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Ohayocon 2015: It’s Snowing, and I Just Can’t Let It Go

Sara's top 6 favorite things from Ohayocon 2015!

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Ohayocon 2015 was held from January 31st to February 1st at the Hyatt Regency and the Greater Columbus Convention Center in downtown Columbus, OH. This was the 15th year for the convention, which has been growing in attendance and popularity since it began back in 2001. The word “Ohayo” in Japanese means “good morning,” and because the convention is held in Ohio, the name of the convention itself is an exercise in subtlety and cleverness.

Ohayocon is a large convention with an attendance of more than 10,000. Even though the Columbus Hyatt and Convention Center is an enormous space, the crowds were intense at times. Ohayocon takes lines very, very seriously. You have to get in one for panels, and if you line up too soon or remain lined up hoping enough people bail on a panel to let you get in, you may still find yourself corralled like cattle and driven away. Frustrating, but understandable. My own brain thrives on chaos, so I would actually prefer a more laissez-faire-devil-may-care arrangement, but I realize that most people would not agree. Most people seem to find the inner workings of my chaos-brain to be unsettling at best.

Ohayocon is an primarily an anime convention, but is welcoming to all kinds of fandom. In addition to panels about anime, there were video game, comic book, and webcomic panels, and even a Supernatural panel. It was not uncommon to see various Doctors Who walking along with a Final Fantasy character, and Castiel from Supernatural was everywhere. As a good Angel of the Lord should be.

Normally, I’m at a convention as an Artist Alley vendor, and often only get to see one panel at best, but I came to Ohayocon this year as just a person. No table to set up, just me with some friends, going to panels, cosplaying, and checking out the vendors and artists as a regular consumer. My battle cry was, “Excuse me, may I take your picture? Your costume is amazing!” That was me, over and over again, and I’m STILL not tired of it! I wore a steampunk outfit myself, braving the dash from hotel to convention center in freezing temperatures in a sleeveless dress because I didn’t want to have to deal with being responsible for a coat all day, or worse, have it obscuring my outfit. Still no regrets!

No regrets!! (OMG it's coooolddd!)

No regrets!! (OMG it’s coooolddd!)

Sara’s Top Six Convention Highlights

6.) The Carolina Manga Library

I am a graduate student in Library Science. These are my people! The Carolina Manga Library is run by Laura and Aaron Mehaffey, and their goal is to improve literacy via graphic novels and manga. My inner librarian is kind of having nerdgasms here. And I’m sorry/not sorry about that terrible 50 Shades reference. This is a traveling library that goes to conventions and library events, and I only wish I’d thought of it first. One might think that people wouldn’t want to pay $60 bucks for a weekend at a con and then spend time reading, but people need a break, somewhere quiet to go, or somewhere to finally read that manga you just can’t afford in real life. The Carolina Manga Library is there for you. Use them. Their online catalog is searchable, and they accept donations of good quality, non-pornographic manga and graphic novels, and, of cold, hard, cash to keep the collection going and current.

5.) Dealer Room! (I’m so commercial. I bought shiny things!)

The Dealer Room was enormous, with aisles and aisles of merchandise, ranging from manga and action figures to clothing and jewelry. My favorite purchase was a long, blonde wig from Tasty Peach Studios, which, in addition to wearing with my steampunk outfit, I’m going to use when I do my Mary Winchester on Fire cosplay later on. Still trying to figure out the “on fire” part. Christmas lights? Orange tissue paper and a friend following me around to backlight me with a flashlight? Totally open to suggestions here, people!

The rest of my haul included a gorgeous hair fork (yeah, those are a thing) from A Case of Random, some shiny earrings from Athena’s Gems , and a t-shirt from Tasty Peach with little adorable tofu bunnies. Tofusagi, I believe, was the term.

4.) Artist Alley

Ah, Artist Alley! Home, sweet home! :-) Artist Alley at any given convention is where you’re going to find the things you can’t find anywhere else. Original art prints, handmade jewelry, some armor… you know, things I need? Some of my favorite Alley tables this year were:

August Antoinette Illustrations, who not only does lovely art, but also agreed to pose for a hilariously silly photo for me. Check this out!

Holy Pan's Labyrinth! Someone call Guillermo del Toro!

Holy Pan’s Labyrinth! Someone call Guillermo del Toro!

Thundersteel Armoury, where the metal is actually really, really metal (the kind with the ‘rock on’ hand signal AND the scientific properties of actually being metallic in nature…) but I digress. The metal. It was totally metal, and by that I mean ‘awesome’ sung in a rock and roll kind of voice.

Grave Impressions! If you enjoy beautiful art, creative storytelling, and want to find both of those things in the genre of queer literature, look no further! From their flagship comic Grave Impressions to their newest endeavor, If the Shoe Fits, a Cinderella reinterpretation with two gents, the creators of Grave Impressions represented acceptance, as well as awesomeness and general coolness in the Ohayocon Artist Alley!

Creative, progressive, and classy!

Creative, progressive, and classy!

3.) Getting social with fellow nerds!

This is key to a good con experience, at least for me! I brought some friends with me this year, met up with some other people I usually only see a few times a year at various conventions, and spent some time eating in interesting places and having great conversation. I talked myself hoarse over Greek food in the convention center, just geeking out with like-minded folk, and it was worth it! It’s those unplanned interactions that sometimes make the convention the most worthwhile. For example, after leaving a panel on how to start reading Marvel comics if you’re just now coming into the fandom, we were still so engaged in conversation with some fellow panel attendees that our discussion turned into a hallway mini-panel all its own! We formed such a large group that security had to redirect us to a better place to stand twice. We cooperated, of course. We’re enthusiastic, not jerks. ;-)

Fun being had. Fun in action!

Fun being had. Fun in action!

2.) Some really great panels.

Good panels can make a convention feel worth the time and money you commit to be there. Panels like:

Kick-Punch-QWOP – This group consists of Saker Alexander, Greg Dikis, Graham Shryock, Allison D’Angelo, Bill Frederick, and Holland Wilson, and they ran six panels at the convention. I attended three, and would have done more, but other convention commitments prevented me. They put a lot of effort into their presentation – slides, video, actual gameplay shown, and entertaining commentary are all a part of the package. One of their best panels was called “The Weirdest Games You’ve Never Played,” and it was about video games so weird and/or obscure that the average gamer would probably never have seen them. One of the games covered was called wordimagesoundplay, and it was possibly one of the strangest things I’ve ever seen. It was created by some British art group (?) and was released only on Playstation 2 and only in Japan. My favorite part was the Advice Horse, which is a giant horse face that tells you how it’s going to be. One gem of advice was, “Do donkey, don’t monkey.” It will stay with me for eternity, in all its bossy equine glory. Another great one was Save the Date, which seems like a dating game until you realize that you have to actually SAVE the date – from getting killed. Over and over again. And… it may be unwinnable, just to teach the player a lesson. Yikes. Other games covered were A Week of Garfield, Dong Dong Never Die, Gourmet Sentai Bara Yarou, Rehearsals and Returns, Randy Balma, Municipal Abortionist, and PacaPlus. Wow.

In addition to the Weirdest Games panel, I also attended their Ohayocon Gameshow panel, which was funny and got the audience actually shouting and cheering; and their Ohayocon Arcade panel, where I was randomly chosen to challenge a panelist in game trivia and gameplay. All of the other contestants got games I had heard of or could have figured out. Tetris, Adventure Island, Mario… and what do I get? Yoshi’s Cookie. Never heard of it, had no idea how to play it. I wanted to show off my awesome skills, and instead I sat there going, “Do I flip it? Move it? What am I supposed to do… oh, crap. It’s over.” Oh, well. It makes for a better story when it has a bittersweet ending, right? And the panel was so much fun!

Arcade Panel where I failed to figure out Yoshi's Cookie to comic effect.

The Arcade Panel, where I failed to figure out Yoshi’s Cookie to comic effect.

Ohayocon Gameshow Panel

The Ohayocon Gameshow Panel

Voice Actor Brad Swaile – I tend to gravitate to panels where there is interaction and entertainment promised, so I often don’t attend the Guest panels, because they’re often just about sitting and listening (which is fine, just not always my thing.) I always make an exception for Brad Swaile. He is the actor behind the voices of Light from Death Note, Quatre from Gundam Wing, Kimba the White Lion, Nightcrawler from X-Men Evolution, Rock from Black Lagoon, Hamtaro, and Mousse from Ranma 1/2, among many others. I attended two of his solo Q&A panels, which he jokingly referred to as his Q and Eh (he’s Canadian.) When the audience didn’t have questions, he pulled out a book about worst case scenario survival and read from it – with commentary. My favorite thing about Mr. Swaile is that he is not only involved in the industry of making anime, but he is also a fan. He told a tale of woe about a freak sewing accident he had while making a cosplay that involved a seam ripper IN his foot, using a hockey stick as a crutch (so Canadian!), and having to repeatedly explain what it was that was in his foot and how it managed to get there. Now, I’m sorry he had the accident and it must have been horrible, but his delivery of the story was done with the nuance of a master comedian.

After his panel ended, some fans came up front to talk to him, myself included. He remembered one of the young women from a previous convention and asked her how her acting progress was coming, had she auditioned for any shows? She replied that she was going to be in Les Miserables, and he geeked out about musical theater with her for a good five minutes. This kind of experience, where a convention guest takes time to get to know the fans, geek out with them, share cosplay stories, and talk about music, is priceless. If you ever attend a convention where Brad Swaile is one of the guests, go to his panel, even if you’re not familiar with his work. I guarantee you won’t be bored, you’ll laugh out loud, and come away feeling as though you have something in common. Thank you for your contributions to the fan community, Brad Swaile!

" ... and that was my first taste of maniacal laughter."  -- Brad Swaile on voicing Quatre from Gundam Wing

” … and that was my first taste of maniacal laughter.” — Brad Swaile on voicing Quatre from Gundam Wing

1.) OMG Cosplay!

Always my favorite part of the convention! Check out some of these awesome cosplays I saw at Ohayocon 2015!


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Hope to see you at Ohayocon 2016, internet friends!

Sara Goodwin has a B.A. in Classical Civilization and an M.A. in Library Science from Indiana University. Once she went on an archaeological dig and found awesome ancient stuff. Sara enjoys a smorgasbord of pan-nerd entertainment such as Renaissance faires, anime conventions, steampunk, and science fiction and fantasy conventions. In her free time, she writes things like fairy tale haiku, fantasy novels, and terrible poetry about being stalked by one-eyed opossums. In her other spare time, she sells nerdware as With a Grain of Salt DesignsTweets, and Tumbls.

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