Kami-Con hits Tuscaloosa this weekend

  Kelli Arthur (dressed as Sebastian from Black Butler), Rebecca Arthur (as Yoshi from Super Mario Brothers), and Jon Wyers (as Tanooki Mario) sell stickers and badges at Kamicon. /CW | Katherine Overton

Thousands of anime fans will flood the Ferguson Center this weekend for the third annual Kami-Con.

“The University caters to a lot of different people of different cultural backgrounds,” said Colby Smith, a senior majoring in international studies. “This is just another aspect of interest and hobbies, so I think it’s really good for diversity.”

Raymond Lenzner, a senior majoring in English, started Kami-Con at the University three years ago. He wanted it to be not only a fun experience but also a learning experience.

“Overall this captures the culture of Japan and Akihabara, which is a subculture in Tokyo,” he said. “We want this to be a culture experience despite this being a fun, geek-filled [convention].”

The staff said they have been very pleased with how quickly Kami-Con has grown. In the first year, they expected 200 guests but got about 400, and this year they have more people preregistered than attended last year.

“A lot of kids that are into anime and stuff like that, especially down in the South, … don’t have outlets to express their fandom,” Lenzner said. “This is like their Super Bowl. They come out here and they have a lot of fun, they meet a lot of people who like the same things they do, [and] it’s a big deal to them.”

He said a major factor in the event’s success so far is that there are not many conventions in close proximity to Alabama, and only one is free.

The staff also said they they keep attendance high each year by bringing in high profile guests. Last year, Vic Mignogna, an award-winning anime voiceover actor, came to Kami-Con, and this year’s guest became famous on a well-known TV show before breaking into anime.

“I’m excited about all the guests that we have this year,” said Tiffany Scarborough, a senior majoring in marketing. “One of my favorite voice actors, Johnny Yong Bosch, will be here. Not only was he the black power ranger, but he did the voice for Vash in Trigon.”

Bosch will appear as a speaking guest and as a musical guest with his band Eyeshine.

Aside from being known for the big name guests they’ve recruited to attend, Kami-Con is also known for being able to get attendees involved with the convention.

“The story every year is what sets us apart from a lot of other conventions,” Lenzner said. “Basically we get the con-goers involved in a major plot for the convention.”

The plot is kept secret until the first day of the convention when attendees pick which side they are on, and throughout the convention, they help their team by earning points in different contests.

Kami-Con’s staff said there is something for everyone at their convention. They have cosplay contests, dodgeball tournaments, video game tournaments and they also promised random battles throughout both days.

“You don’t have to be a self-proclaimed nerd to come,” Smith said. “Even if you think you’re too much of a jock, but you like to play Madden, we have that.”

The convention will be held Saturday from 10 a.m. to midnight and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Anyone interested in attending can preregister at kamicon.net or just show up Saturday morning.

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