I peeked around the corner of the street and there they were. Hundreds of odd looking anime characters. Some presumably schoolgirls, and others, disturbingly ugly creatures that you’d think would haunt you in your nightmares during the depths of the night.
As a complete outsider to the Japanese culture (19 and I just had my first successful attempt at sushi) and having barely any anime knowledge, I walked into the eighth largest anime convention in North America, wearing what is my failed attempt to cosplay Lulu Bell from D. Gray Man. Who is Lulu? Don’t ask me, because I went with the idea after simply Googling “easy cosplay ideas” and there she was.
This event from April 7- April 9 at the George R. Brown Convention Center covered three floors of everything from cosplay, music, fashion, anime, to art and collectibles. It was overwhelming to say the least but I took it one event at a time. I asked my way around to reach the will-call booth. If getting my pass was this much of a struggle, I had no idea what I’d do the remainder of the day.
Admiring the intricate costumes made my wandering experience a little more enjoyable. Multiple Pikachu’s, clichéd schoolgirls and a random Spider-man later, I found my way to the main Exhibition arena. To simplify what I saw, it looked like the shopping concourse at the Houston Rodeo, except with all anime and Japanese collectibles. From Samurai swords and a J-fashion center, to stuffed Pokémon characters and action figures, they had it all. It was pretty fun walking around to see all of it.
Aside from live concerts and exhibit halls, Anime Matsuri is known for its grand Japanese fashion show – typically on Friday evenings – as it’s the first anime convention to host a large-scale Japanese fashion show outside of Japan. The fashion show is always known to start exceptionally late, so I got myself situated in a seat during the wait, but it was worth it. The clothes were absolutely unique and gorgeous.
Chairman Deneice Lee, who I had spoke to before, invited me to moderate the Japanese fashion panel with some of the most renowned J-fashion designers in Japan. Most of them needed a translator as they didn’t know English too well. Hearing their stories of what inspired them was heartwarming. It shows that no matter where we are from and what language we speak, passion and drive to pursue dreams remains a universal idea. Afterwards, I was given a tour of the designers’ Lolita fashion collections. In every direction, there were dresses adorned with ruffles, puffy sleeves, and pictures of cupcakes or cats, while bonnets, patterned stockings and hair bows were used to complete the look. It was all so interesting to me. Seemed as if the anime world had come to life, but I learned that these “coordinates,” as they call outfits, are casual and party-wear in Japan. The only store in the Greater Houston area where you can find J-fashion, is Deneice’s store, Shop in Wonderland.
The modified car show was stunning too. Just when I thought sports cars couldn’t possibly look cooler, adding pictures of anime characters and spunky background designs across the exterior was the perfect touch. Lustrous shades of purple and tree branches on one car, and the cast of an anime show on another, it’s nothing like what I’ve seen before.
Not only have we been checking out Japanese trends to bring to the States, but the same goes for Japan. I realized that Japanese companies have been incorporating themes from comic books and Marvel movies to come up with new anime movies such as Ghost in the Shell, that attract millennials globally.
Deneice brought in the hottest voice talents, anime creators and producers, Japanese musicians and fashion designers from the other hemisphere. This includes legendary Masami Suda, a character designer and chief animator of countless prominent anime shows. Even Japanese media hopped on the plane just to cover the event. With everything from K-Pop dance battles and 3-D printer workshops to a night club and Hentaifest, admittedly, there is something for everyone here. I can vouch for Anime Matsuri to pleasantly surprise you.