Wednesday, March 27, 2013

STL-Based Kawakon Makes A Splash For Fifth Year

by Sarah Hayes
Ash Stocker and Eric Striler pose together as Jack Frost
 from the film Rise of the Guardians and Eridan from the webcomic Homestuck.

Young people in colorful costume took over the Hyatt Regency this Mardi Gras weekend, March 8-10, but it wasn’t because of any holiday. It was the fifth year for local convention Kawakon, a three-day event that celebrates Japanese animation and other geek-related interests. This year’s Kawakon featured an old school theme that influenced their usual programming, highlighted in such events as Old School Show And Tell and Saturday Morning Cartoons. 

Guests included voice actors Grey DeLisle and Quinton Flynn, local author Shane Moore, martial art instructors Samurai Dan and Jillian, Japanese tradition-based group Three Rivers Okiya and musical steampunk group The Aeronauts. The number of people who attended this year’s Kawakon is estimated to be 1500 in total.

One Kawakon attendee was artist guest of honor Musetap, who also attended Kawakon in past years. The artistic team became a part of Kawakon when con chairs Katrina and Mikhail Lynn approached them in 2010 to do artwork for their program book. At that point, Musetap was just one of many groups taking part in the ubiquitous artist’s alley; now they are certified convention guests and running their own panels on how to become better artists. 

The highlight of Musetap’s convention schedule is the now infamous “Create A Character” panel. It becomes a yearly event where convention goers create “inside jokes and insanity in character form” that continues into the following Kawakon. In fact, the “Create A Character” panel is like many panels as Kawakon 2013 - a great deal of mad fun that ends up being very memorable for all involved.

Musetap was also once again a part of the artist’s alley - a gamut of tables where artists can sell their hand made wares -  which ran right outside the dealer’s room. Inside the massive dealer’s room, vendors of all sorts ran miniature shops where geek chic reigned supreme. It looked to be the biggest vendor’s room in recent years at Kawakon, with items ranging in various interests from prop samurai swords and anime character plushies to inflatable Daleks and steampunk gear.

One of the vendors was Elaine Vogt, owner of Crestwood-based anime shop Animeggroll. Kawakon 2013 was her fourth year of being a vendor at an anime convention, although this year it literally fell into her lap – “one of those Craiglist deals” – all thanks to a vendor who couldn’t make it and gave her shop their table space.
The full cast of cosplay group Let’s Have A Mario Party 
strikes a pose for the cameras at the masquerade.

“My kids are on staff, so I’m familiar with Kawakon,” Elaine added.  Her favorite part of Kawakon was that it covered more than anime but also a variety of interests, as well as the program tracks that made up which events took place where. Program tracks are one of the latest changes to Kawakon’s programming since it originally started in 2008. 

Thanks to these tracks, attendees can focus on their favorite kind of panels and events since each track is situated in their own room, with their own unique banner. For example, the British Invasion track room - for panels about British culture and entertainment - was decorated with large cardboard cutouts of Severus Snape and the iconic blue police box from Doctor Who. The Steampunk room’s banner was covered in gears and cogs. It was a welcome change from having all panels of all kinds spread out in various rooms, and a lot less confusing to navigate.

One of the major highlights of the weekend was musical guest Professor Shyguy, also the front man for steampunk rock band The Aeronauts. It was Brandt Cooley’s first run as Shyguy for the Kawakon crowd, but judging by the audience’s very positive reaction at his live shows that weekend, it certainly won’t be his last. The Professor’s mixture of electronic beats and geek references have made him one of the most popular guests at the convention. His steampunk persona also kept his performances well attended, especially since The Aeronauts have already built themselves a reputation of putting on a great show at conventions across the country. The Aeronauts were a musical guest of honor at last year’s Kawakon as well.

Kawakon’s total number of attendees for the 2013 event is estimated to be 1,500 eager badge-carrying otaku. Dates have not been announced for Kawakon 2014, but it has been confirmed that it shall stay at the Hyatt Regency. It will also not be the same weekend as Mardi Gras, a decision that had many convention goers on Facebook sighing with relief. 

For more Kawakon 2013 photography including color shots of cosplayers and the masquerade, visit the Forum’s Flickr page at For video interviews with some of Kawakon 2013's notable guests of honor, search 'Kawakon 2013 interview' on YouTube or go to ALinderVideo's channel, our intrepid videographer for the convention weekend. Below is an interview with two of the young ladies from Three Rivers Okiya and editor Sarah Hayes.

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