Hawaii's Kawaii Kon Turns 10

This year marks the 10th anniversary of Kawaii Kon, Hawaii’s largest anime convention and conference.

Did you know? In Japan, manga (comic books) are big—they represent one-third of all printed material.

photos: courtesy kawaii kon (Chris kwock/mark orbito) and mike kc yanga (kreationz studio)

For three days in April, Japanese animation and manga, comic book, science fiction, fantasy, and costume enthusiasts will come together to celebrate their shared passions at the Hawaii Convention Center. This will be the 10th Kawaii Kon, and will include guest panelists, TV and film screenings, tabletop and video-game tournaments, live performances, artist and vendor rooms, and even a “Moonlight Ball.”

Senior administrator Roy “Buma” Bann says the event has come a long way from its first year at the Ala Moana Hotel.

“We had just five rooms for everything,” says Bann, with a laugh. “Our Artist Alley had only eight tables, and the original founders said that if just 500 people showed up that weekend, they could cover their costs.”

Nearly 2,000 people attended the first Kawaii Kon in 2005, and by 2007 the event had outgrown the Ala Moana Hotel and moved to the Convention Center. Kawaii Kon continues to expand; last year, nearly 8,000 people were involved, including volunteers, vendors and guests.

This year, the artist alley and vendor room have been relocated to the first floor exhibition hall with 240 tables, all sold out. Kawaii Kon now takes up three floors of the Convention Center, and that expansion hasn’t been simple.

“How do you continue to grow and improve in a community that values a certain degree of consistency?” Bann asks. “We’re working on building the biggest and the best convention we can, just like the ones you might see on the Mainland. But we also still want to keep that local feel and sense of ohana that we’ve had from the beginning.”

Bann encourages people to visit the convention, even if they’re not necessarily an anime or comic fan. From shopping to screenings to a few thousand people in costume, there’s something for nearly everyone at Kawaii Kon.

“One year, a woman and her grandfather visited the convention for the first time. The man was suffering from dementia, but brightened when he recognized a figure in costume—Gatchaman, a character from a Japanese cartoon in the ’70s. The woman said he hadn’t smiled like that in months and, on the way out, he was even humming the theme song,” Bann says. “It’s one of my favorite stories; people connecting with people. I think that’s what Kawaii Kon is all about.”

April 4-6, Hawaii Convention Center, kawaii-kon.org.