Aug. 23--A swarm of anime and manga characters will descend on the Headquarters Library next weekend at the annual Librari-Con.
Librari-Con organizer Missy Lang has seen the annual anime and manga convention continue to grow since it started seven years ago, and this year's convention on Aug. 31 will be no different.
The convention will fill both floors of the downtown library. Activities will include anime viewing, discussion panels and forums, the Artist Alley, Chibi (children's) Corner, Manga Lounge and Cosplay Runway.
Lang said the convention was created in 2007 to help the library tap into the exploding popularity of anime -- a blanket term referring mainly to Japanese animated cartoons and graphic novels -- with teenagers.
"It's really kind of amazing to see how the kids have embraced it and have fun with it," said Lang, an assistant youth services coordinator at the Headquarters Library.
"And now that we've done this for a few years, we've seen teens grow up with Librari-Con, and they're still coming back," said Lang.
Lang said the convention draws hundreds of visitors from surrounding counties and beyond. The convention's free admission is a chief reason for its popularity, Lang said, but the programs are big draws, too.
"For a lot of teens and young adults who are fans of anime and manga, it's very difficult to make it to a big convention in Charlotte or Atlanta," said Lang. "For them, this is their first real con (short for convention), and we try to model Librari-Con after those bigger ones."
Such is the case for best friends Jasmine Santos and Janzelle Artis. The pair said Librari-Con empowers them to geek out a bit. They each cosplay -- dress up in the costume of an anime or manga character -- as Karneval characters.
"At school, sometimes people might think you're weird for being into anime," said Santos, who is 17. "But not at Librari-Con. When you see so many other people who are into the same things as you are, it's like you've got new best friends. People keep anime on the inside, but it's something that brings you closer together."
Santos said she was drawn into the world of anime when she was 6 when she was given some stickers of Sailor Moon, a popular anime cartoon. The stickers led Santos to the cartoon, which led her to other cartoons, which ultimately led her to looking for more anime through the Internet.
She and Artis met through a mutual friend while students at Seventy-First High School. Artis, 18, said her siblings introduced her to anime when they were younger. The bright, colorful animated images and creative story lines fascinated her, Artis said, which has led her to pursue a degree in simulation and video game design at Fayetteville Technical Community College.
"When I was younger, I started drawing anime, and my sister would watch 'Inuyasha' (an anime cartoon), and I couldn't stop watching," said Artis. "With anime, anyone can get involved, and Librari-Con helps bring new fans to anime to help it grow. And you meet and talk with people who like the same things as you."
Steve Deleeuw is a member of the Mandalorian Mercenaries "Star Wars" costume club. He said Librari-Con is about expressing himself in a "Star Wars" way. Deleeuw wears the armor of a Mandalorian mercenary from "Star Wars" -- think Boba Fett with minor alterations -- and said it can be challenging to cosplay as a "Star Wars" character.
"It can take a lot of time and money if you want things to be 'screen accurate' and in line with the films' canon," said Deleeuw, a 23-year-old soldier stationed at Fort Bragg. "But it can be a lot of fun, too, especially when you're at a convention and see people who share your passion."
Deleeuw said he got his love for the "Star Wars" films from his parents. He attended his first convention in Seattle in 2008 with friends. Deleeuw has been hooked ever since. He also is part of the 105th Squad, a Durham-based costume club.
Deleeuw said he enjoys how accessible Librari-Con is and how much it supports the local anime and manga scene.
"It's things like this that (help) build and grow cosplay," said Deleeuw.
Lang said making anime accessible to teens has made the library itself more accessible -- or at least approachable -- to teens. The exposure of Librari-Con helps generate teens' interest in other library programs. Lang said she also blends educational programming at the convention.
Librari-Con is, by far, Lang's largest program of the year, which makes for a hectic day. This year's will be even more so, since nearly the entire library will be dedicated to the convention. The logistics may drive her a little crazy, Lang said, but it's all worth it.
"I don't have this kind of response with any other program," Lang said. "Libari-Con is special. Everyone who comes (to Libari-Con) is happy. Everyone has a good time. And it's just great to see people recognize each other's costume and become instant friends."
What To Do
Here is a quick list of things to do and see while at Librari-Con 2013:
Cosplay Craftsmanship Contest: Register on site for a chance for a small prize in this costume contest. A panel of judges will score competitors by the quality, appearance and skill of their work.
Cosplay Runway: The runway lets you show off your hard work and craftsmanship while posing in character for an audience. It's not a contest, and no prizes will be awarded.
Friends of the Library book sale: Buy anime, manga, graphics and gaming books new or in good condition. Cash or checks only.
Artist Alley: Artists can display and sell original artwork that has not bee mass produced. Meet the artists, as well.
Chibi Corner: Have fun with the little ones in this children's area. Activities including origami, coloring, reading stories and costume making.
East Coast premiere of "Electric Man": This indie Scottish film, written by Scott MacKay and David Barras, was screened at Comic-Con 2013 and has been described as "The Maltese Falcon" meets "Clerks." The film is rated PG.
Who's haunting my manga?: Do ghosts make frequent appearances in your manga? Are characters always talking about their ancestors and family histories? Jennifer Daugherty will lead a discussion about what this has to do with Japanese culture. You'll even get the chance to find out about your own ancestors.
You Don't Know . BRAINS! By Zombie Squad Chapter 38: Join the world's premier non-stationary cadaver suppression task force for zombie trivia and prizes.
Japan travel: Have you ever wanted to visit the land of anime? Come by for tips from Sarah Rothman for making your visit to Japan affordable and fun.
Performance by Dawn Sonata, featuring My Protege & the Mocking Bard: Enjoy electronic rock-inspired "nerd-core" (a style of hip-hop with nerds in mind) and ballads.
Beneath the Bucket: Learn the secrets of professional "Star Wars" costuming directly from the people who do it best, the troopers of the Carolina Garrison of the 501st Legion of Stormtroopers. You can test your knowledge during a "Star Wars" trivia session.
A Parent's Guide to Anime and Manga: Are you concerned about your child's interest in anime? This panel led by David Rothman will give you a better understanding of anime and teach you how to select shows that are appropriate for your children. The presentation is rated PG for some imagery.
"You can't take the sky from me": Librarian Missy Lang will lead a discussion about the issues in themes found in the short-lived TV series "Firefly" and the follow-up film, "Serenity."
Want to make your own costume and take on the role of your favorite anime or manga character? Here are some tips from Lang, Santos, Artis and Deleeuw that can save you time and money.
Know your character. Study your character and, if you can't find what your looking for in a costume, be able to extrapolate what else your character might wear. Find something similar, stylistically.
Don't stress about accuracy. If you can't find a costume piece that matches your character exactly, get creative. Even if your substitution doesn't match the character exactly, at least try to match the character's color schemes. Try to show off your character's personality.
Start small, making one or two simple costume pieces, and work your way up to more complicated ones.
Go to YouTube for costume ideas and makeup tutorials.
Don't be afraid to ask for help or approach more experienced cosplayers for assistance or advice. Find a social group that works on costumes.
Look for solutions to expensive obstacles. Learn to love thrift stores and the back of your closet. Both are great places to find clothes that you can mix and match with other pieces. Be wary of ordering online. Costume pieces can be pricey, and sometimes the quality of the item isn't the best.
Wigs can help create a character's hairstyle, if your hair won't cooperate.
Don't be afraid to look ridiculous. Just have fun, be yourself and get out of your shell.
Staff writer Brian Dukes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 486-3523.
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