Queen City Kamikaze returns March 23 for pop-culture fanatics

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MANCHESTER, NH –The one-day pop-culture convention at Manchester Memorial High School will provide a venue for cosplayers, geeky swag vendors and gamers again on Saturday March 23 from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Organizers say it will be the same convention attendees have grown used to over the past eight or nine years, but they also said to expect some big expansions next year.

The event is organized by Memorial teachers Jason Paige (social studies) and Jeff Normandin (English), who are also co-owners of Neon Bomb, a store in Manchester that sells graphic novels, manga, retro video games, card games and general nerd merch.

“The entire gym there ends up being filled with vendors,” Paige said. “We take over like half the school.”

Paige said classrooms are used for panel discussions with quirky topics like “The Joy of Gaming with Bob Ross” or “Frame by Frame Analysis of Donkey Kong and the Legend of the Crystal Coconut.”

One of the main draws of the convention is cosplay, where fans dress up as their favorite superhero, anime character or video game avatar, often with costumes of their own making. As such, one of the main events is a cosplay contest held in the auditorium.

“The costume stuff is definitely a huge deal and more people are getting into the costume stuff,” Paige said.

There’s also Magic The Gathering card game tournaments in the the cafeteria, and comic vendors in the gym from Double Midnight, Neon Bomb and some out-of-state stores. Other vendors sell Etsy-type craft items for the discerning geek, such as crocheted Pokemon or She-Ra magnets, Paige said.

Paige said Queen City Kamikaze is a “good entry level convention” with about 800 to 1,000 attendees and relatively inexpensive tickets ($10) compared to some of the bigger conventions cut from the same cloth, such as Anime Boston in late April which attracts tens of thousands of attendees and tickets range from $25 to $80.

Over the years, the organizers have experimented with various features, Paige said, like anime movies and live bands. But features like cosplay contests have had more staying power.

“Now, it’s just kind of coalesced into what it is now,” Paige said.

Next year, they will grow in size and occupy more of the school, he said.

“The goal is to double the amount of vendors,” Paige said.

This year, they had to turn away a lot of vendors because they didn’t have room for them.

Over the years, Paige has seen the event become more mainstream, especially as younger parents increasingly take part.

“It’s definitely opened up a lot more,” Paige said. “Everyone who shows up is just as weird but it’s no longer as weird of a thing to go to.”