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AnimeChicago Presents “A Discussion on Transformation in Anime and Manga”

• AnimeChicago Symposium Series “A Discussion on Transformation in Anime and Manga” took place on April 2 at the Japan Information Center of the Consulate General of Japan in Chicago. AnimeChicago began with a website more than 10 years ago and now has become a club and holds nearly 700 members. It has also hosted monthly meetings in the Chicagoland area.
• More than 60 members gathered to participate in the symposium, and finger food and beer were served. The beer was offered by local home brewers Adam Asher and Josh Simanskey. Five interesting flavors included dark chocolate and raspberry.

• The lineup was “A Visual Analysis of Outward and Inward Transformation” by Ruben Rosario; “A Brief Introduction to Race and Cosplay” by Lindsay Stevens; “The Female Body in Kill la Kill” by Shaun Kelly; and Nostalgia, Yearning, Anxiety, and Fear “Contemporary Japanese Narratives of Rural Decline and Extinction” by Benjamin C. Edmonds.

• A Visual Analysis of Outward and Inward Transformation

• Ruben Rosario spoke about his analysis by referring “Tokyo Ghoul” to outward transformation and “Madoka Magica” to inward transformation.

• Tokyo Ghoul was a series of manga and was produced as anime films later. Protagonist Kaneki was transplanted an organ from a ghoul girl and accidentally became a half ghoul. Now, he has to live as a ghoul while he keeps his dignity as a human. As a sequence, he faces battles with both investigators and other ghouls.
• The outward transformation occurs at the best timing when the character development happens. Kaneki struggles to understand who he is now with no way to return his innocent life. He accepts the reality and finds his new role as a half ghoul, not as a victim of accident. His transformation, from his boyish face to fierce appearance, reinforces the narrative and the thematic content and invokes an emotional resonance from the audience.

• The inward transformation occurs in Madoka Magica when protagonist Madoka decides to take a responsibility to become the heroine, a magical girl, after she pondered, contemplated, feared, and yearned about it.
• Madoka is a major candidate for a magical girl, and Kyubey, a space creature, induces her to make a contract that fulfills a wish and compels her to fight with witches. If she doesn’t succeed, she will turn into a witch.
• She experienced seeing deaths of magical girls during the cruel fights and great distress, which turned a magical girl to a witch. Despite witnessing the pain that her friends went through, she rationally made a decision to take the responsibility to save all girls in all spaces and times. It is a great character development. Madoka’s inward transformation changes the narrative as she wishes to alter the rule not to create witches from magical girls.
• At the end of his presentation, Rosario encouraged the audience to think of the meaning of an anime film such as the narrative, characters, transformation, and messages that the film was trying to deliver.

• Nostalgia, Yearning, Anxiety, and Fear: Contemporary Japanese Narratives of Rural Decline and Extinction

• Benjamin C. Edmonds explained Japan’s population loss and spoke about his analysis on narratives of rural areas described in anime films.
• Most young people in Japan don’t want to live in such rural villages; however, they don’t want give up the beauty of villages. Horror anime describes nostalgia, the residents’ yearning to keep village life, anxiety, fear of extinction and resistance that will end in failure. Horror anime illustrates such inevitable fates of rural villages.
• Beautiful idyllic scenes are portrayed in horror anime. The famous scene of Hinamizawa in “Higurashi When They Cry” is drawn from Shirakawa Go, a World Heritage site.

• Horror anime also portrays an old candy store, a big school building with several students, a rustic stationary store, desolate café, and village council room with tatami mats which are all desired to keep alive. The village people are related with those institutions, and horror anime illustrates the reality of the village life.
• Edmonds said that rural “Slice of Life” and horror are inextricably linked. “While slice of life shows are gentler, and create a sense of nostalgia and yearning for a simpler life, the seeds of destruction are already there. The characters are just too afraid to say it explicitly. Anxiety and fear lurk behind every idyllic moment,” he explained.
• The key theme of horror anime is isolation, a palpable threat. Nostalgia and yearning draw communities together to fight for a way of life that will ultimately fail.

• Can I be Sailor Venus?
• A Brief Introduction to Race and Cosplay

• Lindsay Stevens was in her favorite costume of Sailor Moon and first participated in Anime Central in 2009. She was surprised to see the diversity of people there. When she did research, she found a story of Chaka, Funimation Media Director. Chaka did a perfect cosplay with Sailor Venus, but many malicious texts were posted in social media. Some of them read, “She RUINED my favorite character,” “This Venus looks ghetto.”
• Stevens said that people should take a look at the media industry and how it operated. The image of black people has been filtered by the media that people often see on the TV screen. To stop doing that, Stevens said, “We need more people of color in executive positions, so that we are more accurately represented on the screen.”
• In the film industry, the more a white lead is cast, the more films will be sold. Stevens analyzed that the white protagonist was applicable to everyone; the female protagonist was applicable to females; and the black protagonist was applicable to black people. The media and culture industries take risk-minimizing decisions that are made in a context of risk, aversions and cautions.
• Stevens also said that the institutional racism has been imbedded within the society.
• What she can do is supporting diverse creators and sharing with them via social media such as “Jem and The Holograms” and art by Sophie Campbell.
• She said that the entertainment industry was complex, and a small percentage of people shaped the contents, which did not represent an entire country of people. “So, if we work to support (diverse creators), their shows would give us proper great stories, cosplay will become richer, and the stereotype will be debunked. We can move forward.”

• In her closing remarks, Jamie Sanchez, President of the AnimeChicago, introduced comments from members. Some of them read, “By following and celebrating something so outside my own culture, I believe that helps me to grow independent of influences that media can subject their audience to, assist cultural homogeneity, as unintentional as it may be,” “It’s introduced me to a variety of different people who share the same interest. I think without anime I wouldn’t know a lot of my close friends,” and “Anime leads me to be the critical thinker I am today, and helped guide me towards a much deeper appreciation of all forms of artistic expression.”
• Sanchez also said that she has changed herself after encountering anime and presented her old picture, which showed how she has changed


Lindsay Stevens

A photo of Chaka, perfect cosplay with Sailor Venus

Ruben Rosario

Benjamin C. Edmonds

Jamie Sanchez, President of the AnimeChicago

Shaun Kelly