Aki Con in Everett: Fans breathe life into their favorite characters

EVERETT — It’s not every day that mad-scientist chimpanzee Mojo Jojo gives free hugs.

Chris Vance, 36, of Kirkland is an anime fan and cosplayer (shorthand for “costume player”) who attended Aki Con. As Mojo Jojo — an evil genius featured on the “Power Puff Girls” — he stalked about the conference, quoting popular lines, mugging for photos with fans and generally acting as a cartoon villain should.

“Yes?” he growled into his cell phone, completely in character. “I will destroy you and the planet you live on!” Vance is a regular in the anime convention scene, with several YouTube videos of him ranting on and on as the cyborg simian. He was at Aki Con to have fun, and that’s what anime and cosplay is all about.

“These cons are great, and Aki Con is just fantastic. It reminds me of my first con,” Vance said.

Anime has seen a resurgence in pop culture recently. While old favorites like “Dragon Ball Z,” “Pokemon” and “Macross” are still winning fans, new shows like “Full Metal Alchemist,” “Ghost in the Shell” and “Cowboy Bebop” are showing up on cable TV.

Anime is here, and so are its fans.

Aki Con laid siege to the better part of the Holiday Inn, taking up more than 10,000 square feet for vendors selling items such as costumes to videos and local artists showing their craft to fans.

Attendees varied in age, and most were dressed as their favorite anime, video game or manga character.

No less than five Clouds (the Elvis Presley of character playing) from “Final Fantasy VII” were in attendance, along with Vash the Stampede from “Trigun” and Rorschach from “The Watchmen” graphic novel.

Two Links from the Zelda video game series battled in a ring — Link against Shadow Link.

Boomerangs were explicitly not allowed in the duel.

“We just got here yesterday, and so far it’s been so much fun,” said Angeline Schaaf of Bothell. Dressed in woodland garb with a sword and a shield, she was the very spitting image of the Zelda hero.

The event drew costumed performers from as far away as Japan — some made a special stop in Everett while touring U.S. anime conventions.

Kelly LaPointe, a bartender at the Holiday Inn, watched the convention attendees with a mixture of wonder and good humor.

“It’s pretty sweet. I think it’s great to see everyone all dressed up,” she said. “I never heard of anime, though. How did it get so huge?”

The convention saw better than expected numbers, more than 1,000 attendees. Organizer Nicole Pelham said that because of the popularity this year, Aki Con for 2009 will be opening early registration on Dec. 31 and will try to get more space for the convention.

“This has been fantastic. The area has always been very popular for anime, and so far we’ve seen a large majority of the people here say that this is their first anime convention,” Pelham said. “It’s nice to see we’re reaching out to a new audience.”

Until next year, anime fans will be sewing new costumes and coming up with inventive ways to express their inner superhero.

Even evil mutant chimps are excited for next year.

“Coming to cons like this is a way to let go and have fun,” Vance said. “Like kayaking or bungie jumping, this is fun. It’s a hobby, but most of all, it’s cool.”

Reporter Justin Arnold: 425-339-3432 or jarnold@heraldnet.com.

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