Just over a week has passed since I braved the cartoon hungry throngs of Anime Japan 2018, so I’ve had plenty of time to reflect on my first Japanese “con” experience. Now, I don’t know much about Anime aside from my firm favorites of old, plus Studio Ghibli of course, so I was unsure of what to expect from the biggest event in the Anime world. Is Anime really that big outside of Miyazaki’s internationally recognized body of work? Well, I was about to find out.
Meeting my very excited editor chum Vivi at Shinjuku Station, I saw my first taste of what to expect from Anime Japan. Clutching a long and detailed list of things “we must see, Chris”, Vivi literally bounced onto the train as we made our way to the hallowed, at least in the hearts and minds of manga/anime fans, Tokyo Big Sight.
This towering example of beautiful Brutalist architecture took my breath away. An unashamed modernist statement, the building is more UFO than exhibition centre, dominating the horizon with ease. As interesting as this bold departure into architecture is, my Anime obsessed companion has bigger fish to fry, namely, getting into the building!
With our Press Passes hanging proudly around our necks, we venture forth into the belly of Anime. My first thought is the sheer scope of this genre, with countless stands including production companies, distribution outlets, voice actor sessions and cosplay, I immediately realized just how big this industry is. I was also quietly astounded at the number of none Japanese attendees to this event, with approximately a third of visitors coming from every corner of the globe. Scope indeed!
After inspecting just about every stand with a fine tooth comb, Vivi ushered me to an area devoted to, what is perhaps Japan’s biggest export behind manga and anime…Cosplay! Ready to take snaps of the spectacularly decked out army of cosplayers, my erstwhile companion stayed my hand. Ever present to explain the seemingly unexplainable in Japanese pop culture, Vivi hammered home The Rules of this huge, world spanning phenomenon. First off, cosplayers not only dress the part, they PLAY the part. So a bumbling Brit such as myself, taking amateurish pics of unprepared ‘characters’ is NOT OK! Seeing the lines of photographers for each Cosplayer, I decide to abandon my mission and wait out the Cosplay Parade towards the end of the day.
With the closing wave of the cosplaying stragglers, I was ready to say goodbye myself, rest my weary feet and tick off Anime Japan from my long list of must-see events. But my intrepid comrade had other ideas! The day was to close in spectacular fashion with a micro music festival, featuring (I was later informed) some of the biggest names in anime music on the SACRA MUSIC LIVE STAGE.
Featuring the cream of the SACRA record label, namely GARNiDELiA, TrySail and LiSA, the audience quickly filled up the allocated viewing area. Not even our “La-Di-Dah” press passes could blag our way into the official standing area. As this was the very top of Vivi’s must-see list, I begrudgingly agreed to join the hopeful crowd at the back, just as the opening bars of a particularly ‘energetic’ musical number assaulted our ears. After 5 minutes, I’d had my fill and told a clearly disappointed Vivi that my old feet needed a rest.
A very happy editor met me soon after, and we joined the very long, yet delighted procession of tired attendees back to the station, thereby allowing me to reflect on the day. With Netflix and Warner Brothers eagerly getting in on the action, anime is becoming a serious industry. But it’s also more than profit margins, it’s a genre that is beloved by many. Anime, for most of the attendees at least, is a way of life; a safe haven from the trials and tribulations of reality and a place to bond with like-minded people the world over. With a behemoth of content scheduled for the coming years, anime isn’t going anywhere, ensuring a bright and creative future for a much loved genre and ever more spectacular events such as Anime Japan.
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Now enjoy the rest of the pics!!