Unmasked | Kawaii Kon 2013

Posted on March 22, 2013

I’ve been going to Kawaii Kon for a few years now, and I was always struck by how all my photos seemed to be either set up or in-character. I’ve always feel like I’m trying to convey something when I take a photo, and this year I wanted to focus more on the people of Kawaii Kon instead of the characters they were portraying, so I made this photo essay about the little moments of Kawaii Kon.

More after the jump.

I’ve always loved Kawaii Kon’s escalators. Dallas has famously rode up and down them to capture candids of characters out of character.

I went into the bathroom only to find cosplayers getting ready. It was an intimate, out-of-character moment where the person is becoming the persona, but it was also funny to think about the Far Cry villain’s morning routine.

Even though Kawaii Kon gets billed as an anime convention, it feels more like an internet culture convention. I suspect the two overlap rather heavily, considering the vibrant fansub communities online. Members of the 501st stand by in the background to fund-raise, as this gentleman that seems to be be from that internet walks by.

Volunteers zealously guard the way to Artist’s Alley, where “artisan” vendors are given space to hawk their wares. I feel like this is a proving ground for young artists…if you want to see tomorrow’s art celebrities, you start here.

Hawaii has a surprisingly large (and enthusiastic) Homestuck community. There were very many (very good) cosplays from that universe. I’m hoping this will help lure one of my favorite internet artists, Alexandra Douglass (herself a big Homestuck fan), to Hawaii one of these days.

Gabe plays with a Spam Musubi plushie. Legend goes that Dallas actually invented those, and that all the other plushies are derivatives from this original idea…we can’t prove it, but that’s our story. They always sell well, which I guess goes with being an unofficial symbol of Hawaii.

Kawaii Kon always draws an interesting mix of artists. Here, Andy Lee–a former illustrator for Marvel, DC, and other top brands–shows off his skills in a live demo for Charisma Industries. Andy teaches art locally now, in case anyone is interested!

I’m always tickled to see people making ideas their own. Here, you see a young fan putting a Hawaii twist on Minecraft’s creeper, Uke, muu muu and all!

I’m also always happy to see kids at Kon. I can’t help feeling their parents are instilling in them a narrative of fun and wear-it-on-your-sleeve geekdom. I look forward to the day I can bond with my own kids over events like this.

Of course, there is no age limit to enjoying Kon.

But, of course, my favorite part of Kon was spying all the personas revealing the people behind them. I tried to capture the essence of real moments in between the constant stagecraft that goes on at Kon. Let me know how you think I did!

(I really love how Iron Man girl’s boyfriend just seemed to think she was sooooo cool!)

(This girl’s guy did, too!)

Speaking of out-of-character, I wanted to give a BIG acknowledgement to my mother-in-law, Linda Nagata. She just released The Red: First Light, her first science-fiction book in ten years! At my request, she came out to Kawaii Kon to share her experiences as an author published by big NYC publishing houses (like TOR and other big names) who went indie. My whole family is very big into giving back and improving Hawaii, but Linda is pretty shy, so it was a big step for her to be on a panel on her own. Fortunately, there was good attendance, and some fans even came out to have her sign earlier books! I just wanted to say thanks to her for coming out and sharing her knowledge.

(An artist was also appreciative, and made a sketch of her!)

By the end of the day, people are getting pretty tired.

Though many are still buzzing from meeting their heroes.

We say goodbye to our zealous guard. (Security is srs bsns)

Sneak one last escalator shot

And go home.