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Image: Pion Kim

Cultures collide this weekend as the Anime Matsuri Festival delivers a hearty dose of Japanese culture and art to the George R. Brown Convention Center from April 7–9.

Anime Matsuri—“anime” is Japanese or East Asian animated films and television shows; "matsuri" is Japanese for festival or celebration—had its inaugural event in 2007 and has since grown to be the eighth largest anime convention in America, proudly sharing Japanese culture with 30,000 attendees through panels, workshops, a Japanese-style car show, concerts and the largest Japanese fashion show in the United States. 

Founder Deneice Leigh started the event 11 years ago in The Woodlands, but as it grew, the event was moved to the convention center to accommodate larger crowds. (Today, Anime Matsuri is one of the few conventions that utilizes every single floor of the George R. Brown Convention Center.)

“We travel quite a bit to Japan. Last year, my husband went seven times for meetings, to see what’s popular and to network with companies,” says Leigh about their efforts to bring the most current Japanese trends and talents to Houston.

This year, enjoy live music from artists like Ladybeard, otherwise known as Richard Magarey, who blends Japanese kawaii (cute) with muscle and heavy metal. His unique sound made him a sensation in Japan. Other performances include Dancing Dolls, a Japanese female vocal and dance group, and Gacharic Spin, a Japanese rock band.

Fans of Sailor Moon—the mega popular Japanese shōjo manga series written and illustrated by Naoko Takeuchi—will be in for a treat as the lauded comic will be celebrated this year, including a panel hosted by Fumio “Osabu” Osano, the first editor of the original comic series “Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon,” a special performance by Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon The Musical and a Q&A panel with the cast.

Sailor moon fan club ueaftb

Image: Sailor Moon

Other notable guests include voiceover actress Christine Cabanos (some of her most notable roles include Sailor Saturn in Sailor Moon and Azusa Nakano of K-On!), popular Taiwanese cosplayer Hiko, who will make her U.S. debut at this year's festival, and The Anime Man, a popular YouTuber with over 900,000 subscribers. His channel offers anime analysis, rants and discussions as well as news and reviews. 

As Anime Matsuri's continues to serve as a bridge between the East and West here in Houston, dive into the rich Japanese heritage at this can't-miss festival.

April 7–9. Single passes start at $50. Anime Matsuri, George R. Brown Convention Center, 1001 Avenida De Las Americas. animematsuri.com

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