Japan Expo 2012
Day One

by Rebecca Silverman,
The halls are packed with a variety of people cosplaying characters from different anime, manga, and American comics, wearing their street clothes, or a strange combination of the two, such as the girl in traditional Afghani clothes with cat ears affixed to her niquab. In the morning it is relatively easy to move around, but by two o'clock the enormous exhibition hall is packed. On this first day, the increase in cosplayers does not bring an increase in creativity - Luffy and Hatsune Miku are everywhere you look, followed by Mami from Puella Magi Madoka Magica. Goth loli in both sweet and elegant forms glide through the crowd, some of them male, and The Joker's crazed smile is painted in a variety of faces.

There are a number of differences from an American con that are immediately noticeable. A major one is the lack of concern over being sued. At least four booths are selling bladed weapons so that aspiring fans can own the zanpakuto of their dreams and people are walking away with weapons in hand. They are in brown paper boxes of course, but torn boxes make up the majority of the con's trash. In the same vein, there are a number of martial arts oarticipation arenas - kendo, archery, iado, naginata, and sumo-suit combat. Needless to say, in a more litigious country, the sight of a girl in full goth loli regalia or a maid costume fighting would stay on the game console.

A sweep of the industry booths shows that manga clearly outnumbers anime, with no fewer than six different manga companies set up with an impressive variety of titles. Taifu only sells hentai, yaoi, and yuri. Anime still shows a wider variety of titles than we see stateside, most noticably in terms of both shoujo and older shows. Princess Jellyfish, it is fun to note, is marketed as "The Big Bang Theory with a shoujo sauce." Manga booths also show greater ingenuity of design, with Kaze boasting a Toriko punching game, a Kuroko no Basket hoop, and a shoujo cafe. Kana's booth is marked by a giant inflatable Naruto and Glenat has gone all out for their top title, One Piece.

Another major difference here is the impressive handicrafts section, which showcases traditional artists like Itoh Himura, a stencil artist. Through his French translator he told me that he uses natural inks and favors traditional designs and techniques. He has published two books of his exquisitely detailed and delicate artwork and had some originals on display. Yukiko Matsumoto also had an impressive booth of her cloth creations, including a confection of a dragonfly netting hat, which she let me try on. Her work is embroidery based and full of charm and detail.

I wrapped up my free time with a look at the two official art exhibits, one showcasing the work of Naoki Urasawa, and the other a "hall of fame" displaying many different artists but dedicated to Shinji Araki. Also honored was the French artist behind the cartoon Inspector Gadget, who passed away this year.

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