Anime. Mangas. Cosplay. Video Games.

These are the things that are featured at A-Kon; a convention based on Japanese entertainment.

“A-Kon consists of shows, booths, concerts and galleries,” Public Relations and Marketing Director Monica Dino said. “There are art contests, cosplay contests, video game contests and media contests.”

Dino said this will be the convention’s 21st showing. A-Kon 21 will be June 4-6 at the Sheraton Hotel in Dallas.

“Cosplay is one of the main features of the con,” Dino said. “People dress up as their favorite anime (or animated) character, video game character or any random thing that they can come up with. We see a lot of Final Fantasy, Mario, Naruto and once we even had someone dress up as the King from Burger King.”

Dino said that many of the con-goers make their own costumes. However, they can also purchase them online or at anime-themed stores.

“The ones that make their own costumes really put a lot of work and effort into them,” she said. “Especially those who decide to go as characters that have a lot of detail.”

Con-goer Shala Walton said she made her own costume.

“I wanted to go as something that no one else would be,” she said. “So I created my own character and costume. A lot of people may go as the characters from Final Fantasy (the video game) or Naruto (an anime series). When that happens it becomes a contest of who wore it better.”

Walton said it cost her $100 to make her costume.

“I got my wig online and it cost me about $20,” she said. “My shoes came from Hot Topic and my outfit was made by me and my grandma. I glued jewels and stones all over it and it turned out to be a hit. I really love it. It’s too bad that there are not a lot of places to wear it in the ‘real world.'”

Dino said there are contests for people who want to enter their work. Cash prizes can be won for the costumes with the best creativity and craftsmanship.

“We have a hallway show and things like that,” she said. “The people will line up and be judged. However, the rules are that everything on them has to be made by them.”

Along with cosplay, there are video games contests as well.

“Our gamers are a good portion of the target audience,” she said. “We give them their own section where they can compete and win prizes as well. It is very popular and grew since the previous years. The gaming section will be expanded to both the Sheraton and the Westin Hotels.”

For people who are more music fans, Dino said there are JPop artists that will appear in concert.

“JPop is basically Japanese Pop music,” she said. “Artists from Japan come and perform. We sell their T-shirts and CDs for those who have a hard time purchasing their music here.”

Dino said the Dealer’s Room is also a popular attraction.

“The Dealer’s Room can get pretty crazy,” she said. “It’s basically a large room in the hotel that only sells merchandise. This can range from plush toys of your favorite characters, DVDs, mangas (Japanese comic books), backpacks, artwork, clothes or Japanese items. It gets really crazy that we only allow a certain number of people in at a time.”

Dino said that A-Kon is an educational experience just as much as it is an entertainment experience.

“For people who are aspiring artists, writers, musicians, animators or voice actors this is a good opportunity to meet people in the business,” she said. “There are seminars and workshops that are open to anyone who wants to go.”

Con-goer Christopher Gonzalez said when he enters an anime convention he feels as if he has stepped into another dimension.

“Everything is so different,” he said. “People are speaking Japanese or acting like their characters. People don’t even go by their real names; they go by whatever their badge says. It’s like going to the club. When you’re there you can call yourself Glitter, but at home your real name is Patty.”

Gonzalez said it is not uncommon for people to find romance while at a convention.

“People say that they can find love at a convention,” he said. “It’s almost like spring break. You go to a beach for a week, fall in love but once the vacation is over it’s like it never happened. That’s the same as a con. However, the more accurate you look in your costume the more girls you get. It’s like a fantasy they [girls] have when these ‘perfect’ and ‘flawless’ guys come to life. It’s pretty funny to watch.”

When at a convention, Gonzalez said he considers himself to be ‘free.’

“At an anime convention, there is no such thing as feeling out of place,” he said. “The more unique and creative you are, the more you fit in. It’s a place where everyone who has ever felt like an outcast or felt like they can’t be themselves can go and be crazy.”

When an anime convention is over, Gonzalez said it takes him a few days to come back to reality.

“It’s almost like a dream,” he said. “You come back home after three days of non-stop friends, anime, video games, comics, hot girls and sushi. When it’s all over you can’t wait to come back. But then you have a whole year to plan for the next one.”

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