Oni-Con makes Hawaii debut
BY JASON S. YADAO / firstname.lastname@example.org
With Kawaii Kon growing into a must-attend convention for local anime and manga fans over the better part of a decade, it was inevitable that other groups would want to try to capture some of that audience.
» Where: Hawai‘i Convention Center, 1801 Kalakaua Ave.
The latest enterprise to arrive in the islands, Oni-Con Hawaii, is taking place this weekend at the Hawai‘i Convention Center. While the name may not be familiar to local fans, it’s one that holds a fair amount of cachet on the national anime convention circuit: The original Oni-Con, based in Galveston, Texas, celebrated its 10th anniversary this month.
“A collaboration between Hawaii, the mainland and Japan, it promises to bring fresh energy to the fans of this genre, here in the 808,” trumpeted a promotional blurb back when news of the convention first broke in February.
You’d be hard-pressed to find much of that mainland influence looking at the guest list and event schedule, though. The lone representative from the U.S. anime industry is voice actor and “That Anime Show” podcast host J. Michael Tatum, whose roles have included Sebastian, the butler of “Black Butler,” and Scar in “Fullmetal Alchemist.”
Thus the burden of programming falls heavily on guests from Japan and local talents, and the organizers have tried to make the best of that situation. The headliner in the convention’s promotional material has been composer Nobuo Uematsu, and for good reason: For a generation of video game players, Uematsu has been synonymous with the “Final Fantasy” franchise, composing the soundtracks for the first nine games in the series and contributing music to subsequent installments. He’ll perform with his band, the Earthbound Papas, Saturday night and host a Q&A panel Sunday afternoon.
Fans of Japanese fashion and cosplay will find much to love, with Yuko Ashizawa, fashion designer and president of Gothic Lolita fashion brand Atelier Pierrot, hosting a panel on Saturday and a fashion show on Sunday. Local convention standbys, including the Masquerade (Oni-Con’s cosplay showcase), the Cosplay Chess Brigade and Yu x Me Maid Cafe and Host Club, will be part of the festivities as well.
Rounding out the guest list are Hiroki Takahashi, best known as the voice of Ryu in the newer “Street Fighter” video games and the character Japan in “Hetalia Axis Powers,” and visual kei musician Sana.
As for that local energy, a pair of panels Saturday — one hosted by “Blade of the Samurai” director Aaron Yamasato and “Doko ga TV” producer Pali Kaaihue,” the other by the Ninja Monkeys stunt team and the cast and crew of the film “Soul Blade” — will focus on local filmmaking efforts. The Marketplace, a blend of the traditional anime con dealer’s room and Artist Alley, will spotlight the work of local artists.
Follow Jason S. Yadao’s coverage of Oni-Con Hawaii at the “Otaku Ohana” blog and on Twitter at @jsyadao.