By Esiban Parent
Youma – a generic Japanese word for monster, is a fitting prefix for the Japanese pop culture based convention, called Youmacon, which is held the first weekend following Halloween every year. Youmacon is also host to several varieties of cosplay including Marvel, DC and Steampunk.
The convention started small in 2003, just outside of Detroit, because of creator Morgan Kollin.
Even with its humble beginnings, Youmacon has now grown to be one of the largest anime conventions in the Midwest. In 2005 Youmacon had 1,078 attendees, which grew to an estimated 19,200 attendees in 2015, according to
Youmacon events are located within The Renaissance Center and Cobo Center in downtown Detroit.
“I just really like seeing how much Youmacon has grown and seeing everyone super excited and super happy,” said Karianne Gottschalk. Gottschalk is a professional steampunk and leather crafter originally from Dearborn.
“The first time that I walked into a convention I was like yeah, yup, this is it; this is what I want to do,” said Gottschalk, a member of the cast of Steampunked, a show found on Netflix. She makes her living by attending conventions and selling her crafts.
Steampunk is a genre of science-fiction that revolves around Victorian Era style and steam fueled technology.
“I was going to every single convention that I could go to and a friend of mine asked me if I wanted to go (to Youmacon),” Gottschalk said. “Youmacon is where I started my steampunk.”
During the 2016 Youmacon, Gottschalk could be found in the vendor’s room at The Cobo Center, where she paired her ware’s with creator Kollin’s merchandise. Of Gottschalk’s work, large leather dice shaped purses stood out the most.
The planning side of Youmacon can be a tedious thing.
“We had multiple events surrounding the convention; there was also a Hillary event, there was a Red Wings game,” said Brandon White, 29, of Ypsilanti, a digital video production major at Washtenaw Community College.
White is the Community Manager of The Fan Art Theater for Youmacon and started working towards the 2016 convention in September 2016.
Trouble came with equipment difficulties and people having trouble finding their way around due to transportation congestion, lack of parking and events being moved.
“After 13 years Youmacon has learned very well how to pivot and find our center and put out the best quality show that we can,” White said.
“I’d say the best part was the fact that we had a lot more variety of guests this year. We brought in a silks, like hanging in the air sort of like ‘Cirque du Soleil’ sort of group called The Iluminar,” White said, looking at the bright side of things.
Iluminar is an aerial group out of Broomfield, Colorado that mixes drama with aerial dance.
“I was really excited that we had Tom O’Grady AKA Tom Fawkes, he’s a live-streamer,” White said. “We had him, Toothpickvic and Jelloapocalypse in our department coming in to talk about ‘here’s how you do your Youtube, here’s how you do your Twitch channel, here’s how you can make yourself more marketable from the amateur standpoint,’ because these guys are professional, they make their money off of Youtube.”
For some people, Youmacon is a new experience that gave a sense of belonging.
“Youmacon was a rather, very exciting experience for me, especially for it being my first time,” said Matthew Smith, 20, a culinary arts major at WCC. “People were extremely nice [and] there was always something to do.”
“The feeling of being able to actually talk to people about some of your favorite comic-books or animes and people being actually able to understand you [and] know where you’re coming from. That was a very, very, exciting experience for me,” Smith said.
For Youmacon goers, after the weekend is over, it’s time to look to next year’s event.
“Next year I will be going as a Black Lantern, if not a Green Lantern,” said Smith, the secretary of the Comic Book Club, said. He wasn’t able to cosplay this year due to costume complications.
To anyone trying to decide if they want to go, “Pre-register and as early as you can, get your hotel room, because if you want to be there for all three days, the hotels sell out really fast and you can always transfer your name to the room block. So get your badge, get your room early, if you can, have your badge mailed to you,” White said.