Two solid days of Japanese culture, music, cooking and martial arts, with a good dose of cosplay to help along the way; that is Japanorama.
For me it’s a long time between anime conventions and if I am honest, I needed an event that would perk me up and get me back in the swing of cosplay making and manga reading. So for me Japanorama at the National Space Center was perfectly timed. With special guest performers such as Beckii Cruel,Tamashii Daiko drumming and Urban Arts, Japanorama has the makings of a fun, family day out. I have been attending anime conventions for about 8 years (woah! That’s the first time I have counted and now makes me feel really old) and Japanorama struck me as an excellent introduction to the convention scene.
A fan of Japanese fashion; Lolita
The attendees generally were much younger than myself and unfamiliar with the convention format. Most of the big conventions around country have a strict over 16s or 18s policy so for many under the age of 16 its difficult to find out of the anime and cosplay scene is something they want to be part of. Japanorama fills a nice gap in that respect; its suitable for all ages, a good range of activities and of course you can drag your ‘rents along to find out what all this ‘animoos’ thing is about. Families could get involved by watching one of the Urban Arts Gym demos which showed how children and families could learn a martial arts together. Yuki’s Kitchen was a big crowd drawer for mums and dads showing everyone how to make authentic sushi at home. I was surprised at one point to find the NottinghamHackspace (cosplay construction area) had been hijacked by young families. Seeing parents gluing bits of shiny paper and cardboard to their children in the name of cosplay was brilliant!
A group of new young cosplayers
Yuki’s Kitchen demo
Obviously as with any first time convention there would be teething problems; the PA system made everyone on stage very difficult to understand, meaning that the brilliant performances and Q&As with artists couldn’t be heard at times. The fixed layout of the Space Centre also meant that certain guests were hidden away and I didn’t find them to right at the end of day as they were packing up to leave. Lee Sullivan was very much hidden behind the stage area and the cosplay photographers where based in a separate building with no customers. For 2014 Japanorama I would highly suggest using some of the small classroom spaces (where Tamashii Daiko drumming workshops were based) to have the Q&A’s and cosplay 101 workshops. These way keen convention goers can sit and listen intently while the main stage is freed up for larger demos. These aspects were not bad enough to detract away from the good of the convention and will hopefully gives the organizers something to build on next year.
Tamashii Daiko drumming workshops
Beckii Cruel performing on stage
I highly commend Japanorama getting some really cool artists and guests for the weekend. All the UK based manga artists had really distinctive styles and were happy to answer any questions from attendees wanting to know how to become mangka themselves. Convention regulars; Lawrence Simpson and Anime League were happily chatting to attendees about their heavy involvement in the UK anime scene. Girl group Oshii Ichigo put on a great performance of their own new songs and causing manga fans (me included) to squee with delight at singing some classic anime tunes. Japanese sensation and Oshii Ichigo manager; Beckii Cruel showed the audience why the Japanese love her by putting on a super kawaii dance show. My favorite thing of Japanorama was the Tokyo main street area. I have been to all kinds of anime weekenders, from London expos to one off comic book store events and in recent years I had made a point of spending as little time in the shopping areas as possible as all the stalls were the same and overpriced. Tokyo Main Street could only be described as ‘The Batman’ of all convention shopping (that’s a compliment by the way). Although small in size, no two stalls were the same, selling everything from Japanese deserts to handmade Lolita fashion jewellery. I wanted to buy everything and may insist that every convention I go to from now on has to have Kitaya Wagashi Japanese Bakery attending.
Lawrence Simpson showing off his work
Section of Tokyo Main Street
Which I suppose brings me on to my final point of Japanorama; the Cosplay Catwalk. Over the weekend the Space Centre were offering £500 worth of goodies from Tokyo Main Street to the best cosplayer. I turned up in my Kill Bill Gogo cosplay with no intention of entering the competition, I was content on chatting to other attendees and making friends. A few people convinced me to sign up to the competition, so along with 23 other entrants I got up on stage and ‘strutted’ down the catwalk to flashing bulbs and cheers of support from the DMU Cosplay Society. I came off stage a little shaky from adrenalin but proud that after many years of cosplaying I finally got up on stage with the best of them. You can imagine my surprise when I was called to be in the final three but when the audience choose me as first place I was totally speechless! I was up against so many other fantastic cosplayers, even a day later I’m struggling to get my head around it all. My grand prize was £250 worth of stuff that had been kindly donated by all the artists, performers and Tokyo Main Street stalls.
My huge stack of prizes!
Even if I hadn’t won the competition, I think the event would have been brilliant. I came away with an arm full of tasty Japanese treats, wonderful conversations and a few new friends. For me Japanorama ticked all the right boxes and I can’t wait to see what they do for 2014.