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Animarket launches with huge crowds
The local cosplay community is much larger than anyone might have thought and is expanding rapidly. With the popularity of comic book and superhero films going mainstream and with countless franchise movies on the very near horizon, the visibility of T&T anime, comics and gaming lovers is increasing.
According to Animarket organising committee members Samantha Rampersad, owner and operator of Shop Anything, and Avah Atherton, owner and operator of Sweet Art Maid Cafe, the T&T cosplay community is a tight-knit one whose members follow each other’s events and support the smaller get-togethers all through the year.
After some collaboration with some other event producers, Rampersad, Atherton, Alpha Henry, owner and operator of Chronos Fantasy, a gaming company, and Jason Brown finally let their powers combined to create the monster of all anime and cosplay events: Animarket. A commercial market for all things anime, cosplay and gaming related in T&T, Animarket took place at the JFK Auditorium at the University of the West Indies, on June 20.
“The anime community is just a bunch of people who are interested in the activities related to Japanese animation,” Rampersad said. “This includes video games and movies or anything Japanese pop culture. We've had a niche community for a number of years and other people have hosted events for the past 15 years.
“We've known each other for years and we wanted to do something. The time was right and we work together very well. This is the first time we are building an event this big and we were really overwhelmed by the response, vendors, attendees and everybody has been giving me such good feedback.”
The Animarket team estimated that over a thousand people attended the market. With such a great turnout, they hope to make it an annual event. The event also attracted the attendance of representatives from the Barbados comic con, AnimeKon Expo, which hopes to partner with T&T and engage in cosplayer exchange.
“Cosplay is a mix of the words, costume and play, where you dress up as characters from fictional media—movies, games, comics, manga and such. We have a lot of cosplayers in T&T. That's a big draw for them because it's one of the few places where they can display their costume making skills. It's a competition,” explained Atherton.
There was a cosplay competition held in the latter half of Animarket's activities and the first prize was a trip to compete at AnimeKon in Barbados. Omar Kennedy, one of the executive directors of Barbados AnimeKon was on hand at Animarket to explain the nature of the link. “We have a lot of cosplayers come through from Trinidad, St Vincent and all over the Caribbean. Our purpose here is to make connections, encourage regional participation and push cohesive comic con collaboration.”
The exhibitors and vendors were literally wall-to-wall at the JFK Auditorium. There were sushi, hotdogs from Sweet Art, the traditional Japanese 'maid cafe', Dragon's Cup IV—a sword exhibitor who had various ornamental weapons such as samurai swords, daggers and broad blade swords on display. There were also three different people portraying Batman walking around in full costume regalia of the Dark Knight and many other varied costume wearers.
“We wanted to have a market, a place where vendors could come together because we want to encourage entrepreneurs, but we also wanted to have something for others,” said Atherton. “Animarket is not only for people to come and buy; we have a bunch of activities scheduled for the day like a Digital Art competition, an Anime music video competition, a cosplay photography competition, the cosplay competition itself, a gaming tournament, the Karaoke competition, even a Ramen noodle eating competition!”
“We're trying to include everybody: artists, photographers, graphic artists, the general public, everybody; plus [there was] an after party and entry was free to the public.” Rampersad expressed her happiness with the event and her entire team. “I am so proud of everybody, we have such good minions. Thank you to everybody who came out and helped in any way. We had a lot of vendors but we did not have any major sponsors and we should have had some.
“Gaming is a billion dollar industry, comics, cosplay, everything. Anime basically runs the eastern world, and there are thousands of us here in Trinidad just as passionate about it. So sponsors should come and join us.” “Animarket is much bigger than people think it is, and it’s only going to get bigger,” confirmed Atherton.
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