A N I M E  E X P O  2 0 0 1
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Anime Expo 2001, the largest convention in the West dedicated to the Arts of Japanese animation and comics, celebrated its 10th Anniversary with its 2001 Exposition. The annual event, presented by the Society for the Promotion of Japanese Animation (SPJA), suffered some organizational setbacks at its 2001 Long Beach convention. While the BLACK MOON greatly respects the SPJA and all of the good work they continue to do, we feel obligated to publically critique the way the 2001 event was handled... you can read that critique here. Aside from our constructive criticisms, the content and programming of the convention was excellent.

Those interested had the opportunity to see and hear a bevy of special guests from Japan like Abe Hisashi (animation director for Vampire Hunter D), Asaka Morio (director of the Card Captor Sakura TV series and both movies), Uno Makoto (character designer for Love Hina), and many other talented guests too numerous to mention. The BLACK MOON was honored to attend the panels presenting Watase Yu (creator of the much beloved Fushigi Yuugi manga), and voice actress Inoue Kikuko (the voice of Belldandy from Ah! Megami-sama), who appeared in the United States for the very first time.

There were also fabulous displays of art to be seen, reminding attendees that at its core, the world of anime and manga is all about art. The incredible print work of Asamiya Kia (creator of Silent Mobius) was on display courtesy of the GOFA Gallery of Japan. Art Vivant Gallery (also from Japan), brought us the astounding Prints of Tezuka Osamu (Japan's "Father" of anime and manga) and Mikimoto Haruhiko (Character Designer for Macross). You can read more about these special guest artists by clicking the photos directly above.

One of the greatest parts of any anime convention are the fans who engage in cosplay (costume play). Out of the many thousands who attended Anime Expo 2001, quite a few came dressed as their favorite anime character, some even brought extra outfits for costume changes! Those engaged in cosplay ranged from first time convention goers with minimalist hand made costumes to seasoned veterans who travel the convention circuit in elaborate outfits that take months to create.

The array of costumes is always amazing and the imagination required to put together even the most rudimentary successful outfit is impressive. More people than ever before came out in costume, and the quality of those costumes was excellent. For me the highpoint of the convention was simply photographing all of the wonderful otaku (crazed fans).

Attendees were able to see some of the best animation being produced in Japan today. Works like Ah! My Goddess - The Movie, Blood: The Last Vampire, and Jin-roh. Of course there were dozens of other anime screened each day, from old classics to the very latest.

One also had the option of attending the many "focus panels" presenting information on everything from doujinshi (fan produced manga) and voice acting, to the hobby of collecting original animation cels. The panels are set up and run by fans who possess a certain expertise, so they are always fun and informative to attend.

Attendees of Anime Expo 2001 were in for a special treat when fans of the Japanese Visual Kei movement showed up in full costume (like the eight pictured directly above). Visual Kei (pronounced "Kaye"), has become a driving force in the music and fashion scenes of Japan. The signature style of these male rock bands is a penchant for cross dressing, heavy makeup, and outrageous costumes. Its adherents mix Japanese Pop with Punk, Glam, Kabuki, and Gothic sensibilities. I was in heaven photographing the Visual Kei fans, and hopefully their presence will help create the desire to have Japanese Rock bands visit the United States... something which is long overdue!

Despite the irritating organizational problems at Anime Expo 2001, the Exposition was successful. I'd encourage everyone to come for the next convention no matter where it's held in Los Angeles. Such expositions allow the anime community to come together and look at itself, and judging by the size and sophistication of this year's crowd... anime and manga have become a force to be reckoned with in the U.S.

Photographs and text on this page by Mark Vallen Copyright. All rights reserved.
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