‘Everyone who’s grown up in the Middle East has grown up with anime’

Anime or Japanese animation might at first glance seem a niche market, but the event organiser of Ani:Me says that the genre has a surprisingly large following in the region.

Cosplay of Naruto. Courtesy Ani:Me
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From manga to monsters, kimonos to katanas, fans of Japanese comics and cartoons will have plenty to enjoy at the inaugural edition of Ani:Me. This celebration of Japanese popular culture is a regional first from the creators of the ever-popular Middle East Film & Comic Con.

Anime (Japanese animation) might at first glance seem a niche market, but event organiser Arafaat Ali Khan says that the genre has a surprisingly large following in the region.

“The beauty of anime and the Middle East is that practically everyone who’s grown up in the Middle East has grown up with anime,” he says. “It’s ingrained into their lives.

“If you look at all the artists that will be at the artists’ alley at Ani:Me, they’ve all been influenced by the likes of manga [Japanese comics] because from the late 1970s, when we just had one terrestrial TV channel, there were anime series that were dubbed so perfectly into Arabic, right down to the theme songs, that we thought they were Arabic cartoons and people adopted them as their own.

“I really believe it’s in the soul of people who were born and brought up here.”

Highlights of the event include talks, workshops and the chance to meet local and international artists, including Gatchaman and Vampire Hunter D artist Yoshitaka Amano, who will be selling selected artwork for the first time.

There will be stalls selling movies, comics and memorabilia; virtual-­reality battles; performances by top Japanese bands, including headliners Flow and Jam Project; and video games.

No pop-culture event would be complete without a cosplay competition, and this one marks the first time the UAE has hosted an event that is an official part of the World Cosplay Summit. As a result, the winners will get to represent the country in Japan next year at the finals of the world’s biggest cosplay competition.

Many of the guests at the event are making their debut appearances in the region, says Khan.

“We don’t have many Japanese companies that come out here,” he says. “The fact that there is such a huge contingent, all coming out together in one place at one time, is really something quite spectacular for the region.”

• Ani:Me runs from today until Saturday at du Forum, Yas Island, Abu Dhabi. Tickets, from Dh95, available from Virgin Megastores and www.ticketmaster.com. Visit www.animeabudhabi.com

cnewbould@thenational.ae

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