You don’t just become Lightning.
It’s not that easy. It never is.
For 14-year-old Lily Ditton, it took several weeks – if not longer – of solid planning. She wanted the white coat just right. The rose-colored hair, that had to be just right, too. This wasn’t just dress-up.
And Saturday, as revelers gathered for the three-day Ikasucon at Grand Wayne Center – a convention celebrating Japanese popular culture – Lily was no longer Lily.
She became Lightning, a tough, fierce independent warrior from several of the popular “Final Fantasy” video games.
And for her efforts, she garnered first place in the beginners division for craftsmanship in the event’s cosplay – costume play – competition.
Devoted to anime (Japanese animation), manga (Japanese graphic novels) and Japanese video games, Ikasucon brought in for the eighth consecutive year hordes of boys and girls and young men and young women who cannot get enough of motion pictures like “Akira” or the manga comic “D.Gray-man.”
“Anything is possible,” said Ditton on Sunday, the final day of the convention, of her love of anime and the “Final Fantasy” games.
By then, her hair was blue and she had just come from playing table games in another room at the convention. It’s far from what others might call normal but well within the teen’s comfort zone.
“Normality really doesn’t have a place in it, because it can be so open-ended,” she said.
Hence, a 14-year-old girl who became enthralled with the genre when her brother brought a DVD from the library home one day can become Lightning and stand on stage before her friends and many strangers wearing the costumes of their own heroes.
Anime become popular in the United States throughout the 1970s and 1980s, punctuated by the film “Akira” in 1988, now considered a classic.
The genre gained mainstream acceptance around the turn of the century, and now its influences can be seen on the Cartoon Network and in a variety of movies.
Quentin Tarantino’s action film “Kill Bill, Vol. 1” even had an anime sequence in the middle – one that was much longer in the original cut of the movie, a version fans have been clamoring for in the years since its release. The director has alluded to possibly releasing the film with the full anime sequence intact to appease fans.
“Anime is like a drug,” said 15-year-old Justin Mathews. “Once you get into it, you don’t get out. It escalates very quickly.”
Chatting with Mathews on Sunday was a gang of friends who shared his love of the genre. There was the playful and sneaky Yato from the magna “Noragami.” There was the axe-wielding Roxas from the “Kingdom Hearts” video game franchise. And there was the exorcist Allan Walker from the “D.Gray-man” magna and anime series.
In real life, these people may have been 15-year-old Sarah Pemberton, 15-year-old Dotti Spillers and 14-year-old Kiera Lipocky, respectively, but that didn’t matter.
And these girls and Mathews were brought to the genre for different reasons. One liked the comedy, another the drama and sappiness, and still another the action.
“It’s different for everybody,” Lipocky said.
But it brings people together, some who may have never met otherwise. And it lets them be somebody – or something – else.
Even if only briefly.