April 14, 2010

Anime Club gives local teens creative outlet

Union Leader Correspondent
DERRY – There is truly something for everyone at the Derry Public Library, including those obsessed with anime. Micha Arsenault, a self-described “fan girl,” the proper adjective used to describe devotees, arrived at yesterday's Anime Club “cosplay” party dressed to thrill, wearing animal ears and a tail.
Cosplay is shorthand for costume play – like being at a Star Trek convention with fans sporting Spock ears and speaking in Klingon, only here they're dressed like their favorite fantasy characters and speak to one another about the complexities of life in an alternate, action-packed, Japanese universe.
For Micha, it's all about Alphonse Elric, better known as The Fullmetal Alchemist, the lead character in a beloved anime series by the same name that has taken on a life of its own among enthusiasts of the art-driven genre here in the U.S.
If you still aren't sure you understand what anime is, think again: If you remember “Astro Boy” cartoons, or have purchased a deck of Pokemon or Dragon Ball Z cards for your preschooler, then you have had a hand in the proliferation of what was once commonly referred to Japanamation, which only really started catching on here in the mid-1990s.
That's about when Billy McLaughlin, 17, had his first encounter with a Pokemon character. Now he's hooked for life.
And although it didn't exactly bring them together, Billy said sharing his love for anime with his girlfriend of two months, Brittany Jacobs, 15, gives them plenty to talk about.
“I'd say I spend about 90 percent of my time doing something anime related,” said Billy. “It opens your eyes to other things, learning there's something beyond America.”
Brittany figures she's currently at around 95 percent anime saturation. She dabbles in drawing, and likes to edit existing characters to her own specifications. And she loves just sitting and talking with Billy about the anime series and characters they have a common appreciation for.
“I don't know why I love it so much. It makes me feel like anything's possible,” said Brittany. “And manga has a lot of big words in it, so I feel like I'm learning. I absolutely want to travel to Japan someday.”
Manga is best explained as a Japanese version of comic books, which follow the adventures of various characters with soap operatic detail who live in a fantastic world where everyone has a back story.
“In Deathnote Light Yagami is a kid who discovers the 'death note' dropped into the human realm by a shinigami. Those are death gods who write people's names on death notes,” explained Cecelee Young. “Light Yagami picks it up and starts punching all the criminals.”
She smiles and points to the character logo on her T-shirt.
It's OK if anime doesn't make a lot of sense, from the outside looking in; it's being inside that matters to these kids, who meet regularly a the library for anime appreciation.
“'Fullmetal' used to be my obsession, until my mom told me I had to find something else to do with my time. Now I write my own stories,” said C.S. Night, who stays true to her artistic alter ego by divulging only her pen name.
Spencer Mayotte, 16, explains that for most “fan girls” and “fan boys,” anime appeal is the combination of philosophy, morality and “just plain awesome action.”
“It takes you to another place, where anything can happen,” Spencer said.
“Cosplay is just a way of the anime life,” said C.S., tossing back her mane of long brown hair with a dramatic flick.
Oriana Theokas, 12, looks adorable in her cosplay getup, highlighted by a huge white hair bow and an oversized fan. She explains she's a vocaloid, a sort of generic robot that sings like a synthesizer.
She has brought along a collection of her own artwork.
“I just like how the characters look. I'm really interested in Japanese culture. I actually went there once, and hopefully I will get to go again,” said Oriana. “It's just so interesting to me.”

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