PEMBROKE — Stephanie Spencer, decked out in red and black and toting a plastic gun, watched animation videos, made origami and played “Dance, Dance, Revolution” Monday at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke.
She was dressed as Claire Redfield from the “Resident Evil” video game series, vying to win the costume contest at the university’s first Anime and Manga Cosplay Festival.
“Usually I don’t do a lot of things on campus because they don’t really interest me,” Spencer said. “But when I heard they were having something to do with anime, I was like, ‘This is something I know something about and I love,’ so I was excited.”
She was there with her friend Anastasia Lanaro, a sophomore who dressed as the character Kagome from the show “InuYasha,” complete with green and white ensemble and skirt. The costumes were part of the cosplay portion of the festival, a word that is short for costume-play.
The festival, which attracted about 80 people, featured Japanese animation videos and food, a video game, cards, a costume contest and a lip-syncing performance by senior Jeremy Salzar.
“It’s really student-driven and that’s what we’re so excited about,” said Annika Culver, the coordinator of Asian Studies at UNCP. “… On campus there’s a huge interest in manga and anime. …(It) gets students interested in Asian studies through the lens of Japan, which is one of the most dynamic countries in Asia.”
The library hosted a table at the event, showing off the vast amount of material available relating to anime and manga. A representative from the American Red Cross was also available to accept donations to support its efforts to restore Tōhoku, Japan, after the 9.0-magnitude earthquake that struck on March 11.
“So many kids on campus love this and it’s a great way to engage the students,” said Melanie Wood, the organizer of the event. “Plus it’s a cross-curriculum with Asian studies, the digital academy, and the library.”
Anime is Japanese animation, while manga is Japanese comics and print cartoons.
“Manga and anime provide this fantasy space where young people can kind of live out their dreams in an acceptable fashion without having it conflict with their expected social roles,” Culver said.
Senior Caitlin McKone sat at the origami table making paper cranes and roses. As an art major, she is interested in a different aspect of anime and manga.
“I’m not sure how to draw it yet and I’m an art major,” McKone said. “It’s something different about the anatomy of the characters.”
McKone said she got into anime when she was in middle school, a time when many students were first introduced to the genre. Will Britt, a junior, donned a purple shirt depicting Gengar from the “Pokemon” series. His first taste of anime came from the popular 1990s TV show “Power Rangers.”
“‘Power Rangers’ is the American adaptation of the Japanese ‘Super Sentai,’” he said.
He practiced his Chinese Kung Fu with another student at the event and checked out some books. At one table, six students played the card game “Magic: the Gathering.”
One of the most complete costumes was Salzar’s, the emcee of the event, who was dressed head to toe in drag.
“I just decided to put this together because one thing I’ve been fascinated with about Japan that I’ve seen in anime and manga are crossdressers,” Salzar said. “I have a lot of respect for crossdressers.”
Performing as Anna Joanna Mazing, he wore a black ensemble with a black, pink and blond wig, bogus breasts and gold jewelry as he lip-synced to the theme song of “Bleach,” a popular anime.
“Anime and manga, that’s the first experience people have with Japanese media and Japanese culture in general,” he said. “…We wanted to use that something familiar so people can learn something about Japanese culture. We have the origami, the drawing, the stamping, the Japanese food. We wanted to give them more than just the anime and manga.”