By: Anthony Joseph
As preparation for the fifth edition of the Naru2u anime convention ramps up, founder Michael Zwicker and his staff are striving to make this year’s edition the best it’s ever put on.
A graduate of Algonquin’s network administration and information technology program, Zwicker has gone on to start his own audio visual rental company, which along with his love for anime culture, helped keep the Ottawa anime convention scene alive.
As a child Zwicker was first exposed to anime in 1992 at the tender age of 9. It was the anime show, Sailor Moon, that first caught his attention.
Unfortunately for Zwicker, his parents saw it unfit for him to be watching what they classified as a girls’ show. “It got to the point where my parents would not allow me to watch it,” said Zwicker. “I distinctly remember one time being caught, told to go to my room, and just storming off saying: ‘In the name of the moon I shall punish you!’ And from that point on, anime just stuck with me.”
But with the Internet and technology in general not being as widespread as it is today, anime was hard to come by for a nine-year-old. It wasn’t until the start of the new millennium that Zwicker had enough disposable income to allow him to start building up a collection. A decade later and he now possesses over 5,000 anime-related DVDs.
It was also around this same time that he started amassing a vast array of audiovisual equipment. At the age of 12, a friend brought him to a recording session and Zwicker was left puzzled and intrigued by the sound mixer they were using. His friend sat him down, explained how it worked and ended up giving him some lessons.
“At that point it was like…I want one of these for Christmas,” said Zwicker.
That Christmas his parents wouldn’t get him the $12,000 sound mixer he desperately wanted. Instead Zwicker would have to make do with a $400 five-channel mixer that he would then go on to use to DJ at school dances and youth centres. With the money he made from DJing, Zwicker started buying a plethora of audiovisual equipment, including the sound mixer that had eluded him on that Christmas Day. Friends would then come to him to borrow whatever they needed, and that’s when he got the idea to start up a rental business.
In 2006, Zwicker founded Naru’s Sound and Lighting; an audiovisual rental company.
During the first two years of the company’s existence, Zwicker would be the AV Coordinator for an Ottawa anime convention called AC-Cubed. Since he was part of the main staff, he would lend his equipment for free to the convention. But at the end of 2008, the waters got troubled between him and the group and he pulled out his sponsorship. The group decided to take a one-year hiatus to regroup and search for a new AV company.
With the convention cancelled, people were then asking him and his wife to pick up the slack and put on a show.
At first they declined but after being asked again at another convention, they obliged and in four short months they pulled together the first Naru2u anime convention.
Five years later and the show has now become Ottawa’s premier annual anime convention. Today it features masquerade contests, panels, workshops, concert screenings, gaming rooms, artist alleys and more.
And even though the show hasn’t broken even since the first year, Zwicker doesn’t see that as a priority. “It’s out of love for the culture,” said Zwicker. “If I can somebody send somebody home with a smile on their face after the weekend, I’ve done my job right.”
This year’s convention takes place Nov. 16-18.