Who doesn’t enjoy a fresh cup of coffee while reading? But maybe you are craving a unique environment or a little bit more adventure? Then, now is a great time to visit a cafe. All around the world, themed cafes are gaining popularity: cat cafes, piano cafes, art cafes, and our favorite– manga cafes. Imagine walking going to enjoy a cappuccino with some of your favorite characters manga and comics on the numerous shelves. Our favorite type of cafe influence spreads from bustling urban centers in cities such as Tokyo, Seoul, Hong Kong, Taipei, etc. to Los Angeles, London, and now even Loano, Italy!
Now in Loano, Italy Izumi’s Manga Cafe is shaking up everyone’s previous perceptions of fun nightlife for adults (Piazza Palestro 17, 17025 Loano.) Although the style is different from the collective cubicles you would find in Japan’s manga cafes, the welcoming and laid-back vibes will make just about anyone feel transported to magical place in the comfort of company amongst manga fans. You can even take a day off from the daily grind and live as someone else when you cosplay. Manga cafes will most likely leave readers satisfied in more ways than one.
Until recently in the Western world, media, anime, and/or comic conventions had not been a more widely accepted annual event for people to look forward to. It is a place for people to gather and express their appreciation and fandom for an for of art or literature. There are panels where one can show expertise on something like “how to make your male designs cuter” or “name that theme song”. The scent of pocky and potato chips fills the convention space of the hotel, and some attendees even dress up and act out their favorite characters. These convention goers (especially anime con) are sometimes labeled by a term that might be a bit unfamiliar to us– “otaku.”
In the Western world the word “otaku” refers to an individual who frequently watches anime or enjoys manga and/or comics often. However, the origin of this term is something quite different from what you would expect. In Japan, “otaku” specifically as a word is defined as an individual who is nearly obsessed in learning more about particular topic. In this way, showing interest and a willingness to look uncool for the sake of learning new things and improving– can be seen by many in a positive light.
So why not get yourself engrossed in one of our stories today!
Storytelling was the beginning of humanity’s oral history: before we could write language on paper, telling or performing stories were not just how communities entertained themselves– they were also a way to keep historical records. Since then, the invention of printing has made stories accessible to virtually anyone in the world.
But most of us are still finding a portion of Japanese stories difficult to understand. The reason for this is that we are most likely used to digesting literature in chronological order: the plot line is the engine that moves the characters forward from the beginning, to the introduction of a conflict, escalation of conflict, and then a resolution and conclusion (which is most likely shorter than the first half.)
Instead of focusing on the plot, the center of Japanese stories in some cases can be its characters. In order to make you invested in finding out more about a character, his or her traits need to be rounded, and one’s introduction into a story is often attention-grabbing and raises more questions than it gives answers. After having encountered more than one story like this, you will begin to observe a character’s current state and fill in some of the blanks for yourself. But remember readers, the purpose of the journey in storytelling is not to have all the answers but to go along with the adventure!
It is amazing that in today’s world, online media subscription services like Hulu have a separate genre category just for anime. It was not long ago when watching Japanese anime on a foreign television meant staying up late or looking for a lesser-known show meant scouring the internet for hours just to find even a synopsis in your language. But lucky for us, animation has managed to find its way into more and more everyday conversations.
However, even if you do not partake in anime television series, a beginner may find animated film features to be an easier start.
Made popular by film director Hayao Miyazaki-san, Howl’s Moving Castle (or Il Castello Errante di Howl in Italian), is a fantastical adventure with magic as a norm, and at the center of it all is a protagonist named Sophie Hatter. Don’t worry, you can read further because we offer no spoilers here.
The film adaptation in 2004 was a success in Japan and has since been published in many other countries as well. However, long before this story was a beautiful film, it was an adventure novel written by British author Diana Wynne Jones in 1986.
But make no mistake– both publications, both novel and film, work together in many ways, making a lot of the smaller details that may be different, complimentary to each other. Even though both adaptations are from the point-of-view of Sophie Hatter, the protagonist, the story in its written form serves best to explain the world’s rules and happenings more explicitly, and this makes the magic element seem like it comes from a different planet. In the film adaptation, magic is normalized to the viewers by creating connections with it and images from our world (both good and bad,) like technology and irresponsibility.
Come visit the magical kingdom of Ingary in Diana Wynne Jones’ Howl’s Moving Castle, and see where the adventure all began!