Friday, November 21, 2003

Anime convention may draw 1,000 to N.Ky.

By Rebecca Goodman
The Cincinnati Enquirer

COVINGTON - Think of it as Speed Racer's revenge.

Children of the 1960s might remember the boy race car driver in the Adventures of Speed Racer as well as the mysterious Racer X - not for the cartoon's drama and plot, but for the characters' huge eyes and how they barely moved their lips when they spoke.

The Cincinnati Premier Anime Convention begins today at the Northern Kentucky Convention Center, 1 W. Rivercenter Blvd., Covington.
Hours: Noon-midnight today; 8 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday; 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday.
Cost: One-day pass $30; three-day pass $45.
Attendees must register. For registration information, call Cincinnati Marriott at RiverCenter, (859) 261-2900.
Learn more about anime at Web site.
Unlike Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck, Speed Racer was a Japanese import. At the time, the animation was widely dismissed as inferior.

But now this style of Japanese cartooning - known as anime - is at the center of a growing pop culture movement that could draw as many as 1,000 people to the Northern Kentucky Convention Center this weekend.

"We'll get some of the younger kids," said Andrew Popp, a 29-year-old Fairfield resident and one of the event organizers. "We'll have people in their 40s and 50s showing up. The main age group is somewhere around the teenage group and college-age area."

After Speed Racer, anime developed an underground following in the United States. It was hard to come by and usually of poor quality. But as the genre grew in popularity, the Japanese became adept at marketing it here. About a dozen years ago, fans of anime began to convene.

Recall the Pokemon craze? That's an example of anime. Japanese cartoons usually morph from comic books - called manga in Japanese. From there, they become cards used for playing, collecting and trading - as well as action figures and other marketable products.

Pokemon cards gave way to Digimon, then to the current craze - Yu-Gi-Oh. But anime-mania is not just for the playground set. Teens and young adults follow the story lines, participate in card games (called duels), and dress up as their favorite outlandish characters.

Anime also can be dark, sophisticated and erotic.

The conventions swirl with activities - from panel discussions of anime sagas, to dealers doing a brisk business in anime memorabilia.

This weekend, there will be a video room showing anime all day - including cartoons not yet released. Fans can meet anime artists and voice actors - and attend drawing workshops.

Saturday's masquerade should be one of the more popular events. People costumed as their favorite anime characters will get on stage and do skits from the stories.

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