Reality blurs at Zenkaikon

Marianne Caesar
Features Writer

Guests blended into the animated world this weekend as Zenkaikon made its return, celebrating its ninth year in existence and being hosted for its 3rd at the Marriot in Lancaster, Pa. Celebrating the world of anime, gaming and Japanese culture, guests had the option of wearing costumes and portraying their favorite characters within animated culture.

Zenkaikon began in 2006 through the blending of Kosaikon from Villanova University and Zentracon held in the University of Pennsylvania. In 2013, the convention moved from Valley Forge to the Marriot due to construction, providing an affordable and local venue for Lancaster County residents.

The three-day event offered panels, workshops and other methods to learn about the Japanese culture and the Otaku lifestyle. Several viewing rooms were present for attendees to enjoy their favorite anime series or films, as well as to explore new ones. Workshop topics varied from convention etiquette and cosplay creation to understanding how and Eastern ideologies and mythologies are incorporated into animation. One of these featured panels gave guests a chance to create chainmail jewelry, while others presented discussions over topics such as Fanon versus Canon where the validity of fan fiction and studio-made plot decisions differ.

Guests included voice-over actors Lauren Landa, Matthew Mercer and Trina Nishimura from Attack on Titan, as well as Richard Horvitz and Rikki Simons from Invader Zim. Various gaming tournaments were offered for those looking for some action, and gave guests a chance to play games still awaiting public release, as well as foreign and familiar board games. The ultimate gaming experience was the presence of Artemis, a fully simulated Spaceship with roles such as science engineer, communications and captain, allowing guests to be the Starfleet Academy members rather than just watching it on Star Trek.

In terms of music, this year’s guest was The Ricecookers, performing in the style of Japanese Rock. Guests also danced at the formal ball and raves available.

Additional to the entertainment, guests could visit the dealer’s room, playing host to Artists Alley and various vendors with goods of Otaku culture. Merchandise available covered Japanese snacks, jewelry, artist renditions of characters, manga, all the way to plush-style sushi. This year, staff added an annual auction, held in honor of convention guest C.J. Henderson. An author of horror, crime fiction and comic books, Henderson lost his battle with Lymphoma Cancer July 4, 2014. Proceeds totaling roughly $1,800 through the auction and donations are to be sent to the Lymphoma Research Foundation. As the closing ceremonies continued, staff noted that there was a 19 percent increase in attendees again, bringing the total up to 4,000 guests this year.

With the help of an all-volunteer staff, guests with and without costumes were able to be part of photoshoots, classes and a large community which functions as a large extended family.

Next year’s Zenkaikon will take place April 1 – 3 in 2016, and will be held at the Marriot again.