by Cass Teague
One of Nashville’s most intriguing weekends occurs each spring when thousands convene for the annual love fest known as MTAC. The Middle Tennessee Anime Convention hosts an ever-growing gathering of fans of the Japanese art form know as anime or manga. These fans are known as “otaku” and enjoy three awesome days of anime, along with amazing costumes, themed live musical performances, focused panel discussions, round-the-clock digital and analog gaming, a hot rave, a formal Japanese Lolita Tea Party, and vendors selling merchandise ranging from dvds and authentic Japanese clothing to figurines and one-of-a-kind drawings and artwork.
Anime is the highly stylized form of animation popularized in such iconic works as Speed Racer, Dragonball Z, Sailor Moon, and Pokemon. When it is not in motion, not animated, the art takes the form known as manga, a kind of graphic novel read from back to front, and right to left. These manga are wildly popular among youth and adults in Japan.
The most common form of anime drawings include exaggerated physical features such as large eyes, big hair and elongated limbs, along with dramatically shaped speech bubbles, speed lines and onomatopoeic, exclamatory typography. Specific characteristics commonly seen in manga and anime are wide eyes, bright colors, colorful graphics, vibrant characters and action-filled plots with fantastic or futuristic themes. Hand-drawn and computer-animated anime are used in television series, films, video, video games, commercials, and internet-based releases representing most genres of fiction.
MTAC has grown from a few dozen guys in a motel room watching videos in 1999 to over 7,000 active otaku, dealers, artists, musicians, and cosplayers spread throughout the Nashville Convention Center and Renaissance Hotel Easter weekend 2012 with even more expected March 29-31, 2013.
Over the years, amateur and professional artists have come to MTAC to display and sell their artwork. Also, the convention has engaged the services of artists to provide images for use on logos, t-shirts, banners and such, even action figures. In addition to drawn art, there is also the elaborate costuming and props/accessories and weapons which are elaborate skilled craft art in themselves.
MTAC has even spawned a second convention, GMX — the Geek Media Expo, and both are under the umbrella of ArtsCubed, the organization that produces both. According to Lucas Leverett, the Chairman of Arts Cubed, their mission is as follows :
“Advance popular visual, performing, and literary arts – along with related cultural experiences central to the lives of the community – through events, outreach, education, and associated initiatives.”
Among the more notable phenomenal artists who have provided and exhibited work at MTAC are Dorian Chase, Nao Yazawa, Doug Smith, Jenny Stead, Jung-Ha Kim, Diana Yi-Ru Chen, Dizzy Callaway, NicholaiI Bird-Conliff – crafter (blocksprites), Erinn Jennings, sewing (lolita), Kyra Toffey, crafter (glassware), Desi Turner, and Garth Graham.
According to Holly Moore, Conchair for MTAC:
“MTAC decided early on to use original art in it’s promotions for each year’s event. We decided that each year would have a unique theme, and that our art needed to reflect that. Dorian Bugg created our original Conkitty design, a perky anime catgirl heroine. Over time her look has evolved, but her iconic blue locks and kitty collar are staples in her design. Conkitty has portrayed numerous roles over the years, from Cyborg to Cheerleader to Ninja. She is an ever-present feature of our promotions in print and
even in-person, and we have been lucky to have some fabulous ladies portray Conkitty in the flesh. MTAC attendees have grown to love her and enjoy meeting and posing for photos with her at the convention and at our promotional booth at other events. She is more than just a spokesmodel- she’s living, breathing art, a symbol of what MTAC is at it’s very core. “In an effort to promote and showcase anime artists and web comic artists, MTAC started a tradition of featuring an Artist Guest of Honor each year who provides our themed Conkitty art for that year. Artists featured in the past have included Yad Ming-Mui, Garth Graham, Applegeeks, and Doug Smith.”
Enjoy MTAC at the Nashville Convention Center and Renaissance Hotel Easter weekend 2012 with even more expected March 29-31, 2013.