Thousands of anime and comics fans met at the Hawaii Convention Center for the 12th-annual Kawaii Kon animation convention over the weekend.
From Friday through Sunday, fans were treated to a series of events, including a panel with YouTube celebrity Jessica Nigri and a meet-and-greet with Korean pop group Pungdeng-e.
Since the first event in 2005, Kawaii Kon has become one of Hawaii’s most popular fan conventions. It drew more than 10,000 attendees in 2015.
This year’s Kawaii Kon drew 11,597, according to Joshua Pugh, Director of Media Relations for Kawaii Kon.
A big feature of the convention is the encouragement of its attendees to come dressed as their favorite characters, a term known as “cosplay.”
Cosplay is the art of dressing up like characters movies, video games, television shows or comic books.
Since Kawaii Kon focuses mostly on Japanese anime and manga, most of the cosplayers came dressed as anime characters.
But Jon Minami and his friends saw the event as an opportunity to do something different.
“I was thinking, ‘What would be a great costume for all of us to do?’ and I thought, ‘Why not dress as the characters from “Mulan”?’ ” he said.
Decked out in various pieces of homemade foam with green, yellow and purple fabric, Minami and his friends walked the halls of the Hawaii Convention Center looking like the characters Chien Po, Ling and Ping from the 1998 Disney animated film, grabbing the attention of many photographers and fans.
Patrick Olson had the same idea when he came to Kawaii Kon dressed as a paladin knight from the video game “World of Warcraft.”
“It’s so darn cool looking,” he said. “The armor was amazing, the sword is big … and you get to hide behind a mask at the same time. You can’t beat it.”
Most costumes are homemade from various household items. But for more elaborate costumes that require wigs or other removable pieces, cosplayers can buy them or, in Olson’s case, commission their costumes to be made by another artist.
When asked why he decided to commission his costume, Olson said, “I’ve tried to do bits and pieces before and I just spend more money on the material than the actual finished product. I wanted it to be done right.”
However, many cosplayers, including Olson and Minami, would agree that how a costume is created is less important than why.
“I think it’s just a nice relief from reality,” Minami said.
“To really become someone else,” Olson said. “To get out of your comfort zone, to get behind the mask and be able to see the look on little kids’ faces when they see you and the joy in their eyes and the photo opportunities with the kids, it just doesn’t get any better than that.”