Cool Is Not Enough

Christopher Graves
Ogilvy Public Relations, Washington

If you aren't remembered, then you never existed.-from the Japanese anime series, Serial Experiments Lain
Do your work with mastery.

-The Buddha

In 1856, Felix Bracquemond, a Parisian engraver, printmaker, and ceramicist, received a package of ceramics from Japan. Bracquemond was immediately stirred, legend has it, by the flat, bold style of the images on the paper used to protect the ceramics. He showed these woodblock prints to his artist friends, including Manet, Degas, and Whistler, who swiftly began incorporating Japanese motifs in their work. The Western love affair with Japan had begun.

A century and a half later, young Americans are flocking to Japanese-sounding conventions like Ohayocon in Columbus, Ohio, or Sogencon in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. They handcraft costumes of the characters they adore from Japanese anime (animated cartoon films). This dressing-up and role-playing is called "cosplay," short for "costume play," and has launched a global subculture. There are zillions of Face-book groups and Web sites. There is a Cosplay in America coffee table book. There are pilgrimages to famous anime sites. It all feels a bit like a mania.