Anime convention fans dress up, show character

Vancouver event draws thousands, many in their favorite costumes

By Dave Kern, Columbian assistant metro editor

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Did you know?

You can catch the characters in the Hilton Vancouver Washington on Monday for the $25 cost of admission or for free in Esther Short Park and the downtown area. Children 5 and younger are free with adults at the convention. Permission slips must be signed by parents for youngsters 13 to 17 and some programming is limited to those 18 and older.

Kumoricon 2011

Kon was weary, sweating in his costume, carrying his 10-pound head and making a break for his room at the Hilton.

But he could see the look of longing in the eyes of two anime fans.

“Do you guys want pictures?” he asked.

“Yeahhhh,” cooed Ben Huang, 29, and Frank Liu, 30, both of Taiwan, in harmony. They are currently living in Hillsboro, Ore.

So, on went the head and the cameras caught the character for posterity.

Darien Green, 30, of Salem, Ore., was delighting the crowd at Kumoricon 2011 as the character Kon from the anime show “Bleach.”

The three-day convention, which concludes today, is all about anime, the Japanese cartoon phenomenon perhaps best known for its “Pokémon” show and video games.

About 4,000 folks, many of them adults, seemed to be having the time of their life at the three-day convention.

You could not miss the participants in their sometimes wild get-ups. They were popular and certainly present by the dozen in downtown’s Esther Short Park.

Green said it took him 2½ months to create his giant costume. “Most of that was on the headpiece itself,” he explained. “Sewing took four to six weeks, most of it was made by hand.”

He used hard-form, yellow felt and lots of cloth to stuff the costume.

Why did he choose to be at the convention?

“I have a 9-to-5 job. I’m your average person. It’s different here. It’s a lot of fun. And its not just for teenage people” he said.

The costume was equipped with a 1.4 liter bag of water with a tube leading to the mouth.

Does he get hot?

“I honestly know what it’s like to be a pork roast,” Green said.

The convention was in Portland last year and the downtown venue was “too small,” said Ally Fields, convention director of publicity. She is from McMinn-ville, Ore., and was wearing her Sakura costume from the anime show “Card Captor Sakura.”

“Everybody said they love being here (in Vancouver),” Fields said. “Everybody in Vancouver has been amazing,” she said, adding praise for the Vancouver Police Department.

Participants came from as far away as Australia, England, Germany and Slovakia, she said. Many states were represented, as well, including Connecticut, Florida and Texas.

What is the thrill in dressing like a character?

“There’s a depth to these cartoons,” Fields said. “The creators make them like real people and you feel for them.” She said fans establish a relationship with the characters. ”This year has been full of ‘Pokémon,’” she added.

And it can be an expensive hobby.

“They can spend up to $4,000 to $5,000 on one costume,” Fields said.

The Hilton and Red Lion Inn at the Quay are alive with anime fans. Convention registration is in the underground parking area of the Hilton. A space in the garage also has 32 TVs for gamers. “They like their video-game dungeon,” Fields said, laughing.

The convention offered screenings of cartoons, big-name anime speakers, panels, music, karaoke, and judging of costumes and skits.

Everyone fits in

Bethany Beebe, 15, a Mountain View High School student, was bubbling.

“This is my first anime convention,” she said. ”I love it. Everyone here, they’re really into anime. I’ve been to Japan before, so I really like their culture. And everyone is so accepting. Everyone here is your friend.”

She had on a Cheshire Cat costume from “Alice in Wonderland.” All costumes are welcome, whether from anime or, say, “Ghostbusters” or “Pirates of the Caribbean” or “Resident Evil.” “Captain America” was there, too.

Beebe said she is learning more about anime and enjoys the cartoons “Naruto” and “Death Note.”

She was with Mountain View High friends Danica Person, 15, and Jennifer Murphy, 15. “This is my fourth year … It’s like everyone’s weird and no one’s normal,” Person said, holding the stuffed animal Beary from the show “Ouran Host Club.”

Dylan Monaco, 18, was in his orange Vulpix costume from “Pokémon.” He noted that Vulpix is “pretty much a fox that breathes fire.”

He said the convention is “kind of a social experience.”

He said when he visited Vancouver Farmers Market in costume, people “seemed generally curious, It wasn’t like, ‘What’s with the freak show?’’”

Dave Kern: dave.kern@columbian.com or 360-735-4534