Come out and cosplay at Kumoricon

Fans dressing as favorite characters part of fun of annual anime festival

By Sue Vorenberg, Columbian features reporter

Published:

 
photoCosplay enthusiasts(from left) Tommy Skarbek, Shannon Burckhard and Sienna Stuck enjoy dressing up as various characters played by actor Johnny Depp. Photo by Kay Cheri Ward

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If you go

What: Kumoricon Anime Festival, in its 10th year.

Where: Hilton Vancouver Washington and the Red Lion Hotel Vancouver at the Quay.

When: Sept. 1-3. Cost: $45 for all three days, $30 Saturday or Sunday only, $25 Monday. $25 for children ages 6-12, free for children 5 and younger. Pay at the door.

Information: Kumoricon 2012

Anime and manga

Types of anime (cartoons) and manga (print comics) and their target audiences:

Kodomo, for small children of both genders.

Shojo, for girls ages 10 and up, focused on high schools, drama, magic.

Shonen, for boys ages 10 and up, focused on sports teams or fighting squads.

Seinen, for men, focused on war stories or tales of action and adventure.

Josei, for women, focused on romantic tales.

Anime classics

Here are five anime classics recommended by the organizers of Kumoricon:

"Princess Mononoke"

"Bleach"

"Naruto"

"Neon Genesis Evangelion"

"Sailor Moon"

Remember the old idiom, there's more than one way to dress up as Johnny Depp?

OK, that might not be the exact expression, but if you're in Esther Short Park on Sunday and come across The Depp Squad, you might find it fitting.

Members of the group, who dress up and role play as the actor's characters from various films, are visiting Vancouver for Kumoricon, the region's largest anime festival. And they plan to wander the park in full Depp regalia this weekend as Sweeney Todd, Capt. Jack Sparrow and The Mad Hatter.

What they do is something called cosplay -- short for costume play -- in which fans of fictional characters dress in costumes and act, put on skits or engage in coordinated dances.

Shannon Burckhard, the group's Sweeney Todd, said it's been her favorite part of Kumoricon since she started attending in 2005.

"What draws me to cosplay is the artistic aspect of it," Burckhard said. "As somebody who is artistic and enjoys art, I've adopted it as another form of expressing myself through a different art form."

Kumoricon, in its 10th year, was held in Vancouver in 2007 and 2011 and will return this weekend.

Kumoricon grew from a University of Oregon club. It was held in Eugene, Ore. the first year, then moved to Portland when it grew too large.

Last year, with Kumoricon's continued growth, organizers decided to move it from Oregon to Washington due to the need for a bigger venue, more hotel space and more space for role playing, said Ally Fields, who helps coordinate the convention.

"We're thrilled that Esther Short Park will be open for cosplay again," Fields said. "People love that park."

Last year, the event drew 3,956 paid attendees, Fields said. This year, the turnout will likely be larger, with 3,300 pre-registered attendees signed up by the end of last week.

"We're always happy for better turnout," Fields said. "I think a lot of people weren't sure about going across the river last year, but it was completely fine. We're ready for as many people as want to come this year, and we have more staff."

The main events at the convention revolve around anime, which is a Japanese style of animated cartoons, and manga, a similar style of print comics. Participants watch screenings or buy and trade various types of anime and manga at the Hilton Vancouver Washington and the Red Lion Hotel Vancouver at the Quay.

One thing Fields is especially excited about this year is that The Slants, a Portland-based band, will play a special concert on Saturday night from 9 to 10:30 p.m. in the Hilton's main ballroom.

"When they first started in around 2007 they had their first big gig at Kumoricon, and now they're huge," Fields said. "We're thrilled to have them back."

Various anime voice actors and manga artists will also be on hand to answer questions and talk to fans. And this year Kumoricon organizers are working to line up special events at downtown businesses and brewpubs, Fields said.

"We're trying to get more people out into Vancouver so they can enjoy the city," she said.

Burckhard, who's 21, said she's most looking forward to checking out the wide variety of cosplay costumes and to joining in on some of the improvisational cosplay events at the festival.

"Most people don't realize the amount of time, effort and money these costumes require," Burckhard said. "It's a lot of work."

Her two costumes are Sweeney Todd and Angelica Teach from "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides."

"I've been cosplaying as Sweeney for two years now, and in those two years I've worked hard to get the costume to where it is today," she said. "There will always be something I can tweak on it."

Her Angelica costume took about a year to put together, but she's still developing it, she said, adding that she and other cosplay enthusiasts love it when people talk to them about their costumes.

She said she hopes people from Vancouver will feel free to come up and talk to her and other members of The Depp Squad when they're in the park on Sunday.

"We wouldn't mind at all if members of the public wanted to talk to us about what we do," Burckhard said. "That's no problem at all."