Manga Style: The Craze for Japanese Anime in Chile

You may have seen them dancing to their own reflections at the GAM. Maybe you have encountered their costumed groups in San Cristobal's Japanese gardens. But if you don't know what the terms cosplay, manga, shoujo or bishonen are, and you haven't been watching many cartoons lately, then they might be simply an oddity.

Manga Chileno
Manga Chileno

Labeled by the Japanese as an Otaku, a hyper-fan of Japanese culture, video games, anime or manga (Japanese comics and TV cartoons), these teens and twenty-somethings are spreading their influence in almost every public venue of Santiago.

Japanese anime has been airing on national TV since the eighties with shows like Remi, based on a novel by French author Hector Malot, but it is only in the last few years that Chilean manga culture has exploded. Other authors like Alexander Dumas, Edmondo De Amicis and Johanna Spyri inspired TV cartoons that were then dubbed into Spanish and became instant anime classics. With a thirty-year history of anime in Chile and annual conventions over the last decade, the change has been in the increasing number of enthusiastic fans.

Swaa anime event - Sat 15th December, Santiago
Swaa anime event - Sat 15th December, Santiago

It is common these days that hundreds of Otaku gather maybe two or three times a month, usually at high schools or university campuses to talk about their favorite Japanese anime, sing karaoke versions of their favorite program theme songs, trade in anime memorabilia, or maybe even indulge in some 'cosplay'.

This latest trend (cosplay short for costume play) is a chance for fans to dress up as their favorite anime characters, mimicking every walk, pose and dance, and get photographed by curious on-lookers. Sometimes they will re-enact entire show episodes with a full audience cheering them on. This game has literally transformed itself into a lifestyle for some, self-titled 'cosplayers,' whose months of preparation often includes frequent trips to the gym and strict diets, just to best impersonate their favorite character.

There are also cosplay conferences, where these small tribes gather to discuss the best types of fabrics to use, make up to buy and international cosplayers they admire. One boy in a Naruto outfit said, “We do this because here we can be popular. We can talk to people who share our interests, and it feels like home”

MANGA BREAKDOWN : Shoujo, (girlie manga) and Shonen, (manboy manga).

Shoujo manga is very romantic and the leading character is usually a girl.

Card captor Sakura, by the manga artist group Clamp, was a monthly comic book published between 1996 and 2000. Main character Sakura Kinomoto, an elementary school student, discovers she possesses magical powers after accidentally opening a sealed set of magical cards, which she must then retrieve one by one in order to avoid an unknown world catastrophe.

Anime from the recent Teletón
Anime from the recent Teletón

Fushigi Yuugi by Yuu Watase, was published from 1992 through to 1996. It tells the story of two teenage girls, Miaka and Yui, who are pulled into "The Universe of the Four Gods", by a mysterious book at the National Library.

Revolutionary Girl Utena written by Be-Papas and illustrated by Chiho Saito, follows the main character, Utena Tenjou, a cross-dressing teenage tomboy who rights high school wrongs in a prince's costume with Camelot-like swords duels as her friend the "Rose Bride" gets passed around to the current dueling champion.

Not only did Naoko Takeuchi's, Sailor Moon run from 1991 to 1995, but it has ten serialized side stories that branched off from the original. The protagonist of Sailor Moon, Usagi Tsukino, an ordinary, clumsy, 14-year-old girl — or so she thinks —, discovers a talking cat named Luna. The cat reveals Usagi's true identity as a special warrior with the destiny of saving planet Earth, and later the entire galaxy.

Now for the boys, Shonen manga is aimed at a male audience of 10 and up with high-action, often humorous plots featuring male protagonists in teams or fighting squads that emphasize camaraderie.

Dragon Ball by Akira Toriyama was originally serialized from 1984 to 1995. Following the life adventures of Son Goku, from childhood martial arts trainng into adult adventures exploring the world in search of the seven mystical orbs known as the Dragon Balls, which can summon a wish-granting dragon when gathered.

Eiichiro Oda's One Piece has been in contiuous print since 1997. Monkey D. Luffy is a young man whose body gains the properties of rubber after unintentionally eating a Devil's Fruit. He travels the oceans with his diverse crew, the Straw Hat Pirates, searching for a treasure known as One Piece in order to become the next Pirate King.

Rurouni Kenshin by Nobuhiro Watsuki, takes place during the early Meiji period in Japan. This story is about an assassin turned people's protector named Himura Kenshin. The highly-popular series has sold over 47 million copies in Japan, while the anime often ranks among the 100 most watched series in Japan.

Naruto is an ongoing Japanese manga series by Masashi Kishimoto, which tells the story of Naruto Uzumaki, an adolescent ninja who constantly searches for recognition and dreams to become the leader of his village. The series is based on a one-shot comic by Kishimoto that was published in 1997. Naruto is one of the best selling manga of all time having sold more than 113 million copies in Japan. The English adaptation of the series has also appeared in the USA Today Booklist several times and volume 7 won the Quil Award in 2006.

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