Feb 12

Preston busts a move onstage with cosplay idol Reni Mimura. (Justin Tedaldi)

By Preston Hatfield (Yamanashi-ken, 2009-10) for JQ magazine. Preston moved from San Francisco to New York City in January 2012 and is now accepting submissions from people who want to be his friend. Abduct him from his house in the middle of the night, or find him on Facebook and ask about his JET blog in which he details his exploits and misadventures in that crazy Land of the Rising Sun we all love.

The Bennett Media Studio in New York’s West Village was filled to capacity on Feb. 11 for Saturday’s Lunar New Year Celebration and Fashion Show. This event, hosted by the ASIANinNY networking organization, treated guests to a night of Asian-oriented exhibitions, highlighted by two fashion shows and an energetic performance by cosplay singer and Japanese idol Reni Mimura.

The boys took the stage first, modeling clothes by designer Ninh Nguyen and eliciting a number of lascivious hoots and catcalls from an appreciative crowd, and the girls, wearing Meiling Chen’s new line, came out to a barrage of camera flashes. Fitting with the Year of the Dragon, the models’ hair, stylized by a team from Haruo Noro Salon, exhibited a quiet ferocity and mystique.

“For [the girls] the look is a simple and romantic boho style, center part, with a low ponytail and a braid. For [the boys] the look is a ’60s mod, edgy/punk, with a modern and clean feel,” lead stylist Noro said of his artistic intent. Having worked and studied in salons in Japan and London before coming to New Jersey and establishing his own business, Noro explained that for this event he drew mostly from his Japanese training, though having additional training and work with other cultures and participating in various fashion shows has enhanced his creative vision.

“I love that ASIANinNY is able to feature and promote various Asian designers, and my team and I are very happy to be part of it,” he said.

Models at the Lunar New Year Celebration, styled by Haruo Noro Salon. (Justin Tedaldi)

Since its founding in 2008, ASIANinNY’s main goal has been bringing the Asian community together, catering particularly to New York newcomers. In addition to hosting social events like the Lunar New Year Celebration, where Asian locals can meet and Asian businesses can advertise, ASIANinNY provides information on a variety of topics, whether it’s where to find a place to live or what restaurants one should go to for an affordable taste of home. Their efforts have had results.

“We came to support the Asians,” was one particularly blunt answer when patrons were asked why they attended the event. Many of them had friends performing in one of the acts and they had come to cheer their friends on, regardless of whatever other plans they might have had on a cold Saturday night. Others were in attendance because they heard about the event from friends who were already affiliated with the organization. In either case, word about ASIANinNY is getting around, and their online membership (free when you sign up) is growing.

But Asians, while the vast majority, were not the audience’s entirety. There was a smattering of other skin tones present, attracted perhaps by Reni Mimura, whose fan base in the anime and Comic-Con circuits has grown since she came to New York from Japan in 2008. This bunny-eared, maid cosplay bundle of energy took the stage at the end of the night and performed three songs which she wrote and her agent produced. Complete with backup dancers, props, audience participation and the signature cute gestures and facial expressions one usually associates with the moe Japanese style, Reni’s performance was everything a devote otaku might hope to see in Tokyo’s Akihabara district. And for those who had never seen this style before, Reni’s performance was surely a treat.

“I call my fans ‘Angels,’ and I try to put my best effort to interact with [them]. I would like to bring everybody’s energy level to a maximum and enjoy the unity,” Reni said prior to her performance. “As a cosplayer, I am very interested in fashion, and as an Asian I am looking forward to this event. The Asian community showed me a great deal of their support since I came to New York. They are more aware of what’s hot in Japan and understand my style, so I would like to give something back to the community.”

Reni and her fellow dancers closed the show in a grand fashion. (Justin Tedaldi)

That unity Reni mentioned was a prevailing atmospheric force Saturday night. The crowd and performers alike were happy and welcoming of everyone, for this was indeed a night of fun and celebration of Asian heritage. This was a different atmosphere for Reni, who predominantly performs at anime-centric events where most of the audience are just as dressed up as she is.

Attendee and anime anthropologist Charles Dunbar observed that audiences at anime cons and events like the Lunar New Year Celebration are no longer only Japanophiles, but are more and more becoming “fans for fans’ sake.” In other words, they include more friends of anime fans who decide to tag along so they can be involved in something, whether or not they are actually interested in anime culture. “The people who are [at this event] are here because they like Asian culture. Those at anime cons are there for the social aspect,” he explained.

And social it was, fueled in part by Asahi Beer, who provided the evening’s libations. But whether or not you were feeling good because of the premium Japanese suds, there was an undeniably positive feeling of fraternity as the night drew to a close. “This was a really cool event,” one audience member remarked on the way outside. “I’m going to try and get my friends to come next year.”

And in this way, the community continues to grow and thrive.

For upcoming events by ASIANinNY, visit www.asianinny.com.

Read an exclusive interview with Reni on page 16 of JQ’s summer 2009 issue here.

2 comments so far...

  • JQ Magazine: Fashion and Fun Ring in the Year of the Dragon | JETAANY.org Said on February 12th, 2012 at 4:42 pm:

    […] the complete story, click here. Share| var addedComment = function(response) { //console.log('fbComments: Caught added […]

  • Sam Said on February 13th, 2012 at 2:54 pm:

    This sounds like it must have been quite an event. Sorry I missed it, but after reading Preston’s review, I’ll be sure to make it next year. Thanks for the write up Preston.


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