Fans get into character and illustrate their love for the Japanese art form of anime at the three-day 12th annual Otakon convention in Baltimore.

Getting animated about cartoons

Fans illustrate love for anime at convention

August 20, 2005|By Tyrone Richardson | Tyrone Richardson,SUN STAFF

Dez Fitch showed up as Lei-Lei, a blue-skinned zombie who is controlled by her sister.

Connor Albers was No Face, a mute who wears a black robe and has the power to transform air into gold.

And Brandon Connolly came dressed as the martial-arts expert Rygoa Hibiki.

Fitch, Albers and Connolly were among thousands of fans of Japanese animated characters who arrived yesterday for the 12th annual Otakon, a three-day event at the Baltimore Convention Center. Otakon is expected to draw more than 20,000 people.

Fitch, Albers and Connolly came dressed as their favorite characters who appear in Japanese films, comic books, video games and TV cartoon series. The characters have spawned a genre known as Japanese anime, which has spread from Japan to the United States and other parts of the globe.

Yesterday, people dressed as animated characters spilled onto the streets around the convention center. Traffic on Pratt Street came to a crawl as some motorists slowed down to gawk and others honked their horns and stopped to snap pictures with their cell phones. Some pedestrians seemed stunned as they were approached by the assortment of strangely costumed characters.

Fitch, 21, lives in Baltimore and said her grandparents introduced her to Japanese anime. She said she enjoyed the convention and the attention that was focused on her outfit.

"The best part is seeing all the people out," she said.

Albers, 14, lives in Cincinnati and came to Baltimore with his father, Jim, 53.

For Connor Albers, the attraction to Japanese anime started by watching anime series on television. Yesterday, he dressed as No Face, a character from the animated movie Spirited Away.

Jim Albers said he and his son share a love for Japanese culture and took a trip recently to that country. But Albers acknowledges that he will not go as far as his son -- Albers did not wear a costume and said he probably never would.

"So far, it's pretty good," the younger Albers said of the convention.

Connolly, a 21-year-old from Pittsburgh, loves to collect authentic martial-arts swords.

Yesterday, Connolly carefully sifted through an assortment of swords and other martial-arts weapons spread out on a vendor's table.

Connolly said he is drawn to such events because of his love for collecting authentic swords and his love for the Japanese cartoons and culture.

Some pedestrians walking near the convention center did not know what to make out of the parade of characters they encountered. For some, shock was the initial reaction.

"We're kind of used to them now; I think some of the costume are good," said Margie Phipps, an office worker at Verizon.

Sharon Andrews, a downtown office worker, stood near a bus stop watching the costumed characters.

"At first, it takes you aback because you do not know what it is all about ... and looking at some of the costumes, I was like 'whoa,'" she said.

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