The Anime Midwest anime convention brings Japanese pop culture to life in Chicago once again this year. Conventions are hotbeds for the latest and greatest in anime fandom, and Anime Midwest, held from July 5–7, will showcase the best of Akihabara’s backstreets, from Tokyo pop idols to maid cafés to free arcades.

Known for its stellar lineup of top music acts, this year Anime Midwest’s Grand Stage will host an exhilarating spectacle imported from Tokyo, with pro wrestlers in Lolita dresses singing heavy metal and Japanese pop stars performing theme songs from the anime world’s top titles.

There’s a lot to do at Anime Midwest, so we’ve broken out a few of the must-see highlights.

Your Favorite Anime Theme Songs Live

If you got into anime during the mid-2000s, you’ll recognize the tunes of Lia, headliner at Anime Midwest’s Grand Stage. Catapulting herself to fame through recording pieces for anime hits Angel Beats, Charlotte and Clannad, The Japanese singer-songwriter who trained at the Berklee College of Music made a name for herself at the age of 15, moving to America and recording visual novelAir’s theme song, Tori no Uta (Bird’s Poetry). In addition, her voice has moved beyond anime and has been immortalized as the inspiration for the vocal synthesizer application, Vocaloid IA.

Video game fans of the recent psychological time-travel thriller, Steins;Gate 0, will get to watch Japanese techno rock stars Zwei, the musicians behind the theme song for S;G 0’s animation adaption, Last Game. Together, the duo consisting of bassist Megu and vocalist Ayumu have written songs for a wide list of anime and video games, including Blazblue: Chronophantasma and Terra Formars Revenge.

Suit up!

Anime Midwest is encouraging their attendees to suit up in every sense of the word. The Masquerade is the convention’s annual cosplay contest where both amateur and experienced designers can test their mettle in front of a panel of judges. Several other cosplay events are scheduled throughout the weekend, including meetups and photoshoots.

Want to don your threads in a more sophisticated setting? Anime Midwest also hosts their Formal Cosplay Ball, where participants can waltz and tango the night away to anime-inspired music.

Join Friends at Vintage Arcades & Karaoke Jams

For those who dream of roaming through Tokyo’s famous arcades like Club Sega and Round One, a game room will be set up with several cabinets that originate from Japan. Visitors can play the likes of Dance Dance Revolution, Jubeat, Final Fantasy and more – all for free. More competitive-minded attendees can enter the ring at one of several fighting game tournaments.

For another distinctly Japanese experience, a variety of pachinko machines will be set up for visitors to try. Think of them as a cross between casino slots and traditional pinball machines. Find the one with your favorite characters or series and let it all loose to test your luck. Attendees can also grab a group of friends and sing their favorite tunes during a round of karaoke.

Singing Cross-Dressing Wrestlers & Living Mannequins

This year, Anime Midwest seeks to put a little more bombast into their image by bolstering their already reputable musical emphasis. Deadlift Lolita, comprised of the two strongest idols currently in the game, is ready to “Sing, Dance, Destroy!” their way to Anime Midwest. The Tokyo-based YouTube sensation Ladybeard is joined onstage by fellow gym-junkie, active pro-wrestler and idol Reika Saiki. The group is part of the “kawaiicore” movement, combining heavy metal instrumentation with J-pop-influenced melodies and aesthetics. For this show, Ladybeard plans to shake things up by performing with clean vocals for the first time, a break from his usual guttural style.

In addition to cross-dressing maid wrestlers, the living mannequins of FEMM take top billing at Anime Midwest.Ever since their debut in 2014, the Tokyo group has been showered with praise by fashionistas and influencers in both America and Japan.The dancing, rapping, twerking “mannequins” RiRi and LuLa rose to fame with their girl-anthem single “F**k Boyz Get Money” and deliver an electro-pop dance sound while evangelizing their support of “the independence and rights of mannequins.”

Chill Out at the Maid Café and Manga Library

Jam-packed with action and lively events, it’s inevitable that Anime Midwest’s guests will need to rest their feet somewhere. When the time comes, stop by the convention’s own Fleur Royale Maid Café. Inspired by the cafés that dot Akihabara, Tokyo’s ground zero for anime culture, the venue allow visitors to be served by a personal maid while getting a bite to eat.

Attendees can also recharge for the day at the Page Mage Library. Settle down and curl up with a book coming from the convention’s massive selection of new manga and light novels.

Sound Like Fun?

Anime Midwest’s musical appearances are supported by 1st Place Inc, Avex Inc, Flymedia and Mages Inc. Anime Midwest is presented by Early birds are rewarded with a lower cost of entry this year. For a quick and easy way to secure a reservation, sign up online at the convention’s website:

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