Nerd Culture

Everything You Need to Know About Taiyou Con 2019 in Downtown Mesa

Love anime? Head for the Mesa Convention Center this weekend for Taiyou Con 2019.
Love anime? Head for the Mesa Convention Center this weekend for Taiyou Con 2019. Benjamin Leatherman
If you aren’t able to get a hold of anime-loving friends this weekend, don’t freak out. They’re likely hanging out and geeking out in downtown Mesa at Taiyou Con, the annual event that’s devoted to anime and similar Japanese-oriented pop cultural pursuits like manga, video games, and karaoke.

Thousands of geeks will attend this year’s edition of the con – which takes place from Friday, January 11, to Sunday, January 13, at the Mesa Convention Center and adjacent Delta Hotels by Marriott. Just like previous versions of Taiyou Con, which has been around since 2011, it'll feature a mix of costumes, vendors, gaming, panels, and workshops, much of it anime-related. A variety of activities will take place throughout the weekend, including trivia contests, a cosplay masquerade, game tournaments, fan meetups, and more.

What else is in store for Taiyou Con 2019? Check out the following guide covering everything you might possibly need to know before attending, including what to wear, who to see, and what to do.

When is it? Taiyou Con 2019 happens from Friday, January 11, to Sunday, January 13, 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 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday.

Where is it? All activities at the con will take place at the Mesa Convention Center, 263 North Center Street, and next door at the Delta Hotels by Marriott Phoenix Mesa, 200 North Centennial Way.

How much is admission? It varies based on how long you want to hang out at the event. If you’re interested in attending on a certain day, memberships are $35 for Friday, $40 on Saturday, and $30 for Sunday. If you’d prefer to spend the entire weekend at Taiyou Con, it’s $45 online in advance or $50 if you buy it at the event. There’s also a bundle package for $64.99 that includes admission to all three days and a variety of merch and swag, including a custom lanyard, keychain, tote bag, and more.

Those who would like to live large like Ciel Phantomhive from Black Butler can spring for the “premier weekend badge” for $149 that includes full admission, branded merch, a gift bag with prizes, and priority access to every event and autograph session throughout the con.

click to enlarge Attendees of Taiyou Con. - BENJAMIN LEATHERMAN
Attendees of Taiyou Con.
Benjamin Leatherman
Are there age limits? No. Taiyou Con is a family-friendly event that’s open to all ages. Kids who are 11 or younger can get in free if they’re going with an adult who’s bought a regular admission (there’s a limit of two children per paid adult, however). Be aware that certain programming and events will be limited to those who are 18 and over.

How do I get there? If you don’t want to drive, there’s a Valley Metro Light Rail station two or three blocks south of the convention center. Trains run up until 2 a.m. on weekends, and it's $2 for a single ride, $4 for an all-day pass. If you’re coming by car, take either the U.S. 60 or Loop 202 freeways to Country Club Road and head either north or south, respectively, toward downtown Mesa. Head east on Second Street for a few blocks and you’ll find the convention center.

Where can I park? The good news is that it’s totally free to park at Mesa Convention Center and there are hundreds of spaces available. Keep in mind, however, the earlier you get the event, the closer you can park to the entrance.

What's the weather going to be like? Temperatures will be in the 60s and it's going to be cloudy all weekend. Consider wearing a light jacket ... or adding an extra layer of costuming.

What can I eat or drink? There’s a concession stand in the vendor hall serving fast-casual eats and a few vending machines located throughout the convention center. Meanwhile, a variety of Asian-themed food trucks will be set up outside of the hotel and serve everything from ramen to boba. Downtown Mesa also offers scores of coffeehouses, drinkeries, and a pizzeria, all within a five- to 10-minute walk of the con.

click to enlarge There's gaming to be had at Taiyou Con 2019. - BENJAMIN LEATHERMAN
There's gaming to be had at Taiyou Con 2019.
Benjamin Leatherman
So, what can I do at Taiyou Con? A lot, actually. There will be more than 400 hours' worth of activities happening, including a gaming room with tons of import titles, anime screenings, anime trivia contests, cosplay meetups, maid cafes, and myriad other opportunities to geek out throughout the weekend.

Taiyou Con will also debut its new Nikko Festival, a carnival-style event inspired by traditional Japanese outdoor festivals that will feature games like ring toss and goldfish scooping, a shooting gallery, fortune-telling, and more. Attendees will get several free game tickets with their paid admission with the opportunity to purchase more at the festival.

If you’d like to purchase anything and everything anime-related, the Sunspot Bazaar on Friday and Saturday night will see con-goers selling their items. And if you’d like to see costumed characters duke it out, the competitors of the Cosplay Wrestling Federation will lay the smackdown on Friday night from 7:30 to 10 p.m. in Ballroom D of the hotel.

Who are the special guests this year? The lineup includes appearances by anime voice talents like Yuriko Yamaguchi of Neon Genesis Evangelion fame, as well as Ray Chase from Kingdom Hearts, Robbie Daymond (Sailor Moon, Persona 5), and Max Mittelman (One-Punch Man). Anime artist Yoshitoshi ABe, the creator and writer of Haibane Renmei and character designer for Serial Experiments Lain, is also scheduled to appear at Taiyou Con 2019, as will Ashphord Jacoway and Deanna McRae of Chocolate Covered Cosplay. Each of these guests will sign autographs at various times throughout the weekend. A schedule can be found here.

Where's the vendor hall? Inside the main room of the Mesa Convention Center. Dozens of booths will offer costuming items, merch, toys, games, and (of course) tons of anime and manga. There will also be an artist alley. Hours are from 2 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.

Are there panels and programming at Taiyou Con 2019?
Yup. 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, gaming, cosplaying, collecting, and general geekery. A full rundown and schedule can be found here.

click to enlarge A Naruto cosplay spotted at Taiyou Con. - BENJAMIN LEATHERMAN
A Naruto cosplay spotted at Taiyou Con.
Benjamin Leatherman
Can I wear a costume? Absolutely. Costumes and cosplay 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.

Cosplay gatherings devoted to many different fandoms (including Naruto, Voltron, Super Smash Bros., and Final Fantasy XV) are also scheduled throughout the weekend at various areas around the convention center. A masquerade and costume contest is also scheduled for Saturday evening from 6 to 9 p.m. in Ballrooms D through G at the Delta Hotel and will feature some of the best costumes of the weekend, as well as a number of skits and lip-syncs performed by attendees.

What should I bring? A printout of your registration, a government-issued ID, comfortable shoes, a swag bag, bottled water, a fully charged phone, and some cash. Prop weapons are also allowed, provided they aren’t real firearms, actual metal swords or other bladed items, nunchaku, aluminum baseball bats, or self-defense weapons like pepper spray or stun-guns. Security will inspect and peace-bond all costume weaponry upon entry to the event.

Also, its necessary to have a healthy amount of respect for cosplayers and fellow fans (translation: don't be a bully, troll, or creeper).

What shouldn’t I bring? A disruptive or disrespectful attitude, as well as any real weaponry or any other dangerous items, including giant robots or demons.
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Benjamin Leatherman is a staff writer at Phoenix New Times. He covers local nightlife, music, culture, geekery, and fringe pursuits.