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April 24, 2014

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Too old for Halloween, but just right for anime

More than 3,000 youths, most of them local, many of them female, turn out for party

Image

Steve Marcus

Maganda Antonio, 11, hugs Sherri Kohli, 15, dressed as an 8-foot character from a Japanese animated movie, during the annual Anime Vegas convention Sunday at the Renaissance Hotel. Many who attended the dress-up party made their own costumes.

Anime Vegas

Anime Vegas 2008 transformed the Renaissance Hotel into a convention of animated characters over Labor Day weekend

Beyond the Sun

Sometimes you can tell how much fun a party is by taking a look at what is prohibited because, presumably, without the rules, these things would happen.

For instance, a party held last weekend at the Renaissance Hotel prohibited attendees from wearing any R- or X-rated costumes. And then there was this rule: “All live steel, firearms, open flame and paddles are prohibited.”

It was, of course, a party for those notorious toughs: Fans of Japanese animation, or “anime,” mostly between the ages of 13 and 23.

And OK, the three-day event probably wouldn’t have devolved into an orgy of flamethrower mayhem even if the rules had allowed it. Kids ate edamame, watched cartoons and shopped for headbands with kitten ears on them. About as wild as it got was a couple of costumed teenagers making out in front of a cafe.

A suggestion as to why: Most of the 3,100 or so paying attendees wore homemade costumes for costume play, or “cosplay.”

People who make and design their own costumes tend not to flip out like in a quebecois hockey riot. Something could tear. Think of the people who go to Renaissance fairs.

In fact, let’s ask someone who’s been to both, Stephanie Mastalarz, who belongs to the costumed guild of ye old fairies and helped judge Sunday night’s anime costume masquerade.

The sewing and costume-making, she said, teach patience and life skills (most of which have to do with patience). And when you put the costume on, the reward is the same at a Renaissance fair or an anime convention.

“Both are a creative outlet,” Mastalarz said. “You don’t have to deal with the stress of work, you don’t have to worry about being anything but a different person.”

And “different” is a pretty good description of the variety of samurai, gangsters, uniformed schoolchildren, werewolves, kitten women and pistol-packing maids straight out of cartoons, movies, comic books and video games.

Now on its fifth show, Anime Vegas is a local nonprofit group run by Richard Stott, who also runs monthly anime screenings at the West Charleston Library. He said it gives kids something to do in Las Vegas (about three-quarters of the weekend’s attendees were locals) and he feels as if he’s adopted half the kids at the show, who are a different mix from the fans he grew up with.

“When I was young, it’s really funny, I was going to San Diego for Comic Con, and it was all fan boys,” Stott said.

Almost the first thing you notice walking into the show, actually, is that for a subculture, anime fans are pretty evenly split between the genders. Stott attributes it to the range of anime, which is eclectic enough to include cute animals, romances, science fiction battles and horror creatures. There’s something for both girls and boys.

Although sometimes it helps to look twice.

Sean Sims, for instance, dressed in the blue and white miniskirt costume of Sailor Moon.

His mom and grandmother helped the skinny-as-a-wet-cat 19-year-old UNLV engineering student design the costume.

He attended Sunday’s masquerade and performed a para para dance. He said he enjoys all styles of anime, both for the art and for the plot lines.

As he talked, girls walked by and pinched his nipples and flipped up the back of his skirt.

“And, as you can see,” Sims said, “I get chased by hundreds of fan girls.”

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