Lovely lolitas in frilly dresses could be found roaming the halls with popular anime characters such as Totoro, Lelouch, Yuna and Squall. Military men donned full weaponry next to Cloud from Final Fantasy VII, with his stoic approach and body-length sword, looking tough and brazen alongside the hand-sewn bear costumes and cacti.
These decked out few were among the thousands of fans who attended the 5th annual Kawaii-Kon Convention and Conference held at the Hawaii Convention Center April 16-18. With a plethora of events to match many different tastes and interests, it is no wonder a record high of 4,877 anime enthusiasts, some in full regalia and with weapons that could put the real ones to shame, attended the event.
“While some participants use this as a medium for practice and displaying their costumes, for others, lolita is a way of life,” said Braeden Nakamoto, anime convention staff member who wore a military-esque-kadona suit.
The sub-categories of lolita range from cute and innocent to punk, grunge and goth. The main idea is the bell-shaped
silhouette with petticoats and big frilly princess dresses. Many designs were time-consumingly hand-sewn.
The Hawaii Lolitas organized the TwinklePop Lolita Tea Party to highlight the Japanese street fashion lolita
for females and kadona as the male equivalent. Guests of the tea party were welcomed with food and drink and karaoke winners from past years singing to set the mood.
“Lolita is girly and looks really cute but sophisticated too,” said Laycie Toyama, who was introduced to the Japanese fashion by one of her coaches who showed her the Kamikaze Girls film. “It’s fun and different from cosplay (costume play).”
Nakamoto, who also goes by the stage name Kien Kicho when dressing up and embodying a different persona, said he finds occasions about four times a year to wear costumes.
Enthusiasts of all age groups find great appeal in anime and manga comics for an assortment of reasons.
In a 25-and-older age group discussion, older fans discussed and shared their reasons to participate.
“The sub-culture is a social medium to find a lot of friends with similar interests and where fan input is held at such a high degree that new material is produced based off of it,” one fan said during an open discussion in a group.
“Ninja Scroll is the only place to see someone’s head caught off, laugh and know you are not the only one,” said another fan of the Japanese action thriller anime during the discussion.
Characters from video games and anime films and television were treated with celebrity status by many attendees of Kawaii-Kon. The “Ask an Anime Character” event and web conference offered eager fans the opportunity to ask questions and speak directly to the character.
One of the main events on Saturday was the Cosplay Showcase, which allowed costumists and seamstresses to display their costumes in front of a panel of judges in hopes of obtaining awards such as Best in Show, Best Craftsmanship and ranks for novice and master, among others. Each contestant was awarded a $5 gift certificate to a costuming Web site and the winner of Best in Show received a $500 gift certificate.
“I want to make more costumes with it,” Bertubin said about the winnings. “I want to design costumes for a group.”
Alex Bertubin, with assistant and costume model Car Banvendeverg, won the event’s Best in Show award with her deku shrub monster, which appeared in Legend of Zelda’s Majora’s Mask and Ocarina of Time.
The costume, made mostly of craft foam and held together by two rolls of duct tape and working lights, took more than 60 hours over a two-month period to complete.
“We didn’t think it was going to come out this well,” Bertubin said, who has attended the convention for five years now and was a first-time entrant with her winning costume.
Anime is more than just costuming and media. For some, it is an avenue for artistic expression and collecting.
For the anime art enthusiast, the Gallery of Fantastic Art brought its first anime art exhibit to Hawaii. GoFa is usually displayed at events such as Anime Expo in Los Angeles, with art featuring costume, fantasy and characters.
“This is kind of like how AX (Anime Expo) was 10 years ago,” said Michitoshi Isono, headquarters chief producer of GoFa, with the help of a translator. “Here in Hawaii, everyone looks like they are having a lot of fun and are really easy-going. In L.A., most people come to look at a certain artist, but here everyone looks at everything.”
“I hope to return to future events, if the chairman (of GoFa) says it is okay,” Isono jokingly said. “I would like to bring one of the artists next time to help explain the art.”