News Column

Bak-Anime Con a celebration of geek culture

June 23, 2014

By James Burger, The Bakersfield Californian

June 23--Stephany Woo sported anime heroine Mikasa Ackerman's red scarf, complicated harness of grappling hooks and swords Sunday at the Bakersfield Marriott on Truxtun Avenue.

Woo, from Bakersfield, teamed with her brother Steven and friend Joseph Villagomez to recreate the look of three major characters from the Japanese animated series "Attack on Titan" for the Bak-Anime Con.

The celebration of Japanese animation, comic books, video games and geek culture in general packed the hallways and conference rooms of the downtown hotel.

Woo said anime can be a place where strong female characters shine.

"Most girls are seen as gentle and girly. I love how my character is the opposite of that," Woo said. "She's very ambitious and strong and she likes to be independent."

Hundreds of people -- from new babies (sporting Dragon Balls and purple tufts of hair) to teens and adults -- flooded the hallways of the Marriott to look over merchandise, watch artists draw or catch a Q&A session with voice artists Brina Palencia and Trina Nishimura.

Many of them were sporting a costume of some sort -- as simple as a face mask or as complicated as body paint, horns, tails or elaborate capes, robes or the hand-crafted ensembles the Woos were wearing.

Lines between classic and modern American animated movies and Japanese imports new and old blurred in hallways.

A Jack Frost from DreamWorks' "Rise of the Guardians" sauntered past ninjas from "Naruto," multiple Zeldas from the Japanese video game series, a super-saiyan or two, My Little Pony fans with wings and a properly comported Sebastian from "Black Butler."

Josh Branch said he was surprised by the event.

He grew up watching anime, he said, and cut his teeth on "Pokemon" (plenty of Ash Ketchum-clones roamed the halls) and "Dragon-Ball Z."

But he never really knew how many people were fans as well or how strong of an event Bakersfield could put on.

"I just discovered 'Attack on Titan' last night," he said. "I didn't expect all these people. I didn't expect the big anime base here."

Cheralynn French and Miranda Chavez came as Raven and Beast Boy from "Teen Titans" -- an American comic book that was made into an animated TV series that was clearly influenced by Japanese anime styles.

French and Chavez said they believe American animation has grown up as Japanese story-telling -- sometimes darker or more mature than American animation had been -- grew in popularity.

"The style has been getting a lot better," French said.

French said she identifies with Raven, who is an introspective, reclusive character, and Chavez said she picked the light-hearted, bombastic Beast Boy for his sense of fun.

The pair said Bak-Anime felt welcoming.

"If we were out on the street we wouldn't fit in," Chavez said. "Here we can be ourselves."

Woo had similar feelings about the convention.

"This whole con is like a family," she said.


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Source: Bakersfield Californian, The (CA)

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