Teen anime fans unite at the Viridian
Sep 13, 2018 10:50AM
By Jana Klopsch
More dancing at ToshoCON. (Picture courtesy of the County Library)
By Whitney Cox | [email protected]
More than 1,000 teens from across Utah connected at ToshoCON, a two-day anime convention, held at the Salt Lake County Library’s Viridian Event Center the first weekend in August.
“ToshoCON is an awesome experience for teens and tweens who love anime to get together, show off their creative talents and have a great time with other teens who also enjoy anime and manga,” said Tavin Stucki, public relations coordinator.
Both days were packed with events and merchandise for every fan of manga or anime. The best part: Everything was produced by teens, for teens.
“The goal is to create a safe space so when they go to a big convention, like Comic-Con, Fanex or Anime Bonzai, they know what to expect,” said Nyssa Fleig, library program manager.
The atmosphere of the convention was as welcoming and electric as any big convention. In the courtyard, there were trucks and tables set up for food. Immediately upon entering the lobby, attendees would see a craft lounge where teens were eating, chatting and creating various forms of anime-related work. At the opposite end of the center were booths, set up and managed by teens selling their own merchandise, most of which was hand-crafted. In the conference rooms, teen panels were entertaining a crowd by answering questions and performing skits. Every square inch of space was filled with the excited buzz of cosplay-clad teens.
Months prior to the convention, teens applied to be vendors, panelists or to enter any of the three contests: cosplay, art or anime music video.
Alyssa Summers, a vendor at this year’s ToshoCon, started making signature key chains, necklaces and mugs in May to sell at the convention.
“I’ve been going to this Con since it started,” said Summers. Although she has been attending the convention for six years, this was the first year she decided to create her own anime-themed art to sell. She was one of many teens who created merchandise. Booths featured anything from original art of beloved anime characters to full-length written and self-published fantasy novels.
In order to be part of a panel, a team had to apply and attend practices before the opening of the convention. Each panel chose their own theme and coordinated costumes. One panel elected to dress up as characters from Ouran High School Host Club, a manga series by Bisco Hatori. Two panelists on this team dressed as the Hitachiin twins. They were first introduced to anime by their peers. The panelist dressed as Hikaru Hitachiin has attended ToshoCON at the Viridian for three years, so when her friend asked for an additional panelist, she was excited to take a part in it.
She loves to come to this convention because, “It’s really fun to be around your friends and be in an environment where you can play around,” she said. “Everybody here is basically just the same. We come here to have fun and just be us, really.” Her counterpart twin, Kaoru Hitachiin, said, “I like to see all the people who I love in the anime and their cosplays. And meeting new people. I actually met one of my best friends.”
Cosplay, short for costume play, is the hobby of creating a costume to represent a specific character. While it is customary for all convention attendees to participate in cosplay, ToshoCON held a contest for those who wanted to be recognized for the effort they put into their costume. This year, 19-year-old Lexi Durbin was awarded Best in Show for her Demon Hunter cosplay.
Angela Van Beuge was the winner of the anime music video contest for her submission of “Catch Fire/My Hero Academia” by Sweetbee. The art contest winners are on display at util.slcolibrary.org/2018ToshoCONArtContest.
The convention succeeds in its goal to create a safe and neat opportunity for teens to hone their artistic talents. It gives teens who are serious about making anime a big part of their future goals a chance to practice their skills, while also giving those who enjoy anime as a hobby a chance to have a little fun.