Turning Japanese

In Japan, people never seem to outgrow anime (abbreviated Japanese lingo for animation). From toddlers' cartoons and action-packed shows for middle-schoolers, to romantic tales for young women and sci-fi series for salary men, there's an incredible spectrum of genres. But until recently, anime in the U.S. was pegged as kids' stuff ever heard of Pokémon? and relegated to the realm of boys hooked on comic books.

Things have definitely changed, says Moryha Banks, who holds a monthly Anime Fest at Samurai Comics, which she runs with her husband Mike. "I'd say 50 percent of my anime turnouts are teenage girls, which is incredible because teenage girls and comic shops do not co-exist," she says with amazement. "You'd think they'd be at the mall. No, they're always here."

"It's remarkable," adds Mike, who has been a comics fan for 20 years. When his wife introduced him to anime and manga (Japanese comics), he was surprised at how many teenagers and young adults they attract. In particular, the most popular types are shonen, geared to adolescent boys, and shojo, aimed at girls.

"Shojo anime very typically has a romantic feel," explains Moryha. "It's got really good base characters and really good stories." Forget soap operas; this is what teenage girls are really hooked on.

As a result, says Moryha, "We do get a lot of teenage boys who find out this is where the girls are!" But aside from coed socializing, there's plenty of shonen anime to keep American boys happy, too. Popular titles include Gundam Wing, full of robot action, and Ruroni Kenshin, a series about wandering samurai. Of course, it's chock-full of fighting. "A lot of it boils down to the age-old good-versus-evil,'" says Mike.

At this month's fest, fans dressed like their favorite characters will compete in a Cosplay Contest (cosplay is another handy Japanese abbreviation, meaning "costume play"), making the anime scene more animated than ever.

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Michele Laudig
Contact: Michele Laudig