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Thousands attend opening of largest U.S. anime and manga convention.

ANAHEIM, California, July 1 Kyodo

Thousands gathered in Anaheim, California, Saturday for the opening festivities of the 15th annual Anime Expo, the largest convention dedicated to Japanese comics and animation in the United States.

Sponsored by the nonprofit Society for the Promotion of Japanese Animation, the four-day event is a vibrant mix of fans, industry professionals and vendors of Japanese animation, or anime, and comics, known as manga.

Organizers expect more than 55,000 people will attend the colorful event at the sprawling 75,590 square meter Anaheim Convention Center.

''The expo is really big and awesome. I love anime and manga, they're like cartoons for adults,'' said Amanda Freen, who traveled to the convention with her three friends from Elkhart, Indiana. The 19-year-old college student sported a bright green wig and a purple suit in honor of her favorite anime character.

Freen was among many who displayed their love of anime and manga by wearing colorful costumes, brightly colored wigs, elaborate props, and shirts reading ''otaku,'' the Japanese word used to describe enthusiastic fans.

''There's no better way for us to try to pay respect for the artists than to dress up like the characters,'' said Adam Cullen, 24, who was attired as the character Legato Bluesummers from the Trigun manga series. Cullen spent 2 years creating the complex white and brown suit, complete with a detailed skull decoration on the shoulder.

The practice of dressing and acting like the manga and anime characters, known as ''cosplay,'' is showcased at the expo's wildly popular Masquerade ball.

Many expo attendees endured long lines to preview and purchase unique manga and anime merchandise by major publishers and distributors.

''It's really fun for us to see who we're making our products for all year,'' said Frances Wall, managing editor of VIZ Media's Shonen Jump Manga, who was happy to see fans dressed as the characters from the company's titles.

Wall also described VIZ's plans to help distribute novels and live action films, like the popular Japanese feature ''Train Man,'' set for release this fall in the United States.

Bandai Entertainment Inc. featured a range of diversions at their lively display, including a card game based on the popular ''Naruto'' series, PlayStation2 game demonstrations, and memorabilia from the classic PAC-MAN video game.

''It makes me so happy to see people smiling when they see PAC-MAN,'' said Kenji Hisatsune, president, chief executive officer and chief operating officer of Namco Networks America Inc., which made its first appearance at the expo, following its recent merger with Bandai.

A major draw among convention attendees are scheduled appearances by industry professionals, including famed manga artist collective CLAMP, award-winning director of the series ''Full Metal Alchemist'' and ''Evangelion'' Seiji Mizushima, and character designer for the popular animated series ''Ranma 1/2'' Atsuko Nakajima.

Other expo festivities include a performance by Japanese singer yozuca*, and daily screenings of popular anime feature films, like ''Howl's Moving Castle 2,'' ''Spirited Away,'' and ''Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence.''

Traditional Japanese culture is also featured at this year's event, with tea ceremony, origami, kimono and dancing demonstrations all scheduled until its closing date of Tuesday.
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Publication:Asian Economic News
Date:Jul 3, 2006
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