Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Cosplay at Sakura Matsuri

When I interviewed Kate Blumm, communications manager of Brooklyn Botanic Garden, about Sakura Matsuri for a story than ran in The Epoch Times, one of the things we discussed was how prevalent J-pop culture is. Blumm gives credit to the Internet for making anime and manga – and discussions about anime and manga – popular among young people. The Brooklyn Botanic Garden started integrating J-pop cultural elements such as cosplay into its annual Sakura Matsuri Cherry Blossom Festival five years ago, and the activities for those who love anime, manga, cosplay and all things J-pop are a huge part of the weekend.

At this year's Sakura Matsuri, I saw evidence of the strength of J-pop culture among the more staid constructs of traditional Japanese arts. I've noticed that cosplayers love to pose for pictures. This seems to go against my stereotypical image of otaku: They are shy, nervous shut-ins who don't socialize well. Because cosplaying is embraced and encouraged by the BBG, perhaps they are more comfortable. And they are truly popular. As Blumm pointed out, " . . . sometimes it's hard to tell who the performers are and who the visitors are."

Since I'm not one to watch anime series or read manga, I don't know any of these anime characters. Can you name them?

Colorful wigs seem to be a staple of cosplay

She looks as if she's in an anime

Props are huge (literally and figuratively)

Channeling her inner Hatsune Miku

I actually do know who – or what – Hatsune Miku is because I saw the creators give a panel at New York Comic Con/New York Anime Festival last October. I think that officially makes me cool.

The Sakura J-lounge was the hot spot for J-pop

While the cosplayers didn't segregate themselves from other festival visitors, the BBG set up the Sakura J-lounge in a different section of the Garden where they – and anyone else – could gather.

Manga artist Misako Rocks! and voice actress Veronica Taylor gave an anime workshop. Misako helped budding artists create characters; Taylor trained people to give those characters voices.

Kinokuniya's satellite bookstore
They're not dolls, they're action figures!

Inflatable yellow chairs

In its second year, the BBG's Parasol Society remains dedicated to people who dress in Lolita, Victorian, and Goth styles. Last year I was told by a teenager in a Victorian Gothic Lolita dress that this sort of thing isn't cosplaying. I'm not sure what the difference is. Anyone? Is it because they're not actually characters?

Anyway, in honor of the girls – and one guy – who delight in 19th century ruffles, the BBG organized the BBG's Parasol Society Promenade. They tromped through the Garden from the Cherry Esplanade to the Sakura J-lounge, showing off their frills.

Everyone wants a picture of the BBG's Parasol Society

Future members of the BBG's Parasol Society?

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