By Matt Oakes
This weekend, the newly completed Information and Communication Technology building will be hit by a tsunami of Japanese visual culture. The timing couldn’t be better–somebody needs to wash the dust and slime off the walls.
The University of Calgary’s annual animation celebration, Otaku no Festival will exhibit Japanese animated film culture. Organized by the U of C student club, Dedicated Otaku Anime, Otafest (as it is also known), promises to present the hobby by screening over 100 hours of film and television as well as holding discussion panels, fan art displays, auctions, and Japanese cultural seminars.
This, the third annual festival, will be invading the new ICT building’s lecture theatres. The new location is a welcome addition for the festival, which is expecting an attendance of 2,000. Steven Choy, director of public relations, is excited about the new venue.
Festival organizer Mike Youngberg is also pleased with this year’s Otafest, especially its content.
"With the new building we have an increased capacity," says Choy. "We can accommodate 1,000 people at any given time. The new theatres are all staggered-style seating so we are not going to have the same issues as last year with people staring over each other’s heads to see the screens and subtitles."
"Content wise, this year we are going to be showing a lot more new stuff." says Youngberg. "There will be a lots of new and rare material that people won’t be able to find in the video store. For example, we are going to show eight out of the top 10 shows playing in Japan right now."
One of the highlights of this year’s Otafest will undoubtedly be the premiere screening of the film Jin Roh at the Uptown theatre late Saturday night. In addition, classics such as Ghost in the Shell, Nausicaa, and a new re-released and re-translated version of Akira will be showing along with the new material.
Otafest is not exclusively for students actively involved in anime. Films will be shown both in subtitled and English-dubbed formats. Newcomers are also strongly encouraged to get involved.
"We have arranged the film schedule so there are a decent amount of dubbed-in-English shows playing." says Choy. "For people who are new or who don’t want to read subtitles, there is something for them to watch."
Choy also encourages first-timers to attend the ‘Otaku Unleashed’ discussion panel, which introduces festival-goers to current issues in the anime community, and to attend the Introduction to Japanese Culture and Language seminar hosted by Youngberg.
"It is virtually impossible to separate [Japanese] culture from the language," Youngberg states. "[The seminar] is a jam-packed hour that is very interactive for everyone. This seminar will touch on greetings, common sayings, and the basic structure of the language, as well as the cognitive processes in terms of how they speak."
The Dedicated Otaku Anime club is excited about helping to get students and the community involved in their hobby.
"We are pretty proud of what we are doing for students and student life on campus" says Choy. "We have raised over $3,000 over the last two years of our two-day event."