Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Anime-zing, The Review

One of my friends and I decided to visit the Anime-zing exhibit at the Lake County Discovery Museum in Wauconda, Illinois last Saturday.

For the parents who don't know what anime is, this is a really good introduction to the genre of Japanese animation. Younger kids will enjoy seeing a lot of the more well-known series that are marketed towards the 10 to 14 crowd, such as Yu-Gi-Oh! and Sailor Moon. The older kids might enjoy the exhibits dealing with giant robots (such as Gundam), romance (Sailor Moon and Escaflowne) or magic (Witch Hunter Robin and Hellsing). To be fair, many of the shows I mentioned have two or three of the elements I listed within them. The "voice actor" studio is a cute touch and gives kids a chance to be one of the characters from the series Inu-yasha. That's a lot more fun than it sounds, actually. Sadly, you can't keep a copy of your acting talent.

The only item I saw in the exhibit that might cause some concern for parents is a small display about a series called Gravitation. The gay romance between the main character and his manager might be construed as promoting a gay agenda. As I haven't watched the series, I can't say. Watching a cartoon about a pop band isn't my idea of fun. That part of the exhibit is small and easily avoided, so parents can steer their children away from it. No, there are no pictures of guys kissing or anything like that, so any anime fans who follow the shounen-ai (literally "boys love," as in romantic relationships between young men of the same age) subgenre will be very disappointed. They should be disappointed, too, as they make us regular anime fans look positively normal. There is also no discussion of hentai (literally "abnormal" or "perverted"), the blatantly pornographic side to the genre. I'm quite glad for that, since most of it is NOT for the eyes of anyone with good taste.

The history of the genre is glossed over a little bit, as the exhibit starts with the old tv series Astro Boy (aka Mighty Atom), Speed Racer, and such. As a historical exhibit, the setup is lacking a lot of information. As a general discussion of genre, it's not bad.

Finally, the exhibit ends with a display of things you'll find in every anime convention these days: cosplayers (from "costume play"). Part costume contest, part halftime show, the cosplayers take their fabulous costumes and put on little skits to entertain the crowd. The only jarring discrepancy I saw in this exhibit was that there was NO MENTION WHATSOEVER of Anime Central. Anime Central is Chicago's convention, and there was nothing there about it! That's a bad publicity move on ACen's part. Ohayocon and Otakon, both in the eastern US, get more publicity than our homegrown convention! I don't know if theres a spat between ACen staff and the exhibit designer, or if the designer didn't do anything to contact the group that maintains the convention business, but this is a huge missed opportunity for both groups to cross-promote each other.

In summary, I liked this exhibit. It's a bit shallow in parts, but overall is a good introduction to the genre. It's probably more informative for parents than it is for kids, but your kids will love you for it if you take them. I suggest that anyone who has the chance to go should go and see this exhibit before it closes.

And yes, horror of horrors, I am indeed an anime fan. I have been since I first saw Speed Racer and Battle of the Planets on KPLR-TV out of St. Louis back in the fog-shrouded past of the 1970s. I was 3! What, you think I'd be reading Dostoyevsky at 3? (Of course I was! I was reading the Sanskrit edition at 3, thank you very much.)

Still though, check it out before it's gone.

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