Tekkoshocon Brings Anime, Japanese Culture to Pittsburgh

By Machosky, Michael | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, April 9, 2010 | Go to article overview

Tekkoshocon Brings Anime, Japanese Culture to Pittsburgh


Machosky, Michael, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


When American kids were watching "Speed Racer" and "Robotech" in the '80s, it was only barely apparent that the shows were coming from an entirely different place, across a vast ocean from the usual Hollywood cartoon factories.

Things sure have changed. The interest in Japanese animation -- or anime, as it is popularly known -- has gone from a small cult following for sci-fi fanboys into a cultural tsunami, influencing even American comics, film, television and video games. It's still a niche, but an enormous one -- big enough to fill the David L. Lawrence Convention Center for Tekkoshocon, Pittsburgh's annual convention for fans of Japanese animation and pop culture, which starts today.

"It's really kind of a young industry (in America), but you can trace the roots back to when 'Speed Racer' and 'Robotech' were going up on American television in the '80s and before," says T.J. Condon, a Tekkoshocon organizer. "But then there was a sense that we were getting it from Japan, but trying not to say, 'Hey this is Japanese' -- it was just something they happened to procure. And now, there's a whole lot of people who are especially interested in the cultural significance, and the very different-ness of it."

Anime cuts across many media platforms -- not just movies and animated series. Manga -- the thick, book-sized Japanese comic books -- have become one of the bright spots in publishing in recent years, finding a huge audience among American teens, especially girls. Then there's video games.

"I think video games are one of the major driving forces of it," Condon says. "Back in 1983 when the American video game industry faltered -- due to Atari's eyes really getting too big for their head, and making millions of copies of E.T. and other really bad games -- the American video game industry kind of shut down. And (Japan's) Nintendo came in, and really started making an entire generation familiar with this very Japanese aesthetic, even if it wasn't always overt.

"And there were almost shameful cases where a company wanted to release a video game in the U.S., where they went to great lengths to strip out Japanese cultural icons and ideas," Condon says.

Now, that's clearly not the case. In fact, interest in video games or anime series like "Dragon Ball Z" or "Cowboy Bebop" tend to be the hook that gets young Americans interested in other aspects of Japanese culture. …

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