In Japan, people of all ages read manga. The medium includes works in a broad range of genres: action-adventure, romance, sports and games, historical drama, comedy, science fiction and fantasy, mystery, horror, sexuality and business/commerce, among others.
Since the 1950s, manga has steadily become a major part of the Japanese publishing industry and has also gained a significant worldwide audience, especially in the U.S., where animated manga, or anime, has become increasingly popular. As the market for anime increased in Japan, it also gained popularity in East and Southeast Asia. Anime, like manga, has garnered recognition throughout the world. For nearly two decades, Japanese culture fans have gathered in late summer at the Baltimore Convention Center for Otakon, one of the longest-running anime conventions in the United States. The three-day festival celebrates the Asian pop culture that features everything from Astroboy to Yu-Gi-Oh, from the Seven Samurai to Spirited Away.
“Otakon originated in Pennsylvania and moved to the Baltimore Convention Center in 1999 and has been there ever since,” explained Victor Albisharat, head of press and publicity at Otakorp. Otakon is run by the Pennsylvania-based nonprofit organization Otakorp Inc., whose focus is on using East Asian popular culture as a gateway to increased understanding of the region’s culture.
“People of different backgrounds attend Otakon,” said Albisharat. “It’s more of an educational thing about Asian culture. As you can see, the anime community did explode rapidly in 2003–2005 in the general mainstream community as well as the overall recognition process — even ‘Saturday Night Live’ has skits about it. With Otakon, you have a specific focus on the Asian culture.”
Otakon 2012 will be held July 27–29 at the Baltimore Convention Center. For more information and the latest news on Otakon 2012, visit www.otakon.com.