Cartoon Brigadoon

Dearest Rachel –

I know that true otaku tend to take offense at their precious anime being referred to as ‘cartoons’; it’s the mark of an uncultured philistine to not recognize the distinction between the two very different art forms (or, more to the point, their styles). Only someone who didn’t ‘get it’ would call them that – never mind that we’d been watching anime since before this current crop of otaku were even born.

Only, the two are, when you come down to it, very much inter-related. Osamu Tezuka, the kami-sama no manga (literally, the ‘god of manga’) who is considered one of the founders of the Japanese comic art and animation industry, and created the likes of Astro Boy and your beloved Princess Knight, credited as inspiration the works of Walt Disney – particularly Pinocchio and Bambi. Indeed, it may well be that the ‘big eyes’ trope that so distinguishes an anime character from a cartoon character is due to the effects of Bambi and the fact that its cast of animal characters have those same large eyes – in part because they are juveniles throughout the bulk of the film, and mammalian eyes are the one part of the body that does not grow over an individual’s lifespan, so they will be disproportionately large in one’s youth. Meanwhile, Western animators and comic artists tend to be heavily influenced by the style of Japanese anime and manga, since they have a long history of being unfettered by certain restraints that shackled creators here in the West.

So there shouldn’t be any shame in applying the same nouns to the Japanese and Western art forms; go back far enough in history (and project far enough into the future), and they are indistinguishable as a whole from each other.


So what’s this about Brigadoon, you might ask? And how does it relate to anime, after all? You might have been dimly aware of an anime series by that name (I think we may still have old subtitles in our collection, in fact), but it has nothing to do with Scotland, and instead apparently involves alien creatures coming down from another dimension and hunting the protagonist, who somehow finds an alien ally to protect and defend her, and Earth itself. That’s all well and good, but it’s not really relatable to the current situation, now, is it?

Similarly, it’s not as if Coralville vanishes from sight each year after the convention is over, only reappear again like magic the next, right? Well, that’s quite true. The place is still here (I assume – I’m not here to confirm it, but if God is watching over the place, I think it’s safe to say that it still remains), but it’s quite empty before and after. Check out yesterday’s photos, if you will, honey. There just aren’t that many people in them, now, are there?

Now, it’s still early in the morning as I’m writing this (because the sponsor registration booth opens this early, or so I was told – I’ll probably be an hour late to purchase my badge simply because I plan to shower and eat before heading out there), so it’s still fairly quiet outside. But you know from experience how crowded it gets even by midday – and while I don’t necessarily expect to be out there much this year, the back porch of the hotel will be absolutely jumping by nightfall.

Indeed, this hallway was virtually empty yesterday afternoon.

And it’s true that AI seems more like a community than ACen does; the latter is decidedly more commercial in overall feel – not to mention, the convention center hosts various trade shows and conventions almost every weekend (like the one the boys went to a couple weeks ago, for instance); ACen is just another such job to that place. Here, I can still recall (and you might remember, too) how some of the staff told us back when we were still being hosted at the historic Hotel Fort Des Moines that the new venue had actually consulted with them to determine how to make the place one that would suit them. The hotel and convention center was actually built, in part, to best accommodate AnimeIowa – imagine that. That would never happen in the Chicagoland area; you get what they have, and you deal with it (although, in fairness, there’s plenty to work with back home, so that’s generally okay. It’s just not like there’s anything custom-designed for us otaku).

So this is an actual community that descends upon the venue every year. To be sure, it doesn’t crop up like magic – my wanderings yesterday through the setup process are proof enough of that – but it does seem to practically appear overnight, and come Monday, it will be all but gone again until next year. Sure, the staff will come here for several weekends between now and then to plan that event, but that’s all but invisible to the average congoer like myself. But after so many years of doing this, they have it down to a veritable science, and you know the line…

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

Arthur C. Clarke (misquoted in Doctor Who: Battlefield as “any sufficiently advanced science,” but the point remains.

Anyway, I’ll keep in touch. Keep an eye out for me, honey.

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I am Rachel's husband. Was. I'm still trying to deal with it. I probably always will be.

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