Chiisaicon convention May 30-Sept. 1 at Paroquet

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By Stephen Thomas

 SHEPHERDVILLE - Bullitt County is preparing for a post-apocalyptic invasion of friendly proportions.

Young Anime fans will be centering on Paroquet Springs Conference Centre for the 5th annual Chiisaicon convention, a celebration of Japanese Anime and Manga culture.

The three-day event is organized each year through the Anime group sponsored by Bullitt County Public Libraries. This year’s theme is a post-apocalyptic world, playing on last year’s Zombie Apocalypse theme.

BCPL director Randy Matlow said the group was first created to host meetings for high school and college-aged community members with an interest in Anime and Manga, both Japanese forms of cartoon shows and series.

“The kids really got into and it was a lot of fun,” said Matlow. “If there’s an interest, we try to make it happen. They wanted to do more.”

An Otaku Ball, a Japanese version of a Valentine’s dance, was successful. From there the idea came about to hold a regional convention.

“The (Otaku) success caused an exponential growth in our club,” Matlow said. “Some members were traveling to Anime conventions and were interested in doing one here.”

Matlow said a group of local members attended a Northern Kentucky convention to see how it all worked, deciding  that they could handle such an event.

The name “Chiisaicon” was selected from the Japanese word Chiisai, meaning tiny. The group figured it would become just a local event.

BCPL Teen Programs director Alison White said the group meets and plans year-round.

“We’re basically the overseers,” White said. “They organize the chaos. They have 42 current staff members that do 90 percent of the work.”

The first Chiisaicon, held at Ridgway Memorial Library, hosted 82 patrons. After more success in year two, the event expanded to the Conference Centre. Matlow reported an attendance of 700 at last year’s convention.

“The goal this year is to host 1,000,” White said.

What does an Anime convention consist of?

Matlow said most, if not all, Chiisaicon patrons will appear at the convention in some sort of costume, based on their favorite Anime or Manga stories and characters.

“Some create their own characters, and they stay in character,” he said. “Even the workers stay in their characters.”

A convention features celebrity guests, and Chiisaicon provides that in Anime form. Guests include Anime voice actors Jamie Marchi and Chris Cason.

“Jamie has a long bio and is really friendly,” said Matlow. “She’s a good fit for the convention. Chris is also a director and has appeared in video games and Guitar Hero.”

Another celebrity, Uncle Yo, is billed as performing “Geek-Specific Stand-Up Comedy.”

“He has a quick wit,” Matlow said. “He’s worked with web comics and hosts weekly podcasts on Amazon and iTunes.” 

One of Chiisaicon’s annual staples is the Maid Cafe. This year’s Hatokyatchi Maid Cafe features nine maids and hosts who serve tea while performing a synchronized dance routine.

“It’s a modern take on the traditional tea,” Matlow said. “A senior in high school came up with the idea and they had it all organized in three weeks.”

An increased convention needs new events to combine with traditional highlights. Chiisaicon will feature members of the local Southern Wrestling organization in a “Cosplay Wrestling” event.

“The wrestlers will dress up as Anime characters,” said Matlow. “They will feature Anime storylines and act out the fight scenes.”

Matlow praised the idea as a fairly new concept, especially unique in using regularly-trained professional wrestlers.

“There will be three Cosplay matches plus three wrestling matches,” he said.

Separate tickets will be sold for Cosplay Wrestling at a cost of $5, free for ages 4 and under.

Another new convention feature is “Anime Divorce Court,”

“This one is new to us, and it’s unique,” said White. “It’s kind of our brand, something that our people came up with.”

Another unique event is a play on an improvisational game show with an Anime slant, called “Whose Line Is It, Anime?”

A popular Chiisaicon feature is Cosplay Chess, with participants physically standing on a giant Chess board playing as the pieces.

“There will be some new game rules this year, the game itself won’t be as calculated,” White said. “There may be some new rules that surprise the players.”

Chiisai After Dark is an evening rave program featuring DJ SwitchBlade and DJ Scooter with high-energy, upbeat song selections and light displays.

The convention will include Artist Alley, a collection of artists displaying their Anime-related work. One of the artists is Jerry Webb, Jr., who draws action heroes and works with magazines.

White said patrons could participate in Sleeping Samurai, a mock combat area featuring life-like foam weapons.

Tying into the post-apocalyptic theme, Matlow said there would be tips involving how society could reorganize, along with survival strategies for humans.

Other Chiisaicon features include a Pokemon Gym Challenge, Pikabug (Volkswagens resembling the Pokemon Pikachu character) and the Louisville Ghostbusters’ Ectomobile.

Chiisaicon will appear worldwide on a live podcast online for the second year. White mentioned international visitors last year and more expected this year from Japan, Indonesia, Australia, England and Canada.

“We have a vendor all the way from Massachusetts,” said White. “It’s amazing to see all the interest.”

So much interest that a couple is planning to exchange wedding vows during Chiisaicon.

Ron Rogers proposed, in Anime costume, to Brianna Dvorak at last year’s event. The couple will be married, in costume, in a legal ceremony performed by an ordained minister.

Anime in a Positive Light

Both Matlow and White credited their group members for planning and implementing the event, especially the friendly atmosphere that they always deliver to patrons.

“They’re ready to be friendly,” Matlow said. “They work hard to make it a personable experience.”

“They make it like it’s at someone’s home, not at the Conference Center,” said White. She mentioned Bullitt County’s accepting nature of the event and group.

Chiisaicon will also raise funds for the county’s charitable outreach community. According to White, members have participated in food and blood drives and have visited St. Joseph Children’s Home in costume.

White added that some members have earned scholarship money for college through their efforts through the library and the Anime group.

“This kind of group is not as common at other libraries,” said White. “They offer many volunteer hours with the Anime group and also with other library programs.”

Matlow, who is leaving as BCPL director after 24 years, said Chiisaicon would be his final event as director, one he refused to miss.

Chiisaicon will take place Friday through Sunday, Aug. 30-Sept. 1, at the Conference Centre. Admission is $15 for Friday and Sunday, $20 for Saturday, or $40 for a full weekend pass. Souvenir T-shirts will also be available for purchase.

For more information on Chiisaicon 2013 visit www.chiisaicon.com. For information on the BCPL Anime group call 543-7675 or go to www.bcplib.org.