermes Conrad in Futurama and Samurai Jack) from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. Saturday, also in Main Events.
John Barrowman: Until last week, he was best known as Captain Jack Harkness in Doctor Who and the spinoff Torchwood, as well as the Dark Archer in Arrow. Since then, he's been that guy who dressed up as Squirrel Girl, Futurama's Zap Brannigan, Harley Quinn and a dress-wearing Kylo Ren in San Diego. Here's hoping he has more antics planned for Honolulu this weekend. Scheduled to appear at one panel: "Getting to Know John Barrowman," 4-5 p.m. Saturday in Main Events.
Fabian Nicienza: Rob Liefeld was a guest at Amazing, so now it's time for Liefeld's partner in creating Deadpool to have his say. Nicieza also helped create Shatterstar, the X-Force and Cable; has more than 1,000 comic book writing credits; and is currently working with Stan Lee on Cosmic Crusaders. Scheduled to appear at three panels: "Breaking the Fourth Wall," 3:15-4:15 p.m. Friday in Panel Room 315; "Behind the Snark," 5:15-6:15 p.m. Saturday in Main Events; and "Comic Editing and Character Creation," 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. in Panel Room 315.
Leah Rose: The talented cosplayer and host with the most who's been featured in this blog before deserves a mention here, as this will be her last local convention as an isle resident before she moves on to Seattle. With Dasha Cosplay, Uncanny Megan and now Leah leaving or about to leave from Hawaii in the past handful of months, all I can say is whyyyyyyyy are the cosplayers all leaving do you not love us anymoooooooore. Umm. *ahem*. You can see her doing hosting duties all weekend or offer hugs and leis at her Artist Alley table, F11.
Will cartoonist Jon Murakami be here?
Photo courtesy Jon Murakami.
Three for three, yup! Look for him in Artist Alley, table E12, with his new collection of comic strips from the Hawaii Herald, Generation Gap:Are You Sure These Are Our Grandkids (pictured above), as well as a sale on Gordon Rider back issues, original sketches, and an array of shirts, prints, books and buttons. Can't make it to con? You still have a few more hours today to get in on the book preorder; visit www.jonjmurakami.bigcartel.com.
(Also, Jon's still our measuring stick for Con-athon 2016, considering he's going to almost all the things.)
Anyone else of note?
There's a guy doing these portraits, that's for certain.
That artist is MidWeek cartoonist and Cacy & Kiara / Highball & Pepe creator Roy Chang, and he drew that Funko Pop-ified portrait of me last week during a special "Get Pop-Cultured" event at Barnes & Noble Ala Moana. And now it's my Instagram profile picture, so w00t w00t to that. You can get your own Funkofied portrait -- $5 black and white, $10 color -- the newest Aloha Pepe issue, and more in Artist Alley, table A3.
Elsewhere in Artist Alley, you'll find Marisa and Carole Gee with their handmade jewelry and charms at Kawaii Mono (C1); beadspriters extraordinare Dinner Crew Crafts (C11-12); longtime comic creators/anime aficionados Lime Media Hawaii (E9), the anime/manga-inspired artist collective MangaBento (D12), comic artist Christopher Caravalho and Mana Comics (B7), and artists Andy Lee (B1), Reid Kishimoto (E2), Tara Tamayori (F4), Headshot Heroes (C7) and Michael Cannon (E12). Hours are 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday.
Over in the adjacent dealer's room, Terri Dux and Karl Miyashiro's one-stop shop for local apparel with clever phrase twists, idkwhat2wear, will be at table 55 with some new cute, clever designs. Pono Comics (52), Dragon's Lair (42) and Other Realms (46, 47, 57, 58) represent local comic shops this time around. Familiar Kawaii Kon mainstays Anime Palace (25, 36), Hakubundo (50), Michi's Toy Box (27) and Crappykids (7) will be there, as will everyone's favorite snack vendors, Brug Bakery (41) and Paradise Kettle Corn (44). Hours are 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday.
Other schedule highlights
Introducing Hitbox Music Ensemble: 7:30-8:30 p.m. Friday, Main Events. An ensemble of classical and jazz instrumental and choral musicians performs music from video games, anime, TV shows and movies. Think of it like those Legend of Zelda concerts that have been coming to town, except on a wider scale.
Unconventional jobs for superheroes? Yeah, the Art Improv artists can tackle that. Photo by Jason S. Yadao.
Art Improv, 10-11:30 a.m. Saturday, Panel Room 312. One of my must-see panels of the con, it's what happens when you take a group of Comic Jam Hawaii artists and throw crazy ideas at them in the style of the classic comedy improv show Whose Line is it Anyway? Plus as a bonus, the sketches they draw are up for grabs at the end -- you can nab some pretty cool free artwork that way. If you have some time to fill afterward, stick around for a series of drawing tutorials, including Kaci Horimoto on drawing (11:30 a.m.-12:15 p.m.), Reid Kishimoto on inking (12:15-1 p.m.), Rich Rodriguez on drawing from basic shapes (1-1:45 p.m.) and Wynette Sabalburo on coloring with markers (1:45-2:30 p.m.).
Ingress: It's Time to Move! 6-7:30 p.m. Saturday, Panel Room 312. Learn how to play the augmented reality game that I like to think of as the Pokemon GO beta beta as a noble agent of the Enlightened! (oryoucouldjointheResistanceIsuppose) Things that will be discussed at this panel: how the game works, the convoluted backstory that hardly anyone pays attention to, and how the game's brought together agents from both factions at large events worldwide. Things that will not be discussed at this panel: triangles (lots and lots of them), creepy vans, and Pokemon GO. Seriously, the panelists would like to focus on Ingress, so no PoGo questions, please. Besides ...
Pokemon GO Hawaii: 8-9 p.m. Saturday, Panel Room 315. ... you trainers who've taken the parts of the world where Niantic actually has servers up and running (for the most part, *crosses fingers*) by storm get a panel all to yourselves. Meet other players, wave a virtual banner for your team (Instinct! The other two teams who aren't Instinct!), share your stories, and catch the occasional Rattata or Pidgey or Zubat that happens to wander into the area. Note: Panel will be called off if a 1,000+ CP Mewtwo suddenly spawns down the street. Just kidding; I doubt anything short of the usual "circumstances beyond our control" is going to be canceling this party.
Cosplay Contest: 7:30-9 p.m. Saturday, Main Events. You know the drill by now: People show off their craftsmanship with fabulous costumes; the audience oohs and ahhs (and awwwws if the cosplayer happens to be a really cute child); prizes are awarded. And a good time is had by all.
Cardcaptor Sakura: A 20-Year Celebration: 1:30-2 p.m. Sunday, Panel Room 312. You thought all the anime/manga panel ideas were exhausted at Kawaii Kon? You were wrong. The fact that this panel is covering one of CLAMP's classic series makes it even more appealing.