Kawaii Kon 2015: 10 memorable moments

Mar. 31, 2015 | 0 Comments

TEXT AND PHOTOS BY JASON S. YADAO / jyadao@staradvertiser.com

There’s a point every year on the last day of Kawaii Kon where someone inevitably will say to me, “So … what did you think of this year?”

You might think that after covering 11 editions of the local anime convention, seeing it grow from filling a handful of rooms on the second floor of the Ala Moana Hotel into its current position occupying all three floors of the Hawai’i Convention Center, things would get somewhat blase by now. Every Batman looks the same, every actor is doing voices of the characters that made him or her famous because the audience asked for it, every dealer is selling alpaca plushies and Hatsune Miku figures.

Yet when I really think about that question, I always feel like it was another fun year. Sure, there are small and big inconveniences that pop up from time to time. But overall, it feels like every year is another fresh celebration of our shared anime/manga fandoms, with its own set of unique moments that just say, “Yup, this is why we come here every year.”

So in what’s become a tradition over the past few years, here are my memorable moments from this year’s edition of Kawaii Kon, in no particular order.

RANGE FINDER

01

» Saturday, 2:29 p.m.: Over the years I’ve worked the anime/manga/cartooning beat, I’ve gained a greater appreciation for watching artists drawing their work in real time. Getting to know a bunch of artists who are part of Comic Jam Hawaii, the art group that gets together every first and third Sunday at Pearlridge Center (shameless plug!), can do that.

So when it was announced that Range Murata, the illustrator best known for his character designs on “Last Exile” and “Blue Submarine No. 6,” would be a Kawaii Kon guest and would do a live-drawing panel, I was so there.

And he didn’t disappoint, working on a digital drawing of three “Last Exile” characters for an hour and answering questions from the audience.

MASH-UP, HOUSE DOWN

02» Friday, 3:19 p.m.: Speaking of Comic Jam Hawaii, a number of artists in that group got together for a “Sketch Improv” panel. Remember the show “Whose Line is it Anyway?” Replace all the improv comedians with artists, and that’s what you got here.

One of the games, “Totoro Goes Hollywood,” had the audience suggest different film franchises in which to place Studio Ghibli’s most famous giant cuddly fuzzy creation.

“‘Back to the Future!'” someone suggested.

“‘Fast and Furious!'” someone else chimed in.

And then came the suggestion that made the entire room erupt in laughter and murmur with excitement.

“‘FIFTY SHADES OF GREY!'”

A few artists took stabs at the other movie mash-ups, but it was clear: The people wanted “Fifty Shades” Totoro. So while Devin Oishi worked on something else, the peoples’ choice drawing was slipped into the frame at the upper left.

And the crowd went wild.

I should note that there was another version of “Fifty Shades” Totoro drawn. It was just so wrong. Then again, maybe I’m just conservative that way. (It was still PG-13, though.)

MY MONEYMAKER TOTORO

03

» Saturday, 4:32 p.m.: Seriously, though, Kawaii Kon attendees love Totoro. How much they love him was apparent during the Art Auction, where Totoro Trio Happy Days, this plush stack handcrafted by I’m Sew Stuffed seen here in an auction slide, sold for $300. That is not a typo.

Including Totoro Trio, there were six art pieces with Totoro in them. Five were drawings/paintings. The selling prices for each: $150, $210, $240, $270, $300, $300. That’s $1,470 raised for charity off one character.

Looking at my auction notes, I believe artwork based off the Pokemon franchise was the only other stuff that drew similar feverish bidding. More pieces sold than past years, but there’s still a pretty big gap between Pokemon/Totoro and the rest.

4. HELLOOOOOOOOOOO, HONOLULU!

04

» Saturday, 3:15 p.m.: Remember how I said last year that “Darkwing Duck” was one of my favorite shows in high school in the 1990s? One of my other teenage ‘toon jams was “Animaniacs.”

That’s Rob Paulsen, the voice of Yakko Warner, Otto von Scratchansniff and Pinky in the show, above left, joined by series composer Randy Rogel at the hour-long “Songs From Your Childhood” concert. The two, joined from time to time by Jess Harnell, the voice of Wakko Warner, sang a number of songs from the series as well as a few unused songs (altered lyrics to “The Universe Song” and an alternate version of what became “L.A. Dot”) from “Wakko’s America” and “Yakko’s Nations of the World.”

Those songs were part of the concert as well, the latter with an added verse of countries created since the 1990s. And my heart grew three sizes.

MANGAKA NO TAMAGO

05» Friday, 10:48 a.m.: When I interviewed manga artist/”Princess of Tennis” author Jamie Lano earlier this month (posted over at Otaku Ohana; shameless plug No. 2!), she mentioned something about wanting to teach others what she learned about drawing manga in Japan.

She explained: “Hopefully it will help other people follow their dreams and become manga artists in their own way and their own right, and we will grow and nurture all these budding artists. In Japan we call them ‘mangaka no tamago,’ which technically I still am. It just means ‘mangaka’s (manga artist’s) eggs,’ like you’re about to … hatch and grow.

“So I’d like to help do that, incubate all those little mangaka eggs that are waiting there just to blossom. It’s the only way we’re going to create that type of manga- or comics-reading culture that I want, is to help grow them.”

Lano’s first panel on Friday “Making Manga the Japanese Way,” took a step toward fulfilling that promise. Despite being one of the first panels on the first day of the convention — 10 a.m. Friday — she still managed to draw around 80 attendees to the room.

Each person got a sheet of manga paper to draw on and a pencil, and, as seen in this photo, she and her helpers went around, talking to everyone individually and checking to see if they had any questions.

6. GENERATION G. RIDER

06

» Friday, 8:30 p.m.: Jon Murakami (who draws the Star-Advertiser’s “Calabash” comic strip every other Sunday; shameless plug no. 3!) hosted a panel talking about his cartooning and the 10th anniversary of his hapless hero, Gordon Rider.

Sitting next to him during the panel: Gordon Chan, the guy who inspired RGW the creation of Gordon Rider.

Sitting in the audience: a couple dressed up as Gordon Rider and his female counterpart, Rider Girl. It made for a neat photo op when the four of them went up front at the end of the panel.

EXTERMINATION NEXUS

07

» Sunday, 2:42 p.m.: You’d think friendly neighborhood anime/manga blogger would be one of the safer jobs in the world, particularly when you’re surrounded by thousands of like-minded people at an anime convention.

Truth is, though, things can go south in a hurry, like when a former coworker of mine, Michelle Poppler, got converted into a “Dr. Who” Dalek and was all “EXTERMINATE! EXTERMINATE! EXTERMINATE!”

Where’s a sonic screwdriver when you need one? (Thanks to Gwen Inamasu for taking this picture for me.)

THE CUP THAT REFRESHES

08

» Saturday, 1:23 p.m.: At times, the danger extends to fellow cosplayers as well. Take one of the more unique cosplays I saw this year, a cup of instant ramen. It was pretty well done. Perhaps TOO well done, perhaps, because with a pair of chopsticks and a craving for instant ramen…

BLOCK PARTY

09

» Saturday, 1:20 p.m.: People dressed as giant Lego superheroes? Cool idea. People leaving the components of giant Lego superheroes on a bench while they took a break? I just wanted to reach out and assemble the pieces to have an army of life-size Lego mini figures.

IT’S OVER NINE … NO, TEN THOUSAND!

10» Friday, 11:01 a.m.: Everything that happened this year just felt bigger. The registration lines, as seen above, were longer, even with registration operations moving to the convention center’s ground floor. The panel rooms seemed fuller.

Artist Alley, which I usually have a chance to browse through and see all my artist friends in a matter of a few hours on the first day, took all three days for me to explore. (The most frequent thing I heard all weekend: “Hey! We were wondering where you were!”)

Just how many more people showed up this year wasn’t revealed until closing ceremonies, where we learned that 10,420 people attended Kawaii Kon this year. That marks 10 straight years of convention growth and the first time attendance has broken the five-digit mark.

As for the next Kawaii Kon? April 8-10, 2016. God willing, see you all then.

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