Memorable moments from Kawaii Kon 2014
TEXT AND PHOTOS BY JASON S. YADAO / firstname.lastname@example.org
The 10th edition of Kawaii Kon is in the books, and MAN, was it ever a celebration of anime. My lower back and knees are certainly telling me that as they quietly ache in silence as I’m writing this.
But enough “your friendly neighborhood Otaku Ohana anime/manga blogger isn’t as young as he used to be when Kawaii Kon started in 2005” talk. The bottom line is this year’s convention was the largest one yet — announced attendance for the weekend: 8,500 people — and picking just 10 memorable moments and the associated photos from it (as I’ve done in the past here for the Pulse) was quite challenging.
It’s kind of like the cliched answer you get when you ask an actor what his favorite role is: They’re like your children, you can’t pick just one.
I still managed to pick some of my favorite photos and associated stories from the past few days though, so here we go — in no particular order:
1. QUEUE UP THE BAND:
Friday, 12:04 p.m.: Ten Kawaii Kons, 10 opening ceremonies. I’ve been fortunate to catch all of them to date, from when they just paraded guests on stage to the modern music video/dance number/giveaway-filled jamboree.
This year, however, was the first one I can remember that featured someone walking up the line of attendees waiting to get into opening ceremonies and singing them an original song. And with a guitar, at that.
2. SCREEN GEMS
Sunday, 5:58 p.m.: You’re probably looking at the picture above and thinking, “Okay, this is a picture of a black screen with words on it. How could THIS be a memorable moment?”
But starting last year and continuing into this year, “Screen,” as Kawaii Kon attendees have taken to calling it, has become one of the most beloved elements of anything going on in the Main Events room, sometimes providing commentary, other times goading on the audience.
Sure, to the layperson, it’s probably just someone in the back live-typing on a computer keyboard. But hey, we love our Screen.
3. THE BEST THINGS ARE WORTH WAITING FOR
Saturday, 1:26 p.m.: What you’re seeing here is the end of the line of people waiting to buy walk-in badges on Saturday.
It certainly doesn’t look like much from this perspective, but these people were waiting by room 325A. Registration was in room 317A. That means this line was wrapped around half the convention center. It took me about two and a half minutes to walk from one end of that line to the other at a comfortable pace.
Fortunately, the reports I heard were that people were being processed rather quickly, so that’s a plus.
4. JOURNEY TO A HERO
Saturday, 4:34 p.m.: Once people got into the convention, they willingly threw themselves into various lines for the rest of the weekend. If it was popular, there was a line for it — autograph signings, panels, concerts, you name it.
This line, however, had a more special feel to it. Stacey Hayashi, author of “Journey of Heroes,” a graphic novel about the 100th Battalion and 442nd Regimental Combat Team, brought one of the veterans, Eddie Yamasaki, along to talk about his experiences at a panel on Saturday.
Since Yamasaki now lives in Japan, his appearances with Hayashi have grown increasingly rare; his visit gave the audience a unique opportunity to have him sign the book and talk story with him. (You can see him as a tiny dot signing at the other end of the room.) The nature of the line was such that when the room they were in needed to be cleared for the next panel, everyone simply moved downstairs and continued near Roy Chang’s art portfolio evaluation table.
5. UP AND DOWN AND… NO ONE’S AROUND?
Saturday, 2:20 p.m.: Kawaii Kon took over every floor of the convention center this year for the first time, which meant that anyone who wanted to visit the Main Events room (top floor); attend a panel, watch videos and play games (middle floor); and visit Artist Alley and the Dealers Room (ground floor) logged a LOT of mileage over the weekend.
I particularly admire the cosplayers who managed to pull that off during the weekend — some of those outfits looked like a pain to get from floor to floor.
What struck me in this moment was that hardly anyone used the middle escalator. The escalator on the left was set to go down while the other two were set to go up. All of them were working. It’s just that at the time this photo was taken, no one was choosing the middle escalator.
About two or three people came up from behind afterward, but it still made for quite the unusual sight.
6. PARTY LIKE A ROCK STAR (WITHIN REASON)
Sunday, 1:25 p.m.: The video game room’s expansion meant that con staff could do much more with the layout than in years past.
Metal platform from a ddr arcade machine for their custom DDR game? Sure! Stick the instruments and microphones for “Rock Band” on a stage and chairs in front for the ultimate in fake concert experiences? Of course!
Of course, after three days, some of those songs on the playlist certainly wore thin enough for “Mike” to have written this message to future players.
7. HEART FOR ART
Saturday, 1:11 p.m.: In past years, original artwork sold at the live art auction was hotly contested and sold for reasonably high prices. This year, for whatever reason, it seemed like more items were going unsold, and those that did sold for barely above their minimum bids.
In 2013, a piece drawn by “Haruhi Suzumiya” artist Noizi Ito sold for $750. This year’s top-ticket item? A pair of “Darkwing Duck” DVD sets signed by the voice of Darkwing himself, Jim Cummings, which sold for a hotly contested, yet still relatively cheaper, $320.
“Bad End Night,” this cute Copic marker drawing by Tara Tamayori — she’s the panda gal holding it — sold for $80. There was a small bidding war for it, too. I know this firsthand because this was the first time I’ve ever won a bid for a piece at one of these auctions. It was something I really wanted, too, as I do adore Tara’s work.
8. 10 TO A LIFETIME
Sunday, 12:51 p.m.: Meet Ivan Sanidad, a student at the University of Hawaii at Manoa who’s currently working on getting his Ph.D. in Sociology.
Sanidad’s part of two clubs: the club of people whom I’ve said “hi” to at all 10 Kawaii Kons to date, and the club of people I’ll probably say “hi” to for as long as I attend, because he bought a “lifetime” pass when they were first offered several years ago. (Fellow con-goers will recognize him as the guy dressed in a lab coat who handed out surveys every year.)
But while he had a display of last year’s results posted in Artist Alley, this year, I think, was the first year he didn’t have an accompanying survey. Also, he was dressed as Nintendo antihero Wario for two out of the convention’s three days. No matter, though; I’m sure he had fun as always.
9. FANBOY FULFILLMENT
Sunday, 10:32 p.m.: And now, here’s the most self-indulgent item on this list. Just humor me for a moment, though.
Back when I was going to high school in the early 1990s, one of my favorite TV shows was “Darkwing Duck.” Great characters, riveting plots, nice blend of humor and drama. Darkwing was voiced by Jim Cummings, who’s since gone on to voice Winnie the Pooh, Tigger, and a hundred kajillion other roles.
When I learned Cummings was going to be a guest at Kawaii Kon this year, I immediately pulled out my “Darkwing Duck” DVD sets and prepared to have him sign one of those.
Fate, however, has a weird, wonderful way of working sometimes. While I was sorting through some papers a few weeks ago, out popped what you see above: a Darkwing Duck poster, released as part of a Pizza Hut kids’ meal “Crimefighter Kit” back in the series’ heyday. I knew right then that I HAD to get that signed.
And I DID! Cummings marveled at how the poster managed to hold up after all these years. Got to shake his hand, too, something that I’m not sure high school me would have appreciated but I certainly appreciate now.
That’s what I think is one of the best things about Kawaii Kon: It’s a place where you can meet childhood heroes AND lifetime friends. A place where, for one wild weekend, people can dress up, revel in their fandom and meet people who share common interests.
Exhausting? Yes. Exhilarating? You betcha.