Warky The Chocobo at Animeland Wasabi 2013. Photo via Ryan Lumpkin Photography
Wark! On Wednesday, we brought you a sit-down with the King of Monsters, Jamie McGonnigal, a guest at Animeland's 6th annual Wasabi Con, hosted last weekend at the Double Tree Hotel by Hilton in Denver.
Warky the Chocobo, a pianist and voice actor who has performed at conventions across the U.S., was also invited to do several panels, including 18+ event "Warky Unplugged," panels on My Little Pony, voice acting for audiobooks, Para Para dancing and a concert at Animeland Wasabi last weekend.
Warky's "real" name is Steven Nunez, but the pianist prefers his stage name.
"Steven sounds so plain," Warky said, who describes himself as "very easygoing."
The name originated when Warky's screenname of choice was taken in the online game, Final Fantasy XI.
"I messed with a couple combinations until I got WarkyTheChocobo. I wrote up a short bio, 'half-human, half-chocobo,' and the name has stuck since then," said Warky, who wears a yellow feather behind his ear in homage to his namesake, the fictional flightless bird from the Final Fantasy series.
Warky has been performing anime and video game themes at conventions since 1999, and has been a regular guest for Animeland Wasabi since 2010.
"The first song I learned how to play was actually the Legend of Zelda because it seemed easy. Boy was I wrong - definitely not easy," Warky said.
Because he taught himself how to play piano, Warky has the unique ability to play piano without his thumbs and left ring finger.
"I was kinda poor, and we didn't really have that kind of money, but I decided, 'I'm going to learn it anyway.' I didn't realize that the thumbs are supposed to be used... I finally filmed myself playing - my hand looks like a spider. I watched and was like, 'ew!'" Warky said.
Because Warky taught himself to play, he confessed that he can't read sheet music. Warky learns everything by ear.
Some of Warky's favorite tunes to play include the World 1-2 theme from Super Mario Bros. 3, music from Tsubasa Chronicles, Megaman, and Dragonquest. He also enjoys playing "Bratja," a melancholy theme from Fullmetal Alchemist.
"And of course, the fans start crying," Warky joked.
Warky recognized that there are several differences between playing anime and video game themes.
"Anime themes are WAY more complex - they're insane! They're way more complex, way more complicated, just way more difficult. But video game music sometimes is a lot more catchy, especially in role-playing games because you have to play that level over and over again. Meanwhile, in Netflix, you can just skip over the title sequence," Warky said.
One of the greatest challenges of performing at conventions, Warky says, is making sure that he knows the song con-goers request him to play.
"It's never meant to be a request show but it turns out to be one every time. They're always like, 'Can you play this? Please play this!' and I have to break people's hearts and say, 'I can't, I don't know this song, I'm sorry!' ...I feel badly that I can't play everything. But I always tell people, 'send me a request on my fanpage and I'll learn the song for you,'" Warky said.
With his 13 years of performing at cons, Warky has had a lot of good experiences with con-goers. One of his favorite moments at a convention was with a fan who injured her spine and lost the use of her thumbs.
"She used to play piano, she was a classical pianist, and she said, 'When you told me you don't use your thumbs to play piano, I watched your videos. I practiced and practiced and I can play some piano songs now that I used to play with my thumbs - thanks to you. You inspired me to keep going.' ...It was really sweet, she gave me a hug and made me cry. Things like that are so rewarding to me," Warky said.
According to Warky, Anime Banzai in Salt Lake City is his favorite convention because the fans are sweet, kind, loving and giving of themselves. He recalled when a girl fell to the ground during the convention and immediately, the crowd formed a circle around her and helped her up, complimenting her braids instead of trampling her.
"I see a lot of behind the scenes at cons, and things like that you look at that and see so much love. Everyone feels like they are part of something, a big family," Warky said.
Warky is a man with his fingers (and probably his thumbs too) in many pies. He voice acts for charity audiobooks and sings for Mormon parody pop band "They Might Be Elders."
What's next for the half-man, half-chocobo? Besides appearing on a CW talk show in the next few weeks, Warky is currently working on a new Xbox game, "Return of the Guitar Lord," which will star famous anime voice actors such as Lisle Wilkerson, David Vincent, Laura Post, Danielle McRae, Uncle Yo and more.
"I actually have a wiki[pedia] page now! [Laughs] Maybe I'll eventually get a warkapedia wiki," Warky said.
You can follow Warky on his Facebook page or on Twitter, and most likely find him at an anime convention near you.