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December 18, 2014

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2014 Otakon photos: ‘It’s about bringing East and West together’ at Planet Hollywood anime event

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Sam Morris

Jacob van Patten sits on the ground while looking at his phone at Otakon Vegas on Saturday, Jan. 4, 2014, at Planet Hollywood.

2014 Otakon Vegas

Lili, last name withheld, dresses as character Launch slideshow »

A sumo champion, a voice actor and a Japanese pop star walk into Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas.

No, that’s not the setup to a joke. Those were but a handful of the top draws at the Otakon Vegas convention, which brought more than 2,000 enthusiasts to the casino resort to share their love for anime and East Asian pop culture from Friday through Sunday.

Many fans — certainly the most noticeable — partake in cosplay, a re-borrowed Japanese-via-English term that is shorthand for “costume play,” or dressing up as a character.

It can be as simple as a dress or complex as a foam and fiberglass creation that subsumes the wearer’s identity.

Hannah Nassiry is a local cosplayer who has enjoyed the hobby for about three years and attends pop-culture conventions in the region. On Sunday, she portrayed a “Vocaloid” character, a singer named Luka.

“The first time I tried it [in 2011], I really just threw something together from the closet, and everyone loved it,” she said. “I’ve been doing it since then.”

Nassiry’s outfits have since evolved, and her cosplay has been memorable enough for other fans and guests to recognize her from past conventions.

Those connections are a big part of convention culture.

Other creatively inclined fans posted up in the convention’s Artist Alley, where artists peddle wares ranging from sketches to crafts with a penchant for the adorable and the unusual.

Local artist Joyce Hedelund sells her pop culture-inspired art at conventions throughout the region and expressed that Otakon Vegas’ smaller size may be an asset for now, as she also has made connections from past cons.

“This type of thing isn’t really what a lot of people in general like, so when we’re in this culture together, it’s really easy to talk to people. We have this in common,” she said.

That’s a sentiment that recurs at the convention, with Director of Guest Relations Jim Vowles echoing it at the convention’s closing presentation.

“We’re blessed with our friendships. There’s a reason we all came here: It’s about bringing East and West together. You guys just get it,” he said.

“We all love to share it, so let’s keep doing this.”

And they certainly will, as Otakon Vegas returns to Planet Hollywood on Jan. 16-18, 2015.

Jorge Labrador is the editorial assistant for Las Vegas Magazine.

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