Fans of Japanese animation and comic books have a new place to meet friends, share favorite titles and swap stories.
Anime Five Cities takes place Saturday at the Ludwick Community Center in San Luis Obispo.
“There aren’t a lot of events on the Central Coast for people who are into anime and Japanese pop culture,” convention chairman Scott Melot explained. So he and his fellow staffers decided to create their own.
Founded in 2010, Anime Five Cities is a fan convention celebrating anime and manga as well as video games, movies, music and more.
About 240 anime fans gathered at the Avila Beach Community Center for the first festival. Organizers hope to attract as many as 400 people this summer.
According to Melot, Anime Five Cities offers something for every fan.
Festival attendees can purchase DVDs, prints and other goods at the Exhibit Hall, check out anime-inspired arts and crafts at the Artist Alley, and bid on an autographed photo of “Star Trek” actor George Takei and other items at an auction benefiting Japanese tsunami victims. There’s also a costume contest.
“We got a large variety (of costumes) last year,” Melot said, inspired by everything from video games to “Ghostbusters.” A halftime show is also planned.
This year’s guests of honor include Lauren Landa, an actress whose voiceover work includes the television series “Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha” and the “BlazBlue” video game series.
Irene Flores, back for a second year, is a San Luis Obispo illustrator and manga artist whose work has been published by DC Comics, Marvel and Tokyopop. (She designed the festival’s cuddly mascot, Mochi the cat.)
According to Melot, Anime Five Cities is adding a video game room and eight hours of anime programming.
“There’s something to be said about watching something you have a shared interested in, in a room full of people,” he said.
Organizers hope to expand programming and bring in more voiceover artists in future years, Melot said, with the eventual plan of featuring a guest from Japan.
The convention chairman said it takes 30 staff members to run Anime Five Cities. They hail from as far away as San Bernardino County and the Bay Area, and have varying degrees of experience handling merchandising, programming, security and other aspects.
Melot himself has worked as a staffer for Anime Expo in Los Angeles and Fanime- Con in San Jose.
Melot said he and his fellow staffers enjoy the chance to rub elbows with people who share the same interests. Currently, he added, the county’s only other outlet for anime fans is Minna no Anime, Cal Poly’s anime club.
“It really comes down to the community aspect,” said the Oceano resident, a network administrator for Lucia Mar Unified School District. “We want to make it so people in this area can come together and celebrate the fact we like Japanese anime.”