Love and anime hookup at cosplay convention

Anime is adapted from manga or Japanese comic books, which have grown into a worldwide pop culture phenomenon. It was originally popularized by Tokyo commuters picking up manga at newsstands to read while riding trains to and from work.

Keith Johnkoski, 22, dressed as Natsu from the anime series “Fairy Tail” and Janay Ruzicka, 21, dressed as Temari from “Naruto Shippuden” at Crowne Plaza DIA Convention Center in Denver on Feb. 11. Photo by Kavann Tok •

With Valentine’s Day in mind some couples enjoyed a romantic cosplay weekend at the Animeland Wasabi 2017 event held at the Crowne Plaza Denver Airport Convention Center.

In the game room, players competed at “Street Fighter” on giant screens as others put on live “Rock Band” karaoke concerts. The dealer’s room was filled with anime and superhero collectibles, while artists showcased manga inspired galleries. There was also a costume contest in the main auditorium.

One cosplay couple, Keith Johnkoski and Janay Ruzicka, played characters from two separate series yet bonded their characters through their love for anime.

“We’ve been together for about two years. We have everything in common except food,” Ruzicka said.

She made her costume in 2011.

“I’m Temari from ‘Naruto Shippuden.’ This was pretty much all closet bound, and I just sewed a few things together,” Ruzicka said.

Johnkoski came as Natsu, a fire-dragon slayer from the anime series “Fairy Tail.” He ordered his costume online and drew emblems on his skin to give his character an authentic detail.

“My favorite part is taking pictures with people, talking to people and just seeing all the cool stuff you can buy around here,” Johnkoski said.

Another couple who enjoyed the event was Ricardo Valdivia and Rosa Lopez. While Valdivia wasn’t dressed up, he supported his girlfriend who went as Ciel Phantomhive of “Black Butler.”

“I saw the character, and said ‘I have to cosplay it,’” Lopez said. “My favorite part about being here is seeing the other cosplayers. It’s fun to meet people who have the same hobby as you.”

This was her first year at Animeland Wasabi but her third year of cosplay. Denver Comic Con was where her inspiration came from, deciding to participate instead of just spectate.

“It’s more fun when you’re involved instead of just watching. I just found stuff in my closet that I could use as a cosplay. I used a lot of hot glue and safety pins,” Lopez said.

Collectors combed the vendors’ booths for manga, art prints, books, figurines, plushies, hand-made trinkets, Asian snacks, clothing and all things anime!

Artist, Alexandra Miller, worked one of the booths. She started drawing when she was eight years old, taking a cartooning class in Denver.

“Last year I actually did it for the first time,” Miller said. “It was really fun and it was a nice community. I’m from Colorado but for these conventions, I travel across the country.”

For five years, she has produced artwork in anime and manga form influenced by popular characters. She puts a personal twist on them, developing them into her own style and technique.

At another booth was a colorist, Christopher Bower, who grew up making fanart with his friends Will Woods and Tyrine Carver, founders of Musetap Studios.

“We love coming to this,” Bower said. “We’ve been coming to it for three years, and they’ve switched it a couple of times to different locations. I love coming to Denver though.”

Guests of the event included numerous voice actors, such as Chris Rager, Lisle Wilkerson, Jamie McGonnigal a director, producer and organizer, Michaela Laws a writer, director and more. Music was performed by rapper and electronic dance music artist, None Like Joshua and trance and hard dance DJ Blakeland.

This is an event for anime enthusiasts who enjoy mingling with other fans and for a few couples a unique romantic weekend.

Author: Kavann Tok

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