Anime (Japanese animation) and Manga (Japanese comics) form one of the most popular cultures among the youth of Japan. As integral parts of modern Japanese life and culture, they bring colour, cool and intrigue to the country. What you may not know, however, is that this is a feature of Japanese culture that is becoming increasingly popular here in the UK – particularly amongst young women.
In recent years, the Anime culture has been fast expanding across the globe and it is of no surprise that it has reached as far as the grips of English fans. Anime attracts everyone everywhere, of all ages in all countries, with all types of interests. From heartbreak and heroism, to horrors and the supernatural, Anime never fails to appeal.
Michael Murray, Organiser of Hyper Japan 2014, comments on the appeal of manga and anime compared to Western comics and cartoons: “With the estimated gender ratio for the global comic book market almost 1/1, it’s not surprising that a huge female readership would turn to manga over Western comics. There’s a truly massive amount of manga and anime aimed specifically at a female audience, in a way that the mainstream Western comic book market no longer offers.”
Anime offers a much wider variety of story lines to its audience compared to those in American cartoons, which are based predominantly on superheroes. Whilst superheroes are undoubtedly entertaining, anime stories focus on deeper story lines, with unusual subject matters - many of which are strange and compelling - and as a result appeal to both children and an older audience. Also, while superheroes often leave a lot of women feeling uninvolved and cold, young women say that manga and anime characters speak to them.
Michael comments,"“Shoujo” manga, such as the extremely popular “Sailor Moon”, “Fruits Basket” and “Nana” series, tell many different kinds of stories, but all of them are aimed at young women. Even series that aren’t particularly targeted at young women often have strong or well-developed female characters that they can relate to.”
Leading female heroes have never been more powerful than they are in Japanese animation. Not only are the kickass female protagonists compelling to watch, but as we watch them battle adversity, betrayal, sacrifice, jealousy and heartbreak, there is no doubt that they provide a strong role-model for young girls all over the
Michael comments, “Attack on Titan” - a series currently experiencing massive commercial success - is an example of a “Shounen” manga aimed at a young male audience that is hugely popular with both genders. Indeed, the massive popularity of series like “Attack on Titan” and “One Piece” comes in part from not alienating female readers. The same applies with Japanese anime, as these are usually based on successful manga series.”
Sabrina "Himezawa" Schultes, Cosplay Guest of Hyper Japan 2014, comments, “Apart from a cute appearance, the big eyes and well-designed animation style, anime provides more creative stories than the average evening TV programme. It offers a colorful and funny insight into a different culture, as most series are set in the present Japan. Though the animated worlds often display abstract storylines, and character stereotypes that differ a lot from the western ones, many young women can identify with them and their stories.
“There are various different types of anime, so when they look into it, girls find a genre they like more than others. The most popular one amongst young women still is romance, however, the romance theme in anime is a little bit different than its western definition, as it focuses on a completely different aspect of it: comedy. Therefore the target of a time-travelling girl’s love might be a half-demon upperclassman, to lighten up the mood.
Himezawa continues, “Though the plot may be interrupted by abstract slapstick elements, the female main characters always seem to have a characteristic, or a background, or a lifestyle that a lot of young women can identify with. They might be 'the odd one out' in their school, or have a nearly impossible goal to reach in their life, so a lot of girls can relate to it. Another type of anime genre that is popular with women is without a doubt boy’s love.
“Compared to the usual western comics and cartoons, manga and anime contain a different image of female characters. While female superheroes are quite rare to find in the west, magical girls are a well-selling part of the Japanese franchise. Connected to the female hero theme there is a female dominated community focusing on the dressing-up part of the anime and manga community, Cosplay, with more than 80% of young women having taken over the cosplay community
Himezawa concludes, “I personally am glad to be part of the cosplay community myself, as I have always been keen on crafting, sewing and knitting, which came in handy for various cosplay contests, such as the German Cosplay Championship and the European Cosplay Gathering.”
All fans of anime will come together at HYPER JAPAN this summer to celebrate and enjoy the latest and best thatJapanese Anime has to offer - with publishers such as Kodansha of popular series Fairy Tail and Attack On Titan! and Manga UK bringing DVDs and J-comics.
This year’s HYPER JAPAN is also set to host the UK preliminaries for the European Cosplay Gathering (ECG)contest - an exciting contest that brings cosplayers from all over Europe together to showcase their experience and talent on stage.
In addition to this, HYPER JAPAN’s COSParade is once again returning to this year’s stage! This is a chance for experienced and beginner cosplayers to strut the stage and show off their costumes – with prizes available for the best costumes.
With enough exhibitors and events lined up to satisfy even the most ardent of enthusiasts, giving fans the chance to get their hands on genuine character merchandise and hard to find items. Expect a huge selection of books, figures and other goods featuring your favourite characters.
Friday 25 – 27 July 2014
Earls Court, London