The University’s own Japanese anime convention just keeps growing.
Raymond Lenzner, a senior majoring in English, is president of the Bama SOS Brigade, which started holding the anime convention called Kami-Con in 2009. Even then, Lenzner said, the convention exceeded expectations.
“We expected 200 people, and we ended up with 460,” Lenzner said. “It went really well.”
Lenzner and the Bama SOS Brigade are on track to raise the bar even further for 2010’s Kami-Con, subtitled “Season 2.”
Where it had one guest voice actor, one mascot and one grand prize winner for its surprise contest in 2009, this time it has three voice actors, two mascots and a contest that will reward more than half of con-goers.
Bama SOS Brigade Vice President Chelsea Morrison, a junior majoring in psychology, said this year the club expects more than 1,000.
Morrison said the biggest reason expected attendance rose was guest voice actor Martin Billany, who rose to internet fame on YouTube under the name of LittleKuriboh by creating and acting for “Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Series.”
Billany used his clout on the Internet to promote Kami-Con with two videos, and Morrison said Billany posted the second one in response to confusion over the first.
“Everybody thought he was saying Comic-Con and didn’t pay attention to the Web site,” Morrison said.
Despite the initial difficulties, Lenzner said the promotion helped.
“Advertisement from LittleKuriboh really put us on the map,” Lenzner said, “and he started the fad of making fun of Vic Mignogna’s name.”
Vic Mignogna is best known for voicing protagonist Edward Elric in the English dub of the popular, acclaimed “Fullmetal Alchemist.” He has also done voice work ranging from Vega in “Street Fighter II” to Broly in the “Dragon Ball Z” movies and games.
The third voice actor is Robert Axelrod, whose anime dub work includes “Digimon,” “Cowboy Bebop” and “Big O.”
Many who have never seen an anime in their lives will want to see Axelrod because he is best known for his performance as super-villain Lord Zedd in the second season of “Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers.”
How did Lenzner, Morrison and the Bama SOS Brigade get this much talent on board Kami-Con 2010?
“We asked,” Lenzner said. “People just say yes. Of course, you have to pay them, but they say yes. People seem intimidated by celebrities, but most of them want money just like everyone else, and they want to meet the fans just like everyone else.”
Another change for Kami-Con 2010 is the addition of a second mascot named Kosho, who will battle Kami-Con’s original mascot Shio-chan for the right to serve as mascot for Kami-Con 2011.
“We’re still going to keep them both regardless of who wins,” Lenzner said. “It’s just that the loser won’t be the mascot next year.”
The competition between the sunshiny Shio-chan and the darker Kosho plays directly into Kami-Con’s theme, “Light vs. Dark,” as well as a composition that every con-goer will take place in.
All of them will choose a side, and by engaging in events like “Light vs. Dark Dodgeball,” they will compete to decide whether Shio-chan or Kosho becomes mascot next year.
Lenzner said “Light vs. Dark” had advantages over last year’s contest, a murder mystery that con-goers raced to solve.
“Last year, we had a game where one person won a prize,” Lenzner said. “This year, we have a game where the whole con wins the prize of deciding which theme will be next year.”
While the events, the guests, and the attendance have grown for Kami-Con, Morrison said the convention was actually losing a few rooms in the Ferguson Center to construction.
“We’ve had to reroute everything, so some of our rooms are smaller, and some are bigger.”
For example, Morrison said, the video game events will now take place in the game room instead of conference rooms on the third floor, and the anime screenings have been moved from the Ferguson Forum to the Heritage Room.
Lenzner said expenses for Kami-Con added up. He said while the University helped with several costs, he was left with between $5,500 and $6,000 to make back from the convention.
“We get to make the money back before we pay a lot of it, though,” Lenzner said. “For our food, for example, we only had to pay about half in advance.”
Visit www.kamicon.net to learn more about Kami-Con and its planned events.