If you visit the main library on Friday without a costume, you might find yourself underdressed. AnimeCon is the Louisville Free Public Library's annual celebration of Japanese animation and culture for teens, and a costume competition is part of the event. Teens (Friday's event is for ages 12-19) come dressed as their favorite animated character and compete for prizes.
The event is free, but registration is required.
All of the library's branches stock Japanese graphic novels called manga, as well as other graphic novels and comics. It’s a high-circulating collection, and teens’ interest in Japan doesn’t stop at the end of the book.
“They might be interested in watching the anime and reading manga, but they’re also interested in the cultural aspects of Japan. We’ve done tea ceremonies and Japanese language programs, anything that connects them to the culture they’re really interested in,” says Katie Sciavi, who manages the children's department at the main library.
Sciavi attributes the enduring popularity of Japanese animation in part to their ties to video games, as well as their fast pace.
“Teens are very visual learners these days, so they’re drawn to the fact that they can read a book and see the artwork that goes along with it, and then watch the TV show,” she says.
Since Japanese graphic novels and video games entered the American mainstream, Sciavi says the teens who frequent the library have been hungry for a stronger connection to all things Japanese, like the bento box lunch. On Friday, teens can compete in a bento box Iron Chef challenge to test their bento-making skills.
“We’re going to have a bunch of ingredients out and they’re going to work in teams where they create a bento box that’ll be judged on how healthy it is, how attractive it is,” says Sciavi. “These teens are such a group of creative, smart kids and I’m amazed at what they’re able to do with what we give them to do during this day.”
The day-long event also includes workshops, anime screenings, sumo wrestling suits and a samurai workshop courtesy of the Frazier History Museum. The Crane House will lead workshops on calligraphy and gyotaku, a traditional form of Japanese fish printing.
“You take a dead fish and put paint on it and create a print,” says Sciavi. “Yes, they’re going to have dead fish in the library.”