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P9250175We were fortunate to be among the latter-first in line to see the premiere of Soul Eater. We weren’t the first but we weren’t the last. We were just enough bodies away from the front of the line to not be among the first and just enough bodies ahead where we weren’t among the last.

We waited patiently for 45 minutes. Not a long time but noticeably long enough. When the doors opened, we filed in behind those who were among the first and in front of those who were among the last. We were sat in seats that were far enough away from being too far to see but not close enough to say we got great seats.

We saw the opening title sequence. It whet my appetite for more. We saw the cosplay. He laughed and clapped. Then, as they are about to start the movie, he turns to me and says, “Daddy, I have to go to the bathroom.”

Pained, I take his hand and we leave.

The drama above typified my experience at this year’s New York Anime Festival (NYAF). This was my second NYAF. Both my kids came with me to last year’s event. It was a first for all of us. We caught a few screenings but spent most of our time by the stage and in the exhibit hall feeling our way around the event.

This year I came with an agenda. I was going to attend some panels to legitimize my professional presence at this year’s event. It was my decision to bring my eldest despite my agenda (I would have brought my youngest too if he weren’t sick), so I couldn’t get upset when his stamina gave out on him.

P9260015 Overall he did pretty well. Pacified with Bugdom and Cartoon Wars on my iPod Touch, he sat through the “How to Become Famous on the Internet” (Friday), Tokyo Pop (Friday), and “Steampunk in Anime” (Saturday) panels.

We missed Soul Eater but saw old episodes of Gundam and Sgt Frog (which he really enjoyed). We also saw AKB48, Reni (who was really nice, we met her before during Eureka 7 day at Kinokuniya), and Maids hijinx on stage (including a chicken-riding Spider-man and a dancing Predator).

I am not otaku but am a fan of anime and manga. I have fond memories of watching Captain Harlock and Cyborg 009 on UHF with my sister. The imaginative hybridization of future technology with old timey look and feel and the “real life” complexities of being alive that drew my sister and me in decades ago still draw us in today.

Professionally, I count myself among a growing number of educators who believe anime and manga are excellent tools for forging pathways to literacy and encouraging greater interest in subjects like social studies and science for those not immediately enthused by the subjects.

Series like Code Geass, where the main character possesses the power to hypnotize and manipulate people, asks the question: How far is too far in the pursuit of a just cause? Death Note presents a similar storyline and moral dilemma. The complex themes of just causes and collateral damages occur throughout world history and literature making classroom connections easy.

Regardless of the current educational environment, as educators our passions are directed at inspiring inquisitive minds and critical thinkers, who will eventually become civic participants.  The “test culture” being fostered by Arne Duncan and his constituents makes it challenging to engage students in school but not impossible. Creative use of pop culture artifacts like anime and manga is one method of keeping students engaged.

The next NYAF occurs in conjunction with the New York Comic Con (NYCC), October 8-10, 2010. At the last NYCC, I attended a panel on the inclusion of manga in library collections and the use of comic books and graphic novels as literacy tools.

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BTW – The Funimation blog has a video of the premiere Mother Nature called my eldest at.

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