AnimeBoston: A Walk on the Kawaii Side
Within an instant, everything you thought you knew about Boston is wiped away as you witness a man dressed as a large robot stage-fight another man decked out in an elf costume with a glowing laser sword as hundreds cheer from the sidelines. The madness you see is part of an event known as AnimeBoston, and things can only get crazier from here. Founded in the spring of 2004, AnimeBoston is an annual three-day convention that has become New England’s largest anime convention. Unlike other conventions, AnimeBoston has a higher interest in the field of anime than other cons, so the convention is more oriented towards the appreciation of the Japanese animation that has found its way into the Western world.
Historically speaking, AnimeBoston finds its roots in the field of Japanese animation, more closely known as “anime.” Anime has been around since the 1930’s, and was often made for those fighting in wars. The pure silliness of the cartoons could bring a smile to the face of those soldiers in the foxholes, like the Japanese equivalent to Looney Tunes. Anime was produced as non-linear animated segments, but soon developed re-appearing characters that made their way to television. One of the first Anime series to appear in America was Mobile Suit Gundam in 1979, which featured fighting robots and bombastic action. This would later be followed by many other US releases, such as Dragonball (1988) and Sailor Moon (1992). Soon, Japan started noting US customs and returned to them with cartoon versions of things Americans enjoyed. One of these obsessions was Pokémon, a popular Nintendo game and trading card series produced in 1995 that swept America. Sensing the rise in popularity, Japanese animation studio Team Ota created an international anime version of the game in 1997, which followed the show’s hero Ash through the world of Pokémon. It received critical acclaim, and led to an international broadcast trade between America and Japan. Now, Americans can view anime from Japan (with subtitles to translate) at any given time, and the breadth of this entertainment medium has climbed tremendously. That’s when the idea for AnimeBoston was conceived in 2003. The convention’s chairperson changed hands a few times throughout the years, but the most recent leader of the convention is Andrea Finnin. Finnin has accepted the traditions of the past conventions while incorporating variations and new events into the jam-packed event. “It’s become apparent that the guests are the biggest draw-in, so along with our traditional speakers, we have included different guests of all sorts of expertise,” Finnin says. Now, the convention holds sneak previews, games, costume contests, karaoke, authentic Japanese food, art shows, and special surprises throughout the con. Fans from all over New England, the state, and often the globe travel here for the three days of anime.
Upon entering, the convention is already shaking with sheer volume. Everyone is talking: complimenting outfits, haggling prices to artwork, or recounting a scene from their favorite show. “It gets loud in there,” Finnin laughs. “But it’s a good loud.” Inside many of the panel rooms, you will find unique panels for artists, musicians, actors/actresses, filmmakers, and sometimes chefs. Each panel has a walk-in/walk-out dynamic that allows you to frequently buzz about the convention and do most everything the con has to offer. Within minutes, a barrage of new events comes around to keep the convention’s patrons on their feet. The whole experience can be summed up in one word: exciting. Simply “don’t blink” action emerges from every quadrant of the room, filling the place with wonder and cheer.
Hopefully now that display with the robot and elf makes a little bit more sense.