You know it’s time to start thinking about Kawaii Kon in earnest when the Honolulu Festival, the annual celebration of Asian and Pacific Rim culture, rolls around in March.
That’s the way it’s been for the past few years, anyway, as the Honolulu Festival has been home to the Anime Corner, usually run by the anime convention and local artist group MangaBento. This year’s festival will continue that tradition, with various activities running on Saturday and Sunday at the Hawai’i Convention Center.
Several elements will comprise the Anime Corner experience this year. Kawaii Kon’s Artist Alley branch will be running miniature art contests from 10 a.m. to noon and 3 to 5 p.m. Saturday, as well as from 10 a.m. to noon Sunday. These 10- to 15-minute contests are geared toward artists of all skill levels, and winners will receive assorted Kawaii Kon logo items including pins, lanyards and T-shirts.
MangaBento’s activity blocks, taking place between noon and 3 p.m. both days, will feature the coloring and draw-your-own-manga activity sheets that have become standard at its recent public events. They’ll also be offering tutorials on drawing cute cartoon bunnies — using the worksheets that "nemu*nemu" artist Audra Furuichi used for her tutorials at the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii New Year’s Festival earlier this year — and folding simple origami rabbit faces.
The group is also unveiling a photo booth inspired by its recent "Kakimochi" exhibit, where subjects can be photographed near kakimoji, or painted sound effects and speech bubbles, to make it appear as if they’re part of a living manga page.
Not into art? An Xbox 360 will be set up with a Kinect sensor for gamers to experience the latest in motion-gaming technology. The Cosplay Cafe — like the maid cafes of years past, except with servers in a more diverse array of costumes serving snacks and playing games with customers — will be running throughout the weekend.
Kawaii Kon will also be hosting two informational panels: "Modern Anime and Manga," from 11 a.m. to noon Saturday at convention center Room 322, will discuss the history and different genres of anime and manga, as well as the different English-translation approaches and evolving artistic styles. "Japanese Cultural References in Anime," from noon to 1 p.m. Saturday in the same room, will use the anime "Azumanga Daioh" to discuss Japanese cultural activities that don’t necessarily translate well to an English-speaking audience.
Visit www.honolulufestival.com for a list of all the activities happening during festival weekend.
1 LAST GUEST FOR KAWAII KON
Speaking of Kawaii Kon, a recent check of the event’s website revealed a guest whom I have yet to talk about in this space: freelance artist Doug Smith. Samples of his art are available at www.dougsmithart.com, a site that this columnist is going to slap with the "parental guidance suggested / for older audiences" tag for its depiction of a few scantily clad females. He also was a voice actor in various anime, mostly in the ’90s; his most notable role was as Kintaro Oe in "Golden Boy."
Barring any last-minute surprises, Smith is the final guest in a roster that also features voice actors Scott McNeil, Wendee Lee and Kappei Yamaguchi; Arashi Productions owner Jonathan Tarbox; anime producer David Williams; and local bands Alt/Air and Eleven Staples.
Kawaii Kon is April 29 to May 1; register at the Honolulu Festival this weekend or online through April 9 at bit.ly/bRbMBs.