Your Ultimate Guide to Kawaii Kon 2017
Everything you need to know to enjoy this weekend’s nerd fest at the Hawai‘i Convention Center.
Photos: ODEELO DAYONDON
From April 7 to 9, Kawaii Kon returns to the Hawai‘i Convention Center for three days of Japanese anime, art and culture. Whether you’re a cosplayer who enjoys getting into costume and character, collecting comics and tabletop games and miniatures, or are just there to hang out and people-watch, there’s something for everyone.
Each year, thousands gather for this annual celebration, with attractions including silent and live art auctions, video- and board-game tournaments, more than 100 art vendors, and speaking panels and autograph sessions by Japanese film and television voice actors, comic illustrators, singers and fashion designers.
“Kawaii Kon is not just an event, it’s an experience,” says convention CEO Faisal Ahmed. “Even if you aren’t the biggest anime fan, there are video games, tabletop [games] and tons of cosplayers, so it’s just a fun environment.”
This year, guests include Kanae Itō, a Japanese voice actress from the film series Sword Art Online, who’ll be helping to present a special screening of the latest installment. Voice actors Zach Callison and Deedee Magno Hall of Cartoon Network’s Steven Universe, Janet Varney of Legend of Korra and actor Dante Basco, who played gang leader Rufio opposite Robin Williams and Dustin Hoffman in 1991’s Hook and voiced Prince Zuko in Avatar: The Last Airbender, will be there. Concerts throughout the weekend will be headlined by DJ Taku Takahashi, Luna Haruna, Joe Inoue, bless4 and Hanafugetsu, a musical group whose members are also part of Waggaki Band, which will be performing at the 2020 Olympics.
“I am super excited about the Sword Art Online movie screening. The movie was just in theaters, so it’s exciting that we are able to play it for Kawaii Kon members for free,” Ahmed says. “It’s being hosted by Kanae Itō on her first visit to the United States; Kawaii Kon is the first show in North America with the privilege of having her.”
If you’re totally confused by everything we just described, don’t worry. The biggest events are deliberately staggered so you’ll have time to catch most everything. Nearly all of them are free (once you purchase a ticket to Kawaii Kon) and they’re all held at the Hawai‘i Convention Center. Download the official Kawaii Kon app to see where everything’s happening or check our quick guide below for some of the show’s must-see events:
Friday, April 7, noon to 1:30 p.m., Ballroom B
Get into the swing of things at Kawaii Kon with this kickoff event that explains important information through the weekend, entertains with a short musical dance routine, prize giveaways and more. Plus, it’s your first chance to see all the special guests for the convention.
Friday, April 7, 9:15 p.m. to midnight, Room 316B
Meet a new friend or possibly the love of your life at Kawaii Kon’s annual speed dating for guests 18 years or older. At this no-pressure social event, you’ll have a chance to connect with other attendees and successful matches will be sent out a week or so after Kawaii Kon weekend.
Saturday, April 8, noon to 1 p.m., Ballroom B
Local models will rock the latest threads by Asian fashion brands gouk, Alice and the Pirates, and Baby, The Stars Shine Bright on Saturday afternoon. Check out these eclectic styles and take note of which pieces you’ll be snagging next for your collection.
Cosplay Masquerade (Finals)
Saturday, April 8, 5 to 6 p.m., Ballroom B
Show off your best homemade costume and compete against other kon-goers to bring home top prize at the Cosplay Masquerade. Sixty of the best costumed characters and ensembles will be on stage for this exhibition of artistry, construction and creativity. Fun for guests participating in costume or just to gawk at as an audience member.
Luna Haruna Concert
Saturday, April 8, 8:15 to 9:15 p.m., Ballroom B
Japanese singer and fashion model Luna Haruna has created the beginning and ending theme songs for popular anime that include Sword Art Online, High School Fleet, Mekakucity Actors, Fate/Zero and Saekano: How to Raise a Boring Girlfriend. Hear these tracks and other original music from her four popular albums.
Sunday, April 9, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Room 328
Relax at an anime and fashion-inspired afternoon high tea event with special guests Mimi and Rin from the Japanese rococo and Gothic fashion label Baby, The Stars Shine Bright. The theme is “Secret Springtime Paradise,” and guests will take photos with Mimi and Rin and receive an exclusive novelty prize. There’s also a raffle for special additional goodies. Needless to say, the dress code requires at least one clothing item from the brands Baby, The Stars Shine Bright or Alice and the Pirates. Tickets are $40.
Nearby restaurants and cafés will also be offering discounted prices and specials for convention attendees. Just flash your badge at the following spots for these deals:
A free cookie with the purchase of a sandwich at Subway Kapi‘olani.
Eight-in-one topping pizza and 20-ounce soda lunch special for $6, or a single large three-topping pizza for $15 at Papa John’s on Kapi‘olani Boulevard.
10 percent off your order at Teddy’s Bigger Burgers on Kapi‘olani Boulevard.
A chicken teriyaki plate with two sides and a small drink for $7.95 at Atkinson Grill.
Buy one drink, get one drink free at Taste Tea on Kapi‘olani Boulevard.
20 percent off all items at Momo Tea on Kalākaua Avenue.
Kawaii Kon 2017, Hawai‘i Convention Center, 1801 Kalākaua Avenue, kawaiikon.com
READ MORE STORIES BY JAMES CHARISMA