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Mace and Crown | May 24, 2018

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NekoCon 20: Day one roundup

NekoCon 20: Day one roundup

Adam Flores | Senior Writer

NekoCon attendee dressed to kill. Photo by Adam Flores.

NekoCon 20 is now in high gear through Sunday at the Hampton Roads Convention Center!

As the premiere animé convention of the Tidewater region and celebrating its 20th anniversary, NekoCon prides itself on introducing Japanese culture, media and history to diehard fans and appreciators of the genre through its annual convention.

Since its inception more than 20 years ago, NekoCon continues to grow each year. This year, various programming rooms such as those designated for panel discussions will seat anywhere from 200 to more than 500 attendees. This year’s convention is expected to attract more than 8,000 attendees.

NekoCon kicked off Thursday with several evening programs such as “CosPlay Craft Faire,” “Action Arcade Presents: Country Race Head to Head Donkey Kong Race! (18+)” and “Inside the Game Master’s Studio,” a panel discussion headed by James Deeley.

Returning to NekoCon, Charles Dunbar headed the animated and engaging panel discussion, “‘I Swear I Saw a Dragon’: A (focused and unobstructed) Look at Cryptids.” As a veteran panelist, it was 11 years ago that Dunbar first attended NekoCon at the HRCC and first Virginia con. Since 2009, he has been attending as a panelist using the NekoCon platform as a proving ground for new work along with just cutting loose and giving wacky content.

AJ Martinsson and Charles Dunbar. Photo by Adam Flores.

From Bigfoot to Bunyip, Dunbar and fellow panelist AJ Martinsson delivered a highly animated and engaging discussion taking attendees on a trip around the world exploring the wondrous and ridiculous world of cryptids.

Martinsson began by explaining her passionate work and research in the pseudoscience of cryptozoology (“crypto” from the Greek meaning “hidden” and “–zoology” meaning “the study of animals”).

Cryptozoology, which began in the 1950s with the work of Bernard Heuvelmans and Ivan T. Sanderson, aims to prove the existence of entities from folklore records and literatures such as the “chupacabra” (Spanish for “goat sucker”), the “Mongolian Death Worm” and even “Chessie” who purportedly resides in the neighboring Chesapeake Bay.

Both Dunbar and Martinsson revealed a concise history of cryptids and “former cryptids,” those that have been proven to exist today such as “The Komodo Dragon,” the adorable yet deadly “Platypus” and “The Giant Squid,” which they both referred to as “the literal Kraken.”

NekoCon attendee dressed to kill. Photo by Adam Flores.

NekoCon is also proud to host Neko Gakkou or “Cat Academy,” an education-oriented programming track dedicated to exploring the nuanced cultural history of Japan. Content in the Gakkou track focuses on all facets of Japanese culture including (but not limited to) food, history, belief, school life, fashion, subculture, identity and world influences.

Gakkou content selected is of the highest quality in regard to education and scholarship, illuminations of Japanese Cultural Practice, and the ways in which anime, games, and Japanese mass media shed light on Japan and her people.

This track will also host round table discussion forums for students of Japan to present, refine and discuss material that is important to their pursuit of Japanese culture academic or otherwise.

Opening ceremonies for NekoCon will be at 3 p.m. on Friday to officially kick off this year’s event that will bring people together from all over the world for a weekend of escape into alternate worlds and fantasy narratives.

NekoCon promises to deliver a weekend of fun-filled events. It’s not too late to register and attend the festivities. For more information on NekoCon 20, please visit