Anime fans refer to themselves as Otaku, and they were in abundance at the annual Anime Expo. This Expo typically runs during the 4th of July weekend at the Los Angeles Convention Center. The first Otaku gathering was in 1991. It was called the Anime Con and was located in San Jose, California. There were only 1,750 attendees that year. However in 2014 over 80,000 Otaku attended the Anime Expo and some were found to be mimicking their favorite characters.
While some people dress like anime animals, others dress in costumes depicting the human characters found in anime. Cosplay, short for costume play, is the term used when describing the folks wearing anime attire. According to one attendee, the costumes are not only about the characters. Just about anything goes, even something as simple as a wig or prop.
What is Anime? According to Merriam-Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary, anime is the shortened form of the Japanese word animeshiyon. Today’s anime character has huge eyes, excessively abstract female bodies, overly expressive emotions, and sharply contoured faces. The cartoons are colorful and vibrant. The storylines are full of action and usually set in the future or have fanciful plots. When the Anime Expo Otaku mimic their favorite characters, they are hard to miss.
The origins of anime began to take form in the early 1900s. Japanese cartoonists created serialized newspaper art as a result of their exposure to the Western world’s newspaper comics and films. Prior to World War II, animated films by Disney and the Fleisher Brothers were the leaders in the field of art on movie reels. The Asian and European audiences enjoyed these creations.
After the war, 20-year-old Osamu Tezuka became a cartoonist. He began with the print form of cartooning known as manga art. In 1947, he released a novel-length manga entitled Shintakrarjima, the English translation is New Treasure Island. Tezuka became known as “the god of manga.” His style was an explosion of emotion and action. He emulated the film technique of unfolding the story in a natural progression and translating it into comic books.
In the 1950s Toei, a film company in Japan run by Hiroshi Okawa, released a full-length anime called The Tale of the White Serpent. This animated film was a darker story than those Disney produced. Subsequent releases became lighter in style.
When science fiction entered into the picture, the field of anime exploded. The characters evolved as technology improved. By the 1980s, the demand for more stimulating and sophisticated anime on television was requested by fans. There the characters gained fans and subsequently became stars. Newer, stronger and more serious adult themed anime began in the 1990s.
According to theotaku.com, “the writers began to twist good guy/bad guy roles and relationships.” A hero with personal issues is an example of a good/bad guy situation. Another significant shift in anime was the post-apocalyptic Tokyo which expanded viewership.
If a person likes anime, whatever the storyline, and enjoys crowds of characters the Anime Expo is the place to go. Imagine the excitement of being at the Anime Expo where the Otaku mimics a favorite character. Enjoy all the other Cosplaying Otaku and take snapshots to create memories. One year’s Expo is probably not enough, instead plan to go year after year. Between Expos work on building a dynamic costume wardrobe. If once a year still is not enough there is always the Comic-Con in San Diego, California.
By Cathy Milne
Cornered Angel: A Brief History of Anime
theotaku: The History of Anime: How Much Do You Think You Know?
umich: Anime Project Intro
AnimeCons: Anime Expo 1992 Information
AnimeCons: Anime Expo 2014 Information
IJReview: 14 Things I Learned as an Anime Expo Newbie
Photo Courtesy of Jerlaska’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License