This is a site that was built for two reasons, or perhaps I should say two categories of people:

·   One, for those of you who have children insisting on spending their allowance on Japanese comic books and odd merchandise and who go to events dressed up as the opposite gender - and you have no clue why, or perhaps even dislike it.

·   Two, for those adults who simply aren't interested in anime and manga because you think it's kiddie material.


To begin with, why am I doing this - and who am I? 

I am an anime and manga lover, well on the dark side of 25, who during my stays at various anime and cosplay forums have encountered many people (mainly teenagers) complaining bitterly over the lack of understanding from their parents. Some are sad that their parents won’t let them go to conventions (or cons) because they deem it not safe, some simply want to make their parents understand and perhaps share their interest, others again simply want a few pointers and tips from an adult enthusiast.

I have also noted with sadness that in many parts of the world, anime and manga are viewed as children's entertainment and is therefore not taken seriously. This unfortunately casts a bad light over us adult enthusiasts, labelling us as childish “nerds” or “losers”, and makes the few of us who have taken this hobby to heart a rather lonely bunch. I am hoping to help reverse these situations by giving an explanation of what anime and manga really is.

I have been an anime/manga enthusiast for many years; I have also worked extensively with conventions (as well as attended as a guest) and have been a cosplayer for a good six-seven years. In other words, I’m quite familiar with the culture and have some long-time, first-hand experience with all of the above.

The purpose of this site is to give some background information on anime and manga, to answer any questions that worried or puzzled parents might have, and hopefully, to spark some interest for this particular hobby in adult readers. I hope you will find the contents of some interest.

If you have any questions, or if there is anything you feel this site doesn’t touch upon, please feel free to contact me - there is a contact form at the bottom of this page.

 The history of manga/anime 

First, I will give you a brief run-through of what anime and manga really is, and why I personally find it so appealing.

Manga quite literally means “whimsical pictures”. The word was first used around the late 18th century- early 19th century, though no one can say for sure how far back the tradition actually goes – some say it began already in the 6th and 7th centuries, when monks would decorate their calendar scrolls with animals acting like humans. The pictures evolved into little stories, and so the tradition of the cartoon began.

The word “manga”, however, wasn't coined until around the 18th century, by a slightly rebellious artist named Hokusai. He was famous for talking back to his teachers and for letting himself be inspired by other, foreign artists such as the Dutch and the French. He quickly developed his own style, and the term “manga” became a way in which he described how his brush would move randomly over the page.

Later, in the early 19th century, Japan was wide open to foreign influences. One of the Western phenomena that quickly gained ground was the cartoon. At first, it was used for many purposes; political, humoristic, propaganda, but also humour and satire. After WW2, however, censorship became very strong and the trend almost died out again. One man, however, named Osamu Tezuka, didn’t give up. Heavily influenced by Western cartoons – mostly animation – he started drawing on his own, imitating at first but later developing his own style. He was the first to publish a novel-length (about 200 pages) graphic story, New Treasure Island. The story quickly gained popularity, partly due to the, at the time, unique way of mixing techniques used only in animation/cinema and the exaggeration that was so typical for Western comics, he created a whole new style and is said to be the father of both the modern manga as well as the anime. Tezuka also drew many kinds of stories, laying the foundation for the diversity that manga is known for today. 

One of the major differences between manga and other comics is the more realistic timeline. More often than not, the reader gets to watch the main characters grow up, perhaps even grow old, which is not the case in Western comics where characters mysteriously always stay the same age (take Huey, Dewey and Louie as a good example). Another difference is that manga is, generally, more versatile than comics. In Japan, everyone reads manga. Business men, housewives, children, elderly people... usually, there are manga categories for each category of people; in other words, almost anyone can find something they like and can identify with. In fact, if you are lucky and talented, you can live off being a manga artist. Rumiko Takahasi, the artist of Ranma 1/2 and InuYasha, for instance, is currently one of the richest women in Japan and one of the wealthiest female comic artists ever. On top of that, the seiyuu, or voice actors who put voices to anime characters, are often idolized and have large fan followings, just like movie actors. Manga and anime is, in other words, a huge industry in Japan.
The trend has also spread to, for instance, the United States, where it’s not uncommon to find anime enthusiasts way into their 30s or 40s. Unfortunately, many countries have marketed anime and manga for young children and teenagers only, and like everything that gets tagged with a “childish status”, it doesn’t appeal to adults because they assume it’s not for them. Nothing could be more wrong – many animes/mangas deal with highly mature topics; with marriage, racism, violence, religion, love, morality… Many series published in English today, though, do have elements of fantasy or science fiction in them, so a smaller suspension of belief might still be necessary. 

For me personally, the appeal of anime and manga is the beautiful artwork. Perhaps it's true that a picture says more than a thousand words, but a good storyline with beautiful artwork and loveable characters says even more to me. It is a bit like reading my favourite books, only with fantastic illustrations.
I am also rather partial to the more realistic portrayals of people in anime. If you listen (eyes closed) to a Western cartoon, you can always hear who is the "good guy" and who is the "bad guy" - the bad guys sound sleazy, calculating and cruel, while the heroes sound powerful and compassionate - but life isn't like that. "Bad" people don't necessarily speak any differently from “good” people, and they usually look quite normal as well (not with tentacles, horns or tusks like is the custom in Western cartoons) - they're just people. In anime/manga, they are more often than not portrayed as neither good nor bad; merely as someone acting a certain way during the given circumstances, like a real life person would.
Anime and manga are also more realistic in the sense that the endings are not always happy, just like real life. Compare this to Disney who, almost to a fault, changes the endings of popular tales (The Little Mermaid, The Hunchback of Notre Dame) to one where the hero gets the heroine and live happily ever after. While very sweet and with the best of intentions, life isn’t like that. I firmly believe that sometimes, we need to feel grief, we need to cry or be angry, disappointed and frustrated. No one is happy all the time, and I like my hobbies to respect and reflect that. Like I have said before, this is definitely not just something for small children - anyone appreciating a good story and nice artwork can join in.


For the parents

Now that I have gone through what manga and anime is, I'd like to spend a few minutes on those parents who are worried about their children's interest; who don’t understand it or who even dislike it. I've heard from many a teenager who wanted tips on how to be allowed to go to conventions, to cosplay (dress up as an anime character) or even crossplay (dress up as the opposite gender) but whose parents won't allow it because they are scared of the safety of their child or feel uncomfortable letting her/him leave the house dressed up.

 To those of you who feel that you can identify with this: While I do have respect for your feelings that conventions full of cosplaying people come off as a bit intimidating and weird, it is really nothing more than a bunch of very normal, nice people getting together to have fun. Think of it as a costume party. I have worked several cons; both as arranger, stage manager and security staff, so I know from first-hand experience that all anime conventions are 100 % drug- and alcohol free, and the security level is usually very high, often more so than at a concert or any other party. There is absolutely no reason to think anything bad will befall your child simply because they go to a convention full of dressed-up people, no more than joining the local acting group would be hazardous. Each parent has his/her own policies for outings and parties, of course, but there is no reason to be more hesitant about an anime convention than about anything else.

Another hot topic I’ve come across is the issue of crossplaying – dressing up as a character of the opposite sex. Many parents worry about it because they fear it might carry some sexual implications – but nothing could be further from the truth. I personally prefer crossplaying simply because it’s fun to play with gender roles and the male characters are more interesting to me. There is nothing sexual to it what so ever and is not an indication of sexual preferences or transsexuality at all - it has to do with appreciating a character and wanting to show other people that appreciation, nothing more. A guy who dresses up as a female anime character is no more homo/transsexual than a woman wearing pants to work. I am aware that society is generally geared towards thinking that masculinity = good and femininity = bad, but if you happen to have a son who wants to crossplay, you should be proud that he’s a man with respect for women, rather than someone who seems them as the inferior sex.


Closing words 

In closing, I would like to address something else – we’re not geeks. We are no more geek-y than people who are interested in movies, or in animals, or in reading books. We’re creative. A cosplayer is like an actor, but being the prop department, the stylist department and the costume department at the same time. One parent once made the comment to his daughter saying she wasn’t allowed to go to conventions because they were full of “losers with no life”. While being one of the more nasty comments I’ve heard, I want to point out that I have met very few geeks at conventions. Most people I have met are perfectly normal, sweet kids with who do great in school, mind their chores and have lots of really good friends. As for myself, I am happily married, working a full-time job and have many close friends – I just happen to have an interest that they don’t know very much about. As long as this interest – or any other – doesn’t take over my entire life, it’s really just an interest like many others. Don’t judge it because you don’t understand it. If you have children, try asking them to explain it to you, and perhaps you can watch some shows together, or read a manga volume or two. Don’t forget, you’re living with an expert, who will be very happy to realise that you’re interested.  ;)


Dictionary for the anime-impaired

For those parents who want to know what your kids are talking about… I do expect to update this list; please feel free to send me inquiries or suggestions.

·          Anime – animated movie. In Japan, this term refers to all animated movies, but in the West it has come to mean “Japanese animation”.

·          Convention – a gathering, usually over  three days, where fans gather to meet, buy merchandise, watch movies, dress up and have fun together.

·          Cosplaying – a derivate from “Costume Play”; means dressing up as characters from anime/manga/computer games/films or rock bands, for instance.

·          Crossplaying: cosplaying as someone of the opposite gender.

·          EGL – Elegant Gothic Lolita. Having nothing to do with portraying oneself as young and sexy; it is instead a fashion style mixing gothic and babydoll styles, extending to for instance Victorian fashion.

·          J-rock – Japanese rock music. Sometimes, the term is also used to refer to the specific style adopted by the musicians. Many people enjoy dressing up as their favourite band member.

·          Manga: Japanese comics.

·          Mangaka (or manga-ka) – comic artist.

·          Props: Accessories for a costume, such as fake weapons, jewellery and other items belonging to a costume and that can't be sewn. Many cosplayers make their own props.

·          Seiyuu: Anime voice actor

·          Skit: a small play or performance, usually performed during cosplay competitions.


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