Phoenix Comicon Preview: Q&A with Anime Programming Director Greg Fennel

When he's not doing the daily grind at his IBM day-job, Greg Fennel's knee-deep in anime and manga programming for the Phoenix Comicon this weekend.

Fennel's been an anime (Japanese cartoons) and manga (Japanese comics) costumer for 10 years -- he blames Speed Racer and Robotech, which sucked him in during high school.

His gig at the Phoenix Comicon gives him the opportunity to provide something for both old school anime fans -- like the nightly anime raves -- and draw in new fans with events like the Japanese Maid Café and Lolita Tea Party.

We recently sat down with Fennel to discuss Comicon programming, the appeal of anime, and the moxie of costumers.

What's great about Phoenix Comicon for anime costumers who dress up all the time?

There's a stigma that being in public in character is taboo, but I commend those people. They're not afraid to walk through the mall dressed as Naruto [the namesake ninja character of the Naruto manga series]. At Comicon, people can express themselves, but they don't feel they're being singled out.

What's the anime and manga scene like at a convention?
The anime community is one of the greatest groups of people I've ever seen. They're the most well-behaved people you could meet. When people hear there are 10,000 screaming teenagers somewhere, they think it'll be chaos. After the con, we get accolades for how smoothly everything went and how cool everybody was.

What do you like about anime and manga?
I like anime story lines and artistic talent. A lot of anime series have deeper story lines than shows on TV today. Anime is usually designed around manga, which can also be called "graphic novels." They're usually longer series, with characters that people feel strongly about, and the story lines speak to a lot of people in their daily lives.

What do you have lined up for the anime track at PCC?
It's not just anime. I try to tie in the comics [manga], and bring guests that will talk about directing, writing, voice acting -- the gamut. A lot of [anime conventions] focus just on voice actors, but I booked panels where they talk about every aspect of anime and manga. I also wanted to tie in Japanese culture, so we'll have a fashion group called Tokyo Girls there, and panels on kimono dressing, too.

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