The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

UI-Con unites anime enthusiasts at UI

Emma Pyatt
Kimberly and MaryMaryCosplay cosplay as Rosie and Charlie from “Hazbin Hotel” during UI-Con on Saturday.

Fans of anime from across central Illinois gathered at the Illini Union this weekend for the first-ever UI-Con: a convention that hosted a variety of different interactive events for all to enjoy.

As its website states, UI-Con is Champaign-Urbana’s first-ever anime and comic convention. Despite this being its first year in the running, the convention amassed over 3,000 registrations from fans of all ages eager to connect with one another.

There was space for all media subcultures, whether it be for fans of a well-known anime or those of a lesser-known video game. Many discussion panels and workshops reflected this expansive collection of interests.

Emma Weber, also known in the cosplay community as Kabooti, is the programming coordinator for UI-Con. She has been running panels for years at other conventions and took care of doing the same at UI-Con. This included approving ideas for panels that ranged from “Cosplay Props on a Budget” to “The Unhinged World of Wrestling Cartoons and Anime.”

“It’s really cool to see what people submitted,” Weber said. “I mean, we got 30 panel submissions, and we got to accept all of them.”

Get The Daily Illini in your inbox!

  • Catch the latest on University of Illinois news, sports, and more. Delivered every weekday.
  • Stay up to date on all things Illini sports. Delivered every Monday.
This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.
Thank you for subscribing!

Special guest and University alum Krystal LaPorte, a voice actress in animation and video games, hosted her own two Q&A panels during the convention. As attendees lined up to ask LaPorte questions during her Q&A on Saturday, she gave advice to those interested in voice acting and bonded with others over their mutual interest in anime.

When invited to attend UI-Con, she said she “jumped at the opportunity” to return to her alma mater and give back to the community that gave her so much.

“This has already become the most amazing convention I’ve ever been to,”  LaPorte said. “I mean, I’ve spent Quad Day here, and I never would have thought JAC would have become this big, but this is running like a well-oiled machine. It’s running as well as the giant conventions I’ve been to.”

Other programming relied on the cosplay component of UI-Con. Anyone walking around the Union this weekend was bound to have noticed the characters from their favorite anime and video games brought to life by others.

In the Courtyard Café, cosplay performers took part in the Anime Dance Showcase. As they danced around on the stage in colorful costumes and wigs, the crowd cheered in support. The music that boomed from the speakers was from various well-known anime.

Many attendees also chose to partake in the Cosplay Contest later in the afternoon, for which Kabooti played emcee. Those who submitted their applications were also called up to a large stage in the ballroom to perform a segment as their character.

While one fantasy character from Baldur’s Gate sang a song, another original character in body armor stomped around on stage with a large mallet. They were both winners of the Best Performance category and were judged by special guest MaryMaryCosplay.

Some attendees in cosplay simply dressed up for fun. Michelle Zhang, graduate student studying electrical and computer engineering, cosplayed as one of the NPCs from the video game Genshin Impact. Part of their costume was a large golden weapon with intricate detail.

“This is actually my first time doing a full-out cosplay,” Zhang said. “I DIY’d the weapon myself, so it’s actually foam around a LED hula hoop. The costume itself I just bought.”

Zhang also spoke about the appeal of cosplay as an art form.

“I personally like working with my hands,” Zhang said. “It’s not something I do, obviously, for a living — my major is very different — but it’s very fun to have these kinds of hobbies.”

Juliette Chavarria, president of UI-Con, expressed the executive board’s motivation for creating a convention conveniently located on campus.

“There’s so many people in the community here that absolutely love anime and comics,” Chavarria said. “Why can’t we just have it here? There’s a need, there’s a want here.”

UI-Con was originally just the small dream of three individual executive members from registered student organizations on campus. After a month-long collaboration of multiple RSOs, including the Japanese Animation Club, a fully fledged convention was born. Now that it’s taken off, plans for next year have already been made.

“Now that we have a little bit more credibility, there’s all kinds of things we can do next year,” Weber said. “I want to get the marching band to do a performance out on the quad and get some bigger entity companies to come.”


[email protected]

More to Discover
ILLordle: Play now