Mar 23, 2023 - Things to Do

Utah rides the anime wave

Kuchipatchi beams over Super Anime Store at 2274 E. 3300 South in Millcreek. Photo: Erin Alberty/Axios

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.

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!

Tell us: Which anime titles and characters are referenced in this story?

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