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The second International Convention on Manga, Animation, Game and Media Art (ICOMAG) will be held in Tokyo this weekend. This year's title is 'Commons of Imagination: What Today’s Society Can Share through Manga and Animation'. The conference aims are described as follows:

Japanese Manga and animation are currently enjoying huge popularity all over the world. Manga and animation obviously have a major impact on society, although it has generally been regarded in terms of recreation up to this point. In reality, however, both the content and form of manga and animation touch upon the most profound aspects of how we see life and the world around us. But the mechanisms of such effects remain largely unconscious and are seldom the main focus of discussion. Manga and animation also fulfill a function that has conventionally been played by the arts, namely, serving to build connections among societies and communities with differing historical and linguistic backgrounds. Viewing manga and animation as a kind of cultural commons, this roundtable will aim to discuss what we can share through these genres and will focus on the possibility of sharing cultural imagination through manga and animation.

I decided to go because the person who told me about the conference said that it probably wouldn't be very interesting for me "because it's not about fan studies". This confused me, especially after I'd read more about the conference's themes. What this gathering is trying to do - like "focus on the possibility of sharing cultural imagination through manga and animation" and "discuss whether manga and animation have the potential to develop as a common language in the global culture of the future" sounds like it has a very, very great deal to do with how audiences for manga and anime decide to deal with those media. And with what millions of manga and anime fans around the world are already doing.

Judging from the texts on the site, the conference could turn out either very interesting or overly focused on what the industry and professional creators "can" or "should" do. I'm not quite sure where they'll try to go with all this, but I'm curious, and some of the speakers sound pretty interesting. Fingers crossed.

In any case, it's a great excuse to go to Tokyo. I've freed up two days to go bury myself in Comiket Service's new second-hand dojinshi shop and in the Yoshihiro Yonezawa Memorial Library. Yonezawa was one of the great driving forces behind Comiket, and after he passed away a couple of years ago, his massive collection of dojinshi and rare manga-related materials was turned into the cornerstone of a to-be-completed manga library at Meiji University. It doesn't look like I'll be able to access a lot as a one-day member in the library, but the new shop sounds like it couldn't possibly disappoint. The old second-hand dojinshi shop was crammed so full of books when I went there last December that I could literally not even turn around in some places; it had its own kind of charm, for sure, but it was hell to find anything - although I did buy a dojinshi with a very lovey-dovey drawing of Eomer and a horse on the cover that I still haven't dared to read. The new shop sounds most excellent: it focuses on gen and joseimuke ('for girls', which in practice means mostly boys' love) and promises a wide selection from old as well as new genres.

By the way, I love that the Japanese term 'ジャンル' or 'genre' is used to denote a fanwork's source work by dojinshi fans, in the way 'fandom' is used a lot by English-language fans. Wouldn't it be fascinating to consider how fanworks could also be thought of as belonging to 'genres' in the English-language sense of the word? What could be the implications of thinking of 'Harry Potter' or 'Avatar' in the same way we think of more well-known genres like 'horror' or 'action'? Think of the theoretical wrangling. What would be the properties of the genre 'Harry Potter' - those characteristics that make you recognize a work as 'Harry Potter' the second you catch a glimpse of it, the way you can often tell the traditional 'genre' of a movie with one glance at the poster? What would be... No? *cough* Okay.
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