June 8, 2007
Of course, I wasn’t dreading their visit or anything, but I definitely did not expect to sit through two hours of immensely entertaining storytelling. I was all ready to ask Beryl and Addie about their most unusual experience as staff members at the anime convention, but obviously, it would have been like asking a mother to pick her favorite child. It was very reassuring to hear Beryl confirm my theory of the power of “mega-subcultures” being derived from the nature of their various intersections, as well as from the celebration of the minority. As Beryl said, “if we learn about each other’s differences, we start seeing our similarities…and all of a sudden those guys don’t seem so strange anymore. A-Cen in itself is going to be about the celebration of a foreign culture that people find cool. Our facination with Japanese culture is a direct expression of American culture…we’re open to see what’s good about people outside our world. As Americans, we’re always looking for the next fresh thing.” Evidently, the anime culture has persistently leaked into the American mainstream. From my experience at the convention, it is apparent that, as with”the geek,” the otaku has unashamedly embraced its own creation, took back the power of their name, and declared their rightful foothold in the world of “the mundanes.”
Indeed, “art is in the hands of the people now.” We no longer have to be elitist and selectively chosen artists to create.
June 1, 2007
Having Beryl and Addie come to our class and talk about the anime community in general and ACen was really interesting and fun. Beryl has all of these great stories to share and they were both really interesting speakers. What struck me most was how knowledgeable they both were about the anime and manga community. Beryl was practically a historian, giving us a brief overview of the rise of anime popularity in the US. I thought it was interesting that he seemed to consider Chicago at the center of it all, and at some points in the 80’s it was the city with the most easily accessible anime. Being from Chicago and an anime fan, that makes me pretty proud of my city. Addie knew a lot about the community from the artists’ perspective and the differences between American comic books and Japanese manga.
I think it’s really cool that ACen is hoping to become more immersed in Japanese culture in general. Bringing more bands over and including the drift cars has the benefit of allowing anime fans to understand more pop cultural references and appreciate them more. It was totally surprising to learn that it’s completely volunteer run and that NO one gets paid. Now that’s dedication. I think it also allows for the people in charge to retain complete control over what they want in ACen and it keeps the idea of the earlier anime days alive. At the core of this large community is still the exchange of information and entertainment between friends, and if that community gets bigger I think it benefits everyone more. I hope that ACen and other conventions can continue to expand and offer more for their fans.
June 1, 2007
I was really interested in what Beryl was saying about pop culture from Japan and America blending together. He did not see it negatively, and more important, he saw it as inevitable. I think on some level it is inevitable that when a person from one culture experiences another culture, they approach the new culture with a dominant cultural perspective; in interviews that I conducted for my final project, one interviewee called it a “lens.” I think there is definitly value in attempting to eschew these lenses, though, inevitable as they may be. It’s valuable, I think, to attempt to experience new cultures as authentically as possible. I guess what I think is that authenticity should be strived for despite the inevitability of globalization, with tons and tons of qualifications and exceptions to that rule, of course!
June 1, 2007
I think the most interesting part about talking to Beryl and Addie was the fact that both of them are part of the “older” anime crowd. At the convention and even online, I get the feeling that most anime fans are in their teens or early twenties, and it’s some sort of phase people go through and leave by the time they’re thirty…but that definitely isn’t the case, obviously. Beryl in particular knew all the ins and outs of anime conventions, and on top of that he really knew about cult-fandom in general in the U.S., which I found really interesting. I know this sounds like I’ve built all sorts of stereotypes about “typical” anime otaku, but I think I kind of forgot that they have real lives. While there are some fans who make their fandom their life, Beryl isn’t one of those…and I get the feeling that Beryl’s closer to the norm for an otaku than the stereotypes I have in mind. He rides his bike regularly, he has a regular job, he can hold a normal conversation about something that does not have to do with anime/sci-fi…and then if you happen to share his interest, he’ll talk about. He separates out those two aspects of his life. I really found that enlightening.
May 31, 2007
I had the opportunity to talk with a lot of people at Acen, but none of them actually were staff members who worked behind the scenes to make the convention itself possible. Luckily on the last day of class, who should happen to show up but the chairman of Anime Central himself, Beryl Turner, with another staff member, Addie, in tow.
It was great to hear the story of a lifelong otaku, from the first illuminating moment of fandom to the present day, going on twenty years or so. He gave us a history of fandom, starting from the underground to the mainstream, which was quite interesting. He’d been with Acen from pretty much the beginning, and told us of the way they planned and ran the convention. I had no idea that Acen only employed unpaid volunteers, and it made me realize how committed you had to be to be a part of this convention, if you were doing it just out of love and not money. Even better, Beryl had a lot of great stories to tell us, like the run in with the Atlanta police that made him stop cosplaying, and the hilarious story behind Sailor Bubba.
One thing I found interesting was how he explained that anime had a “simplistic style” that everyone could learn to draw, as opposed to the strict “Marvel” style of American comics. Although there are more and more experimental American graphic novels being released, I have noticed that in America, comics are usually drawn by committee, in that there are lots of people involved in the whole process, from writers to inkers to letterers to sketchers and whatever. Whereas in Japan it’s usually just the mangaka and maybe one or two assistants to help him. This really does suggest that creating manga is a more intimate and personal process than working on a traditional American comic. It was great that Beryl managed to bring that up.
Overall, I had a great time with these guys, and although Beryl and Addie didn’t manage to guilt me into going to next year’s Acen, I wouldn’t rule out going sometime in the future…given a proper subsidy, of course.
May 31, 2007
I liked the discussion yesterday with Addie and Beryl Turner. Beryl, in his discussion of his own personal history with anime and manga and how he got into the con culture, seemed to really reiterate the classic stories we’d been told through Otaku Unite and a number of readings. I especially noticed it in his and Addie’s description of “the early days” when a bootleg VHS tape of some anime was coveted and small groups of friends huddled around televisions to watch original Japanese TV shows.
I also was really interested in how Beryl got his start in the con circuit, and especially given Lily’s response (at least I think it was Lily…) that the con culture is not just about whatever the object of the con is. In other words, ACen isn’t just about anime and manga, as Beryl said it’s about “community” and “making it a smaller world.” There’s a community at conventions of all types, be they science-fiction, anime or gaming, and it was through this community that he managed to climb the ladder and end up chairing this year’s ACen. I think the parallels in the different cultures of conventions are interesting (if I were in a sociology course I would probably talk about social and culture capital), and I think it was really helpful to talk to the two of them about their experiences.
I, as did many other I see, really liked the notion of the “mundanes” as opposed to the otaku, and I liked how JK Rowling co-opted and extended its meaning to become “muggles.” I’m not really a Harry Potter fan, but I like seeing how aspects of these seemingly fringe social groups become mainstream.