Contributed by Mitch Amiano
Animazement, held May 27-29, 2016, (Memorial Day weekend) at the Raleigh Convention Center, was a family friendly gathering of anime fans and costume players. The mission of the conference is to “provide an introduction to Japanese Language and Culture, through the world of Japanese Animation and Manga.”
Those who are unfamiliar with anime and Japanese culture may see Animazement as a mere costume play gathering, but that would be wrong.
Anime is a popular animation art form. Along with the comic book art of Manga, its roots go deep into the pre-WWII culture of Japan. Since the 1980s, anime and manga have firmly established themselves in Western culture and demand a strong following. As such, they present an opportunity for cross-cultural education and more.
To fulfill its mission, Animazement 2016 brought together many creative leaders representing Japanese culture, science, and media in America and Japan. Guests included trade magazine editors, international educators, voice-over actors, renowned composers, writers, producers, animators, samurai actors, a double-dutch jump rope team, and even an astronaut and representative from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). Over 14,000 participants joined the fun this year, several thousand more than last year.
The audience was a diverse group of people young and old, from NC and elsewhere. Attendees were open, friendly, and inclusive, and the festive atmosphere could be felt throughout downtown Raleigh.
Plenty of spandex and leather was evident, yet the costuming overall was modest — about what one might expect to see at a dance recital or sporting event.
Among the other activities inside the venue were continuous playing of anime features, a huge artists booth area, panels on industry and Japanese cultural topics, and an auction. At the closing ceremonies, organizers revealed that the audience had raised over $5,000 in charitable donations as well.
Excitement ran high with positive emotions throughout the conference, making it a fascinating setting for budding romances. Two marriage proposals were made and accepted over the weekend — the happy couples met at previous Animazement events. One engagement was made during the NC Cosplay Gallifrey photoshoot; the other during the closing ceremonies. In both cases, the onlookers went wild with laughter, applause, and well wishes.
Toward the end of the day after performing the art in costume for several hours, the Animazement cosplayers were visibly drained. They sought out quiet corners of the convention center to rest and recharge.
The courtyard at he entrance of the Convention Center was an ever-flowing event in itself, complete with street dancing and arranged photo shoots. Photo shoots by groups of cosplayers were common on the steps and gathered around the Sir Walter Raleigh statue. Members of the NC Cosplay Gallifrey chapter were present in character. There was a Marvel character photo shoot, as well as a “Dr. Who” Universe photo shoot.
Proper photo etiquette is to politely request permission — and respect the wishes of the cosplayer. While cosplayers rarely deny a request, they are real people with real feelings who sometimes just need a break.
Yet cosplayers seem to revel in having their pictures taken. This is not mere vanity – they seemed to have fun making others happy through the photo opportunities as much as they enjoyed being the subjects.
One attendee was a recent member of the 501st Legion (“Vaders Fist”), a nonprofit set up to use cosplay to promote charity and volunteer work.
With so much playful fun going on, it is easy to miss the educational nature of the event. Even if the event had not been oriented to educational outreach, it would still have a significant educational component.
One attendee who identified himself as Hutch observed that in his line of work with troubled youth, Manga comics were an important tool for getting through to kids by breaking down barriers to communication.
Skill development was not in short supply either: a large percentage of the attendees were decked out in costumes of their own creation. Costumes ranged from the simple to the elaborate. Some of those interviewed said their costumes were purchased and tailored, while others reported that it took weeks or months of planning and execution. Construction materials were as diverse as EVA foam, metal, leather, and lace.
Animazement began as a result of a 36-hour anime marathon in 1997 organized by the Triangle Area Anime Society. It is now managed under Educational Growth Across Oceans (EGAO), a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.
Started in 1998 with seven thousand attendees, the event now is in its 19th year with over 14,000 anime and cosplay fans. The conference was held first in North Raleigh, then in Durham, and more recently moved to the Raleigh Convention Center — in 2009. For the next two years (2017 and 2018), Animazement will be held just before and on Memorial Day Weekend. The 2017 event will mark Animazement’s 20th anniversary as the leading anime conference in the Triangle region.