This year, Abu Dhabi played host to the region’s first dedicated Japanese culture convention. The 2016 ANI:ME Con promised live J-POP band performances such as Jam Project, and visits from famed anime illustrators such as Yoshitaka Amano, voice-over artists such as Todd Haberkorn and established cosplayers such as Emano.
If that wasn’t enough to get anime fans’ appetite whetted, there were screenings of popular anime, manga art and anime voiceovers and screenwriting workshops and virtual-reality gaming stalls, gaming competitions – primarily involving the Street Fighter and Tekken franchises, and stalls from talented anime artists from across the Middle East and Japan. There were something to cater to every Japanese culture fan’s palette and my personal favorites were the Dragon-Ball Z and Naruto movie screenings.
Speaking of palette, there were several dining options to choose from the event as well, including toasted sandwiches from Toasted, delectable woks courtesy Wokinaki, cone pizzas from Kono Pizza (their chicken tandoori flavor was delicious) and, of course, sushi and sashimi to round it all off.
Sorely missing from the event (and something that makes all pop culture conventions so great), however, were the anime cosplayers with their multi-colored wigs, masks and edgy costumes. Mainstream Japanese gaming brands such as Sony, Namco or Nintendo – or their ubiquitous Pokemon brand which is subject to mass fan hysteria – were also a no-show and their presence might have brightened the Du Forum venue. All in all, ANI:ME Con is worth the 100 AED visit for die-hard fans of Japanese culture and here’s hoping that it grows onto become a regional juggernaut like it’s sister event, the Middle East Comic Con.