Chicago Shimpo

Cosplay Lovers Descend on Anime Central 2018
Guest Artists Talk about Anime, Manga

• Anime Central, the largest anime fan convention in the Midwest and America’s No. 3 of the kind, opened for three days from May 18 to 20 at the Donald Stevens Convention Center and Hyatt Regency O’Hare in Rosemont to attract cosplay enthusiasts across the U.S.

• Since 1997, the event has been an occasion for Japanese anime and manga fans to get together and share their love for Japanese pop culture. In its second year, 1,203 people gathered in their own costumes; the number reached 31,469 in 2016, with the total attendance of 88,927. Last year, 30,122 cosplayers participated, with the total attendance of 84,633.

• In addition to showing off unique, handmade costumes, fans in the event have an opportunity to meet the creators of their favorite anime characters from Japan. Among this year’s guests from Japan were illustrators/animators including Mamoru Yokota, Takahiro Yoshimatsu, Mitsuo Iso, Kenichi Sonoda and Shuzilow.HA, and comic artists like Takeshi Nogami, as well as voice actors and musicians.

• Local groups such as the Japanese Culture Center and Tsukasa Taiko also participated, featuring kimono/Lolita fashion presentation, Japanese drum performance, martial arts demonstration, traditional Japanese dance of the Fujima School of Shubukai, and more.

Meet Colorful Cosplayers

• Jennifer Cozzens from Detroit, Michigan came in an elaborate mermaid costume, which took her two weeks to make.
• She’s been coming to Anime Central for the last three years after her fiancé brought her to the event for the first time.
• “I feel like this is an amazing escape for me,” she explained. “I’m a social worker, so I go through a lot of stress and a lot of work. It’s a way of relaxation and self-care for me.”

• Kimmy Kay from Wisconsin showed up in an eye-catching light-blue Cinderella costume. She ordered the custom-made dress online.
• This is the second anime convention for Kay to attend, who began cosplaying just three months ago. Always enjoying putting on costumes, she took a job at a Disney facility as an entertainer, where she would greet children in different costumes. “It was a great feeling to see their faces light up,” Kay said.
• “It’s been so much fun,” she added as many passers-by asked to take a picture of her. “I’m excited to continue pursuing cosplay.”

• A dentist named Emilia was dressed in a perfect Lolita fashion, which she said is of her own design taken after the fancy design by Sakizo.
• She began making the entire costume last December, and the last piece, the huge, elaborate wig, was completed two days before the convention.
• She was introduced to the world of cosplay in 2011, when she was in college. With a humble beginning with a single sewing machine, she now has a sewing room entirely dedicated to costume making.
• “I’ve been to the Japanese Culture Center booths that hosted many interesting events,” said Emilia, adding that though she didn’t have a chance this year, she’d love to see the kimono and Lolita presentations in the future.

• Taylor Devich and Charlie Zwierzynski were part of the cosplayers’ group from Madison, Wisconsin. The group members regularly get together and prepare for the convention.
• This year, the group took up the video game Fortnite as their cosplay theme. Part of the costume scheme included a round hedge, which has been made with chicken wire and countless fake leaves. All the leaves have been glued on the chicken wire covered by a gardening bag, one by one. It’s a result of many hours of hard work.
• Devich began watching anime when she was 12 or 13, followed by the character-drawing phase. She’s been coming to Anime Central for the past 13 years.
• “Every year, we try to make something more exciting, more lively. And this is our newest work,” Devich said proudly.

• Ximena Varenzuera dressed herself as Kaori Miyazono, a violinist character in manga. “I play the violin, so Kaori is my favorite character.”

Kimono and Lolita Fashion

• A Japanese kimono lovers’ group, Chicago Wahoo Club, and a Lolita fashion group, Chicago Street Fashion, joined together for the second time to make a presentation after their March collaboration at the Japanese Culture Center.
• Wahoo Club explained the types of kimono and the appropriate selection of a kimono for different occasions, the Lolita group introduced various styles such as sweet, classic, and gothic Lolita.
• Although the Lolita presentation had to be cut short due to the prolonged presentation of the preceding event, the group members shared enthusiasm and appreciation with many supporters.

Guests from Japan: Illustrators

• Illustrators/animators Mamoru Yokota and Takahiro Yoshimatsu participated in seminars, Q&A sessions and press conferences.
• Yokota has many faces as an animator, character designer, illustrator, producer, supervisor, drawing director and entrepreneur, while Yoshimatsu is known as animator, character designer and drawing director. They both have produced many creative works.

• At a seminar, fans and future illustrators packed around Yokota and Yoshimatsu while they demonstrated drawing.
• Yoshimatsu talked about character development in detail.
• “The principle is simple: the [drawing] basic is the three shapes of circle, square and triangle, and you can create any character by combining them. The circle carries a soft and gentle personality, the square indicates a stoic and moody character, and the triangle can mean good or bad. When you draw a down-turned eye, it’ll mean a kind personality; when the hair is standing on end, it means a hot-blooded guy; and with the hair down, it becomes a cool person. You can use a combination of a wide range of traits to develop a character further.”

• Yokota advised to read and understand what the tutoring books say rather than copying the illustrator you like.
• “The basic for figure drawing is to use the 7.5 head proportion and the distance between the eyes must be so that another eye can fit in between,” Yokota continued. “That’s the basis from which you develop your imagination and originality. You should always start with what’s real.”

Interview with the Guests

Yokota and Yoshimatsu, along with artist/illustrator Rosuuri from the Philippines, answered questions during the press conference about their careers, methods, and current anime/manga trends in Japan.

Q: How did you start your career as an illustrator? What were your family’s reactions?

Yokota: When I was younger, I worked as a cook at a Chinese restaurant to pay back debts. After that, I enrolled in an animation school, and after six months there, I joined a company that supplies illustrations. I was creating animation drawings when my classmates from the school graduated and started their professional career. My mother – she was like, “whatever,” so I’ve been sticking to this line of work, doing illustration, animation, games, etc.

Yoshimatsu: I always loved to draw and wanted to become a manga artist. I also loved animation and made amateur animations with my friends at school. One of my friends was amazingly good at drawing manga, and I couldn’t compete with him. That’s why I chose animation. I ended up doing many illustration assignments, too.
My mother showed understanding in my career choice. I didn’t know until recently, but my parents argued about it because my father didn’t like the way I was going. Then my mom said to him, “What can you say about it now? You were never there when he was growing up.”

Q: What do you have to do to become a professional illustrator?

Yokota: Not just drawing things alone, but you should show your work to other people, by submitting it to publications or taking it to illustration companies. You can also use the internet today.
The worst thing you can do is to just sit and wait. Sure, there’s always demand for illustration. But there’s also a difference in taste. You must create you portfolio and show it to as many people as possible. Without that effort, you can’t become a pro.

Yoshimatsu: To find your selling points is important. Find out quickly what’s your appeal and is that what sets you apart from others, and expose it to gain recognition.

Rosuuri: I began with online submission. My work is mainly about anime girls. If you maintain the online contact long enough, someone eventually start wanting to see your portfolio. Without the internet, I probably wouldn’t be here today.

Q: What kind of impact do you think the American and European audiences have on your work?

Yokota: We create characters according to our client’s orders, and it’s the producer’s or director’s job to worry about what the overseas audiences like. Once we agree on what’s wanted, we just do our very best so that the viewers, whoever they are, can enjoy our work.
Speaking about illustration, I visit many conventions all over the world – France, Germany, the U.S. When I present a sample with a strong American-comic flavor (based on my assumptions about the overseas audience’s taste), often their reaction is unexpectedly cool, and they rather want the Japanese “cute” stuff. So it tells me that [kind of assumption] is not what they want from us.

Q: What are the trend in manga and anime in Japan today?

Yokota: Some of my favorite works are doing well recently, including [the manga series] Golden Kamuy. The regulation on expression is getting tighter in Japan these days, and as a reaction, we see an increasing number of manga and anime that deal with social taboos, narrowly avoiding the regulations. That brings out good-quality works. Today the manga genre itself is more diversified – even over-diversified - with a wide variety of themes like political and social satire. So the trend in Japan today is more like what the customers enjoy – what’s the real trend doesn’t matter.

Also we have more gay-themed manga today, dealing with “soft” homosexuality, both in girls and boys manga. An example is YuruYuri in anime and Dokyusei (Classmate) in film. Another one is a live action TV program called Ossan’s Love. This is about older guys in love.

Manga on the internet is also rapidly growing, gathering a growing number of readers. Since it’s regulated more loosely than the print media, I heard from the internet distributor that a lot of people are accessing to excessively violent, scary or gross manga online, like stories depicting the underground Japanese Mafia, outlaws and so on.

Q: Thank you very much.

Kimmy Kay (C) shows up in an eye-catching light-blue Cinderella costume.

Jennifer Cozzens comes in an elaborate mermaid costume.

Emilia dresses a perfect Lolita fashion, which she designed and sewed.

Taylor Devich (L) and Charlie Zwierynski (C)

Ximena Varenzuera

A Japanese kimono group, Chicago Wahoo Club, and a Lolita fashion group join together for the first time at the Anime Central.

Mamoru Yokota

Takahiro Yoshimatsu