As pervasive and much-visited as the Fort Wayne Newspapers Three Rivers Festival will be over the next 10 days, there is an event that is generating just as much if not more excitement within a certain demographic.
Its Ikasucon, a convention in its 10th year that celebrates Japanese popular culture.
It happens today through Sunday at Grand Wayne Center.
Ikasucon was founded in Cincinnati in 2003, according to the festivals marketing director, Terry OBrien.
OBrien says Ikasucon was moved to Fort Wayne in 2007 after its organizers toured facilities across the Midwest and Grand Wayne Center stood high above its competitors.
Grand Wayne Center officials also bribed them with cookies, OBrien said, laughing.
They literally had this big box of cookies, OBrien recalled.
Ikasucon is devoted to anime (Japanese animation), manga (Japanese graphic novels) and Japanese video games, not to mention almost everything else thats uniquely Japanese, including imported candies, OBrien said.
One of these snacks, Pocky, consists of biscuit sticks partly covered in coatings flavored with chocolate, strawberry, almond, green tea, coconut, banana and honey.
This just goes to show that food-on-a-stick, a staple at 3RF, is nothing less than a global phenomenon.
Another aspect of Ikasucon that is fun even for people who dont know much about Japanese culture is the cosplay.
Ikasucon attendees tend to dress elaborately as their favorite characters, many of which would probably not be identifiable by the average man and woman on the street.
The costumes are as instantly recognizable to devotees, however, as a Wonder Woman outfit would be to most people, OBrien said.
Other features of Ikasucon include gaming tournaments, game shows, karaoke, anime improv, chess and an original animation contest, according to the conventions website.
One key to understanding the popularity of anime and manga, OBrien said, is to realize that in Japan, nearly everyone watches animation and reads graphic novels – not just children.
Prior to The Simpsons, animation in the United States was pretty much relegated to Saturday mornings.
OBrien said this never happened in Japan.
Japanese viewers dont feel the need to make a mental note that they are about to watch animation, he said.
Its just another dramatic series or comedy series to them, OBrien said. Whether its drawn or features actors, it doesnt matter.