Do you know the World Cosplay Summit will be held this weekend in Nagoya? The event started in 2003 with only four countries, but now it has 15 participating countries and is the largest as an international cosplay event in the world. The official web page is here: http://www.tv-aichi.co.jp/wcs/2009/e/index.php I had an opportunity to take an interesting lecture entitled “Popularity of Otaku Culture Aboard” from the organizer of the event last Sunday. The lecturer was Mr. Edmund Hoff, who has worked with the World Cosplay Summit since it started in 2003. He’s now studying about Japan’s otaku subculture at Nagoya University.
Although the word of otaku has become a kind of global word recently, you may not know it. Otaku is a kind of negative expression in Japan, and it means nerd or geek. Usually Otaku people are really big fans of Japan’s anime and manga, or comic. (But according to Mr. Hoff, manga and comic are different. He thinks that Japan’s manga and anime are deeper and has more complex stories than comics and cartoons.)
Firstly, Mr. Hoff gave the participants a manga quize to match titles and pictures. The Sheet had 10 manga (comic) titles, such as, One Piece. NANA, and Naruto. Actually I know just those three manga, but have never seen other seven. According to him, the younger, the more know.
Secondly, he introduced popular manga in Japan and in the US.
Thirdly, he explained why Japan’s manga has become popular abroad. He revealed five reasons:
1. Unique – the look is very different, for example, Japan’s manga’s characters have really big eyes which twinkle.
2. Flipping – reading “backward”: According to him, “flopping” was common in 60s and 70s. That is, all manga books were remade abroad for Westerners to flip from right to left those days because Japan’s books are turned from left to right. But since 80s people have accept the Japan’s way. And many think it’s cool.
3. Well drawn characters: In Japan’s manga, even backgrounds are well drawn.
4. Addictive: Most of manga are series. So funs have to wait next episode and it makes them addicted
5. Some like, some do not – Shojo manga is popular but sports manga is not: Not only all people like Japan’s manga, but some really love them. But it may depend on the genre.
Fourthly, Mr. Hoff introduced popular anime in Japan and in the US.
Fifthly, he talked about the popularity of Japan’s anime abroad. He gave four reasons:
1. Exciting action and complexity, comedy, suspense and violence: Each story is complex and has many factors.
2. Main characters grow. : According to him, so-called heroes in the US seldom grow, and they just repeat the same old pattern, but Japan’s anime characters live their lives like human-being.
3. Make viewers watch next episode. : He told us that Japan’s anime producers know that technique well.
4. Wide target audience. : In the US, anime is for kids in general. Next, Mr. Hoff mentioned about games, plastic models, figures, arts and cosplay. Moreover, he introduced many otaku shops in Nagoya area, such as Mandarake, Tora-no-ana, Animate, Tenishi-no-sumika, M’s Melody and Comok.
Finally, he talked about the coming World Cosplay Summit. There will be a big parade by cosplayers in Osu this Saturday. It starts at 3:30 in the afternoon before Osu-Kannon Temple. And The Cosplay Championship will be held at Oasis 21 in Sakae the next day on Sunday. It’ll start around 7:00 in the evening. You’ll get the information from the offical page. http://www.tv-aichi.co.jp/wcs/2009/e/index.php
I was really impressed with Mr. Hoff’s knowledge on Japanese subcultures and love of them through his lecture. There were many points to understand Japan’s own culture in it. In addition, I was able to exchange opinions with a person who sat next to me. He is from Spain and also studying at Nagoya University. He told me that he’s loved Japanese anime since he was a child in Spain. He said that he liked Captain Tsubasa, Touch, Dragon Ball, and Naruto. It seems that Japanese subcultures, especially manga and anime, have more standardized in the world than I thought…