I took Dan to Sakuracon over the weekend. Sakuracon is the big anime (Japanese animation) convention in Seattle.
Anime fandom sure has changed since I first encountered it in the mid-Eighties. The Eighties boom was fueled by the introduction of the home VCR, which made possible the widespread piracy of laserdiscs and videotapes from Japan. Fans bombarded everyone they knew with low-quality tapes of their favorite shows. These were in Japanese, without subtitles, but many of the shows were so visual that understanding the dialog was unnecessary.
The surge of interest this generated allowed real, licensed versions to appear with English subtitles or dubbing. The industry has grown and grown, and anime is a major cultural force among our young people. A lot of its appeal is that most of it is aimed at older kids than American cartoons are, so there’s far more plot, romance, violence, mystery, horror, cuteness, crazy comedy, and sex appeal — often all in the same show. The basic approach is to take every knob and turn it up to “eleven.”
Karen and I are particularly fond of the works of Hayao Miyazaki, the “Japanese Walt Disney.”
At the conventions, practically everyone is in costume. This trend is more pronounced every year. I was definitely an oddball because I didn’t even make a token effort. Dan at least had a cape and an attitude:
The costumes can be almost anything, including non-anime characters. I saw an Edward Scissorhands, a guy dressed up as a whoopee cushion, and an Abe Lincoln in addition to the usual anime characters, including legions of girls dressed as “Japanese schoolgirls with magical powers” characters, of which anime has an infinite number.
So that was fun, and I’ll be doing it again next year. Need a costume, though. The peer pressure is getting to me.