2022 is coming to an end and the year’s comic conventions ushered it out with a bang.
Nairobi Comic Con on the 19th and 20th of November and Movie Jabber Expo on the 3rd of December came in relatively quick succession, but they both made sure to put on a big show.
Nairobi Comic Convention, popularly known as NAICCON is the older of the two events, and November marked the convention’s 9th edition. It took place at the Sarit Expo Centre, taking advantage of the multiple available rooms for the various panels that peppered both days.
The main convention hall at NAICCON was home to the event’s vendors for both days of the convention. Stands for comic books, toys, accessories, and clothing, next to video games and peripherals, and even a company specialising in 3D printing. NAICCON cast a fairly wide net, with something for pretty much every attendee, including a children’s corner with plenty of activities for kids like face painting and a kid’s cosplay event.
The Main hall also featured the stages for the gaming tournaments which took place at the convention, such as the Call of Duty Mobile finals and a LAN party where attendees brought their own computers and consoles to game side-by-side with other attendees. The main stage in the hall played host to various quizzes and challenges throughout the convention, as well as the cosplay competitions, and the performances by the convention’s special guests, Femi One and Khaligraph Jones.
NAICCON also invited several guests, and specialists in their fields to present during the panels at the convention. The range was impressive, from the Italian illustrator Danielle Statella, to Nigerian publisher and CEO of VX comics, Somto Ajuluchukwu, to the E-sports France President, Désiré Koussawo, and Kenyan fighting game stars, Sylvia ‘Queen Arrow’ Gathoni and Brian ‘The Beast’ Diang’a along with many other professionals representing their fields and projects.
The panels provided a space for budding professionals in each industry to take a peek at what it takes to be successful, and the skill sets that each of the panellists have developed over time to thrive in their chosen fields. It also provided a much needed networking opportunity for various attendees who would have not been aware of each other prior.
The crowning jewel of any comic convention is usually the cosplay competition, where some of the most dedicated members of the community put their best foot forward to embody their favourite characters from comics, movies, TV shows, video games and everything in between.
The NAICCON cosplay competition was split between both days, with Saturday featuring the casual cosplay competition, and Sunday featuring the professional cosplay competition, with bigger prizes and bigger expectations. The winners were Ellis on Saturday dressed as Miles Morales from Marvel Comics, and Jessica Olago on Sunday dressed as Hawks from the anime My Hero Academia.
The second convention of the year was the Movie Jabber Expo, also known as MJX Expo which was held on the 3rd of December at the Junction Mall. It was a one-day event hosted by its organisers, Movie Jabber.
MJX was buzzing with retail stands; a similar fare to NAICCON, but with plenty of new faces. Most vendors prefer to sell at both, but some do have a level of preference for one event over the other due to the slightly different audiences attracted by the different conventions.
MJX also played host to a Mortal Kombat 11 tournament, organised by its offshoot, Movie Jabber Arcade. Another branch of Movie Jabber having its day in the sun was, HallyuKE, a Korean pop culture-centric offshoot targeting the growing K-pop fanbase in Kenya. They kept the energy high with performers doing choreography from their favourite Korean groups on the main stage.
The music didn’t end there as there was a performance by uranium92 as well as a performance of the convention’s very own theme song, Power by the musician Ennaira.
MJX was also sure to put the cherry on top with the cosplay competitions. In MJX’s case, the cosplay competition was split into three categories; general cosplay, the Cosplay Runway, and a new group cosplay category which had its debut at this edition of MJX. The general and group categories allow attendees to go wild with their costumes, especially for any first timers dipping their toes into cosplay. The Cosplay Runway is themed, and aimed at more experienced competitors who have to meet strict judging criteria. The winners were Wayne Mutai as The Phoenix Wolverine under the Cosplay Runway and Beatrice Chepkwony’ as Ms. Marvel under the general category.
MJX wasn’t Movie Jabber’s first convention of the year, though. On the 9th of July, Movie Jabber hosted Otamatsuri, an event dedicated to Nairobi’s anime and manga community. The merchandise available for sale was primarily anime focused, including English-translated volumes of popular manga. There was also a general celebration of Japanese culture through the food available for purchase at the convention, with ramen, karaage and korokke on sale.
Cosplayers at Otamatsuri also stuck to the anime and manga theme with Julius Mokaya winning in the runway category as Denji from the manga-turned-anime, Chainsaw Man.
The splitting off of MJX and Otamatsuri gives an opportunity for the community to express themselves in different ways, as well as appealing to different audiences.
MJX, Otamatsuri and NAICCON do attract many of the same faces. As the biggest game in town for anyone looking for a geek culture fix, this does make sense. The vendors and retailers are frequently stocked with unique items that can’t be found anywhere else such as funko pops, movie-themed keychains and stickers.
As for the differences; NAICCON as an event did have the air of a trade convention. Its aim to connect professionals in their respective fields was successful, but it still had plenty of space for the community to enjoy themselves and let loose. This clean cut balance is part of NAICCON’s identity and appeal.
MJX and Otamatsuri, for contrast, had a much more fun-focussed atmosphere. The events were lined up so convention goers felt constantly engaged, from the treasure-hunt at MJX, to the K-pop performances at both Otamatsuri and MJX.
Both conventions did a fairly good job of putting attendees first, so for anyone thinking of going for their first convention next year, either would be a great pick.
And with that, the year comes to a close, and the community looks forward to next year’s events. While the date for NAICCON has not yet been confirmed, we do know the CosCom KE, a cosplay-specific convention by Movie Jabber, will be in February 2023 while Otamatsuri will be on Saturday 8 July 2023 and MJX Expo will be on Saturday, 2 December 2023. Hopefully we’ll see you there!