For those of whom, like me, are unfamiliar with Anime; let me give you a bit of information that will be helpful to you. After reading this article, many of the references I make in my next piece (NerdyPerv On Location at Naka-Kon) will make more sense.
Anime is a style of animation originating in Japan, most commonly found in Manga (pronouned Mon-guh), or Graphic Novels. The characters have small limbs, large eyes, and engorged heads. The popularity of this has spread from comic strips to books and then to television and movies. It has become a worldwide phenomenon. Since the 1970s, Anime has spread from Japan to the rest of Asia and now it has been welcomed with open arms by the Western world. Most people become aware of Anime when the robots known as Mecha started showing up. The popularity of Mecha and other super robots has grown and interest in other forms of Anime blossomed out of it.
There are those that refer to Anime as Japanimation or JapAnime. For those that watch the more adult and sexually explicit forms, known as Hentai, the nicknames have become Japanaporn or Japornimation. In the US, Anime books like Manga are devoured by teenagers and adults alike. The first mainstream Anime television was geared towards children in America and I’m sure you’ll recognize the name: Pokémon. Other shows did precede Pokémon but none matched it for success. Now it is almost impossible to turn on Disney, Syfy, or Cartoon Network without watching an Anime programs. These are mainly for kids but Adult Swim has several versions for adults as well. Some networks have even been created that are strictly for Anime, like the Anime Network and FUNimation.
For those that are dedicated to this particular type of art, Anime is the term used to refer to work created outside of Japan. Manga is the term for the Japanese Anime exports. The fans even have their own terms as well. Otaku refers to those who are into Anime and Manga; it literally translates from Japanese as “the obsessive ones”. Though in Japan this is a negative reference, Anime fans in America have embraced it with vigor.
Anime has spread much of the Japanese culture. It has exposed the masses to Shinto; the spiritual practices and rituals of the Japanese people. It uses the animation to show traditions that are almost unheard outside of the country.
Many of the Otaku use conventions and the internet to connect to each other. There are clubs and gatherings that focus on cosplay or costume play. Otaku take great pains to re-enact their favorite scenes while they pretend to be a specific character. Some of these costumes are based on Anime or Manga but others come from American cultural cartoons or comics. A few of the most dedicated Japanese fans even venture into dressing up as Tokusatsu or the live action Japanese movies and television shows that feature superheroes and special effects (think the original Godzilla movies). Those who participate in cosplay are a subculture of the Otaku. It is not uncommon for men and women to switch genders in their costumes as well, with women dressing as men and vice versa, called crossplay. Those who focus strictly on Manga sometimes use the Japanese word Reiya (pronounced layer). Being Reiya is like being a member of the Otaku elite.
Inside of the crossplay, there are the animegao. This is a niche of cosplay dedicated to men who dress up as the female characters in Manga. They wear large head pieces or masks with body suits that completely hide their natural appearance. Some women will venture into animegao but they usually choose to be robots or animal characters.
The animal characters that some fans choose to dress up as are often called furries. These are normally some Anime based superhero but some cosplay involves the creation of custom characters by the fans. Most people outside of the cosplay world think of the furries in a sexual aspect but that is another subset, not the mainstream purpose. Those who do participate in the more graphic aspects do so while in their costumes, sometimes online or in person. There are organizations that are strictly for furries and that have nothing to do with Anime though.
Another of the sexual aspects of Anime is the Lolita. These started as a Japanese fad with women dressing in Victorian fashions, as children or in school uniforms to entice men. Gwen Stefani made the trend famous with her showcasing of the well known Harajuku girls in her music videos and fashion line. That fad has spread into the Anime world and there is now Manga Lolitas as well. These suggestive costumes in the comics and cartoons have translated into cosplay as well. Some of the Lolita are featured in the more pornographic Anime or Hentai. Those who dress as a Lolita will often participate in costumed sex play, role playing, and fetishism. The wearing of the schoolgirl outfits in this is referred to as seifuku cosplay. In Japan there are hotels and clubs (known as image clubs) that specialize in these activities with costume rentals or staff who dress up in cosplay.
When looking at the Hentai subset of Manga, we must consider the actual meaning of the word: strange play. Much of this pornographic material (only available to those of age) is completely different than what Americans have become used to as porn. It involves many same sex or Lolita scenarios. There is a common thread of bestiality as well. The Yaoi (same sex) paintings, comics, and cartoons are referring to male and the Yuri to female but both are aimed at a female audience. Most of the characters are portrayed as androgynous men and women who are well endowed. Much of the Hentai is geared for a specific fetish of the viewer.
Many of the Otaku use their internet connections to each other to create their own avatars or cartoon representations that they design of themselves as well. These may or may not be similar to the Otaku’s actual appearance.
The magazine Cosmode is a fan based Anime and Manga magazine that spreads the newest and most popular fads throughout the world. There is both a Japanese and English version of the publication.
The Toho or Touhou genre of Manga is made by the Toho Company Ltd, a Japanese film, production, distribution, and theatre company. The fans that are dedicated to the works of this particular company are referred to as Toho instead of Otaku because it is a much more specific genre inside of the Manga. The Toho Company is most famous for producing the kaiji (monster) and takusatsu (special effects) movies.
When it comes to the Anime conventions, these are multi-day events that allow the Anime and Manga fans to peruse the scene. The Otaku and Toho participate in cosplay and there are representations of other famous cartoon or comic works as well. These conventions or cons are an opportunity for people to dress up in their favorite costumes, regardless of the genre, and gather with those who share their interests. There are panels or discussions that entertain and inform fans. Most of the cons are interactive with special screenings, workshops, and contests. Vendors come in force to parlay memorabilia. Social activities are also planned by organizers for the con attendees. Comiket is the largest Anime convention in the world, taking place annually in Tokyo with hundreds of thousands of Otaku. Inside the United States, there is the New York Anime Festival and Anime Expo in Los Angeles are the largest cons with the Naka-Kon in Kansas City growing in popularity with each year.
Anime is a very specific world and to the un-inoculated, it can be overwhelming. I hope that after reading this, your knowledge will have grown and you might even be willing to give this unique art form a chance. Who knows, you might like it!