Convention Report: Kumoricon 2012

Photography by Tom Good. Assistant: Katie Burger

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Kumoricon had its tenth anniversary this year, and like last year it was held in Washington, at the Vancouver Hilton and the Vancouver Red Lion on the Quay.  I’ve noticed over the years that as the convention grows, so does the attendance for “Day 0,” the day before the convention officially starts.  Years ago the convention itself felt fairly small, then attendance grew but Day 0 felt like a smaller more private occasion.  This year total attendance was 4,750 people, and so many cosplayers filled the park across from the Hilton on Day 0 that I definitely felt like the convention was already fully under way.  At this rate, I suspect that a “Day -1” may eventually appear.

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I went along with a friend while she picked up her badge on Friday evening, to see how long the line would be, and we found virtually no line at all.  She got her badge in just a few minutes, so that was the first indication that Kumoricon would be easy and convenient.  It’s funny, when something goes wrong it is easy to describe specific problems, but when things “just work” they seem to work invisibly, and it becomes harder to figure out exactly what was done right.  It helped that the weather was nearly perfect, warm and sunny but not as hot as last year, so people could spend a lot of time in the park, which kept the areas inside the hotels from being overcrowded.  

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This year local businesses got involved with the convention in a great way that I haven’t seen happen before.  The first day as I walked around Vancouver with some cosplayers, a man saw us taking photos.  He came over and introduced himself, said that he managed a local coffee shop, and told us we were welcome to come by and do photo shoots there.  This place turned out to be Torque Coffee Roasters, at 501 Columbia Street, which is across the street from the Hilton.  Not only did we do several photo shoots there (including some of the photos in this article), but the coffee shop also put on a Doctor Who party during the convention.  

A food cart right outside Torque had employees cosplaying as characters from Cowboy Bebop.  An Asian grocery store nearby gave out treats to people with Kumoricon badges. The Subway near the park stayed open 24 hours during the convention, which was very convenient for obtaining late night food.  Some of us sat around in front of Subway for so long one night that we joked that we should have “Subway-Con” badges.   The fact that all these businesses were getting into the spirit of Kumoricon made the whole neighborhood feel like part of the convention, which really added to the atmosphere.

Kumoricon 2012 was the year of “Gangnam Style,” the Korean pop hit by Psy that has now become famous around the world.  I first heard this song back in July on the way to a cosplay photo shoot, thanks to a cosplayer whose new nickname is “DJ Destiny.”  Before Kumoricon, some cosplayers made plans to have a Gangnam Style dance group at the convention, and one night in the park a pretty big group of people danced to the song.  But Kumoricon also happened right about the time that the song was starting to get a lot more mainstream popularity, outside of people who really love Asian culture and K-pop.   People who weren’t even con-goers were spotted doing the dance on the streets of Vancouver.  One cosplayer said it was “weird to see normal people dancing to Gangnam Style.”

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For the second year in a row, Homestuck was a very popular cosplay theme.  It was big last year, but this year a friend remarked that “you couldn’t look in any direction without seeing a Homestuck cosplayer.”  Homestuck cosplay has reached the point where it has started to inspire a bit of a backlash, both for being too popular and for not being based on a Japanese anime. The second objection seems out of place at Kumoricon though, because for many years it has had cosplay from non-anime sources like video games, movies, and American comics.

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Other popular characters came from Avatar, Adventure Time, Black Rock Shooter, and Batman.

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Kumoricon also had many cosplays of characters I had never seen done before, like Kim Possible and Shego, Quasimodo and Frollo, Filia from the game Skullgirls, Pirate Miku, and the Ice King and Queen from Adventure Time.

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The cosplay contest was very well done, with large video screens on each side of the stage so that even people in the back of the room could get a good view. A group of Sailor Moon cosplayers got a huge cheer from the crowd when they appeared on stage.

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At the previous year’s contest, the audience had jokingly cheered for (and even voted for) an empty chair, and this year’s contest worked in a funny reference to this, in a skit where a mysterious figure behind a curtain was eventually revealed to be the chair.

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As usual, the “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” panel entertained the audience with improvisational comedy, filling the space to standing-room-only. This has become a must-see event at Kumoricon.

In honor of the 10th anniversary, a panel looked back at the history of the convention, and some of the original staff told stories of the first Kumoricon. They said many of them got inspired to start Kumoricon after attending their very first Sakura-Con, and they knew so little about the realities of organizing a convention that they thought “how hard could it be?” I had to laugh at some of the tales of the early struggles — for example, the first sound system for the main stage was someone’s home stereo. Probably the funniest thing about stories like this is how hard it is to imagine based on this year’s Kumoricon. The convention has come a long way in 10 years.

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It sounds like Kumoricon started out as mainly a gathering of friends, and in many important ways it still is. Even with thousands of people, it has the feeling of a giant extended family. One night when the dance filled up to the room’s capacity and some people were turned away, they just walked across the street and danced in the park. That exemplifies the spirit of the event.

I enjoyed Kumoricon for many reasons, but especially because I got to spend so much time with friends there. This all could sound intimidating to someone who has never been to the convention, as if maybe you have to already know people in order to go. In reality, it works the other way around: I know most of these people because we met at (or because of) Kumoricon. It would also be a good first convention for someone just getting into the cosplay scene.

Kumoricon will return to the same location in 2013.

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Jedi Rei

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One Response to Convention Report: Kumoricon 2012

  1. KUMORICON! Yay! I love this convention! Great pictures and reporting, Tom, thank you!

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