Anime is one of the world’s most popular geek pursuits – and it's only getting bigger and more popular.
Fans of the Japanese-born animation style can’t seem to get enough of it, which is why streaming services like Crunchyroll boast hundreds of thousands of subscribers, profits in the anime industry keep skyrocketing each year, and more and more people are flocking to anime conventions across the United States and around the world.
That includes anime-oriented events here in Arizona, like the locally produced Taiyou Con.
The annual three-day convention – which is devoted to anime and similar Japanese-oriented pop cultural pursuits like manga, video games, and karaoke – has been growing in size and popularity since its debut in 2011. Last year, for instance, more than 3,200 people came to the Taiyou Con at the Mesa Convention Center, which was a 21 percent increase over the event’s 2015 attendance.
And Taiyou Con will likely have an even larger crowd at this year’s edition, which runs from Friday, January 6, to Sunday, January 8, at both the convention center and adjacent Phoenix Marriott Mesa hotel.
And just like
According to Taiyou Con’s staff, that’s always been the M.O. of the event: to celebrate anything and everything having to do with anime or J-culture in general with like-minded folks. As a matter of
And there’s plenty of ways that Taiyou Con attendees can indulge in their fandom. They can check out anime screenings, for example, as well as discussions about their favorite series and titles, attend a concert featuring Japanese rapper Lotus Juice, dress as beloved characters, learn how to build cosplay props (including all that ginormous weaponry), play imported video games, meet professional voice actors like Yuko Sanpei or Akemi Kanda, purchase collectibles, or simply hang out.
Spadafore says that Taiyou Con is aimed at all levels of anime fandom,
“I do believe that Taiyou Con is a great place for somebody that isn't very well-versed in the ways of anime to come and explore all the different elements of its culture and fandom through our programming,” Spadafore says.
And if this happens to be your first-ever Taiyou Con and you're interested in what to expect, we've put together a
Dates and Times: This year’s edition of Taiyou Con will take place from Friday, January 6, to Sunday, January 8, in downtown Mesa. Hours of operation are from noon until 2 a.m. on Friday, 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. on Saturday; and from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. on Sunday.
Location: Events and activities will happen at both the Mesa Convention Center, 263 North Center Street, and the Phoenix Marriott Mesa Hotel, 200 North Centennial Way.
Prices: If you’d like to attend the convention on a certain day, admission is $35 on either Friday or Saturday and $30 for Sunday only. Those who plan on spending the whole weekend can spring for a full event pass that’s $45 in advance and $50 at the door.
There’s also a “premier fan badge” for $250 that covers all three days and offer express line access and entry to both events and autograph signings, as well as some limited-edition swag. (Certain events require an additional admission purchase to attend, such as the $25 ticket needed to attend the TeddyLoid VIP Party.)
Age Limits: Taiyou Con is considered to be all ages and is open to everyone. Children 12 and under can get in for free, provided they’re attending with an adult who's purchased regular admission. (Limit of two kids per paid adult.) Be advised, however, that a small number of programming events will cover risque subject matter and are limited to those 18 and over.
Getting There: The quickest and most cost-effective option is to take the Valley Metro Light Rail. A station is located two or three blocks from the convention center, the trains run until 2 a.m. on weekends, and fare ranges from $2 for a single ride to $4 for an all-day pass. If you’re driving, however, the good news is that the convention center is fairly easy to find (take either the U.S. 60 or Loop 202 freeways to Country Club Road and head either north or south, respectively, toward downtown Mesa). You’ll also have no trouble finding a place to stash your vehicle.
Parking: Mesa Convention Center offers ample amounts of free parking, to the tune of several hundred spaces, and it's all free.
Food and Drink: Vending machines are located
Vendor Hall: It's the centerpiece and hub of pretty much every single convention or geek event, and Taiyou Con is no exception. The event’s vendor hall and artist alley will be located in the main hall of the Mesa Convention Center and include booths teeming with costuming items, merch, toys, games, and (of course) tons of anime and manga. Artists from around Arizona and throughout the Southwest of a J-culture bent will be showing off and selling their creations as well. Hours are from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Friday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday.
Taiyou Con attendees can also interact with and get autographs from such musicians as rapper Lotus Juice, singer Shihoko Hirata, and DJ/electronica producer TeddyLoid, all of whom have had their tunes featured in various animes. All three will perform during a special concert on Friday night starting at 7 p.m. Speaking of performances, we’re certain that the members of Mega64 will be just as entertaining during their Taiyou Con panel on Friday afternoon as they are in any of their hilariously off-kilter and geeky videos, skits, and podcasts. Here’s hoping it's just as over-the-top and farcical as their costumed appearances at AnimeExpo and San Diego Comic Con.
Panels and Programming: Want to learn how to build costuming items from scratch or how to become a pro cosplayer? Or are you curious about what it's like to be an anime voice actor or want to get started in the business yourself? Said subjects will be explored and discussed during Taiyou Con 2017. More than 100 different panels and programming are scheduled over the course of the weekend, and will cover anything and everything related to anime, manga, Asian culture, gaming, cosplaying, collecting, and general geekery. A full rundown and schedule can be found on the Taiyou Con website.
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Costumes and Cosplay: Both are a big part of Taiyou Con and are heavily encouraged. Most everyone in attendance will be dressed colorfully or sport costuming of some sort, which means nonstop people-watching opportunities during the event. A variety of panels and workshops will cover cosplay topics, ranging from prop-making to sewing, for anyone who's eager to learn about the craft.
Cosplay gatherings devoted to many different fandoms (including Steven Universe, Homestuck, JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, Yuri!! on Ice, RWBY) are also scheduled throughout the weekend at various areas around the convention center. A masquerade and costume contest is also scheduled for Saturday evening and will feature some of the best costumes of the weekend, as well as a number of skits and lip-syncs performed by attendees.
Don't Bring: A disruptive or disrespectful attitude, as well as any real weaponry or any other dangerous items, including giant robots.