Japan comes to Coralville

BY ISAAC HERMAN | JULY 24, 2014 5:00 AM

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There are few art forms that inspire more devotion from their fans than anime. This entire weekend, local fans will get a chance to demonstrate that devotion at AnimeIowa, the annual anime convention held 8 a.m. Friday through 7 p.m. July 27 at the Coralville Marriott, 300 E. Ninth St.

Anime specifically refers to animated TV shows and movies produced in Japan; however, it has come to represent a number of aspects in Japanese culture, including manga (Japanese comics), video games, and Japanese paintings.

The most beloved practice is called cosplay, shorthand for costumed play. Attendees are encouraged to construct elaborate costumes representing their favorite characters from anime and show them off the convention floor.

“The most popular cosplay costumes change every year, depending on the most popular anime at the time,” said Alyssa Kritz, a convention executive for AnimeIowa. “Recent hits include character from the cartoons ‘Sailor Moon, Attack on Titan,’ and ‘Kill la Kill.’ ”

Attendees often do group cosplay as well, in which they contact friends or other convention attendees to dress up as a team of characters. The most common way to coordinate this is through the vibrant message-board community located on AnimeIowa’s website.

“This year, I recruited a couple people online to help me and my friends out with our group cosplay,” said frequent attendee Cade Bade, via the forum message board. “We’re dressing up as the original Dragon Ball Z lineup.”

The convention offers costume contests that give fans the chance to demonstrate their hard work. Cosplayers are judged according to costume accuracy and detail, as well as poise and presentation when showing off their creations.

There are also experience levels for the cosplay contests, with competitions separated into the novice, experienced, and master categories. In order to be judged in the master category, entrants will have to prove that they have won cosplay awards in the past.

“I can’t think of a specific quality or reason that people are so drawn to anime and showing themselves as fans in this way,” Kritz said. “The Japanese have a wide variety of creativity, and it becomes a form of art the world falls in love with.”

This is none more evident than on the AnimeIowa message board, which divides itself into categories ranging from carpool plans to the trading of costumed weaponry.

“Sure, the forum is great with planning everything, but I like it because you can just talk anime with people who know what they’re talking about,” said Merle Jahn, who has attended AnimeIowa the past two years. “Plus, there are people selling and trading a lot of cool stuff on there.”

The overall focus of the convention is on Japanese culture in general, not just the cartoons and comics. Different Japanese customs also pervade the convention floor.

“One of our staff members runs a traditional Japanese tea ceremony. Others run a Maid Café, something only found in Japan,” Kritz said. “It entails a slew of people dressed as butlers and maids serving snacks and drinks to their customers.”

The convention aims to greet approximately 3,000 attendees this year, making it the largest anime convention in Iowa.

“I couldn’t be more excited,” Jahn said. “I just want to show off this new sword I got for this year. It’s going to be sweet.”

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