Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014 | 9 a.m.
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.
Catering to the young and modern crowd, Planet Hollywood is a one-stop shop for entertainment with its massive shopping mall, slew of restaurants, spacious casino and clubs.
The ambiance of the casino is retro-chic meets high-tech with black granite floors throughout and colorful LED lights throughout the space. The theme carries into the 100,000 square-foot casino with 250 flat screens topping off slot machines. The casino is also home to 87 tables, a sports book and a poker room.
There's also the Miracle Mile Shops, one Vegas' largest malls, with 140 stores including BCBG Max Azaria, bebe, Urban Outfitters and The Discovery Channel Store.
Following an afternoon of shopping, guests can satisfy their appetites at one of the gourmet restaurants in Planet Hollywood, like the non-traditional approach to steakhouses at Strip House or check out the exotic Far East motif at KOI restaurant and lounge. And if guests are still looking for more, they can spend the after hours at Privé, Triq or Krave nightclubs.
Perhaps one of the resorts biggest attractions came in March with the addition of "Peepshow." The naughty twist on the story of Little Bo Peep is modern-day spin on the run-of-the-mill Vegas topless review. The "Peepshow" stage has seen visiting celebs like Scary Spice Mel B, "Dancing with the Stars" Kelly Monaco and Playboy's Holly Madison.
Jorge Labrador is the editorial assistant for Las Vegas Magazine.