A long, long time ago — 2010, to be precise — Memphis was a very different place. "We didn't have an anime con," says Matthew Santirojprapao, the director of media and communications for Anime Blues Con. Sure, we had comic cons and the Mid-South Con, which caters to a variety of fandoms. But the massively influential Japanese style of animation had no local con to call its own. "So we thought, 'Wouldn't it be cool if it did?' And we started one," Santirojprapao says. And that is the astonishing origin story of Anime Blues Con, now celebrating its 8th year.
- Don’t get the blues, anime fans.
"In our first year of the event, we had between 800 and 1,000 attendees," Santirojprapao says. This year, Anime Blues anticipates 4,000 visitors and cosplayers. They're coming out to meet voice actors like Lucie Pohl who voices Mercy from Blizzard Entertainment's Overwatch, and veteran stage actor Paul Nakauchi, a Broadway and West End musical theater veteran who voiced Wong in Marvel's animated Dr. Strange feature, and Savatte in Marvel's Clone Wars. They're coming out to experience Japanese arcade cabinets courtesy of Tokyo Attack, to overdose on manga, and catch some obsessive fan-forward performances. "I think our special guests have been really good," Santirojprapao says, looking for the best way to describe Anime Blues' growth.
In addition to voice talent and arcade opportunities, this year's con includes a performance by Bit Brigade, a band that plays the themes to classic video games like Mega Man and Legend of Zelda. Drama is added to the performance by way of a real-time gaming element. "I am really looking forward to seeing that," Santirojprapao says.