I’ve been going to Youmacon anime conventions since 2012, my first and only regular experience in Detroit, at the Renaissance Center and Cobo Center. Three years later, the main draw for me is still meeting the voice-actor celebrity guests. This year more than ever. Most of my 15 hours there was spent in line for autographs, photos, etc. I had time for one panel, “Women in Media.”

From left are voice over actors Erica Mendez, Tia Ballard, Cristina Vee, and Lisa Ortiz. Cristina and Lisa are in costume for Halloween. Erica and Tia wore costumes earlier.
From left are voice over actors Erica Mendez, Tia Ballard, Cristina Vee, and Lisa Ortiz. Cristina and Lisa are in costume for Halloween. Erica and Tia wore costumes earlier.

I’ve met most of this year’s celeb guests at previous conventions around the country, but since I’ve taken to trace-drawing pictures of anime characters for their voice actors to autograph, I wanted to meet them again. I was successful in getting all my drawings signed.

Todd Haberkorn's Natsu from Fairy Tail and Vic Mignogna's Ed Elric from Fullmetal Alchemist. I used crayon for Natsu's fiery fire!
Todd Haberkorn’s Natsu from Fairy Tail and Vic Mignogna’s Ed Elric from Fullmetal Alchemist. I used crayon for Natsu’s fiery fire!
Cristina Vee's Homura from Madoka Magica, a magical girl who uses guns (the series' least surprising thing).
Cristina Vee’s Homura from Madoka Magica, a magical girl who uses guns (the series’ least surprising thing).
10pt;">Four of the Youmacon guests are in Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic -- from lower left, Erica Mendez's Aladdin, Cristina Vee's Morgiana, Lucien Dodge's Ja'far, and Todd Haberkorn's Judar.
Four of the Youmacon guests are in Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic — from lower left, Erica Mendez’s Aladdin, Cristina Vee’s Morgiana, Lucien Dodge’s Ja’far, and Todd Haberkorn’s Judar.
Tia Ballard's Mizore from Rosario + Vampire. Is Tia calling me her snow bunny? It's from the show, but I like to think so anyway!
Tia Ballard’s Mizore from Rosario + Vampire. Is Tia calling me her snow bunny? It’s from the show, but I like to think so anyway!
Austin Tindle's Kaneki from Tokyo Ghoul. The screen cap is from the final scene of the final episode of the show's second season, one that really got me in the gut. It's a spoiler, so I covered it with a tissue.
Austin Tindle’s Kaneki from Tokyo Ghoul. The screen cap is from the final scene of the final episode of the show’s second season, one that really got me in the gut. It’s a spoiler, so I covered it with a tissue.
I stopped to by check on Comfort Love and Adam Withers, husband-and-wife Michigan artists who created the badge art, a cool anime, Back to the Future piece.
I stopped to by check on Comfort Love and Adam Withers, husband-and-wife Michigan artists who created the badge art, a cool anime, Back to the Future piece.

I found some time to wander the halls of the newly renovated Cobo Center to check out people’s cosplay outfits, and stop by the immense artists alley and vendors room.

A sword vendor was in the Halloween spirit!
A sword vendor was in the Halloween spirit!
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Mario and friends, in front of one of Cobo’s new riverfront hallway windows.
The tragic character Kikyo from Inuyasha, a show I've recently started watching on Netflix.
The tragic character Kikyo from Inuyasha, a show I’ve recently started watching on Netflix.
Mira Armstrong from Fullmetal Alchemist. Mira has a severe personality who does not suffer fools lightly.
Mira Armstrong from Fullmetal Alchemist. Mira has a severe personality who does not suffer fools lightly.
Kaneki, at right, and Jason from Tokyo Ghoul. These cosplayers might be father and offspring. If so, many kudos to this dad!
Kaneki, at right, and Jason from Tokyo Ghoul. These cosplayers might be father and offspring. If so, many kudos to this dad!
I don't know who this is but was very impressed.
I don’t know who this is but was very impressed.
No-Face from Spirited Away.
No-Face from Spirited Away.

I only recently watched the Ghibli film Spirited Away, which I loved. Adam Savage from Mythbusters cosplayed as No-Face at San Diego Comic Con a few years ago. He talked about offering gold candy, in character, and people refusing it because accepting gold from No-Face brings bad luck. It turns out Adam was avoiding a plot spoiler. Taking his gold actually results in something else. Like this fellow, I happily accepted this No-Face’s gold candy and took my chances!

A small Iron Man takes on a rampaging dinosaur!
A small Iron Man takes on a rampaging dinosaur!
More characters I don't recognize but think are amazing!
More characters I don’t recognize but think are amazing!

Youmacon is traditionally scheduled around Halloween. The last couple years it included Halloween itself, which was cool. Many of the voice actors dressed in costume, joining us fans in cosplaying fun. I was dressed as Tyreese from The Walking Dead, but many probably thought I was a longshoreman carrying a hammer to work on a machine or something.

Me with Erica Mendez, dressed as Ryuko Matoi from Kill La Kill.
Me with Erica Mendez, dressed as Ryuko Matoi from Kill La Kill.
Lisa Ortiz as She-Ra :)
Lisa Ortiz as She-Ra 🙂
I don't think Brad Swaile's Waldo even wants to be found! Pic uploaded by fans on Facebook.
I don’t think Brad Swaile’s Waldo even wants to be found! Pic uploaded by fans on Facebook.
Vic Mignogna as his character Rin Matsuoka from Free.
Vic Mignogna as his character Rin Matsuoka from Free.

In addition to all his anime work, Vic is also producing new fan-made episodes of Star Trek, painstakingly created in the classic version from the 1960s. Vic plays Captain Kirk. With him in the show, Star Trek Continues, are his friends and fellow voice actors Todd Haberkorn as Mr. Spock and Chuck Huber as Dr. McCoy. Todd and Chuck were also at Youmacon and I was able to tell all three of my appreciation for their work making more Star Trek.

Todd is standing at left, still with his Spock-style sideburns, and Chuck is seated in the white shirt.
Todd is standing at left, still with his Spock-style sideburns, and Chuck is seated in the white shirt.
Cristina Vee was wearing her bunny girl outfit earlier, but had changed by the autograph session that evening.
Cristina Vee was wearing her bunny girl outfit earlier, but had changed by the autograph session that evening.
My first time meeting voice actor Lucien Dodge...
My first time meeting voice actor Lucien Dodge…
...and Austin Tindle. What a bunch of scruffy-faced nerf herders we are!
…and Austin Tindle. What a bunch of scruffy-faced nerf herders we are!
Tia wasn't in costume on Saturday. On Friday, however...
Tia wasn’t in costume on Saturday. On Friday, however…
...she wore this -- Princess Peach. This was one of the choices in a poll she put up on Facebook a few months ago and I voted for this outfit.
…she wore this — Princess Peach. This was one of the choices in a poll she put up on Facebook a few months ago and I voted for this outfit.

I drew a couple extra pictures as gifts, for Cristina and Tia. For Cristina, a drawing of Kyubey from Madoka Magica, a catlike creature with an offer too good to refuse (become a magical girl and fight witches in return for a wish).

Girls should definitely not take that weird cat's offer.
Girls should definitely not take that weird cat’s offer.

For Tia, a drawing of Happy the Cat from Fairy Tail, as played by Crawford, a real cat.

happy the cat
Happy looks like this.
This is Crawford.
This is Crawford.
And Crawford redrawn as Happy!
And Crawford redrawn as Happy!

Tia and I go way back, all the way to my first anime convention ever — the 2012 Youmacon. I’ve probably seen her the most at these conventions. If she’s appearing pretty much anywhere in Michigan, Ohio, or Indiana, I’m likely to be going to it. I’m not her biggest fan — that might be the guy I heard about from someone who said he was an eyewitness at another convention. The guy had a Happy the cat tattoo on his arm. Then he asked Tia to autograph it. Then he had her signature tattooed to his arm.

But I always get Tia’s autograph and photos with her (once in a suit of armor), ask questions at her panels, draw pictures for her, bid on items in her charity auction, and “like,” “favorite,” and otherwise interact with her on social media. This year at Youmacon, she called me by name at the Women in Media panel. I like to think she called me a snow bunny, on her Mizore picture autograph. She told her friends I’m her “con buddy,” with the drawings and everything. And she kissed me.

On the cheek. Tia looks great. I look like a psycho, mostly because I was stunned by this unexpectedly awesome turn of events.
On the cheek. Tia looks great. I look like a psycho, mostly because I was stunned by this unexpectedly awesome turn of events.

Far from suave and sophisticated, my face was fuzzy for my cosplay, and I might have cussed a bit in shock. Not very smooth at all — sorry! Anyway, Tia is a good person who works hard to make the world a better place. I hold her in the highest esteem, wish her the best in everything, and look forward to seeing her again when she stops by to visit the area. I have an idea for another drawing. Maybe something with Happy and Kyubey….

— Phil C 

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