Anime convention opens up space for a growing subculture

Cosplay, K-pop and comics steal the show as comic con fetes Japanese, Korean cultures

Safdar Abbas Zaidi January 20, 2020
Entering the comic com, visitors were met with panels of artwork, anime costumes, manga and souvenirs. Photo: Danish Rajput

KARACHI: The city's youth, yet again, gathered together to exhibit their favourite anime, K-pop and comic characters, this time at the Shogun Anime and Comic Con in Pakistan American Cultural Centre (PACC) on Sunday.

As Japanese anime picks up among the local youth, participants met and discovered other members of their growing subculture who flaunted elaborate costumes to represent pop culture characters, in a practice commonly known as cosplay.

Entering the 'world of fantasy' at the comic com, visitors were met with panels of artwork, anime costumes, manga (Japanese-style comic books) and souvenirs as well as separate dance performance events for K-pop and anime lovers. Video-game tournaments and appearances by renowned personalities from the local anime community also added vibrancy to the convention.

Behind the scenes

The anime and comic book event, developed from ideas that came from the creative Geek Haven society, included a cosplay walk, cosplay competition, gaming, Anime Music Video (AMV) competition, skits, karaoke and K-pop singing and dancing performances.

Filzah Baig, a founding member of Geek Haven, told The Express Tribune that the platform kicked off with the intention of creating an inclusive society for varying pop cultures that are set aside from Karachi's mainstream culture. "By putting out a platform for self-expression, we are allowing anime and K-pop fans to find a space for themselves where they no longer feel threatened by those who are overly critical towards their artistic interests and values," she explained.

The whole point of an anime and comic convention is accepting a different culture that an individual sees as their own, she stressed.

Anza Qureshi, a dentist by profession who entered the business of costume-making in 2013, said that fans wear unique costumes to express different traits of their identity. "Many of the characters portrayed by local fans are inherently feminine, but this does not stop them from demonstrating fearlessness when it comes to cosplay competitions," she said.

Ever since she started participating in conventions in 2013, she has designed costumes for multiple characters donned by her family and friends. "Some of the costumes I produce are armour-based while some of the costumes are fancier including the visual kei, worn by Japanese music lovers."

Responding to a question on local costume-making, she revealed, "When designing costumes, I look for the best clothing material at a Sunday bazaar and focus on the quality of stitching. Basically, you thrift, you find and you make the desired costume!"

Why fans love cosplay

The signature segment of any anime convention is its cosplay, where costumed participants compete and are evaluated by a panel of judges, both for the quality of their costumes and for their dedication to their chosen characters' performances.

"The cosplay community has an eye for every detail of the costumes exhibited by cosplayers," said Abdullah, a participant at the event. "You have to pose, express your character and even take action as you perform your character," he added. "Unlike other competitions, cosplay allows different characters to both compete and connect with each other, which is why this platform has become increasingly important to showcase talent among our youth."

K-pop fever takes over

Members of the anime community have gathered here to showcase their talent and express their passion for the characters that inspire them, said Narmeen Aslam, a local K-pop performer at conventions.

"K-pop has gained more popularity since PSY's Gangnam Style released and BTS' 2 Cool 4 Skool debuted in 2013," she told The Express Tribune. "In Pakistan, a lot of male K-pop fans face criticism for dressing and acting flamboyantly, which is unfair. In our generation, there is also criticism from outsiders over how protective anime lovers are of their idols, but this is not true."

The K-pop performer added that unity was a strong factor that binds the local community together. "Our community has always been inclusive, so regardless of one's age, language and background, we welcome anyone who has a strong liking for Korean dance and music," she stressed. "K-pop sends a message of self-love, helping others and pursuing happiness, which is why our subculture is growing."


Published in The Express Tribune, January 20th, 2020.


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