Africa’s largest anime and manga convention in Kenya | Pro Club Bd

Scenes from the event recently held in Nairobi. [Courtesy]

Just recently, anime and manga fans had reason to smile when Otamatsuri, the largest anime and manga festival in East Africa, took place here in Kenya.

Otamatsuri is the only convention in Africa that focuses exclusively on anime and manga. Anime is the Japanese style of animation while manga is Japanese comics drawn in the Japanese style.

This year’s Otamatsuri took place on July 9th at the Junction Mall along Ngong Road and sold out early with 1,500 tickets; said the organizers The Sunday standard that the venue had to tell them to stop selling and opened up to a charged crowd.

“The crowd! At some point we got kind of scared because it was the first time we’d been hit by an act like that. But the audience was respectful, organized and extremely patient,” says Harto Muhato, co-founder of Tsunami Studio and also the anime Cafe that organized the Otamatsuri event.

“The queue started from the first floor to the third floor. But people were very patient and understanding and we managed to get them all into the venue,” says Brian Khisa, also co-founder of Anime Café and Otamatsuri.

One of the biggest draws of anime conventions is that fans can participate in cosplay, where a person dresses up as a specific character from a work of art, such as a movie, video game, or book.

Otamatsuri is a combination of two words: “otaku”, a Japanese term for people with obsessive interests, particularly in anime and manga, and “matsuri”, a Japanese word for festival. It is organized by Anime Cafe Kenya, The Tsunami Studio and Movie Jabber.

The convention is the brainchild of Muhato, Khisa and Jotham Micah, a co-founder of Movie Jabber, an entertainment and mass media company that creates content and experiential events across popular culture categories.

The three co-founded the Anime Café that gave birth to Otamatsuri, whose origin story dates back to 2012 when it started as a small get-together at the Tsunami studio with a few anime fans before becoming what it is today.

“It all started when me and Harto started Anime Café as a small gathering of anime fans. We had about 20 or 30 people coming every other month. When Joseck from Movie Jabber joined in 2019, we decided to try to go bigger to see if we could get a larger gathering of anime fans, and in 2019 we hosted our first-ever Otamatsuri at the Alchemist Bar, which seated about 300 people attracted,” says Khisa.

They didn’t anticipate such turnout and then realized there was a demand and core community of anime fans in Nairobi and Kenya.

“It’s just that they’re isolated in their little circles, so we decided to create a platform for people like that to come and celebrate their love for anime,” says Khisa.

“In 2020, the pandemic happened. We were hoping that we could do the second edition of Otamatsuri, but unfortunately we couldn’t do that because of the pandemic and restrictions, so we decided to do a virtual convention which we streamed live on Facebook and Twitch. “

Khisa says that the only way to consume anime in Kenya is mainly through piracy, and that people have only recently been able to access anime legally with Netflix and another streaming service called Crunchyroll.

“So we decided to involve other more legitimate organizations so we could make connections to our networks and show people out there that there is fandom in Kenya,” he says.

“We were fortunate to have an animator from Japan join our virtual event, and we also landed a key player from one of the biggest anime streaming platforms called Funimation. You could also stream here in Kenya and connect with fans. It was also a way for people to learn where to access anime.

The event had around 900 views from Kenya alone and last Saturday, July 9th, the second physical event finally took place.

A convention like Otamatsuri is important for fans to connect as anime and manga are a niche genre, especially in Kenya, and it can be a lonely pursuit.

“For me, the biggest moment besides the amazing cosplay was the fact that most of the people that came in were new faces. So these were people who had been reading manga in isolation as fans and had finally found a platform where they could reach out to others like them and others who like the things they like,” says Brian.

The Japanese art form has gained popularity around the world in recent years.

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