No otaku hardcore but family folk art @ Tokyo Anime Fair 2013
We got free tickets to the Tokyo International Anime Fair (TAF) 2013 and although truthfully I am more of an anime amateur, it was time to get acquainted with a big part of Japan.
March 24th was the last day of the fair and it did not feel crowded at all. Not only not crowded with people but also not overly crowded with promotion stands.
In 2011 the largest and most influential manga publishers withdrew from the Anime Fair as a form of protest against the revision of the Tokyo Youth Development Ordinance. This bill is going against the sale of manga and anime with sexual content considered to be harmful and not to be sold to under 18 year olds. The fair did not take place at all in the end due to 3/11. After that year and the boycott of major manga companies TAF was not bustling as before.
The big players in manga and anime actually decided to stage a parallel fair at Makuhari Messe in Chiba, called the Anime Contents Expo (ACE) in Chiba which took place one week after TAF.
Call it regular fair spacing or security measures, I had to think about those fiascos for the fair and whether the issue is going to be resolved.
Anyhow, TAF was fun, I got my fair share of anime wisdom and I am here to share with you, of course.
Everyday in Tokyo is a day of new great sights. Just look at the inverted pyramid architecture marking the futuristic entrance to the anime fair at The Big Sight Convention Centre. Location: 3-21-1 Ariake, Koto, Tokyo.
This was going to be it. Another day of kawaii posing. Be prepared.
Just as expected, there was no otaku-hardcore (kiddie porn) stuff to be seen. Instead the fair centred more on children in another sense: the focus was on family-affine manga and anime material.
There was a huge My Little Pony stand with seriously disturbing pink horses. I loved to play with mine when I was wee because they looked like cute horses. Now that they changed their appearance they sadly look like retarded deer on a bad acid trip.
There was more stuff giving eyesores but let’s focus on the cool things.
At one point I was set back to a typical speech therapy setting. As a qualified SLT (Speech & Language Therapist) this was the sort of stuff I was dealing with after I graduated. Children and toys. To occupy the one with the other whilst sneaking in pedagogic goals.
Obviously I was wearing my work uniform bunny-ear hat from work.
The army of animal cuteness. I am back to my childhood toys in Germany – at Tokyo’s Anime Fair.
Did I say I like bunnies? No? I love bunnies!
I declare thee huggable companion.
The rabbits are stuck in somekind of psychedelic experience.
The scary part was that there were stuffies running around that were about as tall I am but triple the size and still making for cute.
Please do not come closer. I do not want to play. Please. Aaaagh.
You got to learn to love Anpanman, the round talking bread-head (Jap. pan) filled with beanpaste (Jap. an) kicking the ass of villain characters, preventing starvation (by letting hungry people bite his head) and solving all kinds of people’s worries. I recently inherited some children’s books to improve my Hiragana and Anpanman was part of the collection.
To be fair to the fair it was not at all just childish stuff.
For example, we had to cross physical boundaries walking over flying rocks in space in order to receive a smash-it-squeeze-jelly soft ball resembling a funny looking eye. Toyota has created the PES (Peace Eco Smile) anime about alien jelly eyes exploring the joy and safety of driving (Toyota cars). Stuff simply sells better with cute creatures in anime.
The best part of the fair was a marvelous anime creation walk through from GAINAX productions. You could stroll through rooms resembling anime-artist’s work studios, with detailed arrangements of furniture, books, drawing utensils, laid out projects and PC equipment. The whole process from the very first idea to product release was made up and described in excellent English with a very open approach – humorous with a lot of self-irony, (not honeyed) descriptions of the work process and an outline of challenges the future of anime faces due to illegal downloads. Superb informative pleasure but unfortunately no pictures allowed.
There was also a beautiful promo screen set up for Makoto Shinkai’s new film, Koto no Ha no Niwa. Wow!
My personal highlights were two adorable artists, one was dwelling into the folkish trend. Another favourite was the big stand with European tales and German, Polish and Czech children’s books. I was truly surprised to find such a big booth promoting old fashioned story tales. The sort of books my parents would read me during bedtime. Awesome traditional narratives that capture without hitting the sometimes absurdly flashy and overly bizarre anime button.
I am old school.
I like Hayao Miyazaki.
I like kingdoms and kings and knights… At the stand of Kobako where we become part of the artist’s exhibition. http://kobako.365blog.jp/
Kobako displayed figures that reminded me of the Sandmännchen puppets. The Sandman is a mythical character in Northern European folklore who brings good dreams by sprinkling magical sand into the eyes of children while they sleep, first recorded in a tale by Hans Christian Andersen. I grew up with Das Sandmännchen, a German children’s bedtime TV programme using stop motion animation.
I like to dwell in folk nostalgia occasionally. Generally I am not sure if it is mere coincidence, my subjective construct of a delightful tendency but I am picking up a lot of that in Tokyo lately. Like Dolly Kei folk amongst all the Harajuku styles.
A bit off the topic but I would like to back my analysis of the Japanese market:
Tomek in a shop in our neighbourhood in Setagaya, called URESICA, selling original children’ s story books from Hungary, the Czech republic and Poland, as well as Japanese hand-crafted artworks, selected stationary and tiny sweet figurines. I love this store so much, we had old Polish story books brought from Poland to give the amicable owner as a present.
Folklore and old fairy tales are becoming more of a trend. Location: 経堂 Kyodo 2-25-13, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo
Back to the fair.
Tokunaga Mariko is a talented Japanese artist known for her uniquely kawaii manga girls. http://tokunagamariko.ari-jigoku.com
She sketched a tiny girl onto this postcard for me.
We received this adorable sticker book with Mariko Tokunaga’s cutesy fashion designs for her little creatures.
This is my favourite picture of her artwork.
Let me just throw the rest of anime impressions at you with the occasional comment – without meaning to be rude.
Pretty Cure or Precure (プリキュア) is a very popular Japanese anime series produced by Toei Animation. Teenage girls transform into magical girls who protect the earth. There are many and as colourful as the rainbow.
After winning a Tiger & Bunny action figure (Antonio Lopez with a deep v-neck cleavage and chest-hair unfavourably forming the flipping finger), I learned that Sunrise/Bandai were promoting their new film The Rising.
A real-life size model of their bike and cut-outs of the heroes made a memorable impression of Tiger & Bunny. And the fact that I won a hairy anime man using a Japanese gaming machine. Got to watch that film now.
A truly amazing phenomenon is Vocaloid. A singing voice synthesizer with the personification of a cute dancing girl with long blue pigtails, named Hatsune Miku. What’s amazing? Humanoid Hastune Miku has grown to become a virtual idol, giving sold out concerts on real stages for real people. At the fair, I was watching her on a transparent holographic screen…
The singing, dancing and mesmerizing Hatsune Miku!
More classics. The top-selling manga series in Japan: One Piece and Naruto by Toei Animation.
There was also a large stage at the fair and thanks to our sponsor we got seats to enjoy a show with the most famous voice actors in Japan. I was surprised to find out that the voice of boyish character Monkey D. Luffy from the One Piece series was dubbed by Mayumi Tanaka, an almost 60 year old Japanese voice actress with hearty humour.
The voice actors were chatting in a relaxed studio atmosphere. They told us about the disadvantages of sound proof recording booths and the challenges facing co-actor’s flatulence. I was soon going to find out about the real work of Japanese voice actors in person.
So all in all I was pretty happy with what I saw but you are probably missing the typical anime cosplay, right? There was a spacious cosplay area at the fair and I lined up to get some pics for you. But frankly it was a bit empty and there were but a handful of cosplayers around.
The holographic appearance of Hatsune Miku has materialized!
Oh, and in case you hear people complaining about the complexity of the Japanese language. It’s a myth.
Finally, may I present the sponsor of the event – as clearly written on the backstage pass.
Well, truthfully the organizers were Meet The New Japan with whom we have also done a tour to Harajuku’s most kawaii places. See you there!