Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Kumoricon 2007!

Kumoricon (http://kumoricon.org) is Oregon's only Japanese animation convention. This year, oddly enough, it was held in Washington state (due to a snafu with the Portland hotel).

What is a "Japanese animation convention"? It's sort of a festival put on by fans for fans of anime (a term for animated movies and shows coming out of Japan) . Kumoricon (Kumori meaning "cloudy" in Japanese) celebrated it's 5th year in existence this year with three days filled with events, contests, panels, anime showings, video game tournements, a vendor's room and of course cosplay (short for "costume play" or dressing up as your fav character)!

A new element this year was the manga reading room (manga = Japanese comics)

This year the Kumoricon staff (all volunteer) numbered around 100 with about 30 more volunteers not signed up as staff. The festivities drew around 3,000 attendees, most between the ages of 12 - 30 (median age of attendees this year was 22) to the Hilton Convention Center and Hotel in Vancouver, WA. I personally participated as staff, my second year volunteering to run the Live Charity Auction as well as lead the publicity outreach program known as Street Team. Due to our Relations Director stepping down late in the game, I also was called upon to get industry donations and permissions from the likes of Tokyopop, VIZ, Bandai and many other companies.

Dark Horse comics editors presented a panel about upcoming projects.

As you can imagine, setting up a three-day party that runs from 10 a.m. - 2 a.m. Saturday and Sunday and until around 7 p.m. on Labor Day Monday is a huge undertaking, one that takes a full year of planning (with meetings held each month.) Like any convention, conference or trade show, Kumoricon has a board of directors, an oversight committee and many people donating hundreds of hours to get the word out about the convention, register people, convey information, set up contests, assemble convention gift bags for the attendees etc.

The video game room.

This year, I am happy to say, was one of the most successful ever. First off, our attendance was up by over 700, despite being held in a different state (OR conventions have the added bonus of being in a state that doesn't charge sales tax). Second, our charity auction raised $2,772, over $500 more than last year. All donations go directly to P:EAR (http://pearmentor.org), a homeless youth outreach program that uses art to benefit those it helps.

Besides all that, I think it's important to have things like anime conventions to give tweens, teens and young adults something interesting, crazy, and social to do. I know how hard it is to be in that awkward age and be a nerd who likes things outside the norm of what's popular, so its fun to see people come together and really take something like this and run with it.

There were some problems - the vendor and artist's area, which was much larger this year, was also in an uncarpeted subteranean parking garage, the entrance to which was not accesible from the main convention space (you had to exit the hotel and walk down the parking ramp.) Lighting was brought in, as was pipe and drape, and while some attendees enjoyed the dungeon-like appearance of a room filled with treasures, many vendors complained that by 4 p.m. (two hours before the room was to close), crowds were sparse due to the heat.

The vendor vault.

We did get some really good press coverage, and the TV crew of KOIN came out and even played a few seconds of us on their 5:00 newscast!

-Freakish Fun from the Far East
Okay, except for the title, this is a pretty good piece by someone from outside the fandom.

- Where East Meets Northwest - Asian Reporter

Good article by a reporter more immersed in the culture.

- Kumoricon Article - Mecha Mecha Media, Yuuyake Shimbun.

This is sort of a placeholder for the article due to appear in October in Portland's Japanese paper, Yuuyake Shimbun.

- Slanted & Enchanted - Willamette Week

This isn't directly about us, it's about The Slants, a band that played at the convention, but it does say: "...the Slants' Kumoricon success has led to offers from conventions in New York, Texas, Kentucky, Budapest, even Australia—all before the proper release of its first album." Which I think is pretty cool!

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