This shot was taken at the Con-Nichiwa photo booth in 2012. The 2014 convention promises bigger and better things, showcasing top talent from the anime art form.

Toshi Yamioka

The fifth annual Con-Nichiwa anime convention is settling into some bigger digs this year.

Rather than holing up in its old home at the Holiday Inn Hotel & Suites on South Palo Verde Road, the celebration of all things anime will take place at the Tucson Convention Center Friday through Sunday.

The Convention Center offers a larger main event room and more space for vendors, said show owner and Phoenix resident Greg Fennell.

“We wanted something to grow into,” Fennell said. “The Convention Center was a right fit for us.”

A feast for the senses with panels, a fashion show, cosplay and afterparties, the con is expected to draw nearly 2,000 people from throughout the Southwest.

Need more reasons to go? Here are three:

Coordinators know what they are doing

Fennell worked as a senior consulting manager for IBM for a decade, a meticulous job that he felt helped him on his new path. He held his first anime convention, Saboten Con, in Phoenix in 2008. His first Tucson Con-Nichiwa took place in 2010. Fennell has since launched anime cons in Flagstaff and New Mexico.

“Anime is in my blood,” Fennell said. “I’ve been watching it since I was young. The conventions were a way to mix my work and home life together.”

Fennell said he gauges the success of his conventions by the waves of interest they create for anime in Arizona.

“I know I have succeeded if I see more groups doing more things after the convention is over,” he said.

Unique music

Con-Nichiwa has a couple of bands lined up that you might never see in Tucson otherwise.

Nylon Pink is a pop-rock band from Hollywood that also happens to be the only all-Asian-American female rock band in the United States, according to its Facebook page.

The group’s music has been featured on a smattering of cable shows, including “Jersey Shore,” “The Hills” and “Bad Girls Club.”

“The band tours a lot through Japan and the United States,” Fennell said. “We were lucky to get them in Phoenix last year, before they started to get big.”

Also on the schedule: Candy Bomber, a J-rock-inspired band known for its covers of anime theme songs.

Familiar voices

Anime fans should be over-the-moon excited to see the faces behind the voices of some of their favorite characters.

Several top names in the anime industry, such as voice-over artists Bryce Papenbrook and Cherami Leigh, will participate on panels and in other aspects of the con.

“Bryce and Cherami are two of the most popular voice artists out there,” Fennell said. “They voice a lot of characters in some of the big, big animes right now.”

They will be joined by Ellyn Stern, who kicked off her anime career as part of the “Robotech” series, and Richard Epcar, the workhorse of the industry, with more than 300 voice-over roles to his name.

“Richard has been around almost since the beginning,” Fennell said.

Contact reporter Gerald M. Gay at or 807-8430.