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PLANET ANIME IS OUT OF THIS WORLD!

For nerds and geeks in the midwest, Planet Comicon has been a staple of the con scene for close to 25 years. In 2023, the Planet team has been hard at work bringing new and exciting events to a broader audience, including the lavish Planet Fae Ball that happened back in March and, most recently, the first ever Planet Anime (@PlanetAnimeKC). I was lucky enough to get to visit Planet Anime over the weekend as press to get the scoop on the newest anime con on the scene, and I have all of the details!


MAJOR STAR POWER!

One of the biggest draws when it comes to conventions is the celebrity lineup and photo ops, and Planet Anime delivered with some incredible icons in the voice acting world that even the most casual of anime fans will recognize. With legends such as Christopher Sabat (My Hero Academia, Dragon Ball Z, One Piece), Yuri Lowenthal (Naruto, Afro Samurai, Ben 10), Maile Flanagan (Naruto), and Tara Platt (Naruto, Rave Master, RWBY), there were excellent meet-n-greet opportunities available for just about everyone! Some of the highlights included a reunion of the Death Note cast and the chance to meet the cast from Insomniac's Spider-Man 2, which is a cool experience during the game's release week.


I also had the opportunity to chat with Leeanne M. Krecic, creator of the immensely popular webcomic Let's Play after her announcement of the anime adaptation of the series, and there were plenty of cosplayers at the event, too, so the range of celebs to meet stretches beyond just your favorite anime VAs. And, if Planet Comicon is anything to go by, this list will only increase in the coming years! The packages for meet-n-greets are pretty reasonable, too, so if this is your jam it's definitely one to keep an eye out!

COSPLAY CULTURE

Cosplay is HUGE in the Kansas City area, so much so that I know a cinematographer who made a documentary about cosplay culture and he made sure everyone knew that he used more footage from Planet Comicon than he did SDCC (if that tells you anything about the level of love and care put into the craft around here).


KC loves cosplayers, and Planet Anime had no shortage of amazing cosplay of all skill levels and plenty of cosplay-adjacent things to do. The con had several photoshoot locations and professional photographers on site who absolutely knew how to work those fits, and an entire section of the exhibition hall was dedicated to cosplay - including companies that specialize in cosplay materials and tutorials, a cosplay repair booth, and cosplay meet-n-greets! The con also featured a cosplay lip-sync battle, a cosplay contest, and a Sailor Moon drag show!


This would be an excellent event for new and curious cosplayers looking to try out a cosplay, learn some new things, and explore the art in an encouraging and safe environment. I was really pleased to see the large reminders that "Cosplay Is Not Consent" on visible and well-placed banners with the dos and don'ts of interacting with cosplayers around the major entry points of the con and the cosplay-centered areas. There was also a prominent Prop Check-In table right at the entrance to help ensure people were being safe, and you could tell everyone was comfortable and having a blast taking selfies with cardboard cutouts and each other. This is definitely one for the crafty folks to keep an eye on, and it makes for some excellent social media content creation!


And while they aren't considered cosplay, it was nice to see a welcoming space for Furries to hang out, too! They even had a Furry photoshoot on Friday evening, so the con is inclusive and welcoming to all, which is always a nice thing to feel when you walk into a con.

TONS OF THINGS TO DO

Aside from the meet-n-greets and typical panels, Planet Anime had a lot of fun things to do beyond simply walking the vendor floor. The exhibition hall was broken up into easy to find sections: Celebrity Row, Artists Alley, Crafter Alley, Cosplay Showcase, Exhibitor Emporium and Anime Entertainment Zone (AEZ). It was a low-key event that wasn't overly packed (I went on Sunday afternoon) so while I can see attendance increasing over the coming iterations and years, it's a great first con for people who want to test the waters or really want to do an anime con but don't want to do a massive event like the ones in NYC and Cali. Everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves and having a blast chatting about their favorite series and characters, and the chill atmosphere was great for the more introverted among us.


The con featured a maid cafe, a tabletop gaming room, an idol festival, several gaming events (including esports, a VR arena, and a DDR area on the exhibit floor), and several after hours events to keep you occupied! Of course, the vendor floor was packed with indie artists and cool collectables ranging from Funko! Pops to anime figs to Japanese editions of classic video games, so there was no shortage of neat things to pick up. (I, personally, got a Nanami fig from JuJutsu Kaisen and a really neat slate coaster with the UA Hero Academy logo from My Hero Academia on it). I was bummed about the lack of manga options available, especially compared to the regular Comicon events or the other anime con in the area that had an entire Right Stuf booth this year, so here's hoping we get more manga options in the future.


My personal favorite spot was the incredible Manga Library - a collection of over 3,500 volumes of manga, graphic novels, and comics provided by The Page Mage - for introverts needing a space to recharge and chill. It was so quiet and cozy! The setup was adorable, with rows upon rows of manga, both new and old (some I hadn't seen in decades), available to grab and read at one of the tables. As an introvert and a manga junkie, this was a highlight for me and a great way to take a break from the con if you're feeling overwhelmed.

There were also tons of excellent food options to choose from, too, with plenty of seating space around so you can eat in peace and comfort.


SOME THINGS I'D LIKE TO SEE NEXT YEAR

As a regular visitor to Planet Comicon, seeing an anime specific version arrive with the power of Planet behind it was an exciting thing. Obviously, with this being the first one, there would inevitably be some slight hiccups - easily fixable ones - that would have made the experience even better. First of all, I'd love more directional-focused signage. It took me an hour to find the manga library because it was on a different floor, kind of tucked up into a corner, so having a big, legible sign to help point people in the right direction would have been awesome. As someone who has come to several Planet events, arriving to find the usual entrance everyone takes being closed off with a small sign taped to the front door that wasn't visible until you approached and found the door locked was a bit jarring. It took an extra fifteen minutes of wandering around the convention center to find the correct entrance - and I wasn't the only one who was meandering around looking like a lost puppy - so bigger and more abundant signage would be helpful!


The only other thing of note is that, while there are signs stating to please keep things PG-13, there were a lot of naked anime waifus visible on and around the vendor tables with very little censoring. Planet Comicon is a fairly family-friendly event, and I could definitely see folks with kids having a bit of a struggle feeling comfortable taking little ones around the vendor floor. Even those who don't enjoy the overly sexualized side of anime could find it off-putting. It's jarring seeing a booth with Hello Kitty fluff right next to naked anime girl body pillows! So enforcing the PG-13 rule or upping the censorship of items that are prominently placed on a booth would be excellent.

FINAL THOUGHTS

While my con experiences are fairly limited, I have thoroughly enjoyed every Planet event I've been to, and Planet Anime was no exception. This is a really great, affordable anime convention that isn't overly crowded and is located in a fairly central area of the country that I highly suggest adding to your to-do list next year! The potential for growth is exponential and I, personally, am a big fan of cons that feel big but don't require you to rush to see everything during your time there. The fact that Planet highlights their small creators and artists instead of separating them from the main event (like some other prominent cons as of late) is another big selling point, so you know you'll get plenty of chances to find cool fan art and merchandise while chatting about the anime you love. Overall, if you're new to the con scene, are looking for something a bit more chill and affordable, or simply want to add another event to the ever expanding list of nerdy things to do in 2024, make sure you keep up with Planet Anime!

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