Convention aims to increase interest in anime

Tessa Joyner of Covington solicits a little affection during the first Memphis Anime Blues Con at the Hilton Hotel.

Photo by Jim Weber // Buy this photo

Tessa Joyner of Covington solicits a little affection during the first Memphis Anime Blues Con at the Hilton Hotel.

As local anime fans anticipate the start of Memphis' second Anime Blues Con, the more phone calls George Min receives at his store, Animax.

"They call everyday," said Min, the president of Anime Blues Con. He expects at least 2,000 attendees and has already sold about 700 tickets online. Last year, more than 1,400 guests showed up at the Hilton Memphis to celebrate Japanese animation, art, fashion and culture.

"It was better than what people were expecting for a first year convention," said Launa Morris, co-chair of the convention.

The convention kicks off at 9 a.m. Friday and runs through Sunday.

Dalya Gebba of Jonesboro, Ark., plays the part of the demure 'Princess Peach' a character from the wildly popular Mario Brothers video games during the first Memphis Anime Blues Con at the Hilton Hotel.

Photo by Jim Weber

Dalya Gebba of Jonesboro, Ark., plays the part of the demure 'Princess Peach' a character from the wildly popular Mario Brothers video games during the first Memphis Anime Blues Con at the Hilton Hotel.

"We're trying to put Memphis on the map," said Min.

The convention appeals to a broad group that includes children, gamers and fans of cosplay -- short for "costume play

Min explained, "We cater to a younger group of people. But then again, we had people (last year) from 7 years old to 60 years old. And the 60-year-olds were also cosplaying."

In addition to cosplay contests and gaming tournaments, Anime Blues Con will feature original Power Ranger Johnny Yong Bosch and famed voice actor Robert Axelrod. Sony Pictures Interactive animator Alex Zemke will debut a video game tie-in movie during his panel discussions "Animation for Movies" and "Animation in Video Games." And DC Comics illustrator Dave Beaty will share tips and tricks for digital designers.

Other activities include a martial arts demonstration, sessions on how to make sushi and how to write hiragana and katakana, Japanese alphabet symbols.

The organizers are "as rabid as the fans are to bring awesome stuff to the area," said Martheus Wade, who organized the art panels.

Wade is a Memphis illustrator who will host a children's puppet show and a panel on his graphic novel series "Jetta: Tales of the Toshigawa" that is currently being turned into a live action film.

His personal goal for Anime Blues is to help comics and animation thrive in Memphis. "We (artists) feel like we have to leave the area in order to get ahead," said Wade, adding that it "felt good" to see an appreciation of anime in the city.

Le Bonheur Children's Hospital will be the recipient of proceeds from three special fund-raisers: a Lantern Festival, a Masquerade Ball, and a Date Auction.

"We wanted to give anything that we can," said Morris. "We're a non-profit organization. We want to have ties to the local community."

The convention's goal overall is to connect Memphis' anime community while introducing it to a new audience.

"We actually had a lot of first-timers that were from Memphis that'd never been to a convention before," said Min. "We opened their eyes ... they're not the same now."

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Anime Blues Con

The convention is from 9 a.m. on Friday until 5 p.m. on Sunday at Hilton Memphis, 939 Ridge Lake Boulevard. Admission is $45 for a three-day adult pass at the door and $20 for a three-day children's pass (ages 7-12) at the door. Admission is free for children under 6. $25 for one-day passes on Friday and Saturday; $15 for Sunday only. Registration is 8 a.m.-8 p.m. on Friday, 8 a.m.-8 p.m. on Saturday and 8 a.m.-1 p.m. on Sunday. For a complete schedule of events or more information, go to animeblues.com or e-mail support@animeblues.com.

FRIDAY

10:30 a.m. -- Anime Idol auditions

1:30 p.m. -- Halo Reach Tournament

2 p.m. -- The Best of Robert Axelrod

5 p.m. -- Opening ceremonies

6 p.m. -- Illustrating for comics and manga

9 p.m. -- Masquerade Ball for Le Bonheur

SATURDAY

10 a.m. -- Date Auction for Le Bonheur

11 a.m. -- Power Ranger panel

3 p.m. -- Cosplay Contest

4 p.m. -- Street Fighter x Tekken 2 Tournament

6 p.m. -- Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3 Tournament

8 p.m. -- Soul Calibur 5 Tournament

9 p.m. -- Lantern Festival for Le Bonheur

SUNDAY

8 a.m. -- Pokemon Tournament

11 a.m. -- Anime Olympics

11 a.m. -- Animation for Movies

2 p.m. -- Martheus Wade's "Jetta: Tales of the Toshigawa"

4-5 p.m. -- Closing ceremonies and feedback

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© 2012 Go Memphis. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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