I was thinking about North West Idol Fest since Zot Con in May. I had been inducted with AniMarketPlace, an organization that helps out with SoCal Idol Fest, to partake in community leadership within the anime community. I enjoyed helping out SoCal Idol Fest so much, if given the opportunity (and time), I would love to continue to help foster this community of kaigai idols and idol culture with North West Idol Fest. NWIF takes place in Seattle. NWIF ’23 is in its third inaugural year. With a focus on idol culture, idol anime and video games, and idol groups, NWIF is a very unique event within the anime sphere.
NWIF is a three day weekender at the Doubletree hotel close to the airport. Main stage events highlighted and showcased established kaigai idols. This event brought in people from Canada, United Kingdom, Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, New Jersey, Southern California, Northern California, Las Vegas, and more. The geographical diversity of the attendees for a small convention is a rarity these days. The vibe was very reminiscent of early hotel anime conventions where it was a couple hundred of your best friends from the Internet. NWIF was a small hotel con, but it meant so much for community building and making memories.
While SoCal Idol Fest was more like Idolchella, NWIF is a hybrid of a music festival and anime convention. There was a small game room with a few music related import games. The vendor hall was very tiny, but was made of artists and a claw machine company.
Programming wise, you had three days of musical acts by guests, up and coming kaigai idols, panels, meet and greets, workshops, and karaoke. The value of this event was $80 at the door that covered all three days. In between my staffing responsibilities, I was still able to check out panels and concerts.
Shopping at NWIF included a swap meet and a dealers hall. The swap meet took place for an hour on Sunday. I managed to pick up some mini-neso’s, Love Live enamel pins, and some clearfile folders of Nozomi for my office.
Karaoke is my favorite part of any convention. Sunday had an hour block full of non-stop karaoke where people can digitally sign up on their phone. The best past is that you could see where you are in the queue. At most, I waited about 15 minutes to perform a song. I ended up singing “Hikari” by Hikaru Utada, “Stay With Me” by Miki Matsubara, and “Deja Vu” by Dave Rogers.
There were several panels I was able to check out over the three day weekend. We had informative panels on how to score concert tickets in Japan while living overseas, primer guides to Wotogei Culture, and indie idols. Community panels such as LGBTQ+ folks in the idol community provided discourse on inclusion; I felt that NWIF is one of the few cons where I felt warmly welcomed as a member of the queer community given that they do print pronouns on the badge and much of the leadership are made of queer folks.
Panels also featured “how to” workshops for cosplay and flow arts. I loved Amanda Tanadinata’s performance at SoCal Idol Fest with their fan moves and sword dancing; this was the panel I was looking the most forward to. I got to participate in their workshop and learned something new!
There was also a cosplay contest that took place midday on Saturday. There were five constants, including myself. Top honors went to a cosplayer who made their original idol design, Oshi no Koi, and Aikatsu. Cosplay at SoCal Idol Fest mostly consisted of Love Live and Oshi No Koi. Photoshoot locations were limited, but I felt the hotel made great backgrounds if you have a nature themed outfit since there were so many trees in between the buildings.
Of course, the main draw to Northwest Idol Fest was the performances. Being staff allowed me to check out a good majority of them. Typically, these performances would have a meet and greet afterwards. Some highlights of NWIF 2023’s concert series included:
Pheobe brought us into her world of whimsy!
Isiliel brought us gothic vibes on Friday morning!
Alex Pinku brought in some pop and punk flavor on Saturday morning.
Paida is simply out of this world!
Sunday may have been quiet, but Vancouver based J-pop group, Non Sweet, brought down the house!
MS Paint Palette was one of many performers that took over Panels 2 having a mini live show.
Overall, from a staffing perspective, NWIF is in a class of its own. The vibe of the convention is community focused. You could be hanging out in the foyer, not really knowing anyone, and then engaging in discussion about favorite idols or having a basket of strawberries and banana bread together, It was very easy to make new friends because we were all bonding over idols and anisongs throughout the weekend.
The idol fandom is a niche of a niche. This convention may not fare for the casual anime fan, but if you love idol culture and love to check out amazing live performers, this might be worth taking a peak into. If you’re a wotagei and if you’re looking for your people, NWIF is the place to be.