A visit to Nan Desu Kan: Cosplay takes the spotlight at anime convention

As an outsider to the anime and manga community Erin and I are drawn to Nan Desu Kan, Denver’s anime convention that celebrates its 16th year this weekend at the Marriott in the Tech Center, in large part for its attendees’ passion for cosplay. We’re not that familiar with the plethora of contemporary anime titles (though I did grow up as a kid in Japan watching the likes of Astro Boy).

But you don’t need to be an anime expert to appreciate the crazy freakshow (in the good way) of cosplay.

Cosplay is a word coined by a Japanese animator, Nobuyuki Takahashi, after attending a Los Angeles anime convention in 1984. He was taken by how many American fans dress up to role-play their favorite anime characters. When he returned to Japan and reported on his trip in the media at home, he called the phenomenon cosplay, a typical Japanese language trick of creating a pun by collapsing two words together: Costume Play.

At the Marriott last night, cosplay was front and center: The annual Cosplay Costume, the main event for many attendees, was held in the hotel’s event center. The lobby, halls, restaurants and conference rooms were all thick with people dressed to kill … in a cartoon. The hotel reserves every room — the entire building — for the three-day event.

And last night the highlight of the convention, the annual Cosplay Contest, was held.
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Anime this week in Denver – “Fullmetal Alchemist: The Star of Milos”

Denver fans of cutting-edge Japanese manga and anime can immerse themselves this week in the alternate steampunk European world of “Fullmetal Alchemy,” a popular series of comic and animated TV series and feature films that have captivated audiences on both sides of the Pacific since 2001, when the series launched in Japan as a serial comic.

The latest output of the franchise, “Fullmetal Alchemist: The Sacred Star of Milos,” continues the compelling tale of two brothers, Edward and Alphonse Elric, who are famous alchemists — scientists who can use their powers to change the molecular structure of objects and materials. Edward lost a leg and then an arm, and Alphonse his entire body when they tried unsuccessfully to use alchemy to bring back their mother to life after she died of an illness. Alphonse’s soul is contained in an armor.

In the new film, the Elric brothers track down a fugitive alchemist with unknown powers to a city where the Milos, a downtrodden people, are rebelling against their oppressors. The Elrics are drawn into the battle, and befriend a young woman who wants to lead the Milos even if it means using the Philosopher’s Stone, the powerful catalyst that could restore Edward and Alphonse’s bodies.

The film is a thrill ride of cutting-edge animation and action, and even if you’re not familiar with anime in general of the “Full Metal Alchemist” franchise, you’ll be immediately drawn into the sci-fi reality and soon forget you’re watching an animated movie.
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Japanese don’t draw anime characters to be white

chibi anime -- do Japanese draw the characters to look "white"?I’ve written before about Japanese anime, or animation, as well as the genre’s characters and their large eyes, and wondered if they symbolize a desire to look more Caucasian.

But this brief guest post by Julian Abagond on the blog Sociological Images titled Why Do the Japanese Draw Themselves As White? that offers very interesting food for thought.

Abagond makes the case that Americans (white people) think Japanese draw anime and manga characters to look Caucasian, but that’s a Western construct, and that “Americans” (he conflates nationality with ethnicity, a common slip in race/culture conversations, even by well-intentioned people and often by Asians) see everything in terms of white unless there are stereotypical symbols that identify a character as another ethnicity.

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NH State Rep. hates on anime, says it’s a “prime example of why two nukes just wasn’t enough”

Nick Levasseur, enemy of anime.

Holy cow, what was this guy thinking? New Hampshire State Rep. Nick Levasseur posted on his Facebook wall earlier this week that “Anime is a prime example of why two nukes just wasn’t enough…..”

Huh? That rates a WTF?! from any perspective.

Otaku Review, an anime fan blog first picked up the quote, then Levasseur confirmed he posted it on his personal Facebook account, and apologized for it. At least it was a real apology, not one of those “I’m sorry you were offended” non-apologies. Levasseur admits it was a stupid comment, in a response to a question from Otaku review’s L.B. Bryant:

I would like to deeply apologize for the insensitivity of this post. It was a poorly thought out comment, posted jest on my private facebook page. It was never intended to be viewed by anyone other than friends. This, of course, does not excuse the comment. This type of statement has no place in public or private discourse. It does not represent any true opinion, political or personal. My record in the New Hampshire House shows a commitment to equality and social justice. It is a record of which I am most proud. This comment is a disappointment not only to the people of New Hampshire, whom it has been my privilege to serve, but also to my own beliefs and moral code.

Huffington Post picked up on the gaff via a TV station, and other blogs and news media are spreading the comment and subsequent apology around. Good. But the apology begs some creepy questions that remain unanswered: Continue reading

Astro Boy is still flying high after 57 years of fighting crime with technology

tetsuwan_atomu_1_21Astro Boy,” the new American computer-animated version of the Japanese comic and cartoon that launched the revolution we now call anime, opens today.

I’m more than a little nervous about seeing the movie, since it may not resemble the Japanese cartoon I grew up with, and because Hollywood really screwed up “Speed Racer” when they decided to turn that classic anime into a big live-action spectacle.

(The following text is a re-worked version of a pre-blog Nikkei View column I wrote back in 2003.)

Astro Boy, called “Tetsuwan Atomu” in Japan, was originally introduced in 1952, as a manga, or comic book character, and later turned into an animated television series. Created by the pioneering Japanese comic and anime (animation) artist Osamu Tezuka, his name stands for “The Mighty Atom,” an image still vivid in the minds of millions of Japanese who had lived through the end of World War II just seven years before, and the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The cartoon character is best-known in the US for the English-dubbed versions of the “Astro Boy” series that first aired in 1963 and then was re-launched with a new series in 1982 and resurrected in a computer-animated film opening today, featuring the voices of Freddie Highmore, Nicolas Cage, Kristen Bell, Bill Nighy and Samuel L. Jackson.

The story line is a spin on Pinocchio and superhero comics, mixed with a dose of Steven Spielberg’s film “A.I.” (actually “A.I.” borrows more than a dose from Astro Boy). When the kindhearted Dr. Boynton’s (Professor Tenna in the Japanese original) son is killed in a car accident, he invents an atomic-powered robotic replacement only to discover that there’s no way that the android can truly be human. The mechanical boy was born on April 7, 2003 — the far future — in the original manga. Continue reading