Hundreds of people dressed in paint-covered robes and wielded props this past weekend, bringing to life their favorite anime characters for the Seventh Annual Setsucon Convention at the Penn Stater Hotel and Conference Center.
Hosted by the Penn State Anime Organization, the convention featured viewings of anime television series and information presentations on anime, including a performance from a “geek belly-dancing group” called Antipode, said Ryan Foster, vice convention chairman for PSAO.
Viewings were times set aside to show different anime series, and panels were presentations or performances involving Japanese anime culture.
Panels included “How to Attend a Japanese Concert” in which a presentation was given on the rules, or commonly accepted practices, at a concert in Japan.
“When you attend a concert, the behavior acceptability is different than here in America,” Foster said. “They don’t really do mosh pits, or screaming, unless there is cued screaming. They won’t open their mouths unless they are told to.”
One panel at the convention discussed a dominant theme at Setsucon and other conventions alike called “cosplay,” in which a person dresses and takes on the role of a certain anime character. Cosplay is a combination of the words costume and play, or costume and role play.
“You become a real-world embodiment of that character,” Foster said. “Literally you bring that character to life.”
Bailey Morganstein, an eighth grader, said cosplay is not accepted by her peers, even if she enjoys doing it.
“I’ve never really been able to cosplay at my school without being shunned,” Morganstein said.
One reason she comes to Setsucon is so she can cosplay with people who embrace it and because “everybody is nice.”
Foster said that the two popular events at the convention are called “The Masquerade” — which is a contest featuring skits of anime or manga performed live — and the “Host Auction,” in which people, some dressed as anime characters, are auctioned off for the buyer to spend time to just talk to them.
Another attraction at the convention was the guest appearances scheduled. There were four special guests, including Todd Haberkorn, who is currently the English voice of the main character on an anime show aired in America called “Fairy Tail.”
Haberkorn was auctioned at the Host Auction and a convention attendee paid $510, all going to charity, for an hour of individual time with him, Foster said.
Dressed as the character Stocking from the anime show called “Panty and Stocking with Garter Belt,” Annette Lewis said that being the voice on an anime show is an art, as most shows are dubbed over the Japanese animation. This means that American voice actors must match their voices to the movement of the mouths of the animated characters, said Foster, Class of 2007 and one of the pioneers of the first Setsucon.
Lewis said that most animated shows in America are dubbed over.
Foster defined anime as Japanese animated cartoons, but that it’s an “objective” definition, he said.
“Anime is a visual of moving pictures media that’s the same as film here in America,” Foster said. “It’s just a different type of brush.”
Foster traces anime’s popularity in America back to the late 1990s, when Japanese “manga,” or comics, were brought to the country with syndicated television shows.
“They all started airing in America and kids saw them on Saturday cartoons or after-school cartoons and started thinking, ‘That looks different than Mickey Mouse, that looks different than Transformers, that looks different than usual,’ ” Foster said.
But visual style wasn’t the only characteristic difference in newcomer anime shows.
The shows featured action and fighting, but also deeper, more intricate and fleshed-out stories, both appealing to audiences, Foster said.
“A lot of the plots that go through them weren’t always as sugar-coated as American cartoons might be,” Foster said. “They were viewed as sort of being edgier.”
Some use this convention as a way to see people they have known for long periods of time, but have never met in real life.
This was the case for Kaydee Stratis of Harrisburg and Annamarie Mickey of Pittsburgh, who met online and saw each other for first time in person at Setsucon.
“I go to a lot of conventions. I like this one because it’s small and homey,” Stratis said. “At the bigger conventions, you’ll run into elitists. If you don’t know their character, they won’t talk to you.”
As far as the different culture at conventions like Setsucon, Lewis said to “just keep an open mind.”