Friday, September 15, 2006

K-Con - the aftermath

From September 2 - 4, Haden Island just north of Downtown Portland was overtaken by ninjas.

And catgirls.

And giant sword-wielding samurai.

Over 2,200 fans of Japanese animation (anime), comics (manga), video games and art descended on the Red Lion hotel for the fourth annual Kumoricon, a celebration of all things weird and wonderfully Japanese. This all-volunteer run convention is unique not only for being Oregon's only anime convention, but for its nurturing and support of fan creations. From the conventions two unique fan-created groups - Pocky Club and Goggle Squad - to the creation station, to its live charity auction, Kumoricon staff, volunteers and attendees are devoted to creatively giving back to the underground culture that obviously gives them much joy.

Kumoricon (or K-con as it is affectionately referred to) had many elements normally associated with a multiple-day anime convention: for one price, attendees can visit viewing rooms and watch a sampling of anime in categories that range from science fiction and fantasy, to sports, horror and adult themed. There was a mix of shows dubbed in English and those in Japanese with English subtitles. Special guests included voice-over actors, musicians and artists who conducted panels, autograph sessions and concerts for the con-goers. Of course, K-con had a healthy dose of attendees dressed in costume as well, a trend known as cosplay. It is this fan-lead activity, along with fan-fiction and art (fans writing offshoot stories about characters created by someone else) and anime music videos (AMVs, where fans take clips of anime shows and put them to music), that Kumoricon has embraced with great glompable glee (glomping = hugging another person, usually proceeded by a running start. The experience can sometimes be off-putting for the glomped party - therefore it is convention etiquette to ask before glomping.)

A little history

Kumoricon (Kumori means "cloudy" in Japanese - quite apt for Oregon) was first held in 2002 in Eugene, about two hours south of Portland. Originally an off shoot of a local anime group, it drew about 500 people in its first year. The decision was made to move it to Portland to allow it to grow and because of the larger selection of venues and amenities. In 2003, K-con was held at the Doubletree hotel and drew 1000+. The local daily paper, the Oregonian, caught wind of the convention and wrote an article that drew a lot of attention. However, the con was not equipped to handle the multitude of people (volunteers always being hard to come by) and had to cut off registration at one point. In 2004, riding on the popularity of the year before, they were ready. Attendance was around 1,700 at what would turn out to be the last year at the Doubletree. A veterans group reserved the hotel for Labor Day for the next 5 years, and so K-con had to find a new home.

This year's event was quite a success. According to the official figures posted on the Kumoricon webpage:

  • Attendance: 2257, up from apx. 1700 in 2005
  • On line pre-registrations: 1035, up from 720 in 2005
  • Total pre-registrations: 1257 (Same as total attendance for 2004)
  • Charity Auction Sales: $2455, up from apx. $1600 in 2005

The Charity Auction, held on the final day of the con, right before the closing ceremonies, really summarizes what Kumoricon is all about. All donations go to P:EAR, a Portland based non-profit that aides transitional and homeless youth through art, education, and recreation. As the convention chair put it, “without art, there would be no anime,” and by being able to give a little back to a community that has allowed these fans to enjoy three days of fun and frivolity, K-con stands to continue it’s success well into the future.

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