Utah rides the anime wave
Utah is the latest Eden in the neon genesis of anime, with new merch vendors and events gliding into the state like Yuri on snow.
What's happening: This weekend brings Isekai, one of Utah's big fan conventions, to Salt Lake City, so expect to see some Sailor Guardians and Gundams around town.
Catch up quick: Anime — Japanese cartoons — gradually gained a following in the U.S. for the complex, adult themes layered under the childlike, expressive faces that distinguish the artistic style.
- The genre has exploded in popularity in recent years as streaming services pick up series and young consumers gravitate toward international media.
Zoom in: Utah's affinity for anime was immediately visible to Kevin Roncancio, who opened a Super Anime Store a few months ago in Millcreek. He said he noticed an untapped market here during a vacation in Florida, where his family founded the business.
- "We go to a place like Walmart, and like eight in 10 people are wearing hoodies, merch, T-shirts, colorful hair — not to profile — but it's a large community," Roncancio told Axios.
- After 500 shoppers showed up for the grand opening, multiple people have inquired about franchising other stores in Utah, he said, adding he’s scouting possible locations for a serial experiment in Utah County.
Not made in (an) abyss: Utah's nerd culture is famously robust, with a massive fan convention each fall, a huge Disney following and notable cosplay skills.
Erin's thought bubble: Utah culture is also strongly child-focused, with blanket forts and scavenger hunts even for adult church activities.
- That could help make the state a promised neverland for media that fuses kid stuff with grownup stuff.
By the numbers: In a ranking of kings, Utah wears a tall crown for anime internet searches during the past year, landing in the top five for several titles, according to Google Trends.
What they're saying: "Anime finally went 'Super Saiyan!'" said Ro Malaga, FanX spokesperson. "It was always on the radar … but the floodgates opened within the last couple of years."
- Utah fans have been asking for more celebrity anime voice actors, and the volume of anime vendors and cosplay has grown rapidly, Malaga added.
Details: Isekai is hosting speakers on art and voice acting with a cosplay contest, dance parties, games and panels.
- Where: 801 Event Center, 1055 W North Temple St.
- When: Friday-Sunday
- Cost: $40-$65 for adults depending on the number of days, with discounts for children
What's next: Lots of anime cons!
- Anime Town Utah: April 21-23, in Sandy
- Toshocon: July in West Jordan, date TBA
- FanX: Sept. 21-23, SLC
- Anime Banzai: Oct. 20-22, in Layton
Tell us: Which anime titles and characters are referenced in this story?
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