Japan Expo 2012
by Rebecca Silverman,
Today I skulked around the vendor and French industry booths, checking out what was for sale. Seinen manga is clearly a big seller with a focus on violent rather than sexy titles. Every booth is pedaling somehting that relied more on blood than boobs, and in most cases the purchase of three books will get you some impressive swag. Publishers Ki-oon and Glenat both offer enormous bags and buying from Tonkam netted me a Medaka Box water bottle, four assorted shoujo tissue packets, a wall hanging, and a beautiful Rosario+Vampire lithograph, while Panini put my purchases in a resusable Vampire Knight bag, something Kaze also does, although theirs is Dawn of the Arcana. Taifu has a three for two deal on their older titles and also provides a choice of large posters. Publisher Casterman, who prints Future Diary and Skip Beat, is really pushing Thermae Roma. People can put on a toga and have their picture taken in front of a huge banner of a Roman statue holding Japanese bath implements, and clerks walk around in aprons bearing images of The David from neck to knees. Needless to say, these look a little odd on the females, particularly when they put con buttons over the nipples.
Glenat's biggest seller is clearly One Piece. They have two separate shops for it, as well as their main manga store and a display case of goods available. One store is just for One Piece manga, artbooks, and guidebooks, while the other focuses on goods. They have an impressive variety of Luffy hats, T-shirts, and figures, as well as inflatable giant meat such as Luffy munches on in the manga. The case showcasing import items includes a gold PS3 bearing Luffy's likeness with matching controller and more statues and figures than you can shake the proverbial stick at. The strangest by far are those of the Straw Hats as different animals, including Chopper. Isn't Chopper already an animal? Did I miss something?
Maintaining a smaller presence is an official booth from TMS Entertainment, centered on Brave 10 and Lupin the Third. The Lupin section has a number of figures, a man cosplaying Lupin, three video screens showing scenes from all three TV series, a quiz, and a life-size standee of a very naked Fujiko. Brave 10's half also has figures and three young men cosplaying against a backdrop of a castle and a dressmaker's model wearing Isanami's clothes. Somewhat ironically, this is located across from Taifu Manga's yaoi section. Nearby an official booth is screening the first episode of A Certain Magical Index on endless repeat. On the French side, original French comic City Hall has an impressive steampunk booth, complete with steaming machinery and elegant men and women lounging about. Facebook game Unlight has a couch set up where fans can get their pictures taken with two Japanese women in goth loli, with their outfits changing daily. Enormously popular game, cartoon, and comic Wakfu (Dofus) has two huge booths with big screens, large statues, and a crowd you can barely breathe in.
With these increasing crowds does come more cosplay variety, and Natsu from Fairy Tail, Alice from Pandora Hearts, and Alice in Wonderland showing up with more frequency. Yuna from FFX is also quite a popular choice, and so, strangely enough, is Little Red Riding Hood. But if traditional clothing is more your line, many booths are selling kimono, yukata, and haori, with one ennterprising group simply charging three euros to try on a yukata and ten for a kimono.
On today's cultural front are several armor demonstrations. In the morning, you can learn to put on samourai armor, which is apparently quite hot according to the model, and in the afternoon an armorsmith painstakingly details the process of crafting armor. This is significantly less fascinating to the untutored eye, as most of his commentary is, "And now I will gently tap on this side." If you would rather actually fight, however, there are aikido and ninjutsu classes on offer (with a girl in a maid costume participating in the latter), as well as a karate/hip hop fusion class.
Wrapping up today's generalities is a look at some more traditional crafts, this time quilts and dolls. Both are impressive, albeit a bit creepy on the doll front. And, now that I think of it, the owl quilt juxtaposed next to the dolls reminds me of The Woman Called Fujiko Mine, and not in a good way...
In the evening, Naruto theme singers Flow give a concert to a small but enthusiastic crowd. In their trademarked seizure-inducing black and white shirts, the two singers fling themselves about the stage, barely breaking between songs and maintaining a high energy and pointing their index fingers with wild abandon. One could wish that the crowd were bigger, because while their style is slightly generic hard jpop, their showmanship is great and their enthusiasm very contagious.