Share This Page

Anime interests expand beyond teen set

It's common knowledge that to find the lodestar of futuristic, cutting-edge culture, you've got to look east -- to the urban tribes of Tokyo, where entertainment, technology and fashion seem to combine and mutate, virus-like, by the day.

And it's spreading here. The distinctive anime -- Japanese animation -- style is inescapable, even in Pittsburgh. Just check the science-fiction or comic-book section of the local bookstore, the video-game aisle of any Best Buy, or the late-night block of 'toons on the Cartoon Network.

Japanese animation -- it's not just for teenage boys and their giant killer robots anymore.

Pittsburgh's fourth annual convention of Japanese entertainment culture, Tekkoshocon 4, starts this weekend at the Monroeville ExpoMart. Last year, it brought 1,400 fans in from all over the tri-state area and beyond. It's still a cult-like phenomenon -- but one that keeps growing, and isn't limited to teenage boys like it was at the beginning.

"When I was growing up, there were bits and pieces of Japanese culture and programming showing up on TV all the time -- stuff like Power Rangers and Nickelodeon had a few anime shows," says Jeanie Rabatsky, 22, of Squirrel Hill, Tekkoshocon's advertising director. "For me, 'Sailor Moon' was the first that was actually anime."

"They didn't feel that there was a female market (here) to bring over the young, women-oriented shows that had obviously been showing in Japan," Rabatsky says. "The trend started to change with 'Sailor Moon,' which was unequivocally meant for young girls."

Anime is only part of it. If there's a TV series or movie, chances are there's a video game and a manga -- a thick, book-sized comic book -- featuring the same characters. Another reason for anime's appeal is simply the size of the stories.

"I found a number of anime that were just stories -- instead of having little episodic adventures like a sitcom, a lot of anime has a story arc that goes throughout the series," Rabatsky says. "You take 26 episodes to tell a story, and you leave it there."

For a narrative, that allows a lot more space for character development and complex plotlines than, say, self-contained TV shows or movies.

As the audiences have grown more diverse, these kinds of events have started to encompass much more than watching and buying hard-to-find manga and anime.

At Tekkoshocon, there's a video-game room, where visitors can check out the latest games from Japan, which may not make it here for years, if ever. Special guests include voice actors, publishers and manga artists. There's a gallery where the public can sell anime-inspired art. Various events and contests will be raising money for the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition, this year's chosen charity.

For the true anime geeks, there's a Japanese pop karaoke contest, and a costume contest in which people come dressed as their favorite characters.

"It happens at a lot of conventions for other genres, like Trekkie conventions," Rabatsky says. "Really, it's just fun."

But why call it "Tekkoshocon" -- why not "Anime-Con?"

"Tekko is a variant of a character in Japanese that means 'steel,'" Rabatsky says. "Tekkoshocon roughly means 'Steel Mill Con.' It's chosen to reflect Pittsburgh's heritage."

Additional Information:

'Tekkoshocon 4'

What: Pittsburgh's annual anime and Japanese culture convention

When: 9:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Friday; 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday; 9 a.m. to noon Sunday. Hours are subject to change

Admission: $25 to $30; $10 for children ages 7 to 11; $45 for weekend

Where: Monroeville ExpoMart and Radisson Hotel, Monroeville

Details: www.tekkoshocon.com

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.