By Tyler Howard
Anime fans dressed up as their favorite characters and assembled at Whatcom Community College’s Heiner Building for the 2016 Bellingham Anime Convention (BA-CON) on Saturday, May 14.
Approximately 700 enthusiasts gathered to participate in several events and panels including a cosplay contest, Dungeons and Dragons Adventure League, and music from the Seattle Video Game Orchestra and Choir, and a Q&A with voice actor guest Tiffany Grant.
Grant is the first guest speaker to attend BA-CON. She is best known for voicing Asuka Soryu in “Neon Genesis Evangelion,” but has voiced several characters in over 1,500 TV episodes. Along with the question and answer, Grant gave a seminar on voice acting versus stage acting.
Local vendors and community artists had set up booths throughout the event as well. Some of the vendors included Cosmic Ash Studios, Corvidae Crafts, Pearl Pop, and Heroes Resource.
“Some people don’t have a community like this,” said convention director and director of programming Jarret Martin. “This is their main outlet for socializing and getting involved in something more.”
BA-CON started in the Bellingham Public Library back in 2011. For the past two years, the convention has been on Whatcom’s campus due to the increase in size of the event. Compared to last year’s attendance of 357, they nearly doubled that amount this year.
As well as an increase in size, BA-CON became a non-profit organization this year. Martin said they will be looking to make their organization a legal charity corporation by next year. This will allow them to apply for grants as well as allow third parties to donate money.
Martin said the funding of this event was completely “out of pocket.” They started with zero money but were able to completely self-fund their event through tickets sales and floor space for vendors and artists. Martin said from their earnings this year, they now have a working budget for next years’ convention as well.
Guests had options of attending several events for the day. One of those events was playing at the Dungeons and Dragons Adventures League tables.
Tim Kelly, the Dungeons and Dragons table top coordinator at the convention, said thegame is not win or lose, but a story based. Players can take quests and go on adventures where they can potentially, “kill bad guys and steal their stuff,” said Kelly. The tables that the players used were provided by Heroes Resource, a local gaming store out of Lynden, Wash.
The cosplay contest was particularly popular at the convention. People came dressed in elaborate, hand-made costumes of their favorite characters from comics, shows, movies, games, and other forms of anime. There were five categories for the cosplay contest; best in show, best costume, best beginner, judges pick, and best prop.
Cosplay companies that attended the convention included Cosmic Ash Studios, HKHugs Cosplay, Wolfing Design, and Paskadi Props.
The Animation Club advisor Nicholas Potter, said the idea of cosplay is a way to, “experience visual art.” He said with most movies or films, all there is to it is play, credits, then done. Potter said that with this convention is a way that allows fan to appreciate the art so that it, “resonates after it’s done.”
Martin said next year he wishes to have more guest speakers in addition to more vendors, a larger venue, and extending the convention to two days instead of just one.
“[This year] was so successful, we will have to revaluate our venue,” said Martin. He added they would either expand the venue on Whatcom’s campus or look into moving the convention to Western’s campus.
Martin said there will be a 45-minute video of the convention that will soon be available on Bellingham public access and on YouTube.