COSPLAY, COSPLAY EVENTS, ANISON AND MANGA AND ANIME PILGRIMAGE SITES

COSPLAY

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Cosplay is dressing up like you favorite manga or anime character. The concept was invented at the Comic Mart in Tokyo (See Manga Fans article) and is said to have been inspired by Trekies dressing up like their favorite Star Trek characters at Star Trek gatherings.

At the heart of cosplay is dressing in lavish costumes to transform into fantasy characters from an array of media, especially anime. It involves wearing, and often posing provocatively in, a homemade costume of your favorite character, Takamasa Sakurai wrote in the Daily Yomiuri, “Cosplay is about getting into a character. The character could be a historical figure like Napoleon, or a character from a sci-fi film like Star Wars. But among the world's cosplayers, there is a general belief that real cosplay is about pretending to be a character from a Japanese anime or video game. Interestingly, you'll encounter this view no matter if you're in North America, South America, Asia or Europe. Some people say dressing in Lolita fashion is cosplay, but this is incorrect. Lolita fashion is about dressing yourself up, and is an extension of daily life. This is quite the opposite of cosplay, which provides the extraordinary experience of becoming somebody else.” [Source: Takamasa Sakurai, Daily Yomiuri , May 27, 2011]

“I always feel perceptions about cosplay are more negative in Japan than in any other country. Outside Japan, people who do or watch cosplay think getting together and enjoying becoming different characters is a positive thing. In China, it is not rare for municipal governments to organize large-scale cosplay events. There also are many cosplay circles at universities, and I'm always impressed by how sincere people in China are about their involvement in cosplay. Does Japan gain anything by continuing to treat cosplay, a cultural feature that is known around the world, as something negative?

One American cosplay fan told the Daily Yomiuri, “I cosplay as Kakashi from Naruto. He is the leader of Naruto’s team...He’s the one you see with the mask on and white hair. He’s reputed to be one of the most skilled ninjas..He’s a character that people tend to like...He’s very personable, and he has mystery and the girls love him. So whenever I go to conventions I get glomped left and right. I have to admit that’s a real good benefit.”

Describing glomping he said, “It’s kind of like a mixture between a hug and a tackle and a charge. This is how a glomp goes, You’re walking down into the convention, and you’re minding your own business, and you hear [the gush sound of running footsteps]: Thum-thoomp-thoomp-thoomp! GUISH! And then you get tackled; sometimes you get thrown against a wall, sometimes you get thrown at other people.” He said he as once got glomped by five girls a time , and “it sounded like a cattle run.”

Cosplay How-To Book

Hajimete Demo Anshin: Cosplay Nyumon (A Worry-free First-time Guide to Cosplay) by Rumine and Takaso is a new how-to book that introduces novices to the practical details of cosplay. "The appeal of cosplay is the transformation of two-dimensional characters into three-dimensional ones," said blue-haired Rumine, who represented Kaito, a character from the popular Japanese singing synthesizer application Vocaloid. [Source: Tatsuhiro Morishige, Yomiuri Shimbun, January 20, 2011]

Takaso, meanwhile, was wearing the armor donned by Barnaby Brooks Jr. from the anime Tiger & Bunny. While quite tall and dressed as a robust male character, Takaso's voice revealed that she actually is a woman."I'm really 150 centimeters tall, [but I hide this by] wearing remodeled platform boots that are 25 centimeters high," she said.

Rumine said people interested in cosplay should follow the following tips when applying makeup: 1) Ensure makeup gives the skin a ceramic look; 2) Do not apply makeup that is either too natural or too much in exaggerated "gyaru" (girly-glamour) style; 3) For techniques to make your eyes look bigger, check the magazine Koakuma Ageha.

Imamura selected a maho shojo (magical girl) as her cosplay character. She complemented her outfit by wearing fake eyelashes, a wig, blush and pink mascara. "I usually don't wear pink, but I'm so pink now! I feel like I discovered a different side of myself," said Imamura, while posing for a photo shoot.

Otoko no Ko---Men Cosplaying Female Characters

Makoto Fukuda wrote in the Yomiuri Shimbun, “One of the festival's main attractions was a live performance by singer Mii Arisaka from Tochigi Prefecture and visual-kei band NekoMimi, of which Arisaka was a member until May. Both Arisaka and the band are considered so-called otoko no ko--men who dress up and wear makeup like women. [Source: Makoto Fukuda, Yomiuri Shimbun, September 21, 2012]

Effeminate male characters are already popular in anime, manga and games. While the phenomena used to be limited to the two-dimensional world, they have recently broken into the real world. Men cosplaying female characters were among the audience at the Utsunomiya event. Men used to dress up as female characters as a joke, but now, even at comic markets, these cosplayers are considered a natural part of an established cosplay genre. [Ibid]

These men have no desire to become women or participate in "O-ne talk" (talking like women) like drag queens might. Many otoko no ko simply want to wear cute outfits and are interested in dating women. Some people may think otoko no ko are strange or disturbing. But to me, a society that can tolerate a variety of individual inclinations is much healthier than one that forces masculinity onto men. [Ibid]

Cosplay Events

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cosplay community website
Much of the overseas manga, anime and otaku scene revolves around cosplay events, Cosplay gatherings in the United States include the Anime Detour in Bloomington, Minnesota; AniZona in Phoenix, Arizona; Animarathon in Bowling Green, Ohio; Kawaii Kon in Honolulu; Animazement in Durham, North Carolina; San Japan in San Antonio, Texas; and Otaku University in Mesa, Arizona. According to the fan site www.fansview.com 97 of these events were scheduled in the United States with other events in Brazil, Canada and Europe.

Cosplay in America by Ejen Chuang is substantial hardcover photography collection, writes Roland Kelts, featuring a plethora of schoolgirls, ninja, Super Marios and just about any other manga, anime and video game character imaginable---or at least a bunch of Americans dressed up to look like them. If you've never attended one of the hundreds of manga and anime festivals and conventions held nearly every weekend across the United States, this voluminous bilingual (English and Japanese) tome offers a sneak peek at the variety and dedication of Japanese pop culture's overseas fans, whose elaborate costumes are usually at least partly homemade, if not entirely stitched by the cosplayers themselves.”

A cosplay event at The Heidi, Girl of the Alps park in Hokuto, Yamanashi Prefecture was cancelled after a single elderly visitor to the park complained that the costumes detracted from the flowers on display there. Cosplays were held there about five times a year. About 19,000 people, mostly young girls, showed up, Many want the event restored.

World Cosplay Championship

A feature event of the World Cosplay Summit, held every August in Nagoya, is the finals of the World Cosplay Championship, in which representatives of 15 countries compete through role-play, dressed in costumes they make themselves.

The championship has been held six times--Brazil and Italy have won twice each (Italy was the winner in 2010), and France and Japan have each claimed the title once. In 2009, a Japanese team won the World Cosplay Championship for the first time.

The World Cosplay Summit was started in 2003. The 2008 event featured representatives from 13 countries who paraded through a shopping center in Nagoya. The 2007 there were 28 contestants from 12 countries, including South Korea, Mexico, Denmark, France, Spain, Germany and the United States. About 500 cosplayers from 14 countries participated in the street parade in the 2009 World Cosplay Summit in Nagoya in 2009, including two Mexicans dressed as Evangelion warriors, an Italian dressed as the main character from The Melancholy of Harushi Suzumiya and Nagoya’s mayor dressed as a boy warrior from Mobile Suit Gundam.


World Cosplay Summit 2011

Finalists for the World Cosplay Summit are chosen from competitions in their home country. In 2005, the one in the United States had 35,000 participants. The one in China, 500. There are 10 categories. Some costumes look slap dash. The one worn by an Italian participants took two months to make. The most common character for girls is Sailor Moon; for guys, Gundam.

The 2009 three-day summit drew thousands of spectators, many also dressed in cosplay outfits. A pair of Japanese girls dressed as samurai warriors from the video game Sengoku Basara (“Devil Kings”) were crowned cosplay champions with a performance that featured elaborately-choreographed swordplay and a lot of running around. One of them told Kyodo, “We worked hard to make our performances more entertaining so we can appeal to as many people as possible including those who are unfamiliar with cosplay.” One of the judges, anime voice star Toru Furuya, said, “Their movements were more impressive than their outfits. Their facial expressions were also good.”

During the preliminary rounds in various countries, pairs of cosplayers give three-minute performances, hoping to be chosen to attend the finals in Japan. The competition just to get to Nagoya can be quite fierce, Thousands have show up to watch the preliminary rounds in Rome and Barcelona. The cosplayers who make it to the finals nearly always burst into tears of joy when they are on stage. Their appearance there is a proud moment and the reward for a year of preparation.

American Anime Fans Love Cosplay

Roland Kelts wrote in the Daily Yomiuri: An estimated 105,000 fans attended last month's combined New York Anime Festival and Comic Con--and you couldn't walk a meter on the convention floor without seeing or literally bumping into someone in costume. "It's like total escape," a teenager from Philadelphia said as he adjusted the collar of his costume, based on a character from Hetalia: Axis Powers, a notably popular title this year. "You can't do this every day. And it's really addictive." [Source: Roland Kelts, Daily Yomiuri, November 4, 2011]

The appeal of cosplay outside Japan is a perfect example of the transcultural boomerangs that characterize much of contemporary popular culture. As Japanese otaku of an older generation will tell you, cosplay, and the devotional fandom behind it, came from the United States: Photos of costumed fans at North American sci-fi conventions, such as those revolving around Star Trek, appeared in magazines imported to Japan in the 1960s and '70s.

Japanese readers adopted the practice, using characters from their homegrown anime and manga series. As the popularity of manga and anime spiked outside Japan, fast-evolving Internet access provided overseas fans first with a peephole and then a massive window onto what looked like an enticing made-in-Japan phenomenon. The word itself, cosplay, is a giddy transcultural mashup of the English "costume" and "play."

"Cosplay [is now] a more accepted hobby in North America than in Japan," noted Riddle Lee, an Atlanta-based costume designer and model who has been cosplaying for 12 years. Lee cited the variety of genres beyond anime and manga--comics, movies and the sci-fi subgenre steampunk--that have become a part of the cosplay scene in the United States. "It allows more ethnicities and age ranges to be involved. But those who are cosplaying from anime and Japan-based videogames really do have a sincere interest in Japan."

Photographer Ejen Chuang agrees. In 2009, Chuang crisscrossed the United States, attending six anime conventions to shoot over 1,650 cosplayers, 250 of whom appear in his colorful and hefty coffee-table tome, Cosplay in America, published last year. "Many cosplayers I've talked to and photographed have since moved to Japan, either for studies or jobs," he said. "They wouldn't put so much effort into their outfits if they did not respect the original source."

American Cosplay Fans

For some, cosplay has become serious stuff. "The skills involved--sculpting, styling, sewing, makeup--could help get you a career in fashion or film," Lee said.

A New Jersey-based cosplayer known by the moniker Yuffiebunny told me that her passion has led to her own business, Head Kandi, creating hand- and custom-made costume headpieces, wigs and other hair enhancements. She also judges cosplay contests, models for Web sites and magazines, sometimes gets hired as a cosplayer for events--and, of course, attends anime conventions regularly. While cosplaying is not a career for her, she says, "It's definitely not a sideline or part-time gig. I work very hard at it."

Yaya Han, also from Atlanta, and Chicago-based Barbara Staples both tell me that cosplaying and its related activities (designing costumes and accessories on commission, modeling, public speaking and attending conventions) have taken over their lives full-time. Han said American cosplayers are not only diverse in age, gender and ethnicity, but also in levels of devotion. She divides participants into three groups: The super amateurs, who "know nothing about proper sewing techniques, props, wigs, et cetera"; the Halloween types, out for "occasional fun"; and the true devotees, members of the "cosplay community [who] make cosplay a lifestyle."

Staples, 29, attended her first anime convention 14 years ago, and like many women of her generation, was lured by the watershed shojo anime series Sailor Moon. She now runs her own costume design business, Lemonbrat, employing six staffers and two interns. "I feel like I'm working two full-time jobs," she said, "because it takes up so much time."

Americans who cosplay have skewed both younger and older in recent years, with teens now sporting anime and manga costumes alongside cosplayers going gray or even fluffy white. They are drawn to the spirit of interactivity, role-playing participation and community, plus a dose of sincere passion--all emanating from a pop culture universe thousands of miles away. Staples didn't cosplay at her first convention. "I didn't realize people dressed up," she told me. "Then I noticed and thought, 'I can make better costumes than that.' Cosplay was right on the cusp of becoming really popular."

Anison, Anime Songs

Anison are anime songs, often the theme songs from popular anime. They are among the karaoke favorites of anime fans. Takamasa Sakurai wrote in the Daily Yomiuri, “Anison is a Japanese word that has come into worldwide use, much like "kawaii" or "moe." "Anison" was originally a Japanese-English word formed by combining the words of "anime" and "song," but it has gained global recognition as a Japanese word to represent anime-related songs. Along with anime, anison has became a universal language. So when young people talk about anison, it is not simply an anime theme or song used in a commercial tie-up, but more about a song that matches the anime, blending with the visual creation and story elements.[Source: Takamasa Sakurai, The Daily Yomiuri, August 19, 2011]

"A Cruel Angel's Thesis," the Neon Genesis Evangelion theme song, Macross Frontier's song, "Interstellar Flight," The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi's ending theme Hare Hare Yukai (Sunny Sunny Happiness) and the theme song of Saint Seiya are typical examples of anison enjoying overwhelming popularity with young people around the world.

Takamasa Sakurai wrote in the Daily Yomiuri: Anison are popular in Japan. Live performances by anison singers can attract tens of thousands of fans, and anison often make the music hit charts. "Anison-only" karaoke parties are popular among some young people. [Source: Takamasa Sakurai, Daily Yomiuri, September 14, 2012]

Hisanori Yoshida, a radio announcer with Nippon Broadcasting System Inc., is a big-time otaku and an anison history expert. He plays anison on his radio shows and organizes live performances. "The existence of anison is based on shared experiences," Yoshida said. "An anison becomes an anison only when it used for anime.” [Ibid]

New anime programs appear on TV about every three months, each accompanied by new anison for the opening, ending and middle sequences. A new top anime program appears in each three-month cycle. The anime "anthem" is therefore constantly changing to represent the anison of that time, he said. Promotion from a mere anime-affiliated song to an established anison is also possible, such as with the theme song "Yuriyurararara yuruyuri Daijiken" from the anime Yuruyuri and the theme song of Genesis of Aquarion, he added. [Ibid]

"An anime with a bad anison will never be a hit. Many anime have failed to take off due to a poor anison, even if the story is decent," Yoshida said. "On the radio, we introduce some anime by playing its anison. Whether the anison becomes a hit or not depends on whether a lot of people share experiences through that song.” [Ibid]

The music industry has profited by collaborating with other media such as cosmetics commercials or TV series, and the industry is now trying to apply the same formula to anison. "But anison made by non-otaku who don't have a passion for anime won't become popular," Yoshida said, explaining that not only is the audience composed of otaku, but we are living in an otaku era. "Impact is the key to success. Passion that can surprise anime fans and make them happy is important. These ideas should be applied to all music genres. The pressure an anison composer feels should be felt by every musician. Anime songs don't become popular just because they appear on anime. What's important is how much the anison can cause the audience to share a common feeling when they watch the show," he said. [Ibid]

J-Pop and Anime

Roland Kelts wrote in the Daily Yomiuri, “J-pop and J-rock's connection to anime has long been both a burden and an opportunity. In the 1970s and '80s, anime soundtracks were heavily localized to attract American viewers, just as the anime narratives were butchered to fit expectations shaped by Hollywood and television. [Source: Roland Kelts, Daily Yomiuri, December 23, 2011]

But in the late '90s and early 2000s, the Internet connected global fans to Japanese creators with an immediacy that transcended distance. An edited Pokemon or Naruto episode was no longer acceptable. Original songs, written and sung by Japanese artists, were prized as a sign of authenticity. American fans who knew no Japanese could still sing along with songs written and sung by Japanese bands.

Meanwhile, Japan's pop culture industries are facing an unpleasant but unavoidable truth: Growth at home is no longer possible. A chronically low birthrate and unstable economy guarantee that. And competition from South Korea and China is making Japanese pop culture producers increasingly antsy about their futures.

Anison Concerts


Anison concert
Singers that specialize in anison fill 3000-seat halls in Tokyo. Among the most popular anison singers in Japan is Yuki Kajiura who sometimes purposely sings in a gibberish language. “Lyrics can limit a song’s meaning and are therefore inappropriate for certain scenes, made-up words, by contrast, can stir the audience’s imagination...In terms of musical instruments the voice is the “ultimate weapon.”

Animelo Summer Live---Japan’s only summer festival devoted to anime music---drew 25,000 fans to Saitama Super Arena in 2010. The two-day, 160-act ,10-hour-plus show was headlined by the JAM Project, the group behind favorites such as Gong and Kill from the Second Super Robot Wars Alpha and Sphere, an all-girl group led y the voice actress Minako Toyonashi, who performed Super Noisy Niva from Sora nno Manimani .

At anison concerts in Japan the audience tends to predominantly male, regardless of the gender of the artist on stage, although they tend to prefer young females. Top anison singer Masami Okui, who also is a member of JAM Project, said that men account for 70 percent of the audience at her concerts. "I think girls tend to feel overwhelmed by all the testosterone, especially in smaller clubs..” Okui organized Anisama Girls Night “for female fans to enjoy the music, without the hassle.” She also said "I know it's mostly guys that like these female anison artists, while the girls tend to be more interested in cool male artists or voice actors.”

Other popular anison singers in Japan include Natsuko Aso, Asami Imai, Minami Kuribayashi, Hiromi Sato, Asami Shimoda, Ryoko Shintani, Suara, Stephanie, Aiko Nakano, Faylan, Aki Misato and May'n.

Also See Overseas Manga and Anime Events

Anime Events in Japan

Yohei Tomino wrote in the Yomiuri Shimbun: “Some local towns are turning to a new attraction as they seek to energize their communities and bring in visitors--anime and manga. Towns across Japan are holding unique anime events and offering tours to locations that provided the settings--"sacred sites" to diehard fans--for popular manga in the hope that they can entice more tourists and give their local economy a shot in the arm. One prime example is "ufotable CINEMA," which opened in Tokushima in March as 2012 a theater for anime fans. The cinema is operated by Tokyo-based anime production firm, ufotable Inc. [Source: Yohei Tomino, Yomiuri Shimbun, July 27, 2012]

Recently, I visited the city for the first time in six years and was surprised to see how the city had changed. After a 10-minute walk from JR Tokushima Station, I saw many banners and signboards along a shopping street that read, "Anime no Machi Tokushima" (Anime town of Tokushima) and "Anime no Machi Higashi-Shinmachi." Many shops had been shuttered for a long time due to slumping business. Higashi-Shinmachi is also in Tokushima. [Ibid]

The theater has two screens in rooms that can seat 71 and 29 people, respectively. I saw high school and university students who were anime fans shopping for anime goods and taking photos in front of panels of anime characters in the lobby. At the final 9:45 p.m. screening, the cinema showed ufotable's 2011 original anime Sakura no Ondo, a 20-minute short that depicts the growth of high school students in Kagawa Prefecture who are frustrated with their present situation and future.

Anime and Manga Gathering Sites

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Ai Takekawa
In October 2011, Kyodo reported that the city of Chichibu in Saitama has been attracting anime fans from throughout Japan since an animation series set there was broadcast on TV earlier this year. Young anime fans have flocked to the city since the airing from April to June of the animation "Anohi Mita Hana no Namae wo Bokutachi wa Mada Shiranai" (We still don't know the name of a flower we saw that day).

The animation, "Ano Hana" (That flower) for short, tells the story of a group of youngsters who reunite as friends several years after one dies in an accident during primary school. The tourism facility Hot Spot Chichibu-kan said it has been enjoying a 10-fold increase in visitors, thanks to Ano Hana fans.

At nearby Chichibu Shrine, where vehicles painted with the anime characters are parked, some visitors cosplayed the heroine wearing a white dress, stirring a bit of mixed emotions in shrine priest Takeru Sonoda. "I want them to think about where they are," says Sonoda with some embarrassment. But he adds, "They know the manner of worshipping. We appreciate having many visitors."

Chichibu, known for its Buddhist temples for pilgrimage, previously attracted mainly middle-aged and elderly visitors. But since Ano Hana, the make-up of those visitors has changed along with their reasons for making the pilgrimage to Chichibu. Jorin Temple, one of the pilgrimage temples, appears as a scene in Ano Hana. It now has a shop selling wooden plaques and Japanese fans illustrated with characters from Ano Hana. And in July, the Chichibu city government began distributing maps of spots where scenes in Ano Hana take place.

Local Towns Welcome 'Anime Pilgrims'

Yohei Tomino wrote in the Yomiuri Shimbun: “Recently, an increasing number of anime fans are making "pilgrimages to sacred places," or visiting the settings of their favorite anime or manga. For example, Raki Suta (Lucky Star), an anime portraying the ordinary lives of female high school students in Saitama Prefecture, aired from April to September 2007. Many fans flocked to Washinomiya Shrine in Washimiya (current Kuki) in the prefecture, where the anime was set. [Source: Yohei Tomino, Yomiuri Shimbun, July 27, 2012]

To please fans who traveled long distances to visit the shrine, the town government and local commerce and industry association asked the publisher of the original comic book for permission to sell unique goods and hold events there. The plan was a huge success. The shrine was visited by about 300,000 people during the first three days of the New Year in 2008, more than triple the amount in 2007. Since then, the number has steadily risen and has topped 400,000. The local commerce association estimates the economic impact on the community at 1 billion yen to 2 billion yen. [Ibid]

Other popular "sacred places" are Ueda, Nagano Prefecture, which is the setting of the animated science-fiction romance film Summer Wars; Nanto, Toyama Prefecture, for true tears, a school romance anime drama; Toyosato, Shiga Prefecture, for K-ON!, an anime about schoolgirls who form a band; and Miyoshi, Hiroshima Prefecture, for Asagiri no Miko (shrine maiden of the morning mist), an animated fantasy comedy about five shrine maidens who hunt monsters. However, some artists have reservations about local people's excessive expectations and aggressive sales mentality regarding their works. "We're not creating anime and manga for the sole purpose of boosting an area's economic development," said one. [Ibid]

Takayoshi Yamamura, an associate professor at Hokkaido University Center for Advanced Tourism Studies, who has written a book titled Anime Manga de Chiiki Shinko (regional development with anime and manga) told the Yomiuri Shimbun: “"People tend to only pay attention to the economic impact on local communities. But exploiting the 'staging' of such a sacred place for anime and manga without respect for these productions and their fans would dampen fan enthusiasm. Basically, for those who want to cooperate with anime and manga creators for their regional economic development, it's important to respect the anime and manga productions, as well as the local town culture.” [Ibid]

Saitama Town Becomes Cosplay Mecca on Anime Popularity

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manga toy machine
Kyodo reported in 2010: “A corner of Saitama Prefecture has become a mecca for cosplay fans in recent years, thanks to a popular manga based there, surprising the locals along the way. The manga ”Lucky Star” revolves around twin girls attending a high school in the former town of Washimiya, now Kuki city in the prefecture, and their friends. It has been drawing attention as a successful example of anime-inspired tourism, a feat made even more impressive considering the fact that the prefecture does not have beaches or World Heritage sites. [Source: Kyodo, October 2010]

“Based on a four-frame comic strip by Kagami Yoshimizu, a native of the neighboring city of Satte, the manga has steadily cultivated fans among anime enthusiasts with its heart-warming humor since it was first published in 2004 in a monthly magazine. In the story, the main characters, Kagami and Tsukasa Hiiragi, live in the town’s Washinomiya Shrine. Soon after the comic’s publication, fans began visiting the shrine dressed in costumes, surprising the local residents. The number of such pilgrims spiked after the manga was adapted for television in April 2007, showing the shrine at the beginning of an episode.” [Ibid]

“The shrine became a popular destination for the New Year crowd, totaling about 450,000 this year, the second most populous in the prefecture. On Sept 5, a portable Shinto shrine decorated with Lucky Star characters made its appearance in the area’s traditional Haji Festival for the third straight year, with fans carrying the shrine on their shoulders and parading through a shopping arcade. The festival drew as many as 70,000 people, including the locals, and created somewhat of an unusual atmosphere as fans wearing blue and pink wigs and school uniforms filled the area.” [Ibid]

“At first I was surprised by the outlandish costumes, “ said Kenichi Yoshioka, 60, secretary general of Washimiya’s chamber of commerce. “But both children and adults enjoy the anime,” he said. “Fans are quiet and polite. They energize the empty arcade,” a 59-year-old clothing store owner said. Fans also seem to appreciate the friendly reception. “I feel comfortable as people are kind to anime enthusiasts and feel that the entire town accepts us,” said a 25-year-old woman from Ichikawa, Chiba Prefecture, who attended the festival dressed in a school uniform. “It’s also the only place where we can mingle with regular people,” she said. [Ibid]

The chamber was keenly aware of the business opportunity from early on. Stores created “Junrei Manju” (pilgrimage cakes), recruited fans as staff to organize events and negotiated with the manga’s publisher to sell cell phone straps. The Saitama Shimbun newspaper has launched a mobile site for fans called “saitamania.” “This is a pioneer case in which the chamber, the fans and the publisher successfully joined forces,” said Takayoshi Yamamura, associate professor of tourism at Hokkaido University who is an expert on anime tourism. The boom also seems to be spurring some international exchange. In June, the portable shrine was brought to the Shanghai World Expo, and some tourists from other countries have been visiting the town as well. [Ibid]

Manga Cafes

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Manga kissa ("manga café") are widespread in Japan. They are usually comprised of booths and/or tables where customers can sit and read and bookshelves filled with manga they can choose. Many have televisions, VCRs and computers with high-speed internet connections for checking websites, videos. Other have showers, massage chairs, tanning studios and washing machines.

A typical manga kissa is combination manga library and Internet café. They charges ¥400 yen for the first hour and ¥150 for each additional 30 minutes with free drinks and snacks often included in the price. Many are associated with coffee shops. Owners of restaurants, movie theaters and game arcades complain they have lost business to manga kissa.

The first manga kissa was opened in Nagoya in 1975. They started becoming widespread and popular in the mid-1990s. Most of the customers are otaku and salarymen. To attract different kids of customers same are equipped with couples booths ,

The number of manga cafes increased from 300 in 1999 to 2,500 in 2005, The number is expected to reach 6,300 in 2014.

In an effort to woo the on-otaku crowd, manga cafes began offering thing like bowling, mini soccer and karaoke. To attract female customers they offered things like geranium baths, nail salons and organic vegetable buffets. Some serve in the place of hotels. They are open all night, have booths were one can sleep and are cheaper than staying a hotel.

Manga, the Internet and Cell Phones and Merchandise

More and more people are reading manga on the Internet and with their cell phones. More and more manga is being made available on cell phones all the time but many think that unless you can enlarge the screen to the size of piece of paper that looking at cell phone manga will never be as much fun as flipping through the paper pages of a magazine or book. Even so cell phone manga market expanded 10-fold to $229 million between 2005 and 2007.

An increasing number of publishers are putting their material free in the Internet, in some cases putting entire magazines online for free at the same time printed versions go on sale at newsstands. The publisher Kodansha initially did so with some trepidation, worried that fans wouldn’t buy the magazines but found that sales of its monthly magazine Morning 2 rose 25 percent when the free version was made available on line.

Releasing manga online serves as a promotion devise, generating interest in certain comics through online chatter and helps sell manga books. One editor told the Yomiuri Shimbun, “Web comics enable publishers to build up popularity of some works to the point at which it becomes feasible to release them in book format, while saving printing costs in the meantime.” Another editor said, manga can “be exposed to a lot of readers without spending a fortune for advertising or circulating a magazine in great numbers.”

Web manga is expected to expand even more as manga with sound and moving images become more widely available in the future. Manga complete with two pages that fill the screen and pages that turn with the use of cursor are available from sources such as Comic Seed and Blood.

There is a big market for manga and anime action figures. Some of them are quite detailed and carefully crafted and fetch high prices among collectors. Some are models of famous anime, manga and video games characters; other are created as their own individual entities by action figure designers. Revoltech and Max Factory are two figure producers that are well respected among otaku.

There are loads of tie ins with video game makers and manga-based “visual- kei” rock bands.

Tokyo Character Street, on the Yaesu side of JR Tokyo station, is an 80-meter-long underground street with 15 shops offering hundreds items bearing likenesses of classic figures like Doremon and Ultraman and new characters NTV mascots Zoomin and Chemin and Monkey D. Luffy as well characters like Totoro form Miyazaki’s Studio Ghibli.

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Hentai manga

Seichi Junrei, Otaku Pilgrimage to Anime Background Sites

Takamasa Sakurai wrote in the Daily Yomiuri, “One phrase that crops up in conversations between anime fans around the world is "seichi junrei," or pilgrimage to "sacred places" like those associated with the anime Evangelion and Haruhi Suzumiya. These are often real life places that inspired settings and background scenes of these anime. [Source: Takamasa Sakurai, Daily Yomiuri, May 13, 2011]

I decided to make my own pilgrimage to the sacred locations associated with Haruhi Suzumiya. Visiting a real location that was featured in an animated series makes me feel like I'm standing at the intersection of the two- and three-dimensional worlds. I think this is the charm of such pilgrimages. Thanks to the artistic talents of these anime illustrators, visitors to "holy sites" can partake in this unusual feeling. I will count myself even luckier as a pilgrim if I can share these sentiments with anime fans who hope to one day visit Japan.

Image Sources: YouTube, Wikicommons

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Yomiuri Shimbun, Daily Yomiuri, Japan Times, Mainichi Shimbun, The Guardian, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated January 2013

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