Animazement Conference: Much More Than Cosplay

The annual fan event celebrates — and educates attendees about — Japanese culture through the visual arts of anime, manga, and more.

Author: Casey Gale       


Date: May 27-29, 2022
Place: Raleigh Convention Center, Raleigh, North Carolina
2022 attendees: 10,812

Animazement, a multi-day celebration of Japanese visual culture, including anime, manga (a style of Japanese comic books and graphic novels), video games, and more, hosted close to 11,000 fans at its 2022 convention — a far cry from its humble origins.

The all-volunteer, fan-run convention got its start in 1997 as a 36-hour anime marathon organized by the Triangle Area Anime Society at North Carolina State University. After the popularity of that event, said Animazement’s public relations and outreach coordinator Matthew Holmes, “Animazement spun off under the direction” of local Japanese language teacher Yoshimi Yamagata Aoyagi. It is now sponsored by the charity Educational Growth Across Oceans.

Since its first official event in 1998, this celebration has continued to grow, moving from small hotels to its current host venue, the Raleigh Convention Center, in 2009.

Culture Class

Fan conventions often conjure images of endless photo ops with talented cosplayers. While Animazement attendees celebrate Japanese popular culture in part through elaborate costuming — the event’s Animazement Masquerade showcasing participants’ cosplaying and design talents is always a smash hit — the event honors its academic roots by leaning “heavily into education,” Holmes said, with a program that includes sessions “that broaden the knowledge of attendees, be that through language, music, or other cultural arts, in addition to the typical anime convention offerings of acting, visual design, and production.” Educational sessions this year included:

  • The Story of Chopsticks
  • Japanese Urban Legends
  • What Is School Like in Japan?
  • A panel discussing Buddhism in Hayo Miyazaki films
  • Traditional Japanese puppetry

The demographics of attendees have changed and grown “quite a bit” over the years, Holmes said, in step with the popularity of anime itself. But Animazement’s goal has remained the same: to instill a “greater depth of understanding of Japanese culture, but also arts and culture at large,” Holmes said. “For many, Animazement is often the first time they are exposed to cultural surveys, professional actors and artists, or animation industry representatives, and many will go on to pursue careers or passions in those fields, which is the best outcome we can hope for.”

Casey Gale is managing editor at Convene. Illustration by Carmen Segovia

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