Con Panels

The Legend of Zelda and Japanese Religion
Otakon, Washington DC
August 1, 2020

Each game in Nintendo’s groundbreaking Legend of Zelda series allows the player to explore beautiful environments filled with lush greenery, populated by memorable characters, and given depth by detailed lore. The immersive worldbuilding of the games has been heavily inspired by Japanese myths, legends, and religious traditions both ancient and contemporary. This talk will investigate and illuminate the sources of some of the most iconic elements of the series, from the sacred sky princess Zelda to the mischievous Korok forest sprites to the cataclysmic Calamity Ganon, thereby providing not just a key to the fantasy kingdom of Hyrule but also a gateway into the fascinating study of Japanese religion and culture.

Japanese Urban Legends
Katsucon, National Harbor, MD
February 16, 2019

In this panel we will dive deep into contemporary Japanese folklore to learn about the strange creatures and phenomena that haunt Japan’s bustling cities, lonely and forgotten places, and even the internet. Come learn about cursed buildings, creepy party games, and ways to keep yourself safe from ghouls and ghosts!

Legend of Zelda Fan Theories
Anime USA, Washington DC
October 19, 2018

In its more than thirty years of history, the Legend of Zelda series has inspired numerous fan theories about the many mysteries of its expansive universe. In this panel we’ll explore both popular and lesser-known Zelda theories, which range from silly to creepy and from actually plausible to… Hylian likely!

Steampunk in Anime, Film, and Comics
MoSF (Museum of Science Fiction) Escape Velocity Convention
July 2, 2016

Steampunk is an exploration of the alternative possibilities that lie hidden in the intersections between political modernity and modern technology. We in the United States often associate the genre with Victorian England, but how do other countries use steampunk to challenge and reconfigure their own histories? This panel will offer an international perspective on steampunk across multiple artistic media, with a focus on the mad science and outlandish devices that whir and clank within fantasy versions of the late nineteenth century in anime, manga, and comics.

Infinite Lives and Infinite Possibilities: Posthumanism and Video Games
MAGFest (The Music and Gaming Festival) Educational Symposium
February 20, 2016

Video games are full of characters who are superhuman, as well as monsters that are less than human. What does it mean to be “human,” and how are the boundaries of humanity constantly shifting and changing? In this panel we will discuss issues relating to posthumanism and bioethics, ranging from enhanced abilities to genetic modification to human extinction. We’ll also investigate the implications and transformative potential of participating in digital narratives alongside our engagement with the real world.

The Sparkling World of 1970s Shojo Manga
Geek Girl Con, Seattle
October 11, 2015

Shojo manga, or manga for young women, is at the center of a thriving comics publishing industry in both Japan and the United States. The legacy of shojo manga is readily apparent in contemporary media from Sailor Moon to Steven Universe, but where did it all begin? This panel offers a glimpse into the classic works that shaped the genre and still inform international fan cultures. Join us to learn more about graphic novels filled with romance, political intrigue, and tons of gender trouble. We’ll introduce the work of legendary artists such as Riyoko Ikeda, Moto Hagio, and Keiko Takemiya while celebrating the appeal of illustrated explosions of flowers that rival the flowery speeches given by fascinating characters.

Japanese Fiction for Anime Fans
Anime USA, Washington DC
October 4, 2014

This is a panel for the Harry Potter generation of kids who grew up voraciously reading young adult fiction – and for the older kids among us who read as much fiction as we do manga. We will offer reading recommendations according to genre and theme, covering light novels such as the Haruhi Suzumiya and Sword Art Online series, as well as books that have become the basis for television and cinematic anime, such as Paprika and Moribito. Along the way, we’ll introduce a few writers of literary fiction and detail some of the more interesting fandom memoirs written or translated into English. We’ll wrap up the panel with an overview of the major North American publishers who put out Japanese fiction in translation, including Yen Press, Haikasoru, and Vertical.

Revealing and Concealing Identities: Cross-Dressing in Anime and Manga
Sakura-Con Anime Convention, Seattle
April 19, 2014

Gender bending is often cited as one of the defining themes of anime and manga, which are filled with examples of handsome women and beautiful men, not to mention cross-dressing characters who never fail to steal the spotlight. What is cross-dressing? How does it challenge and reinforce gender roles? What role has cross-dressing historically played in popular entertainment in Japan? Does a female character cross-dressing as a man mean something different than a male character cross-dressing as a woman? In this panel, we will to discuss ideas about gender, provide some terminology, and examine a few examples of how cross-dressing is used by characters in anime and manga as a means of exploring gender issues in contemporary Japanese society.

Fantasies of Diversity: Representations of Race in Japanese Video Games
MAGFest Music And Gaming Education Symposium, National Harbor, MD
January 4, 2014

How are different races, ethnicities, and nationalities portrayed in Japanese video games, and how do these portrayals explore diversity while reflecting real-world conflict? This talk will tackle issues relating to race in role playing games by focusing on the Pokémon and Final Fantasy franchises. We argue that these games allow the player to identify with characters from minority groups by encouraging an investment of time and attention into their stories and personal growth. By effectively becoming a character, the player shares the character’s life experience not as a statistic or a stereotype but as an individual. Moreover, role playing games can accommodate large numbers of diverse non-player characters whose presence serves to make the world of the game more meaningful and immersive. While the games in the Pokémon series present the player with a utopian society in which there is no racial or ethnic discrimination, games in the Final Fantasy series rely on imaginary fantasy races to convey messages concerning discrimination, thus easing the burden of empathy for players from a wide range of backgrounds. Japanese role playing video games thus have the potential to offer international gamers new perspectives on both the potential and the challenges of diversity.

Sirens, Shapeshifters, and Seductresses: The Demonic Women of Anime and Manga
Sakura-Con Anime Convention, Seattle
April 23, 2011

The trope of the demonic woman has appeared in many Japanese narratives, including those contained within contemporary Japanese animation and graphic novels. We will attempt to better understand the fears represented through these characters by examining female villains and antiheroes in Claymore, Soul Eater, and xxxHolic. In this panel, we will demonstrate how that these stories characterize women as demonic through a visual and narrative process of abjection, which renders their bodies, minds, and emotions as bestial, abnormal, and unhinged. Drawing on the work of theorists such as Julia Kristeva and Barbara Creed, we discuss how this abjection reflects fears of women who don’t fit into the traditionally feminine roles of chaste virgin, selfless mother, and nurturing caregiver. We’ll also present evidence of a growing number of older female characters who are not demonized but rather valorized by their refusal to adhere to stereotyped gender norms while exploring how the innocent and spunky shōjo heroine has increasingly been demonized in shows such as Puella Magi Madoka Magica.

Strong Female Characters: Feminism and the Ladies of Final Fantasy
Zenkaikon Anime Convention, Philadelphia
March 19, 2011

Does the Final Fantasy series of groundbreaking video games promote sexist views of women? Does it provide strong female role models for the players who invest so much time and emotional energy into the series? To address these questions, we will look at three representative female characters: Rydia from Final Fantasy IV, Aeris from Final Fantasy VII, and Fran from Final Fantasy XII. We’ll use these characters as examples in order to argue for a shift in the series from a male-centered viewpoint to a more gender-neutral narrative focus. If we can posit that a feminist work contains prominent female characters who are multi-dimensional and express interiority, we can argue that the games in the Final Fantasy series are indeed feminist. Even though the player-protagonist is often male, this character is usually subordinate to the narrative importance of a central female character. While the player controls the gameplay, the actions of the female protagonist advance the plot and open more of the game’s world. Because complex female characters have increasingly come to share the spotlight with male characters, we can interpret the Final Fantasy games as having become increasingly accessible to a more diverse audience of gamers.