For Rebecca Pineda, who lived in Japan as a child and moved to the United States at age 11, it’s been remarkable to watch American perceptions of Japanese culture change.

When her family first moved to Texas, they had difficulty finding seaweed paper to make sushi. She remembers how excited they were to find a Vietnamese grocery store in Garland that sold it, but it was something her peers made fun of.

“I watched slowly, over the past 20 years, this pop culture trend explode. The very same things that people looked sideways at me for, they’re wearing it on their shirts and putting it all over their cars,” she said. “It’s exciting for me to see the culture that I have loved for so long be welcomed with open arms and people line up out the doors for it.”

Twenty-thousand anime fans are expected to visit the Fort Worth Convention Center between Dec. 2-4 for Anime Frontier Powered by Crunchyroll, a convention celebrating animated Japanese film, television, music and comics.

It is the second time the convention will take place in Funky Town. During its 2021 debut, the event drew a crowd of 12,000 over three days.

This year’s lineup includes a new slate of panelists, a concert featuring popular Japanese rock band FLOW and the return of the convention’s masquerade, which is a competition of cosplayers on the craft of their costumes and/or their performance of the character. 

Now, in her 30s, Pineda serves as the programs and marketing manager for the Japan-America Society of Dallas/Fort Worth, a nonprofit focused on cultural outreach, education and business connections.

“I know that a lot of these stories resonate universally with people,” she said. “Japan has captured an entire generation’s sense of wonder and imagination, and I think that’s really cool.”

If you go:

Time: 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday
          8 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturday
          8 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday
Date: Dec. 2-4
Location: Fort Worth Convention Center
                1201 Houston St.
Tickets: Badges are required for attendees six and older. Kids 6-12 years old: $15; Adults: $43-48 or $60 for a three-day pass. Badges may be purchased online, at select local stores or on site at the convention center. More info here.

Brennan Enos owns a local business called the Sci Fi Factory, which specializes in games, comics and collectibles. It also has a large inventory of anime products and hosts weekly tournaments for a popular anime game called Weiss Schwarz.

The former high school English teacher came into anime late and was drawn in when his sons were about 10 and 12 and encouraged him to watch with them.

“The sophistication and sometimes the absolute brilliance of the stories is amazing, so that’s what opened the door to anime for us,” he said.

During last year’s convention, he saw an upswing of visitors to his stores, several of whom were looking for products associated with voice actors that they had seen at the convention. 

“They actually reached out to us, giving us an opportunity to sell the passes here at the store for the same price that any visitor to the convention would get at the gate. And they also allowed us 10% of the sales, and we are donating that 10% to Doctors Without Borders,” he said. “It’s definitely very good for local business.” 

One of the things that impressed Enos is how diverse and welcoming the community is. 

That openness is something Rafael Flores wanted to tap into when he helped start an anime club at the Fort Worth Public Library’s Northside branch

On the second Wednesday of every month, teenagers come to the library to watch a show together while sometimes working on an activity or craft. This spring the library will host a program teaching kids how professionals make manga and other comics.

“I wanted it to be an easy thing for kids to enjoy without stress,” he said. “I know a lot of kids that like anime get bullied or get picked on for liking it. And I wanted it to be like a safe place for them to come and enjoy with their friends.” 

Flores said there is a lot of interest in the art form at the Northside branch, which serves a large Latino population.

“It’s a cross-cultural thing,” he said.

John Michael Johnson is the general manager of Game Theory Restaurant + Bar. (Marcheta Fornoff | Fort Worth Report)

Over in the city’s Near Southside neighborhood, Game Theory Restaurant + Bar, is also gearing up for the return of Anime Frontier.

John Michael Johnson is general manager of the space that boasts 500 games for patrons to enjoy during their visit.

Last year, they had a special offer for patrons who came in wearing their Anime Frontier badge. A lot of crossover exists between people who like board games and people who like anime, so the event seemed like a natural fit, he said.

“Game Theory is a place to bring people together, and we try to become one with the fabric of the community,” he said. “Anime Frontier is a great way to get people who are traveling from out of town or maybe even from Dallas to come in and know that there is something like Game Theory in the area.”

Jonathan Arndt is a game guru, or concierge, on staff, and a freelance voice actor.

“For the longest time, the anime community was kind of a pariah, you know? But when you go to these conventions, without even having a conversation, you can feel connected to someone because they’re dressed like your favorite character,” he said. “I’m hoping that this year it blows up even more than last time because I feel like people are looking for that connection and conventions are a great way to find those friends you never knew.”

Marcheta Fornoff covers the arts for the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at marcheta.fornoff@fortworthreport.org or on Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.

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Marcheta FornoffArts & Culture Editor

For just over seven years Marcheta Fornoff performed the high wire act of producing a live morning news program on Minnesota Public Radio. She led a small, but nimble team to cover everything from politics...