Post Interview with Dr. Susan Glenn: Greater Insight on Anime and Its Fans

When I first approached Dr. Glenn with my research topic and asked for her assistance, she was more than willing to share her years of anime experience with me. Her candor during our interview reminded me of how generous and welcoming anime fans have been with me in the course of my research.

Besides helping me understand the dynamics of Japanese anime and her role with the anime club KotoriCon http://kotoricon.tumblr.com/, Dr. Glenn has given me greater insight into the people behind the conventions and the festivals. Her personal story of how she became an anime devotee is proof of the diversity among anime fans.

My personal experience with anime fandom seconds the thoughts of Dr. Glenn. Every anime fan I encountered was more than willing to offer their mentoring and did so with over-sized hearts and without pretense. That is what I remember most of my anime research.

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On Looking: Anime Expert Vision!

Following my eagerly awaited interview with Dr. Susan Glenn, it was time to attend my first anime event. The fact that it was a festival as opposed to a convention did not damper my excitement any. I was as eager nonetheless.

I arrived to the host site of the festival with bells on. Since the site happened to be where I worked every day (Rowan College at Gloucester County), it felt a bit surreal. I surveyed the grounds and saw a peppering of students who were actually attending classes, but that quickly changed to a steady stream of festival attendees dressed in costumes. Soon the campus grounds was a collage of anime dressed characters wearing a rainbow of colors, each as merry as Dorothy skipping along the yellow brick road of Oz.

I caught up with my expert, Lauren, who was dressed in a black leather jacket, black pants, and a burgundy shirt. He wore a gold colored shawl of sorts draped loosely around his neck and his left eye was made over with red make-up to create the effect of a bruised eye.

One of my first questions to Lauren was for some insight into the costumes and maybe a hint on what his black eye was all about. He explained to me that dressing up as an anime character is considered cosplay which is a shortened version of costume play. Anime fans religiously indulge in cosplay by dressing up as their favorite anime characters for social anime gatherings. Usually every anime event schedules activities that focus around anime cosplay where fans have an opportunity meet each other and share anime talk. I asked Lauren to identify some of the characters the fans were dressed as but I gave up trying to spell the Japanese sounding names in my field notes. I never did find out who Lauren was dressed as.

We started our first tour of the festival with a walk through “Artist Alley.” This is where vendor’s set-up their tables to sell their popular and collectable anime ware. Lauren escorted me to tables selling videos, clothing, manga (anime comics), art work, trading cards, video games, and other anime merchandise.

Some Artist Alleys have special tables where vendors provide a service. At this festival, a vendor sold origami lessons with the proceeds going towards the Hiroshima Peace Memorial.

It was now time for some humor. Mostly all anime festivals and conventions have a comedy block and this festival was no exception. Lauren introduced me to Ian Rubin, the live comedy act for the festival and the first standup comedian I ever met. http://bit.ly/1rL6v4K After explaining to Ian the reason I was attending the festival, he calmed my festival jitters with his engaging personality and shared with me that he was a recent convert to anime. His show was a lot of laughs.

The next stop on the festival tour was the live music. Like comedy, Lauren explained that live musical performances are commonplace at anime gatherings. With that in mind, he introduced me to Paul Yurgin and his band. http://bit.ly/SfZfnm Lauren described them as “geek culture band” comprised of musicians who proudly call themselves geeks. There show was great and the fans loved their performances of Nerd Song, Zombie Love Song, and Pokémon.

After the songs were over, Lauren and I walked over to the karaoke room. According to my host, karaoke is one of the most popular events at all anime gatherings. Fans dressed in cosplay will endure long lines for their 15 minutes of karaoke fame to sing their favorite song.

The festival karaoke room was packed with cosplay fans in their brightly colored costumes. And these were no ordinary costumes. There was so much attention given to detail so as not to leave any doubt of who the character was.

As soon as the show started, Lauren immediately stepped into his role as co-host of the show. Screaming into the audience for karaoke judges, Lauren revved up the fans by running up and down the aisles and encouraging everyone to join in on the fun. At point, Lauren was so much the party animal he grabbed the microphone and sang a parody of the Disney song, Let it Go. http://bit.ly/1afajZp The fans really enjoyed singing karaoke and kidding with all of the karaoke performers. It was good clean fun absent of any malice.

Despite the festival winding down, people continued to attend all of the different activities. Lauren and I walked past many fans just sitting at table’s playing cards and conversing with each over anime talk. It was a calm and relaxing atmosphere following the earlier bustle of the festival.

I must say that I had a delightfully fun time at the festival. I couldn’t have asked for a more gracious host who was so welcoming of my anime cluelessness. It was my first experience at an anime event and Lauren made it a wonderfully memorable and informative one. I arrived at the festival expecting to explore a subculture but left the event realizing that anime fans are closer to mainstream culture than they are apart from it.

Reflecting on Alexandra Horowitz’s book On Looking, this was truly a great experience of seeing through the eyes of an expert and getting a new perspective on the way I looked at and internalized this event. I would have missed so much looking solely through my own eyes.

Alexandra Horowitz Book On Looking

 

Field Notes: Cosplay Improv Scene At Hoboken

After leaving the manga library, I took my handy dandy map and made my way to a larger room in the Babbio Center to watch the Cosplay Improv Event. This event was being held in a lecture room with three sections of twelve rows and about twelve pe4-6-14 Hobokon Convention Cosplay Inprovople in each row. All the seats were filled and fans continued to file into the room. Standing fans leaned against the wall, covering every inch and blocking the entrance and exit ways.

The panel instructor passed a box around for fans to drop their suggestions of improvisation role playing for their favorite cosplay characters. But before this particular game would start, they played another game first.

The panel instructor started the event letting everyone know the rules of the first game they were about to play. She also made an announcement asking all the contestants to keep the content of the play “clean” because there were young children present.

It was time to start the game. The object of the game was for four people to sit next to each other on a bench located on the stage. Each of the contestants would be given a microphone and instructed to say something funny in order to make the person next to them laugh. If the person laughed, they were disqualified. At that point, the person with the microphone would then try and make the next person laugh until no one was left except the person with the microphone.

The first four people were chosen out of the audience after raising their hands to be selected. They took their places on the bench next to each other. The first person to take the microphone made a couple of attempts to make someone laugh. He began by making funny faces at the people and low and behold one of them laughed and was disqualified. On his second attempt, he told a joke that disqualified another person. With only one person remaining on the bench, the person with the microphone did all he could to make the person laugh. Since he wasn’t successful, the panel instructor selected a little girl from the audience to sit on the bench and gave her the microphone. She stuck out her tongue at the other two contestants and made a loud farting sound. They roared with laughter and the little girl won the contest.

Field Notes: Manga Library Transcription

 

4-6-14 Hobokon Convention Manga Library Pic

While at the Castle Point Anime Convention in Hoboken, I scanned over the map I was given as part of my program packet to find my way around all the noted activities on the campus of Stephens Institute. I noticed there was a manga library located in the Babbio Center, so I hurried across the street pushing through the crowd of fans dressed in their cosplay. I was excited and wanted to see what a manga library was like. Needless to say when I got there, there was a long line waiting to get inside a small room that looked more like a Florida room than a library. The wall-to-wall glass inside the room gave you a breathtaking view of the Manhattan skyline but the heat from the sunlight made it a bit toasty.

The selection of manga was impressive and it was standing room only. Since this was a one day convention as opposed to a weekend anime convention, fans were more likely to rush to the manga library. There were fans sitting at four evenly spaced tables while the other fans crowding the room leaned against whatever they could find to read their manga. There were wall-to-wall books behind the counter on make shift book shelves and people lined up to request their favorite manga. Fans were required to show their ID before signing out the manga with strict instructions to return all manga before the convention was over.

I asked the person behind the desk to explain to me how the library worked. He told me it was a traveling manga library. It traveled to different anime conventions throughout the country offering fans a chance to catch up on old and current editions of manga.

Post Interview with Sergio Ragno: A Wealth of Anime Knowledge

Sergio, who I have fondly referred to as my otaku librarian in my blogs, has been instrumental in helping me understand Japanese Anime by providing me with source material. I never expected to find such a wealth of information at my local library, but I did and I am grateful.

My interview of Sergio was both revealing and validating. Based on an online question and answer, I was surprised that Sergio did not consider himself an otaku. This revelation and the reason he concludes this supports my research position that an otaku is not only a person of anime expertise, but an expert driven by passion for anime. Considering my newness to anime, it was difficult to differentiate his knowledge from passion.

Sergio’s first exposure to anime by way of Cartoon Network, validates the universal appeal of anime noted in my research and identifies one of the mediums by which Western children and adults are exposed to Japanese Anime. The many ways in which Japanese anime is circulated such as anime films, manga, and video games are evidence of anime’s popularity.

What I found most interesting in Sergio’s interview was his comparison of Japanese Anime to Western cartoons. After watching all of the anime videos Sergio selected for me, I was immediately struck by the sophistication of the graphics and the intelligence of the plot lines. Though I was watching an animated production, the camera angles and production techniques used matched those found in cinema. Sergio’s answer to the interview question helped validate what I had experienced watching Japanese Anime.

 

Online Interview with Sergio Ragno III…Read All About It!

When I kicked off my research by taking a trip to the local library, I anticipated slim pickings in terms of resource information. I didn’t expect to find what I needed. What I found not only jump started my project, it catapulted me head first into anime nation. Far be from me to have expected that my librarian was an anime aficionado.

When I approached the first librarian for assistance, I was greeted as if I were asking for directions to the moon. After digesting some of what I said, the librarian raised an eyebrow and pointed at another librarian (Sergio) quipping, “He’s really into that stuff.”

Thus my anime journey commenced, thanks to Sergio and my local library surprisingly brimming with anime videos and manga. Though I arrived at the library empty handed and empty headed, Sergio made sure I got my feet wet by selecting several anime videos and manga (anime in comic form) to take home with me. He was also gracious enough to grant me an interview to boot.

I decided to apply the reflective dyadic approach to interviewing as described in Gubrium’s, “Postmodern Interviewing” to benefit from the natural flow and reflection this interview style offers.

I learned that Sergio J. A. Ragno III is a Systems Librarian and cartoonist http://thirteenthchild.net. Sergio has a unique understanding of anime that stems from his desire to discover new mediums that will foster his abilities as a professional artist.

Despite having been exposed to some anime in the 80’s and 90’s, Sergio’s main introduction to anime was the result of Cartoon Network’s Toonami block of late night programming. He shared with me that he became a fan of Trigun and Cowboy Bebop, both of which were aired during Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim programming.

For more than a decade, Sergio has remained a fan of Trigun, but attributes his self-discovery to Cowboy Bebop. It is with Cowboy that Sergio discovered the uniqueness and sophistication of anime in contrast to Western cartoons. According to Sergio, “…Cowboy Bebop was where I found myself … believing in the medium for lack of better words. It had a different pace than Western cartoons, and had sophisticated themes and characters it could explore in a subtle way. Trigun had this too, but Bebop was far more accessible because it was brimming with Western themes and concepts. Anime has a lot more flexibility in the tone of the themes it can explore mainly because it doesn’t have the same “for children” stigma animation does in the states. Sure, we have mature cartoons in the states now, but they were and are more or less dependent on intent of the network it belongs to like Adult Swim, SciFi, Spike or MTV a while ago. An anime can choose to be serious of its own accord.”

I was taken back when I asked Sergio if he considered himself an otaku (an anime expert and devotee). Based on the amount of information he had in mental storage, he was an otaku if there ever was one. But his explanation made perfect sense, “…because I do not attribute a love for anime as an element of my identity, and I believe that is what makes an Otaku an Otaku. My primary interest in anime comes from my career as an artist, so it’s kind of an ulterior motive and less of a genuine devotion I suppose you can say.

Some of the first resource information Sergio selected for me aside from anime videos, was manga. When you page through this material, you’re hard pressed not to be captivated by the art work and intelligence of the story lines. Not unlike adapting books to cinema, manga is adapted to anime. So I was curious if Sergio preferred reading the manga as opposed to watching the anime. I for one respect the manga, but love the anime. And it has nothing to do with the fact that when you read manga, your reading in the tradition of Japanese culture which is right to left. Sergio conveyed that anime allows for use of cinematic techniques that add dimensions to the original manga that cannot be duplicated by just reading the story. I couldn’t agree more.

The popularity of anime is not limited to videos and film. Anime has made a mark in the video game industry. Sergio pointed out games such as Pokemon and Zelda have been influenced by common anime adaptations. Unfortunately, he has a poor opinion of the video games adapted from anime in that most horribly fail to replicate watching the original anime.

I concluded my interview of Sergio as it began, thankful for his selflessness to share his knowledge of anime with me and appreciative of his willingness to help me to see the statute in the stone.

Below is a transcript of the entire interview.

Online interview with Sergio Ragno

Q: How did you get interested in Japanese Anime?

SR: I am a cartoonist, so I have an interest in exploring many genres of my medium in order to expand my talents by learning new techniques. This is what first piqued my interest in anime. When I was young, in the late 80s, early 90s, anime was coming to the states in a very slow trickle.  Ultra violence and other less family friendly themes was the flavor of that decade so I didn’t see much, just mentions of anime here and there like in the back of gaming magazines. My first real introduction to anime came from Cartoon Network’s Toonami block, which was among the first mainstream homes to anime in the states, so for many Americans my age this was the only place we could watch anime. The first show I became very invested in was Trigun, followed by Cowboy Beebop, both of which were on Cartoon Network’s late night Adult Swim block of programming.

Q: Do you consider yourself an otaku?

SR: I don’t really, but only because I do not attribute a love for anime as an element of my identity, and I believe that is what makes an Otaku an Otaku. My primary interest in anime comes from my career as an artist, so it’s kind of an ulterior motive and less of a genuine devotion I suppose you can say.

Q: How long have you been a fan of anime?

SR: A little over a decade now. Trigun was interesting, but Cowboy Beebop was where I found myself … believing in the medium for lack of better words. It had a different pace than Western cartoons, and had sophisticated themes and characters it could explore in a subtle way. Trigun had this too, but Beebop was far more accessible because it was brimming with Western themes and concepts. Anime has a lot more flexibility in the tone of the themes it can explore mainly because it doesn’t have the same “for children” stigma animation does in the states. Sure, we have mature cartoons in the states now, but they were and are more or less dependent on intent of the network it belongs to like Adult Swim, SciFi, Spike or MTV a while ago. An anime can choose to be serious of its own accord.

Q: What do you like better, manga or anime?

SR: That’s an interesting question because as an artist it makes me think about how these two are treated in the states. For the most part, with few exceptions like Excel Saga, the translation from a manga to an anime is one for one, right down to the art. Compare that to an adaptation of an American comic and you see more liberties taken. Stories are cherry picked, altered, or completely original, and the art direction often tries to make the most of the animated medium by simplifying details and exaggerating parts of the body involving movement like hips or shoulders. That said I prefer anime to manga because I think they pull off quiet moments, prolonged shots where nothing happens but subtle body language, better than manga. This for the most part is because most manga love onomatopoeia so a quite panel in an anime lasts only as long as you imagine the sound effect to, interestingly enough if you were to ask me the same about western cartoons the opposite would be true for the same reasons. Western comics don’t use onomatopoeia nearly as much, so a quiet panel will have only the size of the panel as a hint for the reader as how long to linger in that moment.

Q: Have you ever played the video games associated with manga and anime?

SR: It’s hard not to as there are many video games related to anime. Dragon Ball has a history of video games dating back as far as the Famicon with the Z series getting new video game installments to this very day. Popular video game series like Pokemon and Zelda also have popular manga adaptations, and Atlus’ Persona series (3 and 4 namely) now have anime adaptations. Adapting an anime from a video game isn’t a new trend either, off the top of my head I can recall an anime adaptation of Final Fantasy V, one of the Final Fantasy games that did not originally make it to the states, that followed the daughter of the game’s main protagonist Bartz. Visual Novels is a genre not at all popular in the states but very much so in Japan that sees many adaptations as well. In my experience, unless it is the polished fighting games from Bandai (which they have been developing since the Super Famicon), games adapted from anime are usually pretty awful, Samurai Champloo on Playstation 2 and Ghost in the Shell on Playstation Portable were particularly traumatizing.

Q: I keep seeing the term “fanboys,” what does that term mean?

SR: It’s a derogatory term for someone who is enthusiastic about something to the point where they consider it infallible. I always found it easier to understand through video games. When I was a kid there were two video game systems made by Nintendo by Sega and odds were your parents would buy you one. If you had the Nintendo system, you would defend that system as the better of the two, if you had the Sega system, you would claim that was the best. You would find someone with the other system and you would be doomed to disagree, and one side would attribute the adamant attitude of the other as simply “being a fanboy”. The thing is both sides are wrong in this situation because the system should be an accessory to art, not an element of your identity, which is what makes its superiority and stasis so important. This attitude is what leads to discrimination in fangroups, most notoriously with women in video games at the moment.

Q: I’ve noticed that the anime characters use hand signals that look like the “peace” sign that I was accustomed to seeing while I was growing up. What does this sign mean in Japanese Anime culture? Are they using more than one sign that may mean different things?

SR: I would have to look it up, but there are a lot of American artifacts in Japanese culture, for instance, shirts with English phrases are very popular (you’ll see a lot of that in anime that take place in a modern setting like Bleach). I would say that is the reason why you see the peace sign, just a trendy gesture.

Q: What are some of the different genres/styles of anime?

SR: That is a very nebulous question. But suffice to say, there are many. There are diverse demographics for anime and there are many tropes too, so shows are usually categorized by those parameters. For instance, Shonen anime are intended for boys, they often feature big battles because that is what is popular, so you have Shonen Battle Manga. Things like that. Because manga is intended for audiences without the stigma Western comics suffer, manga is widely available in a set of genres and styles as diverse as fiction itself.

Q: What is your favorite manga and anime?

SR: For anime I have to go with Cowboy Beebop. It can effectively be subtle, quiet and moody, and action packed and intense. The blending of cultures makes it both an easily accessible show for anyone and a believable depiction of a future where mankind leaves the Earth behind. The music is legendary, and the acting is top notch. Cowboy Beebop is literally what I think of when I think of the word “cool”. For manga I’m a big fan of Bakuman, a story about two aspiring mangakus trying to succeed in the business. Since I can relate to this kind of story in a personal way, I may be a bit biased, but you learn a lot about the industry, and the art is wonderful, especially because since this is a book about manga, the artist has to draw in different styles, and do it well, in order to make the audience believe that different people are making the different manga on display.

Q: What difference do you see in American animation compared to Japanese Anime?

SR: Aside from what I mentioned earlier anime uses a lot more detail than most Western cartoons, but Western cartoons are often far more animated. Using stills or just animating things like mouths and eyes are common in anime, a necessary shortcut in order to get the whole thing done in time and with their budget. Neon Genesis Evangelion had moments where a single frame would be displayed for five minutes or even more with some music or dialogue playing, a step necessary due to a lack of funds. You don’t often see that in Western cartoons outside of Hannah Barbera, although you’ll see a lot more mistakes. In Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (the original run) it wasn’t uncommon to see a turtle with the wrong bandana on, or missing the top of his head.

Q: What would you like people not familiar with the culture of anime to know about it?

SR: There’s a lot more diversity in anime than what is the consensus in America. I think this is due to the first impression from the first explosion of anime in America, which had a lot of violence and a lot of sex, a lot of which was taboo and disturbing in the states. As familiar as I am with the medium I find myself nervous when I watch a new anime for this reason. Hopefully anime can escape that one day.

Preparation for Tomorrow’s Online Interview with Sergio Ragno III

My local librarian, Sergio, has been one of my greatest resources of anime information. As well as being a librarian, Sergio is a cartoonist who has an intimate understanding of anime. He has agreed to grant me an online interview tomorrow to share with me his professional prospective of anime and provide me an insider’s look into this art form.

Castle Point Anime Convention 2014

Stevens Institute of Technology sits near the banks of the Hudson River, offering students and visitors an awesome view of the New York skyline from the Jersey side www.stevens.edu. My walk to the institute took me through the multicultural streets of Hoboken lined with a variety of ethnic restaurants to choose from. I couldn’t have asked for a better backdrop to attend the Castle Point Anime Convention.

Finding available parking was a task, but I thankfully found a parking garage close enough to the convention site. Not knowing my way around Hoboken, I followed the steady flow of convention goers dressed as their favorite anime characters with neon colored hair and body make-up down River Street. Before I knew it, I was at the registration desk receiving my convention pass and program guide.

I decided to first visit the manga library in the Babbio Center. The selection of manga was impressive. It was standing room only which gives you a clear indication of how devoted the attendees were to manga. If you’re willing to read standing up, you’re definitely in love with what you’re reading. And according to the manga librarian, the library is actually a mobile library that travels to anime conventions throughout the United States.

I moved on to the RPGMaker Horror Games panel on the third floor. A panel can best be explained as a discussion group in which a specific and prearranged anime or manga topic is discussed. I arrived late, but in enough time to hear one of the panel attendees correct the spokeswoman on her facts concerning an anime character. It was fascinating to witness the passion and expertise of this attendee as she corrected the facilitator who had little choice but to apologize to the fan for her faux pas.

Since the room was overcrowded, I walked over to the Pierce Building to attend the Karaoke Café. When I arrived, there was a long line of anime dressed karaoke acts waiting their turn to belt out, Let it Go, from the Disney movie, Frozen. I’m still trying to figure out why anime fans are so captivated by this song.

I remained for about five acts, four of which, you guessed it, were Let it Go. I was refreshed and moved by how they all encouraged each other’s performance.

When I left the Karaoke Café and stepped outside on my way to the Schaefer Gym, it was about 3:30pm but it might as well have been high noon for anime conventioneers. The campus courtyard was a sea of live anime characters of all races, colors, and creeds dressed to the teeth in their anime garb waiving swords, wands, and other anime accessories. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8wGrXIXLL7g

I could not resist but to ask as many conventioneers as I could for permission to photograph them. All agreed with such grace and humility despite not knowing who I was or why I wanted to photograph them. Though I gave each one my business card and explained to them my mission for being at the convention, they could have responded vainly and dismissed my request. But not these anime lovers, they were all warmly agreeable and unassuming.

After the photographs, I made it to the Schaefer Gym to attend the Dealers Room. It was nothing short of an anime farmers’ market, with vendors selling manga, anime videos, clothes, and other you-name-it-we-got-it anime paraphernalia. It was amazing.

I walked back out into the courtyard and the sea of anime was still swirling. I reached the Babbio Center to observe the Cosplay Improv Event. Cosplay is short for costume play and defined as someone dressing up as an anime character.

When I reached the event, it was being held in a lecture room that was wall-to-wall anime characters alive and well. The facilitator started the event by having four contestants sit next to each other on a bench. The object was for the contestant at the far left of the bench to make the person to the right of them laugh. This lasted for several rounds of four until one group included a seven year old dressed as an anime princess. The precocious tyke made everyone laugh and was the only one left sitting on the contestant bench. Not only was she impressive, but she showcased the age diversity among anime fans from single digits to seniors.

When it was time to leave the convention, I felt a sense of melancholy. Leaving the scenery of the Manhattan skyline across the Hudson was sad enough, but I was unhappy having to leave the warmth and genuineness of every anime dressed conventioneer who welcomed me into their magical world of anime with open arms. http://bit.ly/1fCVMcL

      Hawke, Anders, Ryuko    Castle Point Convention 2014c    Castle Point Convention 2014aCastle Point Convention 2014b

 

 

Hikaru Hitachiin and Karou Hitachiin

 

On-line Interview with Katie Livingston…staff member of KotoriCon

Katie Livingston is a Team Coordinator at RCGC.  As a staff member of KotoriCon, Katie oversees volunteer recruitment and training, and also helps orchestrate the planning of KotoriCon events held at the college. When I asked Katie if she would grant me an interview, she jumped at the chance to provide me with the answers. I’m grateful for her willingness to enlighten me.

Hello Katie and thank you again for agreeing to this interview.  Let’s get started.  I can’t wait to find out all the exciting things you do with KotoriCon.

Katie: No problem Carthornia! I am excited to contribute to your blog!

Q: What is your role with the anime club, KotoriCon, at RCGC?

KL: I am in charge of volunteer recruitment and training. Essentially, I spend a lot of time begging people via email to help us during the convention. When I’m not recruiting, I am thinking of ways to orient our new volunteers in a fun and relatively painless way. This last year I planned our first annual Volunteer Training Skit Night Funsplosion. I remember going to my first volunteer training event after our Con Chair Susan Glenn encouraged me to help out at the convention. I didn’t really know anything about anime, and had never heard of KotoriCon prior to walking into orientation the day before the convention. It all went so fast, and I had many questions the day of the convention. Where am I supposed to be? Who is the Squad Leader of my area? When Sue recruited me to the planning committee, I decided to take on the task of training our tireless and enthusiastic volunteer base.

From my rushed first exposure to KotoriCon orientation, the Funsplosion was born. The Funsplosion was a huge success, allowed people to meet fellow volunteers, figure out who their Squad Leaders were, where they were working the day of the convention, and see some funny skits about volunteering. I cannot wait to have our second annual Funsplosion.   I really tried to communicate our gratitude to the volunteers, and to pound home the magnitude of what we were doing. Not only were we providing a place for the Otaku community to safely gather and share similar interests, we were raising funds for amazing charities and causes. This year we donated to Direct Relief. Our funds helped families recover from the typhoon in the Philippines.

Q: How long have you been interested in anime?

KL: I had really no exposure to anime before joining the KotoriCon planning staff. I have been watching a little anime here and there though… I mainly joined the planning staff because KotoriCon is one of the most positive and happiest days on campus. The Otaku community, one of the most accepting group of people, I have ever known.

Q: How easy is it to get volunteers to help?

KL: Carthornia, it is an exercise in endurance and patience.   I’ve spent countless hours designing posters, drafting fun and visually interesting emails to our previous volunteers. Once we have them, our volunteers are the best. It is catching the elusive volunteer that is the tricky part.

Q: What type of people volunteer to help at conventions? Are they all fans?

KL: Most of my volunteers are fans of anime. People come and volunteer and make friends who share the same interests. We do have some people who are interested in the charity aspect of the convention like me. I would be remiss in not mentioning the members of the RCGC staff who volunteer for KotoriCon.

Q: What type of people are the fans who attend the conferences?

KL: Homestucks (Google them- they are one of our more… enthusiastic interest groups), Whovians, anime-lovers, comic-lovers, sci-fi enthusiasts, to name a few. They are a diverse bunch of people.

Q: What is your outlook on anime?

KL: It’s not just cartoons! A lot people think that the illustration medium, must, mean that the stories being communicated must be simplistic. I think it must be a Western idea, illustration is for children, but those who have spent any time watching anime, or reading manga, know that that is not the case. There is just as much character development, and substance as there is in other mediums.

Q: Are you familiar with some of the terms used in anime, such as: Moe, Otaku, Ahoge, etc.?

KL: I am familiar with two of those terms. The term Moe is meant to describe certain archetypes in anime, or manga. When there is a female hero in an anime or manga, they appear a certain way. Large eyes, small mouth, long hair. We expect to see them portrayed in a certain way. Essentially, there is the expectation that social archetypes will be portrayed in a certain manner. The fact that there is a word to describe the expectation that these archetypes will appear a certain way is a nod to the complexity of anime. I know it’s more complicated than that, but being a new convert to all things anime, that is the extent of my understanding for now. The Otaku community refers to the community of anime lovers, and those who participate in the various anime fandoms.

Q: Do you consider yourself an otaku?

KL: I would consider myself a junior detective, exploring the otaku community one fandom at a time.

Q: Does the KotoriCon conventions bring anything to the community?

KL: Absolutely it does. South Jersey is not known to be a hot-bed of culturally diverse activities and interests.   I feel like we provide a safe and family-friendly milieu for children, tweens, teens and adults to meet one another. I feel like KotoriCon facilitates friend-making, for those who have not found people with common interest in the hallways of their schools.

KL: KotoriCon also gives first-time con-goers the opportunity to explore different worlds, and to use their imaginations. KotoriCon facilitates people getting hooked on reading, and helps open discussions on film and art. I would be thrilled to have kids who wanted to discuss the duality of man, and awesome fights scenes with me over dinner every night.

Q: What would you like people to know about the anime and its fans?

KL: Anime fans are an interesting set. I cannot speak to all anime fans out there, but I can speak to the anime fans in RCGC’s Japanese Anime Guild. They are wonderful, quirky, entertaining, creative and kind-hearted. They are passionate about anime, and have flexible imaginations.

Kotoricon Festival…song, laughter and just plan fun!

After my interview with Dr. Susan Glenn, it was time to join in on the fun at the anime festival at RCGC. I caught up with my expert, Lauren, and he walked me around the grounds of the festival.

Lauren was dressed in a black leather jacket, black pants, and a burgundy shirt with a yellow gold colored shawl of sorts draped loosely around his neck. The extent of his cosplay (costume play) was a left eye with red makeup smudged around it for a bruised effect.

We started out with a walk through “Artist Alley.” This is where vendor tables were setup to display their merchandise. One of the tables belonged to a husband and wife team who own the company “The Needle Gomes,” www.needlegnomes.com. The table was covered with custom made amigurmi (crocheted and knitted stuffed toys), hats, scarves, anime characters, dragon warriors, and more.

Kotoricon 4-5-14e  Kotoricon 4-5-14f   Kotoricon 4-5-14c

At another table, a young couple was giving origami lessons. As we approached the table, the woman asked if I would like a lesson on making a crane. I sat down and my lesson began.

She started by telling me that origami is a Japanese tradition and if you make a thousand of these paper figures you make a wish. She also said that after making a certain amount origami, she sends them to Japan to be sold with the proceeds going towards the Hiroshima Peace Memorial.        Kotoricon 4-5-14g

There were several more tables full of merchandise such as, candles, mustaches on sticks, small Kindle and iPod bags, jewelry, sock monsters, cell phone charms, necklaces, and earrings.

It was now time for a little laughter, so Lauren introduced me to Ian Rubin, a standup comedian. I told Ian that I was doing Japanese anime research and that I wanted to learn all I could about it and was there to take as much in as possible to post on my blog page.   He was very gracious and welcoming. He gave me his business card and told me he’d be happy to grant me an interview. I really enjoyed his show and engaging personality. He joked about Pokémon, Homestuck, and about how he officially became an otaku after becoming a “Cowboy Bebop fan”: Checkout a YouTube clip of Ian reflecting on a show he did in January for Kotoricon. http://sub8.youtube.images.dk/watch?v=wr7PbMjS3U0.

After the comedy show, Lauren introduced me to a “geek culture band” called the Paul Yurgin Band. Paul Yurgin’s band is a five member band of self-proclaimed geeks. Paul plays a ukulele, another member of the band plays a double bass, and another beats on a box like drum next to the keyboard player. Paul Yurgin wore a tee-shirt that read “Paul Yurgin,” and all the other members wore the same type of shirt but in different colors. Some of the songs they sang for their fans in the audience were: Nerd Song, Zombie Love Song, and Pokémon.

The band sang and the fans hung on every word and cheered at the end of each song. When Paul sang his theme song “Paul Yurgin,” the crowd went wild and joined in on a chorus of , “ Paul Yurgin….Paul Yurgin…Paul Yurgin…Paul Yurgin! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zMZ9gzqec90.

After the songs were over, Lauren whisked me off to the karaoke room to see festival fans enjoy their 15 minutes of fame singing their favorite songs. Many of the fans were in cosplay and donned a rainbow of colored hair from pink, platinum blonde, and frost, to blue and orange-green. One girl’s hair was tri-colored in pink, green and yellow. Needless to say, I sat back and enjoyed the fashion show and karaoke acts.

When the show started, I soon learned that Lauren, with his beautiful smile and infectious personality, was really a “wild man.” As co-host of the karaoke show, Lauren took center stage to stir up the fans. He roared out to the audience for fans to judge the singing contest. He excitedly ran up and down the aisles greeting fans he knew but hadn’t seen for a while and inviting them to join in on the fun. Lauren was definitely my kind of person…he really knew how to get a party started with good clean fun—it was great! He also danced openly in the corner of the room as fans sang their songs until it was his turn to take the microphone and belt one out. He sang a “fan parody” of Let It Go from the Disney film Frozen. Making fun of his left eye, he changed the lyrics of the Disney song to “Let it Glow.”

The fans had a lot of fun singing karaoke and jesting with the performers during their acts. Some of the singers won prize tickets to the next Kotoricon convention and the karaoke continued. Below are some of the songs that the fans sang. Only one fan sang a Japanese song. I was surprised that most of the karaoke songs had nothing to do with anime or Japan:

1. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XWE7boPU6kI Bohemian Rhapsody (Queen)

2. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vNNj6VUYuzw World is mine (Hatsune Miku)

3. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l2OwLpF8QU8#aid=P-syYqsKubQ 1985 (Bowling for Soup)

4. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zT6mgtLvcOY#aid=P9m6RcpIJrA Iridescent (Linkin Park)

5. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M0xNVAy1gkQ#aid=P-sbu55MxeI A Thousand Years (Christina Perri)

6. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L0MK7qz13bU Let It Go (from Frozen)

7. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hweYLvjkWs0#aid=P6hS1bS8eiA Love don’t die (The Fray)

8. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kf8VSyueZjI Home Sweet Home (Motley Crue)

9. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E4lBuBXYvK8 Far from Home (Five Finger Death Punch)

10. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l0SQxIC0utQ#aid=P-d8os-Mqmo Royals (Lorde)

People continued to drift in and out of the different activities as the festival winded down. Some fans sat at tables playing anime card games while others enjoyed the conversation of fellow anime fans.

I must say that I had a wonderfully fun time at the festival. It was my first opportunity to experience a social gathering of anime fans. I left the festival awakened by the revelation that anime fans and the entertainment they engage in is closer to mainstream culture than I first thought.

Kotoricon 4-5-14a    Kotoricon 4-5-14d

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