Japanese cartoons, or anime, represent one of the great blind spots in my knowledge of popular culture. Back in my day, you had to special-order that stuff from distributors, and half the toons had subtitles made via bootleg by dedicated fans who knew their Japanese! Frankly, that was just too expensive for me. Now, you can watch about everything on DVD sets, Netflix Instant or Hulu (which has full runs of titles ranging from Speed Racer to Robotech to FLCL). I'll admit I'm trying to fill some gaps by watching shows that aren't 500 episodes and aren't all robots, schoolgirls or, God forbid, tentacles. You don't want to go down the path of the tentacles, let me tell you.
Whatever your taste, there'll be something for all fans of all things Japanese at the latest Animazement, a massive anime event that attracts thousands of hardcore fans every year, many of whom are wearing elaborate costumes of characters most laymen won't recognize, such as the one shown above. (I would judge, but I'm going to the comics-themed Heroes Con in Charlotte next month and, y'know, glass houses.) Guests include Toshio Furukawa, Fumiko Orisaka and Ichiro Itano, along with many American voice-actors and Japanese bands. The event runs through Sunday; at-the-door badges start at $60 ($45 for ages 6–12) and decrease throughout the weekend to $20 on Sunday. —Zack Smith