Those with the urge to shoot zombies with Nerf guns, see crowds of people dressed up as Japanese animation characters, and learn about Japanese culture had only to go to Owens Community College for a free anime convention last weekend.
GarasuNoShiCon — Japanese for Glass City Convention — attracted nearly 1,000 people to gaming activities, panel discussions, and a costume role-play competition.
The second annual event, organized by members of Owens' Anime Convention club, Japanese club and Gamers United club, aimed to accommodate devout anime fans and attract people unfamiliar with the genre.
Anime, which refers to Japanese animation, has a distinct art style, such as characters with disproportionately large eyes and small mouths. Mainstream anime includes television shows Pokemon, Digimon, and Dragon Ball Z.
The idea for a convention at Owens began in 2008, a year before the first event in May, 2009, said, Chris Zasada, adviser for the anime club and gamer club.
He said Aaron Auzins, president of the Japanese club, asked him if he would host a joint culture event and he enthusiastically agreed. From there, the two worked to set a date with Owens' Perrysburg Township campus, promote and plan the event, and enlist others for the project.
Mr. Zasada said the first convention in 2009 was a success, drawing 500 people, because of the pair's “good luck” in finding volunteers to help out.
“The Japanese have a different idea of what's appropriate for animation,” he said. “That's what attracts fans in America.”
This year, 16 vendors paid $75 per table to sell merchandise including stuffed characters called plushies, Japanese comic books called manga, and DVDs at the event. Also, 31 artists paid $25 a table to show their creations. This revenue, as well as money from food and convention gear, covered the nearly $5,000 operation cost.
Free attendance helped boost the convention's numbers — exactly the organizer's goal, Mr. Zasada said. They competed with Ikasucon, a similar, free convention this weekend at Grand Wayne Convention Center in Fort Wayne, Ind.
Mr. Auzins said anime conventions attract a “niche audience,” and people attend to meet others with the same interests. The organizers made sure to capitalize on the social aspect of the convention by offering several interactive activities.
In the Cosplay Arena, attendees were encouraged to go on stage with costumes and props for role-play, a live-action version of video games such as the Final Fantasy series. Last year, convention organizers had to cancel another event to allow more time for this popular activity, Mr. Zasada said.
Paradox Productions ran a game at the convention called Eaten Alive, a safe-contact sport in which participants chased “zombies” down the halls and shot at them with Nerf guns.
Fans also flocked to meet their favorite anime voice actors, game developers, and musical artists, who led panels on their respective expertise, Mr. Zasada said.
The premier guest was Robert Axelrod of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers fame. Other panels offered basic Japanese language instruction and game development tutorials.
Mr. Auzins said northwest Ohio has little to accommodate anime fans, and he hopes the panels helped to spread knowledge not only about the genre but also Japanese culture in general.
The convention's success is most visible after it has ended, when fans race online to share feedback and post videos and photos, he said.
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