Come out and cosplay at Kumoricon

Organizers of anime festival urge curiosity seekers to join in the fun

By Sue Vorenberg, Columbian features reporter



If you go

What: Kumoricon Anime Festival, in its 11th year.

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

When: Aug. 31 to Sept. 2. Adult tickets: $45 for all three days, $30 Saturday or Sunday only, $25 Monday only. Children's tickets: $25 for children ages 6-12 for all three days, $20 Saturday or Sunday only, $15 Monday only; free for children 5 and younger. Pay at the door.


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"



"Neon Genesis Evangelion"

"Sailor Moon"

Cosplay has changed quite a bit since Holly Burpo first took up the hobby in 2002.

When Burpo began, you couldn't buy the sorts of costumes used for the anime role-playing activity at stores, you had to make them all by hand, she said.

That's changed in recent years, but the commercialization isn't a bad thing, said Burpo, who is running a pair of panel discussions about cosplay at this weekend's Kumoricon at the Hilton Vancouver Washington and the Red Lion Hotel Vancouver at the Quay.

"I think it's become more mainstream," Burpo said. "You can get wigs and outfits at stores now, but that's great because it makes it easier for beginners."

Burpo said she loves teaching newcomers about cosplay, short for "costumed role playing," and hopes Clark County residents will feel free to approach her and other conventiongoers over the weekend in Esther Short Park.

"Part of cosplay is that we like it when people take our pictures, we like being asked what we're doing," Burpo said. "We put a lot of time and effort into our costumes, so the attention is flattering."

She and her friends have been coming to Kumoricon from Seattle since 2007, the first year it was held in Vancouver, she added.

"We really like it there," she said. "(Esther Short) Park is great. And I like having the (Vancouver) Farmers Market there because you can actually get real food."

The event, in its 11th year, grew from a University of Oregon club. It was first held in Eugene, Ore., then moved to Portland when it grew too large for Eugene.

It was held in Portland -- with the exception of 2007 -- until 2011, when it outgrew that city's venues and organizers decided to move it to Southwest Washington, which had more hotel room and more space for cosplay and other activities.

In 2011, the event drew 3,956 paid attendees. In 2012 there were close to 5,000, and this year spokeswoman Teph Williams said she thinks it will continue to grow even larger.

"We've never had to put a cap on the (attendance), and we can easily fit more people," Williams said. "We're lucky to have two hotels to spread things across, so space isn't a problem."

She said she hopes newcomers from Clark County will feel more than welcome to join the convention. The event is open to everyone, and people can come by at the last minute and pay at the entrance, she said.

"We love it when people come by," Williams said. "The cosplay in the park is in a public space, and it's free, so we hope people check that out. We also love to welcome newcomers to the convention. It's a fun environment for people to come together and celebrate what they love."

The main events at Kumoricon other than cosplay revolve around anime, which is a Japanese style of animated cartoons, and manga, a similar style of print comics. At the convention, many participants watch screenings and buy and trade various types of anime and manga.

"We're really settling in and getting to know the space," Williams said. "We'll have even more exhibitors set up in more space this year because we're expanding into the Hilton's garage."

Cosplay, as usual, will be one of the main events. Kumoricon has a seminar and activity series that includes cosplay chess, armor and weapon making, makeup, skits, posing and an introduction to cosplay for beginners hosted by Burpo.

And there's are also very popular cosplay competitions for the best costumes, Williams said.

"I'd say about 75 percent of the people at the convention are dressed up anyway, but the costume contest, these are the people that put a lot of time and effort into their costumes and it shows," Williams said. "Some of the results are amazing."

Kumoricon will also have video game tournaments focused mostly on Asian and Japanese games, and a "Chibi Room" for the younger set, which is aimed at "exploring the natural cultural curiosity of children and teens through simple arts and crafts," according to the program description.

Beyond that there's a gala ball, gaming after dark, cartooning demos, Dungeons & Dragons, karaoke and a few tips of the hat to other fandoms, such as BBC science fiction hit "Doctor Who," which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.

The "Doctor Who Fandom Celebration: Tiptoe Through the TARDIS" seminar will be held Monday from 10 a.m. to noon.

You'll probably also see some cosplay folks in the park donning "Doctor Who," "Star Trek," "Star Wars" and other costumes along with the more traditional attire from Japanese animation, Burpo said.

"I have a bunch of friends coming down who like to do those shows," Burpo said. "I know there will be a Capt. Kirk and Mr. Spock from Star Trek."

Burpo prefers making her own anime costumes. She's actually bringing four with her. A contest one from the manga series "Cardcaptor Sakura," a less formal Sailor Mars costume from the classic anime series "Sailor Moon," Morgiana from the new anime series "Magi" and her low-key Kyubey, a catlike creature from the anime series "Madoka Magica."

"I wear Kyubey at the beginning and end of the convention, when I'm tired," Burpo said.

If you're on the fence about cosplay but think it's something you might enjoy, this is the perfect weekend to give it a try, she added.

"Do it!" she said. "Even if you're worried your costume won't be perfect, try it anyway. It's a learning process, it's fun, and your costumes always get better."