Tokyo International Anime Fair

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Anime Fest. The event conjures up images of thirteen year-old cosplayers with styrofoam swords and swag laden bags hypnotized by the polarity of sexpot dolls and kawaii plushies. As the Tokyo International Anime Fair approached, I thought back to previous convention giants-San Diego Comic Con, WonderCon (based in San Francisco) and the emerging NY Comic Con. I recalled swarms of people-some in elaborate costumes while others wore hand-scrawled indie t-shirts-all huddled together in wide-eyed unison. Carnivorous consumers gathered up gimmicky promos and fawned over the flirtatious hawking of vendors. Novice artists, armed with black-handled portfolios, nervously approached such creative monoliths as Dark Horse and DC Comics for an approving nod.  In essence, the U.S. comic (and anime) conventions were a seaport-esque mecca of subculture and entertainment where artists vied for the attention of a cash-pouring and adoring audience.

Optivion and I walked up the Tokyo Big Sight where the Tokyo International Anime Fair was being held. We looked up in awe at the illuminati-shaped building and excitedly went inside, anticipating hordes of cosplayers and random hybrids of Japanese kookiness like samurai robots or toilet seat hats (maybe?).  We glided along the people mover like moon-eyed characters in a Spike Jonze video until we reached the main entrance. As we rode the motorized sloth towards the festival, I noticed that in lieu of colorful kids there appeared to be more men in business suits and middle-aged families.  It was then that it hit me just how unbiquitious anime was in Japan. An anime festival isn’t a subculture event. It is the culture. Manga was just as likely to be in a salaryman’s briefcase as it was a ten-year boy’s backpack.

We entered the main room and gazed up at an inflated Pikachu and Totoro grinning down like rolly-polly zepplins. After stopping at a sadly scarce Studio Ghibli booth (just a shelf full of a few books for sale), we ran into an independent artist by the name of Sonic who silently held a sign advertising an artist collective called The Artist Army.  We oggled over his Tim Burton-esque dolls and after giving several language-impaired thumbs-ups, we shyly asked for a photo.

Look!  The sign works. We then passed by an incredible candy-colored display for the impishly cute yeoypawka.

After wandering through aisles of towering booths (one actually resembled a traditional Japanese house), we came across the glorious “Creator’s World” section full of amazing independent animators (mostly stop-action) and artists. We first happened upon the inky Steampunk illustrations of artist Takorasu.  We were then drawn to the clever work of animation duo “Woodpecker” . Their booth was adorned like a delirious hobbyists’ attic-full of miniature houses and trees. Woodpecker’s films are interestingly bizarre and strangely comical stop-action scenarios.

Woodpecker’s friendly booth neighbor, artist Michihisa Ohrui, caught our attention with his pink wall and wonderfully handcrafted props. Michihisa is one half of the fantastically fun animation duo (Hashiru Ueda is the other half), Ohrys Bird. Again, after giving a flurry of language limited thumbs-ups, Optivion and I cajoled Michihisa into a photo.

The Tokyo International Anime Fair offered very little purchasable paraphenalia for the consumer crazed and seemed devoid of scrutinizing scouts for eager new artists. It also had few ambling mascots and nary a cardboard clad cosplayer was in sight (there were very few people in costume in general save a few scantily cladded girls and the Goth-ish Hello Kitty mascot for the clothing and accessory line, Hangry & Angry-see the photo below).

It did however have an array of some of the most original and painfully stunning artwork that I have seen in a long time. To see more “Creative World” independent artists, please click on the thumbnails below.

*All photos by Optivion


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