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The gathering

Even in Eau Claire, a ninja dressed in black and carrying a rake can look fairly normal – at least while attending an anime convention.

Junior Trae Dorn will attend the fourth annual No Brand Con, advertised as “Wisconsin’s premier anime convention,” which will begin this weekend at Plaza Hotel and Suites, 1202 W. Clairemont Ave. Dorn and a few friends plan to dress as gardening ninjas to parody a scene from a Japanese samurai film he is hosting at the convention called, “Honzo the Razor.”

” ‘Honzo the Razor’ is a bad 1970s samurai film which is so bad it’s funny,” Dorn said. “In the film a bunch of ninjas are disguised as firefighters, but the first time we (watched it we) mistook them for gardeners.”

No Brand Con is not just about ninjas, or gardening ninjas. According to organizers, this year the annual No Brand Con will feature a variety of activities including 24-hour anime viewing rooms, anime voice actor appearances, gaming rooms, a variety show and an anime music video contest.

Dorn, who has been involved with the convention since its inception in 2002, said the convention has what he calls a “communal feel” because many attendees get to know one another through the convention’s Web site (www.nobrandcon.com) before attending.

“One of the nice things about the convention is the Web site runs all year;” he said, “there’s a message board where people get to know each other. You don’t usually get that at conventions.”

Convention organizer junior Cheryl Masaki said the convention is a unique experience and a great way for fans of anime to meet people with similar interests.

“It’s kind of like going to any event when suddenly you’re in a whole new world,” said Masaki. “You’re surrounded by a whole bunch of people who love the same thing you do; it’s really a great feeling.”

Although anime fans will feel right at home, Masaki said, even those who are not anime fans can enjoy the convention because there are rooms for a variety of board games and for video-gaming.

Masaki said her favorite part about the convention is meeting new people and seeing the people she met at previous conventions.

“It’s really the people I’m excited about,” she said. “I met a whole bunch of friends last time, and (this year) I hope to meet a lot more.”

Sophomore Kyle Johnson has never attended the convention, but said he plans on going this year because he’s heard about it from friends.

“I’m going because a bunch of my friends are going and it sounds cool,” Johnson said.

Fall 2004 graduate Sean Corse, one of the convention’s founders and this year’s producer, said anime fans should attend the convention because it is convenient for Western Wisconsin residents.

“(No Brand Con) is the first and only convention in Wisconsin,” Corse said. “It’s also a small convention so it’s easy to meet people, and guests can meet fans and mingle.”

Corse said No Brand Con is affiliated with UW-Eau Claire’s student organization, the Anime Appreciation Society. It was formed to organize the convention and encourage anime on campus.

“Mostly it’s just a bunch of people getting together and watching anime,” Corse said. “It’s also a way for people in Japanese classes to get some listening time in.”

In previous years the convention was held in Davies Center, and its relocation to the Plaza Hotel will mean some changes from past conventions, Corse said.

At previous conventions No Brand Con were unable to sell food because of Sodexho food service policies, and the convention had to close each night at 11 p.m. at the end of Davies Center operating hours.

This year food will be available, and the convention will run for 24 hours. He said attendance this year is expected to be between 400 and 500 people, mostly from Wisconsin and Minnesota.

Masaki said, No Brand Con will host three guest speakers from the anime industry. This year, voice actors Chris Patton, Monica Rial and Greg Dial will discuss their careers in anime.

“(They’ll talk about) what got them into the anime field what it’s like to be an actor or director in the anime field, and explain the characters they portray,” Masaki said.

No Brand Con will begin at noon on Friday and extend through Sunday evening. Passes can be purchased at the door but vary in price between $10 and $35, depending on desired access.

Masaki said everyone should come and enjoy the convention.

“It’ll be a hell of a time.”

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