All Fired Up for Anime

By Ellen McCarthy
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, February 15, 2008

This weekend, Washington is expected to see a significant increase in complicated superheroes, mischievous villains and adults walking around in elaborate homemade costumes.

Halloween in February?

No, but maybe just as fun. Certainly just as colorful. The District will become a mecca for anime enthusiasts pouring into town for three days of Japanese film premieres at the Kennedy Center and an annual Japanese culture convention in Woodley Park.

The final weekend of the Kennedy Center's "Japan! Culture + Hyperculture" festival will feature 15 new works by renowned anime filmmakers, many of whom will be on hand to introduce or discuss their projects.

The convention, known as Katsucon, is one of the largest East Coast gatherings of anime fans and this year includes dozens of screenings, plus costume contests and karaoke sessions.

"We're just happy to be able to see something like this in our home town," said Chris Wanamaker, president of the DC Anime Club.

What Wanamaker would like the uninitiated to know about anime is that the craft -- a form of animation -- is "just a lot of good storytelling."

"Sometimes the heroes are not really that good. Sometimes the villains are not really that bad. It's just so complex," he said. "Some of the stories will just blow you away."

That's the effect Kennedy Center organizers are hoping for, anyway. They teamed up with producers of Genius Party, a program that gave some of Japan's top anime filmmakers the resources -- and a mandate -- to create their dream projects.

The results, 12 animated short films, will be shown Friday and Saturday nights, marking the first time U.S. audiences have had a chance to see Genius Party works.

"We would like the world's anime fans, as well as those who have no interest in anime so far, to know that anime is a part of Japanese culture. In fact, [it is] one of the leading arts which represents Japan," Genius Party producer Eiko Tanaka explained in a translated e-mail interview. "We consider the [Kennedy Center] Japan festival a great opportunity for that."

On Sunday, three new anime feature films will be screened at the Kennedy Center. The afternoon marathon includes "The Piano Forest," a tale of two talented boys who find a piano hidden in a forest, and "Appleseed: Ex Machina," a science fiction feature produced by Hong Kong film legend John Woo.

Alicia Adams, vice president for international programs at the Kennedy Center, said anime fans from all over the country have been calling to reserve tickets to the screenings. "They know these directors; they know the industry," Adams said. "We're just really delighted that we've touched a nerve for them."

Katsucon is a three-day feast for Japanese-culture lovers, with a 24-hour arcade of specialty video games, round-the-clock screenings of new and vintage anime films, panel discussions and an elaborate costume show and contest.

ANIME AT THE KENNEDY CENTER Genius Party premieres, Friday and Saturday at 7:30. $25. Three-movie marathon, Sunday, with films at 11, 1:15 and 3:30. $15 each. 2700 F St. NW. 202-467-4600.

KATSUCON Friday-Sunday. Omni Shoreham, 2500 Calvert St. NW. Friday $25, Saturday $35, Sunday $20, three-day pass $50. No advance registration required. For a full schedule, visit

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