Your Ultimate Guide to Kawaii Kon 2018
Here’s our handy cheat sheet of the best Kawaii Kon events happening this weekend, from speed dating to costume contests to concerts.
Photos: Tien Enga
Kawaii Kon returns this weekend at the Hawai‘i Convention Center. Every year, thousands gather for this three-day celebration of Japanese anime, art, music and culture—from the comic book and manga enthusiasts to cosplayers dressing up in costumes as their favorite characters to tabletop and video game professionals.
In addition to costume contests, film screenings, board game and arcade tournaments, silent and live auctions, and dozens of art vendors selling works in the artist alley and dealer’s room, there are also speaking panels and autograph sessions with voice actors, comic creators, musicians, fashion designers, podcast hosts and more.
“Kawaii Kon’s fun for the whole family. This year, we’re letting kids that are age 10 and under get in for free with an adult,” says convention CEO Faisal Ahmed. “This is to help make the convention more affordable and accessible.”
This year’s special guests include Rick and Morty, Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Fallout 4 voice actress Kari Wahlgren; Pokémon, Call of Duty and World of Warcraft voice actor Todd Haberkorn; Sailor Moon and Mobile Suit Gundam voice actress Christine Cabanos; and renowned professional cosplayer Vampy Bit Me. Concerts throughout the weekend will be headlined by Japanese operatic vocalist Elisa, Babymetal sound producer Yuyoyuppe, anime theme song band ROOKiEZ is PUNK’D, conductor and composer Eric Roth and Hawai‘i-based rock band EMKE. Several official animation industry companies are also visiting Kawaii Kon in 2018, including Aniplex and FUNimation Productions.
“One of our most exciting events is the Final Fantasy Symphony, an officially licensed performance through Square Enix that’s being performed in Hawai‘i for the first time on Sunday,” Ahmed says. “Ryo Horikawa will also be attending; he’s the lead voice actor in an anime called Rainy Cocoa, which features many real locations in Hawai‘i, including Kawaii Kon itself in the latest season. This makes us the only North American convention to ever be featured in an anime.”
There’s a lot to see and do at Kawaii Kon but the biggest events are scheduled throughout the weekend so you’ll have (almost) enough time to catch everything you want. Tickets to the convention are available by the day or for the entire weekend. Download the official Kawaii Kon app for more info on guests and happenings, or check our quick convention guide below for the can’t-miss events:
Friday, March 2, noon to 1:30 p.m., Ballroom B
Kawaii Kon 2018 kicks off with this welcome event that goes over important info about the convention through the weekend, features a short musical dance routine, offers prize giveaways and more. This is also your first chance to see all the special guests that’ll be here for Kawaii Kon.
Kawaii Kon Otaku Speed Dating
Friday, March 2, 9:15 to 10:30 p.m., Room 316B
Looking for that special someone? Kawaii Kon’s annual speed dating for guests 18 or older returns in 2018, with this no-pressure social event. You’ll have a chance to quickly meet and connect with other attendees and successful matches will be sent out a few days later.
Friday, March 2, 9:45 to 11:30 p.m., Room 311
Each year, convention administrator and all-around cool guy buma creates a specially edited anime dance video to get funky and shake your booty to. This is one of Kawaii Kon’s signature events, featuring original video and music mixes by the one and only DJ buma.
Fashion Show featuring LISTEN FLAVOR
Saturday, March 3, noon to 1 p.m., Ballroom B
See the latest designs out of Harajuku from the fashion brand LISTEN FLAVOR. As local models rock these popular new threads, take a look at the cute and punky styles on display and take note of which ones you’ll be picking up to add to your wardrobe.
Saturday, March 3, 5 to 6 p.m., Ballroom B
Fun for costumed guests and enthusiasts, the annual Kawaii Kon costume contest showcases close to 60 of the best costumed characters of the convention. Ensembles are presented on stage for this exhibition of creativity and construction, where the most popular outfits compete to bring home top prize. Past favorites have included Batman villains, members of the X-Men, adorable kids dressed as mechanized warriors and other characters. May the best costume win!
Saturday, March 3, 7:30 to 8:30 p.m., Ballroom B
Hear some of your favorite anime songs performed by Japanese singer Elisa with her impressive opera-style vocals. Her anime singing credits include Hayate the Combat Butler, A Certain Scientific Railgun, 91 Days, Valvrave the Liberator and Nabari no Ou. No additional ticket required.
ROOKiEZ is PUNK’D Concert
Saturday, March 3, 8:45 to 10:15 p.m., Ballroom B
Live in concert, ROOKiEZ is PUNK’D will be performing some of their most popular themes from anime, including Durarara!!, Yowamushi Pedal, Bleach and many others. Don’t miss this passionate, high-energy live performance. No additional ticket required.
Sunday, March 4, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Room 328
Enjoy a fashionable and anime-inspired afternoon of high tea with special guests from the Japanese clothing brand LISTEN FLAVOR. Each attendee receives a novelty gift and can enjoy games and a photo session with the guests. Attendees must wear at least one clothing item from LISTEN FLAVOR. Tickets are $40.
Final Fantasy: A New World Concert
Sunday, March 4, 4 to 5 p.m., Ballroom B
Enjoy a live orchestral performance of music from the Final Fantasy game series with internationally recognized conductor and composer Eric Roth, whose orchestrations and arrangements have been performed by the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic, the Czech Philharmonic, San Francisco Symphony and others, as well as game composer Hitoshi Sakamoto, who worked on titles such as Final Fantasy Tactics, Final Fantasy XII, Dragon’s Crown and others. This concert requires an additional $12 ticket, available at the registration desk.
Nearby places to eat will also be offering discounted prices and various specials for convention attendees. Just flash your badge or wristband at the following spots for these deals:
Free cookie with purchase of a sandwich at Subway Kapi‘olani.
8-inch, one-topping pizza and 20-ounce soda lunch special for $6, or a large one-topping specialty pizza for $9.99 at Papa John’s on Kapi‘olani Boulevard.
10 percent off your order at Teddy’s Bigger Burgers on Kapi‘olani Boulevard.
Kawaii Kon 2018, Hawai‘i Convention Center, 1801 Kalākaua Ave., kawaiikon.com