What do you get when you combine one part tattoo convention with one part anime convention? The answer is Anime Ink Con. For three days, anime fans, tattoo artists, and cosplayers took over Hall B of the Greater Richmond Convention Center. Temporary bookshelves were packed tightly with manga and collectible figurines, ranging from Barbie-sized to toddler-sized. Brightly lit display cases were chock-full of vibrant tattoo inks and shiny tattoo machines. This was the first sight greeting attendees when they walked through the doors of Hall B: the world of anime and manga sitting side by side with the world of tattooing.
June 14th through the 16th, 2019 marked not only the first-ever Anime Ink Convention, but also the first-ever tattoo convention focused on the crossroads of Japanese anime and tattoo culture. From the minds of the co-owners behind the all-female Richmond tattoo shop, Black Rabbit Tattoo, Anime Ink Con played host to tattoo artists, manga sellers, body mod collectors, crafters, and alternative apparel vendors. Everyone in attendance, con-goers and featured guests alike, all shared a love for Japanese animation.
For the first time ever, talented, anime-inspired tattooers from Los Angeles all the way to Beijing came together to celebrate anime and tattoo passionate fans.
Some of the artists in attendance have established themselves as sought-after anime tattooers. Kim Wall, the mastermind behind the convention, tattooed alongside her fellow artists from Black Rabbit Tattoo, including the popular artist Isashah Pereira. Directly across from the Black Rabbit booth sat New Jersey-based artist Chris Mesi and Los Angeles-based artist Jordan LeGore. Each of these artists boasts a hefty Instagram following, an extensive wait-time for new tattoo appointments, and a penchant for providing amazing anime tattoos; these artists also illustrate the diversity possible even among a single-niche style.
Cute female characters in suggestive poses and outfits combine with a plethora of pink hues in LeGore’s anime artistry. Pereira exhibits a similar affinity for the intersection of cute and sexy, but with a more intense focus on bold shading as an illustration of her traditional influences. The two artists made the most of their close proximity at the convention when they married their signature styles in a unique collaboration piece. With both artists gravitating towards vibrant colors and erotic (but cute) characters, their collaboration piece perfectly displays their strengths as tattoo artists while also illustrating the technical potential of anime tattoos.
LeGore and Pereira ink much of their distinctive work in sexy poses. On the other hand, Wall and Mesi are best known for their true-to-form anime style. Still, even between these two classic anime artists, differences remain. Mesi works frequently with large-scale portraits of single characters, and Wall produces many limb-dominating sleeves and character mash-ups. Other artists who worked the convention display a wide range of work, all with anime as a common theme. Some artists work in ultraviolet hues with cute characters reminiscent of Lisa Frank, and others work in black and greys with a predilection for horror.
The array of talented artists was certainly the main attraction for attendees, but crafters, pin makers, and apparel designers entertained con-goers between their tattoo appointments. As attendees waited for spots to open up with their favorite artists, they could shop for anime-inspired stickers, t-shirts, and enamel pins.
A cosplay contest served as entertainment for attendees, like myself, whose closets are already stuffed full of anime apparel and pin-covered backpacks. A panel of tattooed cosplay models posed questions to contest entrants about what inspired their costume, how they chose their character, and what it took to design their costumes.
With cosplayers competing against one another, tattoo artists dressed as Pokémon trainers during their sessions, and attendees milling through the aisles to find the perfect tattoo, it goes without saying Anime Ink Con had a successful first year. The event is poised to become an attraction for artists, cosplayers, fans, and everyone in between.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the official position of PainfulPleasures.