J1-Con brings anime, manga and video games to Philly

Fans of the anime series Sailor Moon show off their costumes at J1-Con. | Jason Richardson
Jason Richardson

Anime — the collective term for Japanese animation — has grown from a very niche interest to a global phenomenon. With comic book conventions morphing into popular culture gatherings and large industry trade shows, many self-professed nerds have turned to anime conventions for solace. The fact is that most conventions celebrating Japanese culture tend to cater to the fans, both the diehards and newcomers. And one such convention — currently the only one of its kind in Philadelphia  —will touch down at the end of August for its sixth successful year.

On Aug. 26-27, J1-Con will take over two buildings at 820 Spring Garden St. Con founder and CEO Jason Richardson is proud of the longtime impact that J1-Con has had on Philadelphia-area anime fans.

“Most anime conventions have not lasted longer than two years in the city of Philadelphia,” Richardson explains. “We can now say that J1-Con is the largest and longest running anime convention in Philadelphia’s history.”

While longevity is certainly noble for any convention, it is especially impressive for a gathering that is not backed by any sort of institution or corporation. Rather, through his entertainment website and geek content hub J1 Studios, Richardson funds J1-Con entirely on his own. While such a feat is in no way easy, Richardson enjoys the transparency that it provides and the fact that he can put a “face” to his convention.

“I’m very open when it comes to discussing issues I have as the CEO, and as a fan,” Richardson says. “I’m a nerd taking all my money every year and [in a sense] gambling it in order to put on an event that fellow nerds could enjoy.”

Richardson is also happy to see how anime fandom in Philadelphia reflects the city’s unique diversity. “When I go to most anime conventions I don’t get a chance to see the level of ethnic diversity like I do at J1-Con,” he says. “I love seeing so many people from so many backgrounds dressing up as their favorite characters while still being socially aware of each other.”

The 2017 offering of J1-Con will feature something for everyone. Anime series and video game voice actors Keith Silverstein (“Naruto,” “Pokemon Origins”) and Leah Clark (“Eden of the East,” “One Piece”) will be on hand to meet fans, sign autographs and discuss life behind the scenes of some of the hottest anime series around. Additionally, there will be a large selection of vendors present, free video gaming provided by CeX and gaming tournaments featuring titles like “Super Smash Bros.” “Melee” and “Street Fighter V.”

And when it comes to cosplay, (the act of dressing up as your favorite character) J1-Con is well-prepared. Not only will there be several professional cosplayers on hand, including Eric Moran and Mae Claire, but there will also be a cosplay costume contest that anyone can enter. As an added bonus, the contest winner will receive a spot on J1-Con’s Cartoon Network TV commercial.

If you go:
Aug. 26-27
Doors at 11 a.m. both days, Registration $10-50
820 Spring Garden St.