Manga-Anime Revolution Reaches Jerusalem

At Harucon, nearly 3,000 glory in Japanese comics and animation. 'Anime is conquering the world.'

Olivier Fitoussi

Last Thursday thousands of youths with wonderfully designed purple, blue and red wigs, original and terrifying weapons, and costumes that are hard to ignore swarmed Jerusalem’s International Convention Center.

The enormous line at the entrance might have looked initially like another Purim party, but the costumes were made with great care, and the wearers’ strange, unintelligible jargon only added to the general air of mystery.

Welcome to Harucon 2015, the eighth annual convention of the Association of Manga and Anime in Israel.

The number of visitors has grown from year to year. Last year, organizers estimated the rate of growth, and the Rishon Letzion hall could not hold the 2,800 visitors who arrived. So the event was moved to Jerusalem for this Purim.

“I am so happy the Anime revolution reached Jerusalem. Anime is conquering the world,” Nissim Otmazgin, senior lecturer at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Department of East Asian Studies, told the convention.

“Why are young people in the world interested in Japan? Because of the history? Because of the economy? Less so. It’s mainly because of anime and manga.

“If it weren’t for anime and manga, I don’t know what Japan’s fate in the world would be. Anime is succeeding in bringing together many people in the world.

Lectures and workshops were held throughout the day, but the real action was in the hallways and plazas of the ICC. There, hundreds of youths gathered around booths selling manga booklets, DVD titles of anime series and every piece of tie-in merchandise imaginable.

They held heated discussions about series and animated heroes. And they were filled with wonder, admiration and jealousy on all who passed alongside them dressed in particularly impressive costumes.

Hen Weiss, a board member of the manga and anime association and one of the Harucon organizers, explained that the group is an offspring of the nearly 20-year-old Israeli Society for Science Fiction and Fantasy. Founded in 2007, the association organizes two conventions a year, at Purim and in the summer.

“On Purim, the convention draws a lot of cosplayers,” he says, explaining that cosplay is a hybrid of costume and game playing.

He says the idea isn’t simply to dress up but rather to get into the character, talk like the character, say what the character would say and take pictures in poses identified with that character.

Harucon’s main happening is the cosplay event, which is the manga and anime community’s equivalent of a costume competition. The cosplayers who participate in the competition don’t suffice with dressing up but also work on skits, in which they get on stage and present their characters.

“It could be a monologue, dance or play,” says Beatris Ritenband, who ran a workshop at Harucon teaching cosplayers how to put on a successful skit. “The cosplay also needs to be a performer.”

The 22-year-old Ritenband, who hails from Ashdod, is — as is required of a veteran cosplayer — geared up in a particularly impressive handmade costume.

She worked five days on the wig alone. She took a wig, cut it, attached additional hair, and used two spray canisters to exactly match that of a character from JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure.

“It’s one of the longest mangas that is still published, and it is very popular in Japan,” she said.

“It follows a number of generations of one family, from the 19th century until our day. My character is from the fifth generation, and there are many times when it deals with philosophical and psychological subjects.”

She says the design in these series is extraordinary, and cosplay draws a lot of creativity from it.

“You see a picture and need to concretize it in reality, and in practice to start from scratch and create an entire character,” she says.

“The more experienced you are, the higher level your costume is going to be.”