The art forms, defined by complex story lines and saucer-eyed characters, are also being made and enjoyed by young women and enthusiasts of computer-generated graphics from both genders. A record 41,000 visitors, dressed wild costumes recently attended Anaheim's Anime Expo, the nation's largest trade show of anime and manga.
Sprightly, 22 year old animation student Anfelina Leanza explained what she feels is the reason for this massive appeal. " A lot of anime is very beautiful, and the story lines are great. Most American animation is one episode, and it is usually for kids. Japanese anime is usually a serial, for older audiences, " said Leanza - a waif in pigtails and fuzzy cat ears - who traveled with fellow students fro Collins College in Arizona.
From Hayao Miyazaki's Oscar-winning fantasy flick Spirited Away to the violent voyeurism of Ghost in the Shell, kiddie fare such as Pokeman, TV shows on cable's Adult Swim and video-game offshoots such as Final Fantasy, anime has spread its tentacles across American culture.
Women, surging ahead in the video-gaming industry, have embraced anime and manga in a similar way.
It was more men before. Nobody knew what anime was. It was a small group of dedicated fans mostly in high school. Back in the day, animation was all science fiction. Not it is everything: war, horror, romance.
That element of multifaceted fantasy pervaded the expo's high quotient of female visitors. While much anime and manga content tends to be split by gender (into shonen, Japanese for "boy", or shojo, Japanese for "girl"), crossover is common.
There is a lot of stuff I read that is done by boys that is really cute, and really violent stuff done by women, said Leanza. One wildly popular sect of manga starting to seep into the mainstream is yuri (girl-on-girl) and yaoi (boy-on-boy), soft-core erotica and hard-core erotica feared toward mostly heterosexual males and females.
Bryan Musicar, whose company sells wooden paddles with either yaori or yuri stenciled on them, said 95 percent of people who buy yaoi books are women. Though yuri books tend to depict buxom, thin-wasted amazons, similar to commercial comics and porn, yaoi goes against the grain of traditional rendering of men as buffly masculine.
Men are emasculated in them, made to look less threatening, said Musicar, standing next to boxes of the comics, surrounded by clusters of young women. It is huge here. We never thought American audiences would like it (Japanese Animation). These comics are in Japanese too.
Male characters in yaoi look like girls, with large eyes and lithe, soft bodies. It is more than just kissing and romance, sai 18-year old Lynn Teng.
The changing demographics behind animation and manga also reflect a change in stylistic approach- mostly in the form of computer generated graphics influence by video games. Unlike hand-drawn animation, CG features ultra realistic, fluid movements and seamless shadows and light, as in Romanov Higa's futuristic police thriller Tank SWAT 01. Details, however, may become fuzzed out and angles distorted.
But what about animation and manga breaking cultural barriers? And moving past the fringes of nerddom? Personally, this is not the sort of thing you talked about in school, but now it's spreading more, says Lynn.
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