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St. Pete celebrates anime, manga this weekend

Bill DeYoung

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Anime dolls. Image: Aquafina/Dreamstime.

In January, Dewey Caruthers launched St. Petersburg’s first-ever comic book convention. A self-described “comic nerd,” he had zero experience organizing and marketing such a thing, but he’d been to a million of ‘em, he knew all about fandom, and he believed in that old axiom: If you build it, they will come.

And he sold 3,500 admission tickets to the inaugural St. Pete Comic Con. “Most first-year cons, if they hit a thousand, they’re jumping up and down,” he said afterwards. “It validated our thinking with an exclamation point.”

Caruthers and his newly-minted company, Florida Comic Cons, are back at the St. Pete Coliseum this weekend with Anime St. Pete, a celebration of the ultra-popular Japanese style of animation and its comic-book cousin, manga.

There won’t be any vendors with traditional American comic books and gear, he says. “Remember, it’s a different genre. Not everyone who went to Comic Con would enjoy Anime St. Pete, because it’s really focused on anime. But there’s such a huge anime crowd out there.”

Yep. He’s already sold 1,500 tickets.

The Fantastic Caruthers Four: Blu (with Gwen Stacy, the family pooch), left, Dewey and Scarlet. Photo: Bill DeYoung.

Cosplay – dressing and acting like comic or anime characters – is a huge part of the con experience. Caruthers operates his business alongside his daughters, Blu and Scarlet, both of whom are serious cosplayers.

The Saturday and Sunday event will include panel discussions, lip-synch and costume contests, a TikTok film festival, a Kpop/Jpop dance showcase and appearances by numerous anime voice actors and pro cosplayers.

Some of the panels have been moved to the nearby Sunshine Center’s small auditorium and meeting rooms.

The Caruthers family’s next move will be “Holiday Cosplay Tampa Bay,” in December at the Tampa Bay Convention Center; they also plan to expand their reach into other Florida cities.

Soon, Caruthers plans to announce a third con for St. Pete. “We’re the fourth largest city in the state,” he says. “Now we have two annual cons, soon to be three. So we’re putting St. Petersburg on the map for conventions.”

All details and ticket sales are here.

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