When Ohio State’s Urban Arts Space approached the owners of an anime convention called Anime Punch about doing monthly talks on the topic of Japanese animation, the group was more than willing to use the opportunity to expand.
Anime Punch is a college-level exploration of the culture behind Japanese anime. It was created by fans for fans, according to its website, animepunch.org. The next “Monthly Anime Adventure” meeting is today at 6 p.m. at the Urban Arts Space.
Every year the group hosts a large convention in downtown Columbus titled “Armageddicon.” This year’s event is scheduled for the weekend of April 22.
“This all started as an outcropping of the anime club on (Ohio State’s) campus,” said Michael Beuerlein, one of Anime Punch’s founders. “We decided to have a spring event and it was going to be just a short, one-day costume contest and it sort of snowballed.”
Beuerlein said the atmosphere of the convention and discussions are geared toward college students and there tends to be a “party vibe” whenever they meet. He described the big events at hotels as “wilder, with room parties.”
“The convention is in the spring downtown, and we have 150 staff and 10 times that many attendees,” he said.
Beuerlein said all discussions and meeting topics are collectively decided within the group.
“We’re almost communist in how we do things,” he said.
Hanok Hailu, the head of gaming (a position in charge of scheduling events at a convention, and getting sponsors and equipment), said the events are ideal for a college demographic.
“I like the fact that it’s more of a college-level con. Not to say that people who aren’t in college can’t get involved. I like how rowdy (college students) can be,” he said. “It’s a huge college atmosphere. When you add that with people who like anime and gaming, it’s a good time.”
Some of the unofficial events include cosplay, short for “costume play,” role-playing games and card games. Convention attendees are invited to dress up as their favorite character from any subgroup of anime. Also, classes are offered about topics in Japanese anime and anime shows are played throughout the weekend.
They also have speakers that come in and talk about specific anime brands.
“I feel that anime fans are really good about not taking themselves too seriously,” Beuerlein said. He said despite other fan bases being too competitive, anime fans know what they watch is “kind of silly.”
Beuerlein said at least one out of three people got into anime through “Sailor Moon” and the lineup provided by Toonami, a compilation of shows that ran on Cartoon Network from 1997 through 2008.
“My favorite thing, hands down, about Anime Punch is the academic emphasis we place on our programming,” said Jennifer Gaupel, head of registration, in an e-mail. “When I go to a convention, what I really look forward to is academic guests and academic programming. I really believe that anime is something of an intelligent form of art.”
She said the point of the convention is to bring people from all over the anime community together, regardless of what genre they like or how old they are.
“A long-term goal of Anime Punch is to unite the anime fandom,” Gaupel said. “This may sound silly, but there is certainly a lot of drama and a lot of differences between a lot of fans of different anime.”
Hailu agreed with this sentiment.
“We want to bring the anime community together,” he said. “The community is not as tight as it used to be.”
This year’s convention will return to the Hyatt Regency in downtown Columbus. Registration is open to anyone until April 2.