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Fans 'toon in By Randy Cordova The Arizona Republic Oct. 1, 2002

Fans 'toon in
By Randy Cordova The Arizona Republic
Oct. 1, 2002
Item# fantooninbrb

Product Description

Fans 'toon in
Japanese anime captures hearts, imaginations

By Randy Cordova
The Arizona Republic
Oct. 1, 2002

When Nuriko died, Shawna Lyons cried.

"I cannot cry at American movies whatsoever," the Paradise Valley High School freshman insists. "Everyone was crying at the end of Titanic, and I'm like, 'What are you crying for?' "

Nuriko is not a character in an American film. He's a cross-dressing hero in the Japanese anime series Fushigi Yuugi. Naturally, he meets a tragic end.

"I just cried, and so did my friends who were watching it," says Lyons, 14. "You just get so into these characters that if they die, you will cry."

Lyons is one of a multitude of Americans who have become fascinated with Japanese animation, or anime (ah-nee-may). Its popularity has been growing since 1982, when 1,200 people attended the Anime Expo in Long Beach, Calif. Earlier this year, 15,000 people showed up.

According to figures collected from the Big Apple Anime Fest, the anime home video market grew 25 percent in 2001.

The Cartoon Network regularly airs such imports as Zoids, Dragonball Z and Cowboy Bebop. T-shirts with anime characters are popular among teenagers. Anime posters, action figures and pins can be found in almost any shopping mall.

Anime can be mainstream: Witness the across-the-board success of such kiddie nuisances as Pokémon and Sailor Moon. Even stalwart Disney is getting into the anime act with Friday's release of Spirited Away, a Japanese import dubbed in English and directed by Hayao Miyazaki (Princess Mononoke).

Still, the majority of anime tends to be cultish, as with the adventures in Fushigi Yuugi.

"It's not like Buffy," Lyons says. "That's what's cool about it. You can be one of the ones to help spread it around."

Anime is too diverse to qualify as a single genre, though there are guidelines: The movement isn't as fluid as in its big-budget, Western counterparts. Many characters have gigantic eyes. Mysticism often is in the story line.

Basically, trying to nail down anime is like explaining all live-action films with one sweeping description.

"Anything you can find in real life, you can find in anime," says Rand Lyons, Shawna's dad and the proud owner of 350 anime DVDs. "Soap opera, action-adventure, Jackie Chan-style adventure - it's all there."

It's true. For guys who like to watch their heroines jiggle, check out Amazing Nurse Nanako, which focuses on the adventures of the title character and her, um, amazing cleavage. Blood - The Last Vampire is a dark tale about demons feasting on an American base in Japan. It's spooky and mature, not aimed at children.

Then there is a film like Grave of the Fireflies. Central Park Media will issue a deluxe two-disc version of the acclaimed 1988 film next week. The story focuses on two Japanese siblings orphaned during World War II. The darkly poignant movie, told in flashback, ends with the two children dead of hunger.

Anime can be a bit of a shock to an American viewer raised on heartwarming Disney fare.

"A lot of times, it's a little bit hard if you're encountering something that is foreign to you," says Carl Gustav Horn, an editor at Viz Communications, a distributor of anime products. "But when you find you suddenly like it, it could be the visual dynamics, a sense of verve and energy, but also just the shock of the new."

The films are watched "sub" or "dub" style - with subtitles or in English-dubbed versions, which hard-core anime buffs often consider inferior.

"It's like watching a foreign movie," Horn says. "Do I get every reference when I watch a foreign movie? Of course not, but I still watch it."

Phoenix resident Moryha Goss became entranced with anime five years ago. She is such a fan that along with her fiancé, Mike Banks, she opened Samurai Comics on Seventh Street north of Camelback Road in Phoenix four months ago. Fifty percent of the store is devoted to anime.

The store has manga (Japanese comics), Japanese toys, even Japanese candy. Yu-Gi-Oh! tournaments, dedicated to the latest kiddie craze, are held. There are also DVDs to rent, most retired from Goss' personal collection.

"It can be cost-prohibitive," Goss says of the anime hobby. "But you know what? It's just so cool."

Shawna Lyons agrees. She put several anime pins on a cap she wore to school. Pretty soon, people started coming up to her.

" 'Oh my God, I love that show!' I kept hearing that all day," she says.

Shawna and her dad have different tastes in anime. He goes for action; she goes more for romance. But it's a tie that brings them together, as it does with other anime fans.

"It's a very friendly group of people," Rand Lyons says. "It's a common bond, like anything else. You go to a baseball game and you find people with the same interest. Anime is the same way, just with not as many people."

Is that one of the things that makes it cool?

"Absolutely," he says with a laugh.





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