MY HEROES / New adults fete next chapter with anime, tokusatsu

Courtesy of Toshima Ward

From left: Kazuki Yao, Mayumi Gojo and Tsuyoshi Matsubara perform during Toshima Ward’s anime-themed Coming-of-Age Day ceremony in Toshima Ward, Tokyo, on Jan. 14.

By Mishio Suzuki / Yomiuri Shimbun Senior SpecialistI was studying abroad in the United States when I officially became an adult, struggling with political science textbooks. As a result, I was unable to attend a coming-of-age ceremony in Japan. What’s more, until recently I never thought I’d be involved in such a ceremony, even as a parent because I don’t have a child.

Yet due to a strange turn of events, I had the chance to attend one when I participated in an anime-themed Coming-of-Age Day ceremony organized by Tokyo’s Toshima Ward on Jan. 14. The ceremony is a unique event in which participants cosplay, enlivening the community with anime, manga and other staples of pop culture.

The ward was selected as the Culture City of East Asia 2019 with a mission to promote exchanges between Japan, China and South Korea. As I serve as the ward’s International City of Arts and Culture producer, ward Mayor Yukio Takano asked me last autumn for advice on the ceremony.

Takano said he wanted to convey the ward’s support for animation through the ceremony and invite guests from the anime world to entertain the 20-year-old participants. I helped him identify and book guests, consulting many people and winning their support for the event. As a result, the ceremony featured an all-star cast of guests.

The master of ceremony was voice actor Kazuki Yao, who won acclaim for his performances as the protagonist in “Kido Senshi Gundam ZZ” (Mobile Suit Gundam ZZ) and Franky in “One Piece,” among other major anime roles.

The ceremony also featured a special concert by Mayumi Gojo, known for performing the theme song of “Futari wa Pre-Cure” (Pretty Cure), and Tsuyoshi Matsubara, who did the theme song for the tokusatsu sci-fi TV show “Ultraman Cosmos.”

All three were invited for good reasons. Yao is familiar to both 20-year-olds and viewers from their parents’ generation. Gojo and Matsubara sang theme songs from anime and tokusatsu works the participants must have watched when they were young.

It may sound self-congratulatory, but my choice of guests turned out to be perfect. In fact, this year marks 20 years since Gojo and Matsubara began their careers. The anime adaptation of “One Piece” is also celebrating its 20th anniversary. It was like the pair was destined to attend this coming-of-age ceremony.

Yao won huge applause from the audience as he opened the event by blessing them with words reminiscent of his past roles. Gojo’s performance of the “Pretty Cure” theme delighted the kimono-clad female attendees, while the male participants in suits eagerly watched Matsubara sing as images of Ultraman flashed across a background screen put together with help from Tsuburaya Productions Co.

When they were children, I’m sure the participants learned important lessons about life from anime and tokusatsu, such as “Be kind to others,” “Never give up, even when you’re struggling” and “Don’t do the wrong thing.” I have a feeling that the guests’ performances reminded the audience of such principles.

In the end, everyone, including Yao, sang the “One Piece” theme song. I saw some internet posts mocking the event as childish, but I disagree. It was a wonderful coming-of-age ceremony that presented the very best of anime and tokusatsu.

My first-ever coming-of-age ceremony truly was a super event.

Suzuki is a Yomiuri Shimbun senior specialist and expert on tokusatsu superhero films and dramas.Speech

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