Kawaii Kon returned to in-person events after postponing panels for two years due to Covid-19. (Photo by Cameron Enomoto)

By Cameron Enomoto | Staff Writer

After two years of virtual events and postponing panels, Kawaii Kon was back with its largest turnout ever at the Hawai‘i Convention Center. With 223 artists and fan-run panels, locals and people from out of state come together to share their love for anime, video games, and comics. Both guests and vendors alike were relieved that this year’s convention wasn’t confined to an online platform.

One of the vendors in the Artist Alley, Alexandra Brodt, was thankful to have in-person events again. 

“I have been selling my art for about 15 years, and Covid totally affected my sales negatively,” said Brodt. “I’m hoping that I’ll be able to make up for some of that here [Kawaii Kon].” 

Most of her products are designed after her cats, and her best-selling item is the “catcus.” The catcus is exactly what it sounds like, a cat-inspired cactus plush with the face of a cat and the body of a cactus. 

“In a way, I’m also thankful for quarantine and stuff because it gave me more time to plan out my future inventory,” said Brodt. “One of my friends makes plushes and they suggested that I turn my catcus into one, and now I have about 5,000 units in production.”

A local Kawaii Kon attendee, 18-year-old Kalei Carillo, is also ecstatic to be back at the convention center.

“You know, there are so many good things that you miss out on with virtual events,” Carillo said. “I always loved seeing the concerts and coming for autograph signings because there’s just something different about meeting people in person.”

Being at the convention in person allowed fans to meet their favorite voice actors, artists, and performers. This is something that would normally be difficult to do in a video call or live stream with thousands of other people. Additionally, the large venue was spacious and had over 20 rows of artists and vendors selling official and hand-made merchandise. To attract more guests to their booth, many had set up intricate displays of their most popular posters and pins. Since the past two years were affected by Covid, many people had more time to explore anime and manga to find something they enjoyed.

A staff member from the registration team, Nathan Goya, observed much more guests this year than in previous years. Some of the new events included concerts with Japanese artists, autograph signings with voice actors from “Avatar: The Last Airbender,” and a Valorant tournament.

“I remember in 2019 there were slightly under 15,000 people registered, but this year I think there were close to 17,348 people over the three-day period,” Goya said. “I think a lot more people flew over from the mainland since we had some new events that no other con has featured.”

One of these events included a concert, in which the artist, Demondice, performed live for the first time in the United States. Demondice is an American artist based in Japan who is known for her rap and music videos that incorporate Japanese lyrics.

“I was so excited to hear that she chose to come to Hawai‘i and perform,” Goya said. “There’s no way I could afford to fly to Japan to see her. I really hope that there will be more artists and panels next year so that we can have a larger turnout and experience cool things.”

According to Goya, the preparations for next year’s convention have already begun.

The 2023 Kawaii Kon will be from March 31 to April 2 at the Hawai‘i Convention Center. More information can be found on the Kawaii Kon website.