N.A.J. presents COSFEST 2015
WHERE FANTASY BECOMES REALITY
Kohima | July 12
Photos courtesy: Hopong Chang Photography
“You only have your thoughts and dreams ahead of you. You are someone. You mean something,” said the caped crusader in issue #78 of Detective Comic’s vintage classic ‘Batman Begins,’ while consoling a young boy who had been rejected and ridiculed by almost everyone around him.
Flip through 14 more panels and the writers reveal that the same boy, after 30 years, still carries that moment with him. This is one of several instances in the golden age of Comic Books (1938-1950) that Superheroes endeared themselves to kids – resulting in the emergence of fan cultures across America and Europe.
The birth of these fan cultures, while evolving along with changes in the world of popular culture, art and modern literature, spread across the world, and more recently, Nagaland arrived to the scene as well.
Contrary to how kids related with the colorful Superheroes in the west, a large section of young Nagas were instead drawn to Asian and particularly Japanese form of animation and Manga. With a distinct artwork and stylistic displays of expressions, this form of Japanese art has for nearly a decade captured the imaginations of many young Nagas – giving rise to a fascinating fan culture in the state. While this sub culture remained unseen for many years, over the past three years, the Nagaland Anime Junkies (NAJ) has played an important role towards providing a platform for members of this fandom to come together.
The globalization of mass media, particularly the internet, and Naga students studying outside the state, played a significant role in giving rise to this social phenomenon during its early stages. At present however, Anime and Manga art is readily available to young Nagas through the internet. A visit to the NAJ social media forum on Facebook provides a fascinating look at how immersed members of this sub culture are in their shared passions.
A question remains though. Why has this particular art form been so effective in drawing in young Nagas? While speaking to The Morung Express, many Naga fans of Anime and Manga cited varying reasons.
Kilen Aier, who has been following Japanese animation for several years, says that the extreme emotions, which form a vital role in most Anime, drew him in. Anger, he says, is an emotion that he found more starkingly portrayed in Japanese Anime and Manga than other art forms he was exposed to.
Meanwhile, Koli Mongzar, another fan of this artform and an artist herself, points to the vast array of characters available for fans to relate to and their complex personalities. She further cites the distinct art style in Manga, which is ascribed to by several other anime fans as well. The distinct sketching style in Anime and Manga is particular to this genre, and forms a key element of this art form.
While some consider this phenomenon to be a fad, people who are immersed in this subculture differ. For them, this art form speaks to them at a deeper level, going beyond its physical characteristics. Aier affirms that it is personal to him and that he relates to themes ranging from depression to anger to revolution combined with light hearted.
Theja Meru, who played a leading role, during the Korean wave which took hold of Naga youngsters in the mid 2000s says that while “fads may come and go,” the important thing is to imbibe positive values from different cultures and use it to enhance oneself. “I believe that the Korean wave, though it did not last long, created a positive space for people and cross cultural dialogue,” he adds.
While expressing his appreciation for the work that the NAJ has been doing to provide positive spaces for young Nagas, he affirms that the ultimate goal should be to use the creative faculties to bring about a product that is in consonance with the Naga identity.
The Nagaland Anime Junkies affirm that creating a Naga Anime and Manga is one of the organisation’s main objectives. They point to the ability of Japanese society to combine modern art forms with their own culture. Culture, they say is continually evolving, and Naga culture in particular can interact with other art forms, giving rise to an inspiring and distinctly Naga medium.
Beibe Natso, one of the main persons behind NAJ and the cosfest, informed that they have already started helping Naga writers and artists incorporating Japanese anime style into their own works. The ultimate aim, she says is to create works that are inherently Naga and a tribute to cross cultural interactions.
Towards this end, the NAJ cosfest, which concluded on Sunday, held a cultural crossover event, with cosplayers combining themes from Japanese Anime and Manga with Naga cultural themes. The result was a colourful spectacle, a bonding of cultures, which was inspiring and other worldly. For the second day in a row, The Heritage in Kohima turned into a land of fantastic artistic expressions.