Setsucon opens doors to fans of anime

This weekend, Penn State will host 2014 Setsucon. Now in its eighth year and hosted by the Penn State Anime Organization, the convention features Japanese traditional and pop culture such as anime (an abbreviated pronunciation of hand-drawn “animation”) and manga (Japanese comic books).

“Every year we grow bigger and better and offer our attendees more events, more guests and more opportunities to share in this wonderful culture,” said Jim Bednarz, Setsucon’s public relations director and guest relations coordinator.

Setsucon 2014 will host a variety of guests, including veteran voice actors Richard and Ellyn Stern Epcar of the anime industry, voice actor Todd Haberkorn, voice actresses Alexis Tipton and Leah Clark, nerd comedian Uncle Yo, “Greggo” of “Greggo’s Game Shows,” “geek belly dancers” Antipode and the artists behind the Web comic series “Shadowbinders.”

New to the convention this year, the “Shadowbinders” artists will sell their artwork and offer critiques of artists’ portfolios and advice to those interested in the field. Welcomed back for its eighth year in a row, Antipode is known for its shows based on Super Mario Brothers, The Legend of Zelda, Sailor Moon and Pokemon, among many others.

Also this year, Setsucon will host a panel hall, a larger exhibitor’s hall, more manga and anime vendors and a larger “Artists Alley,” where artists of varying styles will have the opportunity to sell and showcase their work.

Other events offered are a cosplay auction, masquerade, “Rock Band Idol,” “Iron Cosplay,” a costume contest, various fan panels, a video game room, workshops, card-game tournaments, anime viewings and the PSAO’s vast manga library. Setsucon also will host the “Setsu Odori” dance with DJs.

‘Little brother’ to Oktakon

Not the largest convention of its kind, Setsucon is actually the “little brother” convention to one of the largest anime conventions on the East Coast, known as Otakon, which was created by Penn State students and is held late summer in Baltimore. Last year, Otakon had an attendance of more than 30,000 people; Setsucon hosted 1,300. Despite the considerable size difference, Bednarz points out the advantage to Setsucon’s accessibility.

“We at Setsucon feel size doesn’t make a convention great. What makes us great is the feeling you get of being at a smaller convention like ours,” he said. “Everyone has room to walk around freely and see and experience a lot more than you would be able to see at a larger-scale convention.”

With this convention’s much smaller size, the event is a reflection of the area, a college setting in a tight-knit rural community.

“There is something of a family feel you get from the members of the PSAO staffing the convention,” Bednarz said. “I believe it is those qualities that have allowed us to continue for the past eight years and will keep us going for years to come.”

The general purpose of Setsucon is to share in the great culture of anime, manga, and Japanese traditional and pop culture. Originally formed on those principles, the convention allows the members of the PSAO to share their love of anime with the State College community, Centre County, within the state and the surrounding states.

The PSAO works to provide weekly screenings and a social environment for Penn State’s anime/manga fan base. The PSAO continues to expand its services, with free weekly anime screenings as well as trips to conventions and club social events.

“I believe that future members of the Penn State Anime Organization will rise up, and bring their hard work, dedication, ideas and imagination into the convention-planning process,” Bednarz said. “That is the real driving force of Setsucon — not just our wonderful attendees we have come out each year or the great guests we schedule every year, but the students and alumni who put their time, sweat and love into this great convention.”