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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, April 22, 2005

Ah, anime! Three-day convention opens today

By Derek Paiva
Advertiser Entertainment Writer

Members of the McKinley High School Anime Club gather in Thomas Square in full "cosplay" mode. From left: Rheena Alajar, 15; Kiana Petersen, 18; Lauren Lee, 17; and Veronika Leshchinskaya, 15.

Photos by Rebecca Breyer • The Honolulu Advertiser

More devotees emulate their favorites. From left, Shayna Oana, 16; Mickey Rajahkuman, 15; Tomi Tsukamoto, 16; and Alex Rogers, 15.

Kawaii Kon

1 p.m.-midnight today; 10 a.m.-midnight, Saturday; 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday

Hibiscus and Gardenia Rooms, Ala Moana Hotel

$15 adults, $8 ages 7-13 for one-day pass; $30 adults, $15 ages 7-13 for two-day pass; $45 adults, $23 ages 7-13 for three-day pass.

Highlights: Anime Music Videos 101, 3 p.m. today; opening ceremonies, 5 p.m. today; Anime Music Video Dance, midnight tonight; manga panels, 10 a.m., 5 p.m. Saturday; voice actor panel, 7:30 p.m. Saturday; costume contest, 8:30 p.m. Saturday; Buma's Unofficial Buti-Shake, 11 p.m. Saturday; closing ceremonies, 5 p.m. Sunday.

More information on scheduled events is at kawaiikon.com.

Do not call it a cartoon!

That was the first all-important lesson offered by members of the McKinley High School Anime Club. A handful of the club's members had agreed to meet with a purposefully clueless writer last week to school him on the finer points of anime before this weekend's Kawaii Kon.

"It's actually the first anime convention in Hawai'i," club member Lauren Lee, 17, said of Kawaii Kon. "But conventions have been happening on the Mainland for a long time."

Lauren should know. She's journeyed to California with her father twice in the last two years to attend Anime Expo, a huge must-attend annual event for Japanese animation's ever-growing nationwide fan base.

Kawaii Kon, which happens today through Sunday at the Ala Moana Hotel, won't be nearly as large as Anime Expo. But it will feature any decent anime expo's requisite panels and workshops, hosted by artists and voice actors, film screenings, costume contests, autograph sessions, a vendors alley and even karaoke.

Members of McKinley's Anime Club are checking out all three days of "the Kon" in full "cosplay" mode — wearing homemade costumes resembling their favorite characters. The writer wanted to talk about that first. But club members had other ideas.

"Mispronunciations!" exclaimed Tomi Tsukamoto, 16, to a chorus of club-member groans.

The subject would remain fixed, for the time being, on how to quickly cheese off anime aficionados.

"A lot of people say 'mayn-ga' instead of 'mahn-ga," offered Tomi. 'A-nee-meh' instead of 'ah-nih-meh.' is another common verbal faux pas.

Manga are the books and magazines — some might crudely say "comics" — that make up a large segment of anime's collectibles. Other collectibles include DVDs, framed artwork, action figures and cell-phone charms, to name just a few.

"On the Mainland, (anime) is also sometimes referred to as 'Japanime,' " said Tomi. "And people here do not like that term."

Dressed in the snug floor-length black dress, gloves and pearls of "XXX-Holic" witch Yuko, Tomi looked like she meant business, too.

Another no-no around the anime faithful? Referring to their passion as kid stuff.

"In Japan, a lot of the anime is actually for adults or teenagers. It's generally not for children," said Kiana Petersen, 18. Kiana was working the girly, all pink-and-black garb of Miwako from "Paradise Kiss." The long pink hair of her wig was tied with yellow ribbons.

In Japan, anime is created for all age groups, genders and tastes. Anime plot lines can be comedic, romantic, dramatic or action-oriented. Manga and movies often contain content expressly produced for either boys (shonen anime) or girls (shojo anime).

"One of the reasons I was first attracted to anime when I was younger was because in many cases, the art is more in-depth than your average American animation," said Alex Rogers, 15. "The (artists) also have a different way of telling stories. They come up with some really weird things that your average American person just would not grasp."

Some examples club members cited: characters having their gender changed when hot water is thrown on them, dragons turning into Jeeps, credit cards in ancient China, and priests who carry guns, smoke, drink and gamble.

The Kawaii Kon event they were most looking forward to was Saturday night's "cosplay" costume contest. Tomi and Lauren showed off notebooks full of costume patterns they were working on for the Kon. As richly detailed as store-bought patterns — right down to careful measurements and fabric choices — each was drawn from close study of manga books and anime films.

"I'm applying math. I'm doing all of the measurements so I'll know it fits, how much it'll cost and how much fabric to buy," said Lauren. "I've done 15 costumes since the second grade."

Lauren was dressed as Toru Honda from "Fruits Basket." Her costume was a simple blue tennis skirt and top fashioned with sewn-on elements to resemble the uniform of a Japanese schoolgirl. Her Kon costume designs, by comparison, were more impressively ambitious.

"I go to Wal-Mart or a fabric store, look at patterns they have in stock and try to compare them to what I have in mind and just improvise," Tomi said of her costume design technique.

Beyond the costume contest, club members seemed most excited about Kawaii Kon's film screenings, vendor floor and nightly karaoke.

"I think they're doing a good job, considering it's their first time," said Lauren, studying a schedule of Kon events. "I'm most interested in going because since I've been to conventions before, I know you can go out in costume and you can yell out anime quotes and people will know what you're talking about."

Anime club members chatted about finally being around "our kind" and "our own culture" in an environment "where we belong."

"Hopefully, we'll get to meet many new people and talk to them about the anime that they've seen," said Rheena Alajar, 15, dressed as Rukia from "Bleach."

Suggestions for future Kawaii Kons?

"I'd like to see more of the artists come to sign autographs," said Tomi.

"An anime parade would be cool," said Rheena. "A cosplaying parade for fans of anime."

Kiana was just hoping Honolulu anime fans would show up en masse.

"They'd better," she warned, grimacing. "Or else I'll hunt them down!"

Reach Derek Paiva at dpaiva@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8005.