Last year, Animazement — the anime and Japanese culture convention — turned 20, a moment to celebrate.
This year, the idea is to step back, find new talent and simply present a memorable convention, said Matthew Holmes, the event's PR and Outreach Coordinator.
"We're trying to give a classic kind of Animazement experience," Holmes says. This weekend, from Thursday to Sunday, Animazement hits the Raleigh Convention Center, drawing droves of Anime fans downtown on Memorial Day Weekend.
One new element, considered this year's defining feature, is Animazement's partnerships with the North Carolina Museum of Art, Marbles Kids Museum and The Justice Theater Project, he says. The idea is for the convention to exist less in a niche and more in the context of local art, education and drama.
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"We're part of the same community," Holmes said.
Here are a few notable guests and events from Animazement 2018.
Voice talents: Award-winning Japanese voice actor Yusuke Kobayashi joins English-language actors E. Jason Liebrecht and Elizabeth Maxwell. "It's a long list," Holmes says of the many shows and games these actors have appeared in. Maxwell, for instance, has had roles in hit anime series "Attack on Titan" and Nintendo's "The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild."
Hiroshi Nagahama: Director and animator Nagahama's most impressive achievement may be 2017's "The Reflection," if for no reason other than that this anime film was narrated by comic book legend and pop culture icon Stan Lee. Pop band 9Nine, which performs at Animazement this year, contributed music to the film.
Rachel & Jun: She's American, he's Japanese, their cats are cats, and they document married life in Nagoya, Japan to a sizable YouTube following. Rachel & Jun appeared in 2017 as well. See their videos at youtube.com/user/MyHusbandisJapanese.
Project Cosplay: "Cosplay is always the big draw," Holmes says, referring to many attendees' elaborate costumes. "We're not the only game doing that anymore, but we're one of the bigger ones." This year, the new "Project Cosplay" event takes a page from "Project Runway." Contestants have an hour to make a cosplay outfit from scratch.
Someta Hayashiya: Multilingual comedian Hayashiya performs rakugo, a Japanese form of prop-driven solo comedy. It's not standup, Holmes says, but it's a form of comedy that would still make sense to an American audience.
The Jacabal's: Samurai acting troupe The Jacabal's returns, once more performing (and discussing) their stage combat and swordplay for Animazement attendees.
J-Trap: Competitive acrobatic Double Dutch is an unexpected niche, but it's a niche longstanding Japanese Double Dutch team J-Trap has mastered.
When: May 24-27. 6 to midnight, May 24; 9 a.m. to 2 a.m. May 25 and 26; 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. May 27.
Where: Raleigh Convention Center, 500 S. Salisbury St., Raleigh
Cost: Adult $70/Child (6-12) $55 May 24 and 25; Adult $55/child $45 May 26; Adult $30/child $25 May 27. Children 5 and under free.