By Michele Brittany, a West Coast Bleeding Cool Correspondent
Walking around the exhibition hall, it doesn’t take too long to figure out what’s popular this season in anime and manga, according to the 23rd annual Anime Expo (AX) that’s being held at the Los Angeles Convention Center July 3 – 6.
It’s day two of AX and my first day that I was able to pull away from everyday reality of a 40-hour work week and join thousands of others to descend on the epicenter of all things anime and manga. I observed there were the steadfast favorites that have become timeless, but there were also some new titles out there that have a huge presence in merchandising and cosplay this year over last year.
Here’s a run down on titles that I saw a lot of merchandise, big booths, and lots of cosplay.
Attack on Titan
Attack on Titan, written by Hajime Isayam, has been described as Japan’s equivalent to The Walking Dead and is about giants that seem to devour humans for reasons unknown. The world is made of cities that are surrounded by high walls to keep the giants out. The story centers around three young people who join the Survey Corps so they can fight the giants.
The series has been released across several mediums: manga, anime, video games, and a live action film is scheduled for a 2015 release. I found copies of the manga and Blu-ray disc for sale (released last month), but more importantly, the number of cosplayers dressed up as part of the Survey Corps was overwhelming. In addition, I had seen a handful of people dressed as the muscled giants, which I didn’t recognize as such until I saw the Attack on Titan mural.
As a side note, I watched the trailers as soon as I got home and I thought the anime was well drawn, seemed to have an engaging story, and sounded to be well voiced. It will go on my must watch list.
League of Legends
This is a free online multiplayer battle arena game developed by Riot Games and has received many industry awards. Released in October 2009, it is a very popular PC game played by over 67 million people. There are 118 champions to choose from in a variety of classes (assassin, mage, etc.). Given there is only one medium in which this title is presented, at AX today, I came across many people dressed as their favorite champion.
Last year, I think it was Adventure Time, but this is the year of Sailor Moon, which may be seeing a resurgence of popularity, the result of a new anime series set to release this month. Sailor Moon is about a team of “magical girls” that fight evil. The manga was written by Naoko Takeuchi, from 1991 through 1997 As with Attack on Titan, this title has also been released across many mediums: a manga, trading cards, action figures, novels, and video games.
Most of the cosplayer were dressed as one of the several scouts that make up the team. I found it fascinating that at least a couple of women had blended the scouts with two popular comic book characters – Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn.
A Few Surprises
There were the sleeping kitties, which were really cute because they were soft and squishable. I could see them being popular, but the llamas? Okay, they are cute too, but llamas? I asked around about the pervasive presence of llamas, but no one knew. And the other head scratcher: Danboard. Although it first appeared in the manga Yotsuba&! back in 2006, this was the first year I saw the cardboard figure at several of the vendors’ booths throughout the day. It’s been a meme and a mascot for a PBS show titled Little Citizen.
Of course there were familiar favorites such as Domo-Kun, Doraemon, Gundam, and Naruto that have been around for years and still remain steadfast in the industry. Even Pikachu, one of the most recognizable characters from Pokemon is still going strong. At one booth though, Pikachu got an undead facelift – really, all I could do was shake my head about the little yellow creature becoming a zombie! Truly, nothing is sacred in popular culture!
All photographs by Michele Brittany.
Michele Brittany is an independent popular culture scholar and semi-professional photographer currently editing an upcoming anthology on the influence of James Bond on popular culture. She regularly posts reviews and analysis on the spy/espionage genre on her blog, Spyfi & Superspies.