Manga, the Japanese comic art form, is finding a devoted following in India, amid a growing number of dedicated clubs, libraries and cosplay or comic costume events.
At the last manga fan-club meet in Mumbai, held in January, 26-year-old Geetanjali Shalve arrived wearing blue hair extensions, a large artificial flower, and a full-length black trench coat with red trimming.
She doesn’t normally dress this way; she was mirroring her favourite character, Konan, from the Japanese manga comic Naruto, as she participated in the very manga activity of ‘cosplay’ or costume play.
“Konan is the only female ninja in the criminal organisation in Naruto, my favourite manga, so it was an easy decision,” says Shalve, a copywriter.
She was among 40 young manga enthusiasts who participated in the cosplay ‘fashion show’ held as part of the meet-up in January.
Marching down the ramp alongside her were characters such as the robot Gundam, the grotesque god of death Shinigami, and Tomodachi, a character who wears a tuxedo, bandages on his face and a symbol of a raised finger and third eye imprinted on his forehead.
“People go all out for cosplay because it gives them a chance to show how much they care about the Japanese art form of manga comics,” says Akshay Ghag, 26, a videogame designer and founder of the Mumbai anime and manga fan club. “The guy who dressed up as Gundam came all the way from Pune and had made his own costume using Styrofoam, cardboard and wood. Most people make their own costumes because that’s the most fun part of dressing up.”
United by their love of the Japanese comic art form, the manga fans also staged a Japanese dance performance, music performance and culinary experience, all as part of the Cool Japan festival undertaken by the Japanese consulate and held at a city mall.
In all, 300 members attended the event, up from just four people at the first meet of the club in 2010. For many, it was the first time they were meeting offline.
Overall, membership of the Mumbai club has grown from the original handful to a total of 3,000 registered members, most of whom rarely meet offline, collaborating online instead to share manga comics or tips on sketching characters, and to offer feedback on a growing collection of independent works of Indian manga. At the official monthly meet-ups, attendance is now frequently upwards of 300 people.