Anime, cosplay, Japanese culture and gaming will be among many things celebrated in Columbus, Ohio, for the 20th annual Ohayocon anime convention.
The first weekend of the spring semester will draw people from across the country in to the Greater Columbus Convention Center for the three-day event. Attendees purchasing a weekend or daily pass can attend anime-themed panels, meet featured guests from the anime industry such as voice actors and artists, attend live concerts and participate in cosplay photoshoots, according to the con’s website.
Katie Phelps, con director, said she has worked with Ohayocon ever since her mother brought her as a child to be a mascot for the con. Working with the con for such a long time has felt like watching a sibling grow up, Phelps said.
To celebrate the con’s 20th anniversary, Phelps said all merchandise has been made with the anniversary in mind.
The con also has an annual “roast” session, during which special guests are insulted on stage for laughs. Phelps said for the anniversary, every guest who has participated in previous roasts will make an appearance, while those unable to attend can appear by video call.
Phelps said the con will also feature 120 artists from across the country who will sell their art in an area called Artist Alley. The nearby Dealer’s Room will have booths selling anime-related goods, Phelps said there will also be metal workers, artisans, kimonos and indie games.
Angela Zheng, a fourth-year in health science and vice president of Scarlet and Gray Anime, an Ohio State anime club, said she frequently attends anime cons, including Ohayocon. She said she coordinated with the con to get group discounts for her club members. Zheng said she looks forward to cosplaying, seeing K-pop guest Kevin Woo and meeting up with friends.
“It’s like Christmas to me; everyone’s so hyped about Christmas and makes a big deal about Christmas,” Zheng said. “You know how people put up Christmas lights before Thanksgiving even starts? That’s me before a con. I start prepping for cons months before I even know what I really want to do.”
Taylor Miller, a fourth-year in strategic communication and president of the Costuming and Cosplay Club at Ohio State, said many of the club’s meetings throughout the fall semester are to help members prepare for Ohayocon. Miller said he also plans on meeting up with friends from out of state.
“It’s really about connection; it’s about having friends that share interests with you,” Miller said. “For a lot of us growing up, there really weren’t people who shared our interests around us, and it’s not something that we could really be open about. This is kind of our place to really be ourselves. That’s why I keep going.”
A portion of the con space will be dedicated to gaming, including a tabletop gaming room, an imported Japanese arcade collection, several competitive gaming tournaments and rooms for PC and console gaming, Phelps said.
This year, an immersive virtual reality game experience will debut, along with two different escape rooms, Phelps said.
Lucas Lumbra, a fourth-year in computer science and engineering and captain of Ohio State’s “Overwatch” team, said he will attend his third Ohayocon, despite not being a fan of anime. This year, he said he will be participating in an “Overwatch” tournament hosted by the con.
“This year, there’s gonna be a lot more competition,” Lumbra said.
Lumbra said competitors in the eight-team bracket include Ashland University’s “Overwatch” team and a local team named Turmoil, both of which he has competed against before.
“I think we’re definitely capable of winning the whole thing, still,” Lumbra said. He added that in his past two years at Ohayocon, his teams placed first and second.
Phelps said she doesn’t think anyone expected the con to expand to what it is today.
“The staff has just been putting their hearts into this to make it the best Ohayocon yet, and we are super excited to show it off,” Phelps said.
Ohayocon will take place from 9 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday at the Greater Columbus Convention Center. Tickets can be purchased at the door for $70 with cash only. More information can be found at ohayocon.org.