Pop culture fans converge on Detroit for Youmacon
Looking to get some extra mileage out of your Halloween costume? You might want to check out Youmacon, one of the country’s most popular anime conventions, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this weekend at the Renaissance Center.
The four-day event is packed with entertainment for every variety of anime, comic book and video game enthusiast. Youmacon features contests, video game and tabletop gaming rooms, film screenings, dances, special guest panels and live music shows.
“We’re trying to be the new face of Halloween for Detroit,” said Youmacon founder Morgan Kollin. “We offer more than your basic Halloween party or haunted house, and it’s a lot more interesting than just going door to door collecting candy.”
The convention is expected to draw upwards of 18,000 visitors from all around the world to downtown Detroit.
Though Youmacon specializes in celebrating anime, the event embraces a wide spectrum of media.
“Our primary focus has always been Japanese animation, Japanese pop culture and video games, but we’ve also embraced Internet culture along with other things,” Kollin said. “We also have people that run panels about various comic book series, sci-fi, ‘Doctor Who,’ and all sorts of web-based genres.”
The guest panel includes famous video game and animation voice actors, writers and illustrators. Attendees will also be treated to live performances by British pop-rock artist Kieran Strange and Steam Powered Giraffe, whose act Kollin describes as a “vaudeville, automaton musical number.”
As for how your Halloween costume fits in, a staple of anime conventions is “cosplaying,” or dressing up as pop culture characters. Attendees typically create their own costumes, and contests and photo opportunities allow fans to show off their hard work.
“It’s all about coming out here and dressing up as characters you enjoy,” Kollin said. “Cosplay is always about imagination and creativity. It’s about expressing yourself.”
Attendees are encouraged to think outside the box, and no genre is off limits. Whether you want to dress up as Spider-Man or Pikachu, Youmacon welcomes cosplayers of every creed. Kieran Strange, for example, plans to dress as Elsa from Disney’s “Frozen.”
Youmacon features a number of events you won’t find at any other anime convention. The Live Action Mario Party, for instance, is a crowd-participation rendition of the popular Nintendo video game with mini games and contests.
Kollin is taking this crowd favorite one step further for Youmacon’s 10th anniversary.
“This year we’re adding a live action Donkey Kong experience,” Kollin said. “We’re releasing it as a big surprise. That’s going to be our big new Sunday event.”
Youmacon also features a formal ball on Thursday night. Guests are encouraged to wear their classiest cosplay attire; proceeds from ticket sales benefit Detroit’s Cornerstone Schools.
Youmacon has always had a strong focus on improving the community.
“It’s been our goal since year one to bring a better image to the Motor City itself,” Kollin said. “We want to show people that Detroit isn’t the scary landscape they picture when they imagine Robocop.”
Note: If you’ve never attended an anime convention, Thursday night is your best bet to check out the scene. Admission is free and includes access to tabletop role-playing games, screenings and video games.
Steven Sonoras is a freelance writer.