St. George anime convention this weekend; wait, what’s anime?

Two anime cosplayers (customers) at the convention registration table during Fannatiku Fest 2011 | Photo by Sarah Hall, courtesy of the Anime Fannatiku club, St. George News

ST. GEORGEFannatiku Fest, the tongue-twistingly named two-day convention that celebrates the subculture of Japanese animation, returns to St. George for a sixth year.

Like the cultural phenomena spun around franchises like Star Trek, Star Wars, Dr. Who, and others which have gained monumental followings across the globe and spawned a plethora of conventions, anime – the animated export of Japan – has done the same.

One of the largest anime conventions in America, Anime Expo, is hosted in Los Angeles, drew an estimated 47,000 attendees in 2011, and has been running annually since 1992. Similar conventions, both large and small, have popped up across the United States in the last twenty years. Southern Utah has been one exception.

Fannatiku Fest came on the scene in 2007 and drew 200 attendees. Since then, what started as a half-day event has evolved into a full two-day convention that has attracted over 400 people annually since 2010.

The convention

“The [convention] is here so people can meet others who share the same interest,” said convention cofounder Natalie Daniel.

Sarah Hall (left) and Natalie Daniel (right), the co-founders of Fannatiku Fest, judging the masquerade competition during Fannatiku Fest 2010. | Photo by Dacey Harvey, courtesy of the Anime Fannatiku club, St. George News.

Activities at the convention will be familiar for seasoned attendees, and will include:

  • An artist workshop hosted by professional comic book artist Chad Hardin
  • Workshops on costuming with convention guest Anti Ai-chan, a semi-professional costumer.
  • A formal cosplay (costume) ball
  • A masquerade
  • Artist Alley
  • Anime screenings
  • Gaming room
  • Dealers’ room
  • Anime-music video competition – homemade music videos featuring footages from various animes.
  • Fan art contest
  • Magic: The Gathering tournament
  • Synth-rock band Jupiter will be returning as the convention’s musical guest
  • Rufus’ Vocaloid Café

Daniel billed the Vocaloid Café as one of the convention’s main events this year. Individuals will dress and act the parts of famous android singing sensations while serving guests treats in a themed café setting.

Fannatiku Fest 2012 will take place on Friday and Saturday, March 2 and 3, at The Lexington Hotel 850 South Bluff Street in Saint George. The convention opens at 8 a.m. on Friday, and ends at 11:30 p.m. on Saturday.

Passes at the door for both days will be $30; Friday only is $15 and Saturday only is $20. Children between 8 and 12 years old are $5 on Friday and $10 on Saturday. Children under 7 years old and younger get in for free.

What is the appeal of anime?

Like the fans of Star Trek and other well-loved franchises, some anime fans attending Fannatiku Fest 2012 will be dressed in costumes that emulate their favorite characters. Instead of Starfleet uniforms and ridged foreheads however, anime costumers – also called cosplayers – will tend to sport bright and exaggerated garb that is hard to miss.

Such displays may lead people unfamiliar with anime fandom to wonder – just who are these people and what planet are they from? They may hear the term “anime” or “manga” thrown around in explanation, and yet remain in a state of bewilderment.

So, just what is this anime that laid the foundation for Fannatiku Fest?

“[Anime] is a Japanese-condensed word for animation,” said Sarah Hall, another convention cofounder.

More specifically, anime – pronounced A-nee-MAY – is a catch all term that refers to animation of Japanese origin and the myriad art styles it promotes. Manga – pronounced mahn-ga – is the Japanese version of comic books and graphic novels, and it often synonymous with anime.

Early examples of anime that American audiences may be familiar with include the original Speed Racer and Astro Boy that aired in the 1960s and ‘70s, or later titles like Robotech and Voltron from the ‘80s. Back then anime was referred to as Japanimation by its devoted, yet scattered fans.

The popularity of anime jumped during the 1990s as titles like Sailor Moon, Pokemon, Yugi-Oh and Dragon Ball came to American shores.

Spirited Away won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature ins 2002. | Photo courtesy of Disney/Studio Ghibli, St. George News

Disney even dipped into the anime-market, becoming the American distributor of movies produced by Studio Ghibli, a well-known and respected Japanese animation studio. Ghibli films, such as Spirited Away, won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature in 2002. Another Ghibli film, Howl’s Moving Castle, was nominated for the same award in 2005, but was beat out by Wallace and Gromit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit.

“There is something for every age-group,” Daniel said.

Anime, evidently, is just as diverse as any medium of entertainment. Moreover, fans of anime and manga say the stories crafted by the Japanese are much more intricate and appealing than those produced by their American counterparts.

“Anime tends to treat the audience like it has a brain,” Daniel said, adding that currently American-animated offerings were overly-simplistic by comparison.

For anyone interested in learning more about anime and manga, Daniel and Hall encourage them to visit the Anime Fannatiku Facebook page and learn about the local club the convention grew out of. The club meets at the Hurricane, Washington, and St. George branches of the Washington County Library once a month.

Related links:

  • Anime SG – an anime convention held in the fall in St. George
  • OkamiCon – Mesquite-based anime convention
  • Disney’s Studio Ghibli webpage
  • Anime News Network – detailed information on what anime is and the culture that surrounds it, plus the latest in anime and manga-related news.
  • – one of the largest American-based distributors of anime. It is a good place for parents to go and take a look at some of the anime their children may be watching.

[email protected]

twitter: @MoriKessler

Copyright 2012 St. George News

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