Nolan Center plans a full day of anime art, movies, workshops

Breathtaking visuals, gripping plot twists, fascinating history and fun collectibles - all this and more will be available at the Nolan Center's first ever anime fair next month, which aims to bring this popular Japanese artform to Wrangell.

The fair, which will take place 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. April 15 at the Nolan Center, is open to all ages and interest levels, from diehard anime fans to genre newcomers. The event is "new for Wrangell," said Nolan Center Director Cyni Crary, who was involved in planning. "We're hoping that people turn out for it."

Anime is the Japanese term for "animation," and it refers to cartoon TV shows and movies produced in Japan. No single art style defines anime, but its characters are known for their large eyes, bright colors and bold lines. "Manga" are Japanese comic books and graphic novels.

Crary and Nolan Center Coordinator Michael Bahleda organized the fair to expand the center's programming, connect with the community's youth, share their love for the genre and create a space for fans to come together. Both are anime lovers - Crary discovered the genre recently whereas Bahleda has been watching anime and reading manga since the '90s.

"There's a lot of kids here that, they're reading manga, they've got the shirts that have their favorite anime on it," said Bahleda. "It's an opportunity for kids to really dive into it, kind of like a school club."

Throughout the day, the center will show three films from Studio Ghibli, a renowned Japanese animation studio. "Kiki's Delivery Service," 1989, is a family-friendly fantasy film about a young witch who leaves her countryside home for the big city, where she learns to harness her magical abilities.

"Spirited Away," 2001, appeals to a slightly older audience, featuring whimsical and often unsettling creatures - or "kami" - from the world of Japanese Shinto folklore. Heralded for its exquisite artwork and thematic complexity, "Spirited Away" was the highest grossing film in Japanese history for 19 years. In 2017, the New York Times ranked it as the second-best film of the 21st century, behind Paul Thomas Anderson's "There Will Be Blood."

To complete the movie marathon, the center will show "Nausicäa of the Valley of the Wind," 1984, a post-apocalyptic fantasy film about a teenage princess fighting to save a jungle. Though it came out before Studio Ghibli was founded, it is widely considered the first Ghibli film and is frequently ranked among the best anime movies of all time.

"Kiki's Delivery Service" will play at 11 a.m., "Spirited Away" will play at 1:30 p.m. and "Nausicäa of the Valley of the Wind" will play at 4 p.m., all on April 15.

Crary looks forward to sharing these Ghibli classics with viewers. "It's not Disney," she said. "The storylines are very unique. ... I just really like stories that I am not going to be able to guess what happens next."

The world of anime is as multifaceted as the world of American cinema, Bahleda explained. "Saying you like anime is like saying you like movies. You can't narrow it down to one thing. You've got sci-fi, you've got action, you've got comic book movies - anime is the same."

Throughout the day, there will be a variety of rotating activities for attendees to enjoy. At 11 a.m., Bahleda will hold an art workshop in the Nolan Center classroom, where fair-goers can use anime coloring books, snack on Japanese candies and try their hands at creating manga art.

From 1 to 3 p.m., he will hold a "gunpla" workshop. Gunpla are models depicting characters from the fictional Gundam universe, a Japanese military-themed franchise that features giant fighting robots and predates the American Transformers series. The center has purchased around 10 Gundam model sets for attendees to build and take home - they will be distributed on a first come, first served basis.

In the evening, anime TV episodes will be playing in the classroom. Visitors will get to choose what they watch as a group, but Bahleda anticipates showing episodes from popular series like "My Hero Academia," "Dragon Ball" or "Sailor Moon."

There will also be a buy-sell-trade portion of the fair, where people will have the opportunity to exchange mangas or anime collectible items with other fans.

Bahleda has developed a display on the history of anime to share with attendees, highlighting the vast array of artists who helped develop the industry. "After World War II, (Japan) didn't have a lot of resources," he said. "So manga and anime was kind of a cheap way to start developing that entertainment. ... Osamu Tezuka, who's considered the father or the god of manga, was wanting to use his art to touch people and make them feel good again, especially after World War II."

A $10 fair ticket covers the cost of the craft supplies, display visits and movie showings. Details are available on the Nolan Center website under the "Anime Fair 2023" tab, or go to


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