For 18 years, Columbus-based anime convention Ohayocon has started the year off right with its bright and exciting event smack dab in the shivering doldrums of mid-January. Over 12,000 Midwestern anime fans congregate in the state’s capital to share their love of all things Japanese with friends old and new, taking over downtown in a flurry of cosplay and unabashed nerdiness.
We made the trek to Columbus to check out what Ohayocon had in store for us this year, and we definitely came away impressed. Let’s take a look together!
|When it was Established:||January 2001|
|Length of Event:||3 days, January 11 – 13, 2019|
|Location:||Greater Columbus Convention Center in Columbus, OH|
|Cost:||If you pre-register early enough, you can get a weekend pass for as little as $45. At the door, it’s $65 and cash only. Single day passes are in the range of $35-40.|
|Hotels:||The convention center is physically connected to three hotels; the Hyatt Regency (where Ohayocon has a block of rooms), the Drury Inn & Suites, and the Hilton. But since it’s located downtown, there are other options nearby such as the Red Roof Inn Plus.|
|Event Message for Attendees:||“Explore the natural beauty of anime with your cure for the wintertime blues!”|
What to Expect
As a well-established convention, Ohayocon has their act pretty solidly together. Con staff are friendly and keep lines organized, directions and signage are clear, and the allotted area of the convention center is large enough to accommodate crowds without spilling over into other events taking place at the same time. You’ll still get a few incredulous businessmen staring with dumbstruck expressions like they’ve just stepped into Narnia, but otherwise, the con is separated from the prying eyes of normal society.
This con also attracts a sizeable amount of guests. Standout voice actors like Aaron Dismuke and Bill Farmer—the legendary voice of Disney’s Goofy—made appearances this year, and YouTube cover artist Caleb Hyles put on a spectacular concert on Saturday. Cosplayers such as battle damage expert HDC Fabrication, drag queen Oriana Péron, and prolific contest winner Momo Kurumi led entertaining and informative panels on their specialist subjects. No matter what part of the nerd spectrum you fall under, Ohayocon has a guest that’ll make the trip totally worth it!
What to Bring
Cash – Everyone loves anime merch, but budgeting is important when hundreds of adorable keychains and figures are begging for your attention all at once. Bringing cash helps to cut down on the “monopoly money” feeling of credit cards, and usually bypasses Ohio’s 5.75% sales tax as well. The convention center has plenty of ATMs, although bringing a set amount of paper money ahead of time and not wavering from it will keep your budgeting simple.
Warm clothes/cosplay – Ohio gets very cold in January, with Ohayocon 2019’s weather measuring in the 20s with a small snowstorm. Even if you’re staying in the hotels attached to the convention center, pack a winter coat and some gloves for packing your car and going out to eat. This is also a great time for heavier cosplays that would cook you alive in the summer, like Mei from Overwatch or anything involving a full bodysuit.
Protein bars – The convention center’s food court is nice, but it’s often crowded and every shop has a long line. If you don’t want to deal with that for every meal of the day, bring some quick-fix rations like protein or granola bars that will keep you going for the next few hours.
A bag or pockets – Even though it’s a high-attendance convention, Ohayocon doesn’t have strict security or bag checks at its entrances. So go ahead and bring a backpack/purse to carry your essential items and not-so-essential (but equally important) dealer’s room purchases. The con also has a “room of holding” that will temporarily take care of your larger items until you can bring them to your hotel. And if you’re cosplaying and don’t want to bring a bag, make sure to sew pockets into your outfit!
What to Do
Dealer’s Room/Artist’s Alley – The shining jewels of any anime convention (in our biased opinion) are the dealers’ room and artist alley, where you can buy any kind of geeky merchandise that your little heart desires. One of our favorite booths this year was Inimitable Studios, a cutesy store that debuted new snapback hats that are hand-decorated with small toys and flowers. Designer Krislee said that she wanted to create a sort of wearable terrarium, and she works hard to preserve the function of the toys that she integrates into the hats. Another booth called Dragonsong Forge displayed custom metal props and weapons, including an infinity gauntlet with details carefully crafted from 3D-printed steel. And the ever-popular Dragons Trading touted their distinctive grab bag eggs, which have to be custom-ordered and contain up to $100 in figures, plushies, and accessories. Artist’s Alley was limited to original works only this year, but still turned out beautiful works that anyone would be glad to take home.
Friday Night Fashion Show – For the first time this year, Ohayocon held an alternative fashion show focusing on non-literal interpretations of characters that don’t fit the strict criteria of the traditional masquerade cosplay contest. Celebrity cosplayers Oriana Péron and Momo Kurumi served as judges, showcasing entries like the bunny girl Avengers and Pokémon gijinkas with their characteristic good-natured humor. A cheery Christmas elf dress won Best in Show for its incredible detail and jovial presentation.
Photo Shoots – The Greater Columbus Convention Center is a fantastic place for photo shoots of any kind, with its large open spaces and unique art installations to pose in front of. Being part of a throng of costumed fans gathering together to recreate scenes from their favorite series and amaze passers-by is a kind of fun that can hardly be described, and seeing members of the group later on is a great way to make friends. You can also talk to professional photographers in the hallways (usually set up with a few lights and a fancy camera) for a quick free session that will land you some nicely edited shots for social media. And besides, it’s just fun to feel like a model!
Yuki Matsuri and the Library/Maker Lab – For an escape from the hustle and bustle of the halls, Ohayocon has a few themed rooms that provide unique entertainment at a quieter pace. Yuki Matsuri was a new addition this year that aimed to educate attendees on Japanese festivals and provide them with fun crafts such as origami and flower arranging to pass the time. Tanabata-style wish tags hung on bamboo trees, expressing vistors’ wishes for the future: “I wish to have a fun and memorable con!” and “Please bless my gatcha pulls!” were our favorites. The library room next door stocked the usual selection of manga and Western comics, as well as 3D printers and even a record player.
Late Night Fun – Cons are exhausting, but if you have enough energy to stay up late, there’s plenty to do into the wee hours of the morning. A new panel called “JoJo’s Bizarre Catwalk” burst onto the scene Friday night, where select attendees showed off their posing and dancing skills to classic rock anthems and JoJo’s iconic opening songs. A Guido Mista cosplayer ultimately won the crown with his masterful execution of part 5’s “torture dance”. If you’re over 18, you can also take part in the rave dance party or watch hilarious English hentai dubs that blur the line between gag dub and surrealist art.
Boku no Hero was still the overwhelming king of cosplay this year, with UA uniforms and gym outfits as far as the eye could see. We spotted old favorites like Bakugo and Kirishima, as well as newer additions to the anime’s third season such as Nejire and the Wild Wild Pussycats. 2018 anime was well represented with characters from Zombieland Saga, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Vento Aureo, Golden Kamuy, and more. But the classics weren’t left in the dust by a long shot – cosplayers for Ouran High School Host Club, The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, and even Mary Poppins drew cameras and compliments from everyone around them.
One of our favorite cosplayers was Spiritotter, who flounced around the convention floor in a Princess Daisy dress made entirely of balloons. She works for a face-painting company and has made balloon dresses themed around Halloween and the Pixar movie Coco in the past. This project took her about 8 hours to make, and the craftsmanship shows through in every minute detail. We just hope she didn’t run into any sharp objects!
If you’re suffering from wintertime blues, Ohayocon is just the thing to fire you up again. Their new additions for this year were unique and fun, and their old standbys are still just as solid as they ever were. Come to Columbus next year for your fix of Midwestern anime fandom!
What did you think of our report? Have you ever been to Ohayocon? What are you most excited about seeing next year? Let us know in the comments, and thanks so much for reading!