Japanese culture gains popularity with anime (includes multimedia content)

Vanessa Alvarez is a realtor by day and dresses up at night. She recently attended a party that encouraged dressing up as fictional characters. She thinks anime is a gateway to learning.

“There is a sense of wonder when your mind grows curious of the things you’re interested in,” said Alvarez. “You get to learn about all kinds of places when you look up the setting of different animes.”

Anime is a popular Japanese art style developed in the early 20th century. The word anime is a shortened version of the English word, animation. It gained popularity in Japan during World War II when the government used its shows to promote propaganda in the community. Fast-forward to today, anime has made an impact on many people’s lives.

Shows released between the ’80s and ’90s were considered the golden age of anime as Japanese studios created more animations than ever before.

People who enjoy Japanese animations and the culture are called “weebs.”

A product of the internet, the word comes from “weeaboo” which was used to insult those obsessed with Japanese culture on online forums in the early 2000s. Now, weebs embrace the term and gather at conventions to show off their love for their favorite animes.

Some people assume that watching anime leads to a fondness for the culture in Japan.

Guillermo Jumpp, an event host who created a monthly gathering called Weebs Unite, which takes place at Lost City Brewery, believes that people were exposed to the culture because of anime.

“I don’t think one person in this event got into anime because they thought that the Japanese were cool,” said Jumpp. “Everyone here is a weeb and got into the culture because of anime.”

People at anime events dress up in cosplay to share their love for their favorite characters.

Johnathan and Valentina Correa are a married couple who enjoy dressing up as characters from a popular anime called, “Demon Slayer.”

Jonathan and Valentina Correa dressed up outside of Flynn’s Arcade. (Carolina Villagra/SFMN)

“I’m Tanjiro and he’s Zenitsu,” said Valentina. “Tanjiro is my favorite because he pushes through even when it gets hard. He inspires me to be a better person.”

“I like Zenitsu because I tend to surprise myself, even when I’m scared or afraid or in a tough situation,” said Johnathan. “Zenitsu reminds me of myself because he goes for it without even realizing it and that’s how I am.”

Although many people solely love anime, those who immerse themselves in the history of the country find themselves more in love with all things Japanese, including the food.

Valentina is a veterinarian who has been fascinated by Japanese culture ever since she ate her first sushi roll.

“I fell in love with the flavors and the texture,” said Valentina. “It was such a unique experience I just had to figure out how to make it myself. I’m planning a trip to Japan next year to immerse myself in the culture because the food I tried made that much of an impact on me.”

Japan has made a mark on the U.S. and the weeb community grows with each passing moment as new anime shows are released.

Susan Napier, a professor of Japanese culture at Tufts University, gave a Ted Talk in 2017 where she shared her thoughts on anime and why she thinks it brings people together.

“Animation is an immersive universe,” said Napier. “It sweeps you away the moment you set foot in it.”

Carolina Villagra is pursuing a bachelor's degree in journalism at Florida International University. Her interests include writing poetry, reading philosophy books and the art of photography. She aspires to have her own podcast while working for the Los Angeles Times after she graduates.