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Con-fused About Hawai‘i’s Pop Culture and Comic Conventions?

Here’s a guide to help you sort through the events in 2020.


Editor’s note: This story was updated in January 2020.

Comic Con Honolulu


A decade ago, the only comic convention in town was Kawaii Kon, dedicated to Japanese manga and anime. Today, there are nearly a half-dozen conventions in Hawai‘i for fans of every assortment of pop culture imaginable: Hollywood blockbusters, cult television shows, indie comic books, tabletop and video games, fetish fashion brands and collectibles. Most events are held at the Hawai‘i Convention Center in Honolulu but convention fever has spread across the Islands in recent years, expanding to include Maui and Hawai‘i Island as well.


At any given con, you’ll find an assortment of artists, both emerging amateurs and industry pros, selling their wares at the “artist alley” or dealer’s room; gamers competing in tournaments against one another; enthusiasts in costumes (everything from handmade armor to maid outfits to fursuits) and the photographers trying to get them to post for a snapshot.


SEE ALSO: Are We Cashing in On TV And Film Production Or Is It Just a Hollywood Illusion?


Interested in visiting one of these events but no clue what the difference between any of them is? Here’s our guide to navigating Hawai‘i’s pop culture conventions, what’s happening at each and what you can expect:



Amazing Comic Con Aloha (formerly Amazing Hawai‘i Comic Con)

Amazing comic con
Photo: Courtesy of Amazing Comic Con Aloha


What It Is

Amazing Comic Con Aloha kicks off comic convention season in Honolulu with a three-day event from Feb. 21 to 23. This high-energy convention was the first to combine the artist alley, dealer’s room and stage for guest speaking panels all in one giant exhibit hall at the convention center, resulting in a sprawling ground floor hub of activity that never slows down. “There’s something for everybody at the show, whether you’re a die-hard comic fan or you just want to have a fun time over the weekend,” says convention founder Jimmy Jay.


Amazing Comic Con Aloha’s focus on pop culture, comics and collectibles attracts guests of all ages; you’re as likely to find high schoolers excited about the upcoming Marvel movies as you are to find old school Bronze Age comic guys grousing and attempting to haggle with dealers over the price of vintage X-Men comic books.


When and Where

Feb. 21 to 23, 2020; Hawai‘i Convention Center, 1801 Kalākaua Ave., Honolulu, O‘ahu


Special Guests

Actor Billy Dee Williams, who played smuggler Lando Calrissian in Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi and, recently, The Rise of Skywalker; Green and Black Power Rangers Jason David Frank and Johnny Yong Bosch, respectively; Saved by the Bell actor Mark-Paul Gosselaar; Highland: The Series actor Adrian Paul; Venom and Absolute Carnage comic writer Donny Cates; New Avengers and X-Force comic artist Jim Cheung; Spawn and Uncanny X-Men comic artist Philip Tan; Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles crossover comic artist Freddie Williams II; as well as raised-in-Hawai‘i comic artists Mog Park, David Nakayama and Sam Campos.



It’s $60 for a general admission three-day pass, or $25 for a day pass on Friday and Sunday and $35 for Saturday; children ages 10 and under are free. Add-on fan packages (to meet specific guests and get autographs or photo ops) begin at $50. VIP tickets, offering early access to rooms and events plus exclusive artwork and a specially designed lanyard, go up to $250.




SEE ALSO: Hone Your Light Saber Skills Just in Time for “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker”



Kawaii Kon

Kawaii Kon
Photo: Tien Enga 


What It Is

Hawai‘i’s first locally originated comic convention of its kind and the largest, with an estimated attendance of more than 13,000 guests in 2019, Kawaii Kon is still the de facto event for otaku, fans of anime, manga and Japanese pop culture. Kawaii Kon attendees skew slightly younger—a lot of middle schoolers up to twentysomethings—but all are welcome, especially if you’re in costume. You’ll find a sea of colorful wigs and elaborate dressed cosplayers enjoying the events, such as J-pop concerts, film screenings and even a dance party called “butishake.”


“Kawaii Kon began as a passion project among friends wanting to create a place for anime fans to gather and celebrate their mutual love for all things otaku,” says Courtney Ahmed, Kawaii Kon director of events. “[Kawaii Kon has grown] to include the biggest tabletop gaming event space in Hawai‘i; an artist alley that hundreds of artists from across the U.S. apply to be part of; and hosts of anime industry companies that bring worldwide announcements and premieres.”


SEE ALSO: 10 Awesome Costumes That Wowed Us at Kawaii Kon 2018


When and Where

May 15 to 17, 2020; Hawai‘i Convention Center, 1801 Kalākaua Ave., Honolulu, O‘ahu


Special Guests

Voice actors Steve Blum (Cowboy BebopCall of DutyStar Wars), Mary Elizabeth McGlynn (Ghost in the Shell), Robbie Raymond (Sailor Moon), Charlet Chung (Overwatch), and anime composer Eri Sasaki.



It’s $65 for a general admission three-day pass, $55 for a two-day pass; or $40 for a day pass on Friday and Sunday and $45 for Saturday; children ages 10 and under are free with a paying adult.




SEE ALSO: Our Favorite Moments and Costumes from Kawaii Kon 2019



Comic Con Honolulu (formerly Hoku Con)

Comic Con

Photo: Tien Enga


What It Is

As Kawaii Kon grew and began receiving requests for programming that would appeal to wider audiences (similar to how San Diego Comic Con shifted from being a comics-only event to the media blitz it is today), the event’s coordinators decided to launch a spinoff all-genre convention in 2014. “A number of our directors are also big comic book fans … at that time, no other [similar] pop culture conventions existed on O‘ahu,” says Courtney Ahmed, who’s also the director of events for Comic Con Honolulu. “We’ve expanded to [host] the biggest video game tournaments in Hawai‘i, as well as the largest PC gaming area, thanks to our partnership with PC Gamerz.”


Today, Comic Con Honolulu focuses on comics, movies, sci-fi and other assorted geekdom, with a particular emphasis on video games. Guests in recent years have included voice actors from the game Overwatch and head writers from Blizzard Entertainment.


When and Where

Aug. 7 to 9, 2020; Hawai‘i Convention Center, 1801 Kalākaua Ave., Honolulu, O‘ahu


Special Guests

Star Trek: The Next Generation and Big Bang Theory actor Wil Wheaton, and Eisner award-winning comic colorists Michael and Laura Allred.



It’s $65 for a general admission three-day pass, $55 for a two-day pass; $40 for a day pass on Friday and Sunday and $55 for Saturday; children ages 10 and under are free with a paying adult.




SEE ALSO: The 10 Worst Movies and TV Shows Shot in Hawai‘i




Photo: Courtesy of Hawai‘iCon


What It Is

This four-day convention at the Sheraton Resort in Kona gathers science-fiction actors, fantasy novelists, comic writers and artists, as well as scientists and science educators, for a more laid-back approach to traditional conventions. Hawai‘iCon guests are welcome to attend speaking panels and visit the artist alley—or take a swim and see otherworldly creatures right outside in the Pacific Ocean. The intimacy of the event (with only 1,500 to 2,000 average attendees) and the chill venue allows for fans to have closer contact with visiting celebrities. Special tickets are available for con attendees interested in joining guests at group dinners or diving alongside manta rays.


It’s a convention that celebrates sci-fi, and the real science behind it. “[We bring] together some of the brightest science minds in science fiction and fantasy to discuss the real-world applications of fictional ideas,” says Hawai‘iCon 2020 CEO and convention chair Jessica Gauthier. “As a STEAM education organization, we aim to teach as well as have fun so every panel, workshop and event has an element of both learning and entertainment.”


When and Where

Sept. 24 to 27, 2020; The Sheraton Kona Resort & Spa at Keauhou Bay, 78-128 ‘Ehukai St., Kona, Hawai‘i Island


Special Guests




It’s $129 for an adult four-day pass; $50 for a child four-day pass (ages 6 to 12); $30 to $50 for an adult day pass (depending on the day); and $15 to $25 for a child day pass (depending on the day).


It's $499 for VIP membership, which includes early access to various places and events, complimentary cocktails and credit towards photo ops or autograph signings. It’s $120 to snorkel with manta rays and cool guests. (If you’re on O‘ahu, it’ll also cost a flight to the Big Island.)




SEE ALSO: The 10 Best Movies and TV Shows Shot in Hawai‘i



NEET Honolulu


What It Is

If you were to take a comic convention’s artist alley—where a mix of amateur and professional artists alike set up booths to display their original work, create commissioned pieces of art and sell specially made merchandise such as prints, comics, buttons or clothing—and create a one-night event centered solely around it, you’d have NEET Honolulu. The name of the event is an acronym meaning “not employed, educated or in training.” Although traditionally more of a derogatory reference to young people in Japan who have opted out of attending college or working, the convention’s organizers have chosen to embrace the title as a term of endearment.


Held annually at the Japanese Cultural Center, this convention’s focus is on local artists and vendors selling works and promoting their brands, which can include food: Specialty vendors at NEET offer gyoza, okonomiyaki and more. (It’s a welcome change from the fixed menu selection at the Hawai‘i Convention Center.) In addition to the booths, there’s traditionally an itasha show on the JCC roof, showing off racing vehicles with images of anime characters emblazoned across the hood and sides. Like Kawaii Kon, NEET Honolulu’s audience is geared toward more of a high school and college crowd, but Japanese manga and anime enthusiasts of all ages are welcome.


When and Where

Date TBA; The Mānoa Grand Ballroom at the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawai‘i, 2454 S. Beretania St., Fifth Floor, Honolulu, Oahu


Special Guests

Local artists, crafters, cosplayers and anime/manga enthusiasts.



TBA. In 2018, tickets were $5 in advance online, $7 at the door on the night of the event.




SEE ALSO: This Local Prop Master and “Game of Thrones” Fan Built His Own Iron Throne



Maui Comic Con


What It Is

A comic convention that focuses specifically on, well, comics. Founded in 2016 by Maui Comics and Collectibles owner Alika Seki and Kenneth Gardner, Maui Comic Con is an annual two-day event at the University of Hawai‘i Maui College in Kahului dedicated to bringing comic industry legends out to meet local cartoonists and enthusiasts. With support from the Hawaiian Comic Book Alliance (whose members include Pineapple Man creator Sam Campos, Mana Comics publisher Christopher Caravalho, and Honolulu Star-Advertiser and “Local Kine” greeting cards illustrator Jon J. Murakami), convention attendees can look forward to live drawing sessions, a comics-heavy artist alley, plus Q&As and panels on the main stage hosted by Maui’s own NERDWatch podcast members. If you’re an emerging artist looking to hone your drawing skills or a comic fan hoping to connect with some big names in the comics world, this event is for you.


“We also have a partnership with UH Maui College to do an educational preview day the Friday before the convention, where our headlining guests and local arts educators do a preview curriculum for visiting high school students who are bussed in for the day,” says Maui Comic Con co-founder Seki. “Maui Comic Con is free to the public and is a completely locally created convention.”


When and Where

Date TBA; University of Hawai‘i Maui College, 310 W. Ka‘ahumanu Ave., Kahului, Maui


Special Guests




Besides a plane ticket to Maui (if you’re on another island), Maui Comic Con is free. The price is right!




Read more stories by James Charisma



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