GREENFIELD — The Anime Crossroads convention is this weekend, and Adrianna Hull, 18-year-old anime fan and manager-in-training at Hometown Comics, is deciding on which of her cosplay outfits she should wear.
She has quite the repertoire from the popular anime and manga series, Pokemon; there’s Misty, the spunky girl from the original series or Pikachu, a yellow creature who is perhaps the most recognizable in the cast of colorful characters.
Manga, an artistic style of Japanese comics, and anime, its animated counterpart, have been a growing part of American culture since the mid-1960s. If you were ever mesmerized by “Speed Racer” or caught the “Thundercats” on Saturday mornings, then you have watched anime or anime-inspired cartoons.
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American popularity of anime really took off with the advent of Pokemon, the video game, followed by the collector cards, and finally, the animated series which premiered in 1997. Soon after came titles that might sound familiar: “Sailor Moon,” “Dragonball Z” and “Digimon.”
Today, anime is part of the mainstream culture, and its popularity has spawned more than 350 different anime and manga conventions held across the United States, including this weekend’s event in Indianapolis.
Hull, who will be attending Anime Crossroads for the third time this weekend, said she is drawn to anime because the stories have a planned beginning, middle and end; they don’t drag on for years like some American cartoons.
Her current favorite anime series is “Angel Beats!,” set in a purgatory-like high school filled young people who are learning to accept their deaths.
“It can touch you to the point of tears or to where you’re really angry or you’re cheering them on,” Hull said. “It’s popular because it emotionally catches you.”
Hull is not alone in her enthusiasm. Recognizing the genre’s growing popularity, the Hancock County Public Library sponsors anime and manga clubs not only for teens but adults, too.
Facilitated by Sarah Ryan, teen services librarian, the Teen Anime and Manga Club has grown so successful that it now meets twice a month: on the first Friday and the third Thursday of the month. Attendance at each meeting varies, but as many as 40 teenagers have filled the community room to view the latest in anime.
The library has a licensing agreement with Crunchyroll, a website that allows high-speed streaming access to more than 15,000 hours of Japanese and Asian media, including anime. It provides anime shows straight from Japan, and the subtitles are professionally translated, Ryan said.
Media Services Manager Jesse Keljo facilitates the Adult Anime and Manga Club, which began meeting in September on the second Monday of the month. There had been several requests for an adult anime club at the info desk, Keljo said, so he decided to give the patrons what they wanted.
Ryan and Keljo admit they were newcomers to the genre when they took on leadership of the anime clubs.
“I think it’s really interesting. These kids know way more about it than I do,” Ryan said.
Keljo calls an anime an “art form that can grow on you,” noting that cartoons are more acceptable as adult entertainment in Japan than in the U.S.
The teen club sometimes includes craft activities, many of which find their roots in Japanese culture. The group has made stuffed plushy key chains that look like Japanese rice balls and bento box snack containers. They have also crafted Pocky sticks, a Japanese treat made of chocolate-covered biscuits.
At the end of each teen meeting, Ryan passes out a slip of paper so teens can have a say in what they want to watch next time. “One Punch Man,” a series about a reluctant superhero who dispatches monsters and evil villains with just one punch, is a frequent request.
Ryan and Keljo attribute the continued popularity of anime to many factors. For Ryan, the appeal goes beyond the colorful, action-packed storylines; the characters are relatable to young audiences, she said.
Ryan is supportive of anything that gets young patrons engaged. Kids check out dozens of manga and graphic novels novels and they read them all over the weekend, she cited as an example.
“Graphic novels can provide comprehension skills and lots of vocabulary,” Ryan said. In addition to manga versions of classics like “Les Miserables” and “Pride and Prejudice” there is also a series of manga-style Shakespearean plays.
Creative storylines also draw the eager readers to the material.
“They have weird plots that you wouldn’t think of,” said Lucas Hall, 16, who has been coming to teen anime club for two years. “They are different than American cartoons.”
Register to attend the teen or adult anime club at hcplibary.org.
For more information on the Anime Crossroads convention, visit animecrossroads.com.