Grab your best Pokemon costume and all your toy swords and other weapons — it’s time to celebrate all things anime.

On Aug. 17 and 18, the Ani-Jam anime convention is holding its 10th annual event at the Valdez Hall inside the Fresno Convention Center. More than 1,000 people are expected to attend the event, which is being organized by Antonio Airoso, owner of Ani-Jam LLC.

The highly stylized imagery of Japanese anime and manga, combined with in-depth storytelling, has won over fans across the United States and here in the Central Valley.

“Anime is not a genre, it’s a medium,” said Zac Bertschy, executive editor of the Anime News Network, a website that covers the anime industry. “You can find every kind of story you would want to see. It would be like calling the movie industry a genre.”

Anime has maintained a presence in the United States since the 1980s, said Bertschy. Older fans often were introduced to anime by “Akira,” an ultra-violent full-length feature film released in Japan in 1988, and in the United States in 2001. It’s about a post-apocalyptic biker gang that uncovers a secret military project in “Neo-Tokyo.”

“People would describe ‘Akira’ as the gateway drug into anime,” Bertschy said.

Anime’s popularity has boomed over the last few years. Shows like “Dragonball Z” were shown on cable’ Cartoon Network after school, along with others like “Pokemon” and “Yu-Gi-Oh!” aimed at younger audiences.

Then the Nickelodeon network created its own American anime series called “Avatar: The Last Airbender.” Other popular animes include titles like “Death Note,” “Bleach” and “Naruto.”

Many animes such as these start out as manga comics and later are turned into an anime film or series.

This visual style has inspired many fans to dress like their favorite characters when attending conventions. Called cosplay, the practice is equivalent to Star Trek fans dressing like Spock at a Trekkie convention.

Along with a cosplay masquerade, attendees at Ani-Jam can see artist workshops, live music, vendors with Japanese merchandise and video game tournaments.

The general screening room will be open to the public starting at 10 a.m. on the first day.

Ani-Jam goes from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. Aug. 17 and 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Aug. 18. Registration closes at 6 p.m. on the first day, and at 5 p.m. on the second day.

One-day passes are $30, and two-day passes are $35. More information can be found at www.ani-jam.com.

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