Warriors, cat ears, lots of hooded figures and a large, neon-orange dragon transformed the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center into a strange new world Saturday.
Hundreds of anime fans from Rapid City and the surrounding area turned out for SoDak Con, a convention in its fourth year that attracts fans of the Japanese comics and cartoons known as manga and anime, respectively.
“I started doing mini events just to have fun and do costume contests,” said Shareece Tatum, who has organized the convention since it started. Tatum enjoys anime and manga.
“It just got bigger and bigger and bigger and bigger, until it was a full functioning convention,” she said.
Convention-goers on Saturday could attend a Japanese fashion show where local models showed off outfits styled after Sailor Moon, Barbie and other characters. Costumed characters held video game duels at more than a dozen computers in an upstairs room.
The convention grew out of its roots at the now-closed Waldenbooks store in Rushmore Mall and expanded to the Ramkota Convention Center and then to the civic center, Tatum said. Saturday afternoon about 350 people had shown up to the convention, and Tatum was hoping this year the budget would break even and the convention might bring in money.
Justice Two Bulls and Kylie Amos, both Rapid City residents, were newcomers to the convention. Justice, 17, who was wearing black cat ears over silky black hair, said she heard about it from a friend and thought it would be fun because she likes anime; she started watching Sailor Moon when she was in first grade.
“I like anime and all that so I really wanted to come,” she said. “It’s pretty cool so far.”
Justice and Kylie, whose orange, pink and black hair was in two pigtails, were looking forward to the dance Saturday night.
Gillette, Wyo., resident Dixie Lewton-Bitner had made her own costume -- a 50-pound, elaborate neon-orange costume with a padded belly, green moveable wings, a dragonhead mask and large pointed claws. She designed the costume to look like a Dragonite, a type of character from the popular anime show Pokemon.
“I went to a (different) convention because it sounded fun and saw someone with a costume and thought I want to dress up too,” she said.
The Dragonite costume took Lewton-Bitner 11 months to sew, she said. It’s her second costume; she also sewed one based on Cacturne, a green scarecrow Pokemon character. She plans to make several more but hasn’t decided which character will be next.
Lewton-Bitner said she likes the South Dakota convention because it’s smaller and gives her a chance to get to know people more. That’s one big reason fans come to conventions like this, Tatum said.
“The whole thing is about however we can get together and meet people,” she said. “The costumes and the fashion is a big part, but the biggest part is the fandom and how much they like each other.”