Los Angeles' Ninja-Con Convention Brings Surprises

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Gallery Ninja-con At The Japanese American Cultural & Community Center

LOS ANGELES - Rather than crowding Toys R Us stores, many kids who "don't wanna grow up" have become fanboys of Japanese animation, comics and video games, said the sponsor of a small, new convention in Little Tokyo.

About 200 people attended Ninja-Con, a three-venue event at the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center, Anime Jungle and the Miyako Hotel. While some wore T-shirts and jeans, others were dressed in full "cosplay" attire, meaning they were outfitted as anime, comic book, movie or video game characters.

"I notice a very close-knit community," said Stefanie Warner, the CEO of Creative Chimera, the nonprofit who helped host the convention. "A lot of kids that would normally not be social have a way to be social, and I notice that the cosplay is a way to get out of their shell. They don't feel so shy, so scared."

Many in this community recognize the stereotypic perception people have of them. Oscar Andrade, a 22-year-old Bell resident, said people who are big fans of anime, cosplay or comic books have a tendency to live a "vampire lifestyle" and are "shut-ins," but he said not everyone in this subculture is introverted.

"We're regular people that just like to have fun in a safe, comfortable environment," he said, an appropriate statement for a man wearing a "Ghostbusters" T-shirt. "We're just little kids. We get along with other people just fine."

Japanese, Chinese, Hispanics, whites and blacks played video games such as Mortal Kombat 9 and Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3. Others played card games like Tentacle Bento, whose objective is to "capture" girls before the school year ends. Girls in this stack of cards come in four types: sexy, cute, sporty and smart.

At the convention, the people in cosplay -- Pokemon, Edward Scissorhands, Link from "Zelda," and characters from popular anime series -- turned heads and were often stopped for photos.

Ana Menjivar, who lives in Los Angeles, wore a bright pink wig and a maid costume from "High School of the Dead," an anime.

"Some outfits can be sexual and people that don't get anime might get it as the girls are being sluts or guys are being sluts," said Menjivar, 20. "But for 'otakus' (zealous fans of anime and manga), it's you look great. Your costume is amazing! Nothing sexual."

Danny "D-Boy" Gonzales, the 29-year-old founder of Ninja-con, said the inaugural convention sets up a storytelling platform for artists who are usually forced into the peripheral at large conventions such as Anime Los Angeles and Comic-Con International: San Diego. …