By Jason S. Yadao
Well, folks, we made it to the fireworks factory. Again. We're standing here on Kawaii Kon Day 0, preregistration and dealer/Artist Alley load-in night, ready for another three-day weekend packed full of cosplay, entertainment, special guests from the animation industry and music world, panels, games and pretty much what you'd imagine otaku heaven to be like without actually moving to Japan itself. And there's your annual look at the convention guide and your friendly neighborhood anime/manga blogger's press credentials at right.
There's a bit of a different feel to this year, though ... and not just because registration ops has moved to the ground floor, next to the hall with the dealers room and Artist Alley. It's because this year, Kawaii Kon isn't just the big event on the local otaku community calendar, but the first event in a string of big events. As I mentioned in my post introducing Anime Matsuri Hawaii, it's a remarkable time to be a local fan of anime, manga, science fiction and/or comics, with Hoku Kon (July), Amazing Hawaii Comic-Con (September) and Anime Matsuri Hawaii (November) all on deck on Oahu, and HawaiiCon (September) on Hawaii island. I mean, heck, Amazing Hawaii Comic-Con unveiled its first four guests -- living legend Stan Lee and artists George Perez, Mark Kubert and Adam Bagley -- on Wednesday, and the shares pretty much lit up my Facebook feed all day.
But the people still show up at Kawaii Kon. Ohhhhhh, do they ever show up. Here's the sea of otakuness that descended on the convention for preregistration tonight, as seen from the escalators leading to/from the second-floor parking garage.
A final number will probably come at closing ceremonies as it has in previous years. By my estimates, though, there are about a bazillion people attending this year. Some of whom are even carting around replica basketball backboards.
Some last-minute notes as we head into this year's event:
- The policy change that's generated the most social media discussion: For the first time, convention center staff will be checking for con badges on the ground floor, near the escalators to the third floor. That effectively ends the practice of nonpaying attendees lounging around the public areas outside the panel rooms, soaking up the atmosphere and taking pictures of their favorite cosplayers. It also makes complete sense from a security standpoint; as much as we'd like to think that the convention environment is a bubble world that protects us from all the bad things that go on outside, there are trolls out there who just want to come in and disrupt things for their own amusement, Besides, if you really wanted to socialize with your non-con-going friends, there's always Ala Moana Center down the street.
- The Great Hawaiian Rubber Duckie Race, the annual fundraiser for United Cerebral Palsy of Hawaii that sends a swarm of yellow ducks down the Ala Wai Canal, is happening Saturday. (The ducks launch at 1:28 p.m. from the Kalakaua Avenue bridge, if any of you want to head down from the convention center and watch.) So is the Prince Kuhio Day Parade in Waikiki, traveling down Kalakaua Avenue between Saratoga Road and Kapiolani Park between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Expect heavy traffic congestion if you're aren't already at an area hotel and are going to be driving.
- I'm pleased to note that despite a vehicle plowing into the 7-Eleven at the corner of Atkinson Drive and Kapiolani Boulevard Wednesday evening, the store remains open (albeit a bit boarded up) and ready to sell completely out of all their bentos, nori rolls, musubis, hot dogs and whatever other prepared foods you can think of to hungry, budget-conscious con-goers on all three days. (If you go late, hope you like chewing on breath mints for your dinner!) As a bonus, if you have your badge, go to that store starting at 10 a.m. and are one of the first 200 people to do so on Friday, Saturday or Sunday, you'll get a free limited-edition Kawaii Kon lanyard. Look for the flyer in-store that looks like the one at right -- psst, look above the hot-foods warmer! -- and scan the QR code for a chance to win a trip for two to Las Vegas. Winner will be announced at closing ceremonies on Sunday. (Bonus trivia note: The artwork for this flyer was drawn by none other than Jamie Lano. You might have heard of her.) There is also a large Naruto wallscroll hanging over the ice cream freezer, so you know they're into the mood.
- Buy all the things in Artist Alley. All. The. Things. To go through and list-link everything I've seen crossing my Facebook news feed over the past few days would probably last me well past midnight, and I'd kinda like to get some sleep before stopping in at Jamie's drawing panel around 10 a.m.-ish Friday. Also of note: nemu*nemu artist Audra Furuichi's limited-edition 10-card set, the "Modern Kitsuke" series (color drawings of girls in kimono) for $25, which 39 of you must go out and buy immediately. Maybe fewer of you, if some of you buy multiples. But the 40th set must be miiiiiiiine.
Time to rest up. See y'all tomorrow for Day 1. Feel free to follow me on Twitter and Instagram, too (both @jsyadao) for all my spur-of-the-moment updates over the weekend ahead. It's gonna be crazy. But fun! But crazy.