Anime Picnic breaks stigma, pushes multiculturalism
In the spirit of Jamaica's motto, 'Out of Many, One People', Anime Nerds of Jamaica (ANJ) has continued in its thrust to stage events that focus on the fusion of Japanese and Jamaican culture.
One such event is the very popular Anime Picnic. It is an outdoor anime convention for fans of the art of animation, electronic sport gaming and Asian culture (predominantly Japanese, Korean and Chinese). ANJ will be hosting the 10th staging of Anime Picnic on August 18, promising six hours of activities, including screenings of popular anime shows, educational workshops, panel discussions, video game tournaments, and various contests for the patrons to enter.
LABOUR OF LOVE
Once considered to be niche, Anime Picnics are too "out of the ordinary" to be ignored and are widely supported, even by the Japanese Embassy in Jamaica, which always has representatives in attendance. For president Tianna Powell and members of the ANJ, it is a labour of love that began in 2015 with four persons and now has 11 active members.
"For an individual to lead a group that hosts anime events, they would need a genuine passion for that community," said the president of her role.
The diversity of the event is a key factor in attracting individuals with an interest in this genre of entertainment, as well as Asians residing in Jamaica.
"The typical Jamaican society finds our practice weird, but the ANJ and its supporters are very confident with being different. Those that attend appreciate animation, gaming and Asian culture," she explained.
Another common practice is wearing costumes representing characters from popular shows, comics or video games. This is referred to as cosplaying. Music adds to the already high-energy atmosphere, but it is usually Japanese anime-themed with game intro songs, as well as American and Korean pop, which attract dancers, like the group Jak'd.
"It is an opportunity and free space for persons to release this 'inner nerd' (which is also the event tagline)."
Powell noted that some participants usually feel ostracised for liking anime and cosplay as locally, they are not considered the norm or part of mainstream entertainment.
But the gathering is one filled with career possibilities that can be ignited from the smallest interest. "The Anime Picnic Summer Edition will help to introduce people to the possibilities in the animation industry and to offer a cultural experience that they have never seen before," said Powell.
What started out as a group of friends coming together to talk about anime has blossomed into numerous concepts, such as the water theme of last summer's picnic that also introduced the Japanese practise of Keijo (centred around the idea of a fictional women-only sport where players stand on floating platforms and aim to push their opponent into the water using only their breasts and buttocks).
"Even though it might seem strange, the idea behind it was to empower our female patrons to feel comfortable in their skin while wearing their swimsuits at our event," said Powell.
It is hoped that in the future, the ANJ will be able to afford to host seminars for self-esteem issues for patrons within the sub-society of anime lovers, in addition to large-scale conventions that will stimulate local production and where international animators and video games influencers will be invited to present.