RCGC set to host 10th annual KotoriCon

Annual anime convention benefits charities, students

In 2010, Susan Glenn, associate professor of biology at Rowan College at Gloucester County, started KotoriCon, a charity fundraiser with the anime club. This year, the Japanese Anime Guild+, the student club, will celebrate the 10th KotoriCon.

“Our goals were to give an opportunity for local fans of anime and Japanese culture a fan-based event, raise money for charity and provide an opportunity for college students to plan and organize an event,” Glenn said.

The event kicks off on Friday, Jan. 11, at 4 p.m. and includes a performance by Spellbound Strings, panels and anime screenings. Food trucks will be present as well. The night wraps up at 8:30 p.m., but the fun continues the next morning with a 9 a.m. registration and runs until the closing ceremony at 8:45 p.m.

“On Saturday, we have an ‘Artists Alley’ of artists and crafters selling their original work. They were selected from over 100 applicants. A ‘Dealer’s Room’ of vendors sells licensed merchandise related to the event,” Glenn said.

Tickets for KotoriCon must be purchased online at KotoriCon.org. The ticket, which is good for two days, is $33. Eventbrite ticketing fees of $3.89 bring the total to $36.89. Children 8 and under are free. Attendees under 18 must be accompanied by an adult.

“We really encourage the parents to come and see what a positive and supportive community their children are linking with,” Glenn said. “We have PG-13 programming that appeals to teenagers and adults.”

Ticket sales are capped at 1,500.

Each year, there is a different theme for KotoriCon. This year, the theme is Mecha, which are giant, Japanese robots. The invited guests work in accord with the theme. This year Canadian voice actor Brad Swaile will be in attendance. Swaile voices several characters in Gundam anime, among numerous other series.

Glenn added they are an official host of a Japanese HeboCon robot competition this year.

“We will have an open robot-building workshop and competitions,” she said. “The idea behind HeboCon is that even crappy robots can win. Everyone has fun no matter what.”

Another new wrinkle this year is the appearance of a therapy dog guest, Kiba the Cosplay Corgi. Glenn said Kiba will wear different costumes and give ‘pawtographs’ to fans.

KotoriCon is a member of the International Otaku Expo Association established in Japan, which means it is part of a large group of anime conventions around the world. While keeping the international connection, Glenn is proud they stayed small to focus on the local fans.

“They get a chance to meet and interact with the invited guests, get front-row seats to hear amazing bands and meet others in our area who share their passion,” she said. “This event has shown that Rowan College at Gloucester County nurtures a student-centered culture not only locally, but is also recognized on an international stage.”

Glenn noted an attendee gave them the nickname “the little anime convention with a big heart.”

Keeping it small and local is what means the most to Glenn.

“I like seeing all the happy, excited faces every year,” she said. “A lot of our guests have returned year after year. One of our VIPs, Jamie MCGonnigal, has been with us since our first year.”

She noted volunteers return every year as well.

“Building this community over 10 years makes me look forward to it,” Glenn continued.

One of the unique aspects of KotoriCon is the annual charity auction. Since the event started in 2010, more than $40,000 has been donated. The 2019 charities are Liberty in North Korea, Seabrook Buddhist Temple, Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, Fisher House Foundation and Samaritan’s Purse. In addition, some proceeds benefit the KotoriCon Scholarship Endowment.

“My favorite part of KotoriCon is the annual charity auction,” Glenn said. “This year it is co-hosted by the New York comedian Uncle Yo and RCGC’s art professor Eoin Kinnarney. The generous donations of unique items from our artists, vendors and special guests brings out the generosity of the fans.”

For more information about the event, visit www.KotoriCon.org.