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Anime Iowa conventions invites thousands

BY MEREDITH CULLEN | JULY 25, 2013 5:00 AM

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With channels full of cartoons, many kids might find themselves drawn to Japanese animated shows such as “Pokémon” and “Dragonball Z” because they seem different from the rest. This form of animation is called animé — which has a print counterpart, manga — and it has become a phenomenon in the West as well as on its home island.

To cater to the fans of the Japanese cartoon, many areas of the United States have formed gatherings similar to Animé Iowa, which will hold its annual convention at the Coralville Marriot, 300 E. Ninth St., Friday through July 28 in order to bring fans and animé newcomers together to celebrate and discuss the spectacle that is animé.

“Although we are just an average-size convention, you would be surprised at the people from this part of the Midwest who come out to take part in Animé Iowa,” said convention executive Pat McCauley. “We started in 1997 with barely 400 people, and now, we see numbers over 3,000 come in to take part.”

Those attending the event will have the chance to have open discussions with cartoon actors and producers about many topics in animé culture, try their luck in various Japanese video game competitions, and dress up as their favorite characters. With the various activities Animé Iowa offers, McCauley said, he believes that the convention has something to offer to everyone.

“Being located in a hotel, we see a lot of people who aren’t necessarily part of the convention, but they come by and check us out,” he said. “Although we might not convert them right on the spot, it is fun to see that their interest is definitely there.”

Not only does the event attract various types of people, it also sees a large age range. The group Mindbridge is in charge of organizing not only Animé Iowa but other video game and science-fiction conventions across the state.

Mindbridge executive Andy Wheeler says the varying age groups make planning for Animé Iowa more challenging than the rest.

“A good majority of the Animé Iowa crowd are young teenagers rather than adults at the other conventions,” he said. “Making sure there is something for all age groups is important, and I think the positive response we get at the end of the convention tells us that we have accomplished our goal.”

Just as Animé Iowa has seen large growth in interest in the genre, some students at the University of Iowa have also helped raise animé awareness around campus. Iowa’s Animé and Manga Club has grown immensely in the recent past because of the increased search for — as last year’s President Sydney Nyman puts it — the cartoon nerds around Iowa City.

“This group gave us a place to call our own,” Nyman said. “Many of us didn’t have much luck in other types of social groups around campus, so this was a place we could be ourselves together.”

Since its start in 1997, Animé Iowa has been located in several different parts of the state until recently, when it found a more permanent residency in eastern Iowa. Just like Animé Iowa, there are several different conventions that celebrate Japanese culture in the Midwest.

Nyman said that because there are many conventions occurring in a centralized area throughout the year, members of the UI Animé and Manga Club have several opportunities to partake in the culture.

“Conventions are a godsend for people who might have trouble getting to know people,” Nyman said. “Having an event where people can get together for the same cause is quite refreshing for animé lovers.”

For more information about the Animé Iowa convention, you can visit animeiowa.com. The site has a full list of events, vendors, and registration information.


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