Kawaii Kon delivers visually appealing experience

Mar. 16, 2012 | 0 Comments In the Star-Advertiser Friday Print Edition

For local fans of anime (Japanese animation) and manga (Japanese comics), it’s become an annual rite of spring: Since 2005 they’ve converged on the Ala Moana Hotel and (since ’07) the Hawai’i Convention Center, some decked out in colorful costumes of their favorite characters, eager to revel in their shared interests for the whirlwind weekend that is Kawaii Kon. (Look for an additional feature in today’s features section.)


Where: Hawai’i Convention Center

When: 9 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday; 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday

Cost: $26 general (with $36 two-day and $50 three-day passes) and $16 children 6-12 ($26 two-day and $40 three-day)

Info: www.kawaii-kon.org

The anime convention has been more than willing to fuel the fervor. Industry guests are arriving from both sides of the Pacific Ocean — the American side represented by voice actors Vic Mignogna (Edward Elric in “Fullmetal Alchemist”), Johnny Yong Bosch (Ichigo Kurosaki in “Bleach”), Lisa Ortiz (Amy Rose in “Sonic the Hedgehog”) and Chris Sabat (Vegeta in “Dragon Ball Z”), Bosch’s band Eyeshine and Sentai Filmworks producer David Williams, and the Japanese by artist Yoshitaka Amano; voice actors Yuu Asakawa (Sakaki in “Azumanga Daioh”), Ryo Horikawa (Vegeta), and Kenichi Miya (Dragan in “Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D’s”); and musical guests bless4 featuring Akino.

There are special events as well. This year a dinner with the American guests at the Hard Rock Cafe in Waikiki and the Mad Hatter Tea Party join convention staples like “Buma’s Butishake,” the popular J-pop-infused dance party; the more formal Magic Moonlight Ball; a magic show by Magician Kaulana; the Cosplay Showcase, where cosplayers compete to show off their best designs; and Anime Idol, where nine singers will vie for a recording session with Romeo Records.

But it’s also a chance for some members of the local community to share their talents with others. Fashion designer Lauren Lee, for instance, will be debuting the first line from her brand, Monarch Lolita, at a fashion show at 3 p.m. Saturday. The line is influenced by lolita style, fashion that itself is inspired by Victorian-era clothing and 18th-century rococo styles.

“The theme of the show is ‘Metropolis,’ inspired by my trips to San Francisco, my first time seeing the big city,” Lee said. “The vision of my brand and my line is ‘lolita style for every day.’ My look is a little casual by lolita standards, but it can fit into an existing wardrobe of both the lolita enthusiast or the modern-day lady.”

Lee will also have a table in Artist Alley, selling sweets deco accessories, handmade bags, dresses, skirts and swimsuits. While she won’t have any of her fashion show designs available for sale, she’ll be taking reservations.

“What makes me happy is when people see my costumes, and they’re happy to see the character or that they really like my costume,” Lee said. “I love that at Kawaii Kon I can let loose, get dressed up and have fun.”

LOCAL artists and crafters are also using Kawaii Kon as a springboard for new merchandise. Artist Alley will feature the likes of idkwhat2wear, the craft fair circuit regular known for its cute shirts and buttons. Terri Dux of idk said they’ll be debuting a bunch of new designs at the convention, as well as unveiling new leather key chains, Mustache Rings and EyePod Monster cases for iPod Touches and iPhones.

“Our favorite thing about Kawaii Kon is that it has so much energy and it generates so much excitement for our company as well as our families,” Dux said. “The people that attend Kawaii Kon inspire our creativity and push us to be better every year.”

Cartoonist Jon J. Murakami, who draws “Calabash” for the Sunday Star-Advertiser, will also be there, selling the sixth and newest volume of the (mis)adventures of superhero Gordon Rider, along with some buttons and a new T-shirt featuring Steve the Monkey.

“It’s been quite a few years, but it still feels like yesterday when we started this whole crazy concept, which escalated into something bigger than I imagined,” Murakami said.

He’ll be sharing a table with illustrator Kevin Sano, a Crazy Shirts T-shirt designer who’s also done some fandom-centric designs featuring Kikaida and Kamen Rider. Sano drew an alternate, limited-edition version of the volume 6 cover.

Artist Brady Evans will be pulling double duty, both at his table and at the table of artist group Pen & Ink Works. While Evans will be selling prints and copies of his new drawing collection, “Apparition,” at his table, he said he’s excited the most about the Kawaii Kon Charity Calendar Project. Evans joined artists Karina Bailey, Rose Dela Cruz, Hakai, Stephanie Koelkebeck, Stephanie Lau, Stephanie Leong and Tara Tamayori in drawing certain aspects of the convention — “the Artist Alley, Cosplay, Video Games, and Lolita just to name a few” — on a 13-month calendar running from this month through April 2013.

The calendar is limited to 250 copies and will be available at the Pen & Ink Works table in the center concourse. Proceeds will benefit Shriners Hospital for Children Honolulu.

OVER IN the dealers room — now in a new, larger location on the fourth floor of the convention center — you’ll find Audra Furuichi, artist of the popular webcomic “nemu*nemu” and its Sunday Star-Advertiser spinoff “Blue Hawaii,” and husband Scott Yoshinaga selling their sixth anthology of adventures featuring plush pups Anpan and Nemu, their owners Anise and Kana, and the rest of the gang. This year, Furuichi and Yoshinaga used Kickstarter, a website where visitors pledge various amounts to help fund creative projects, to pay for the volume’s print run.

The volume’s subtitle: “Bestest Friends Forever.”

“It reflects both the theme of this past year’s comics, friendship in its many forms, as well as the overwhelming amount of support we have received from our readers through our Kickstarter,” Furuichi said. “I feel a personal kinship to my audience and hope this book reflects my gratitude to them.”

Then there are the entertainers. For the past three years, a local band, Eleven Staples, has been performing cover versions of anime and video game songs. The band will play for an hour at 11 a.m. Saturday, and lead singer Erin Tamura promises some surprises for what will likely be their final Kawaii Kon performance.

“People who came to the Anime Rocks! event (held at Hard Rock Cafe a few weeks ago) heard a preview of some of the new songs we’ve prepared for this year, but we still have a few songs that we have yet to perform for the public,” Tamura said.

–Jason S. Yadao / jyadao@staradvertiser.com

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