March 7 saw the return of the Mississippi Anime Festival, a yearly event in Jackson created to celebrate all things related to anime and pop culture.
Since its inception in 2017, the convention has drawn in bigger and bigger crowds with each passing year. Many people waiting in lines at the event were dressed as their favorite characters from shows like “Naruto” and “My Hero Academia.”
“It’s an opportunity to meet new people with similar interests and to celebrate said interests,” Lucedale resident Leo Carter said.
Vendors, artists and special guests dotted the Mississippi Trade Mart, giving fans the opportunity to buy merchandise and talk with voice actors who bring their favorite characters to life.
Texas resident David Slbibar attended his first convention in 2017. At the time, he was unsure if he would enjoy the event due to his introverted nature. It turned out to be the opposite.
“This is a great place; I don’t hate anything about it. People come to cons for different reasons, either to meet the guests or spend money on merchandise, but I come to them because they’re cool and I like to savor the moment,” Slbibar said.
Similarly, Mississippi State University senior TV production major Jesse Calandra said his favorite thing about the Mississippi Anime Festival is the social aspect and being able to meet people with similar hobbies.
“It allows people who have a common interest to come together and have some fun, as well as break away from the normal, mundane life for a little bit,” Calandra said.
Many panels were held over the day, dedicated to various facets of anime culture like cosplaying, watching old anime and discussing newer shows. One panel, “Let’s Talk About Your Favorite Anime,” was held by Jackson residents Zayden Johnston and Bailey Cape.
“This was the first time I did something like this, so I was really nervous, but it turned out to be a pretty good experience because everyone was kind and non-judgmental,” Johnston said.
Johnston said she chose to focus on talking about anime because she wanted to know why people watched anime and which ones were their favorites.
In addition to the Q&A panels, the convention had areas dedicated to console and tabletop gaming, as well as a screening room that allowed attendees to watch different anime movies over the duration of the con.
“It’s like fellowship. You can walk around the grounds, talk with other people about what it is you like and not feel strange for doing so,” Cape said.