Anime Club expands this year’s Senshi-Con with more events, guest

Billed as Alaska’s first anime convention, the third Senshi-Con will be coming to the UAA Student Union Feb. 24. The convention is put together by volunteers from the UAA Anime Club, which includes non-student members.

Rhyss Vivian, club member in charge of the financial side of Senshi-Con, said that although last year’s convention had a few staff and time management problems, the events at the con turned out “pretty well.”

“We’re going to do better this year,” he said.

Out of last year’s 500-600 attendees, Vivian estimated as many as 150 dressed up for the occasion.

“We usually get a decent turnout for cosplay. I think we ran four contests last year,” he said. “Every time we had more people doing it.”

Japanese major Kira Buckland, Anime Club president and founder of Senshi-Con, said cosplaying – a blend of wearing the costume and playing the character – is a highlight of any anime convention.

“Cosplaying makes an event more festive. We hope to see every single person cosplaying at Senshi-Con.”

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In addition to the cosplay contest, this year’s Senshi-Con will also have an unjudged fashion show just for exhibition.

“Some people, they love to dress up, but they just get really inhibited when they’re being judged,” Buckland said. “The con is a great excuse for people here in Alaska to cosplay, because most of them don’t have the opportunity to do that unless they want to fly out of state and go to Seattle for Sakura-Con or wherever.”

Meyon Chow, who joined the club shortly before last year’s convention, said the results were worth the effort.

“It went better than I thought it would,” she said, adding that time constraints also limit what can be done. “I wish it would go longer.”

The first Senshi-Con was organized by West High School’s anime club, which brought the convention to life in the school’s cafeteria. The lack of anime conventions accessible to Alaskans prompted the club to take the initiative and start one.

“Everyone told me, ‘I wanna start my own convention,'” Buckland said. “Then they realize it’s lots of work and not much credit, which is fine with me.”

After some of the club’s members graduated, including Buckland, the club migrated to UAA and is now a mix of high school and college students. Last year also saw the convention move to UAA, with larger ambitions and more planning.

This year will include special guest Caitlin Glass, most notable as the English voice of Winry Rockbell from “Fullmetal Alchemist,” one of the more popular anime shows of the last few years. Glass also works directing voice actors at FUNimation Entertainment.

Buckland said going to larger conventions in other states has helped provide her ideas for Senshi-Con, leading to the addition of the dance at this year’s event.

But she acknowledged the limitations of a convention supported by student volunteers.

“Senshi-Con obviously can’t be as big as those conventions,” she said. “I think small cons have their own value. When you go to a big con, you wait in line for every single thing you want to do and see, and after a while, you’re just like, ‘I spent half this con waiting in a line.'”

Buckland said the smaller size also allows much more participation, and fans can get more involved in all the events.

For the last couple of years, much of the Anime Club’s time has been spent planning the conventions, but Buckland – who is graduating at the end of the year – said this will most likely be the last Senshi-Con.

“After a while, the cons started to seem like work to (club members) and not fun,” she said. “After the con is over, I’m hoping to make this more of like a club again, get us back into the anime nights, video game nights and that kind of stuff.”

Besides gathering together like-minded fans – the real purpose of any convention – Senshi-Con will include appropriately themed events planned throughout the day, such as karaoke, performance skits, game tournaments and more.

Art major Ian Keen, in charge of gaming at Senshi-Con, said video game tournaments were planned for last year’s convention, but they fell by the wayside.

“This year, I’ve really taken the initiative a lot more,” he said. “Definitely going to have tournaments . it’s going to be a lot better.”