Special Otaku Report: Japan Ponycon!
The Bronies, Their Ponies, and Magic!
When it comes to fandom, most people in the know, be they anime otaku, Whovians, or Trekkies, have likely heard by now about Bronies, the adult and mostly male fans of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, an American TV show created by Hasbro and marketed towards young girls. After gaining immense cult popularity in the United States and elsewhere beginning in 2011, the fandom has spread to Japan, helped along by the Japanese broadcast of the show's first two seasons.
On Sunday, May 4th in Oji, Tokyo, I attended Japan Ponycon, where a gathering of Japanese Bronies came together to share their love of My Little Pony with other fans of the show. This was the third event of its kind held in Japan, with an attendance of about 242 people, about 100 more than the previous event held in January.
Mirroring the fandom in the U.S., most of the attendees were males ranging from 15-25 years old, although there was also a considerable number of women at the event. Like American Bronies, Japanese fans of My Little Pony are drawn to the show for various reasons ranging from the show’s storyline to its simple message of love and tolerance.
There were also a little over a dozen foreign bronies at the event. Most of them were American, and of those, several were actively serving in the U.S. Military.
The highlight of the event was a Q&A Skype call with Andrea Libman, a voice actress who performs the voices of Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy, two of the show’s mane six characters (no, that’s not a typo). Japanese fans were able to ask Libman questions ranging from the challenges of being a voice actress to her thoughts on the My Little Pony fandom.
Otaku Culture at AkihabaraNews.com
The Goings on of Ponycon
The event also featured numerous cosplayers. Some wore simple outfits meant to mirror their favorite Ponies, and some dressed in full-fledged Pony fursuits and gladly posed for pictures.
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Author's Note: Per request of the Japan Ponycon organizers, we were obliged to protect attendees’ privacy.
Editor’s Note: We’re going to fix that next time!
There was also an ‘artist alley’ where attendees could buy various fan goods or purchase art commissions of original characters they had created. Attendees also drew various fan art of their own, much of which was sent to Libman as part of a contest. In another corner, there was even a computer with a monitor and arcade controller where people could play a fanmade video game based on the show.
Numerous panels took place throughout the day in which panelists discussed different aspects of the show and its fandom. Toward the end of the event, there was a rock/paper/scissors tournament in which winners were awarded various official My Little Pony goods. Japan Ponycon concluded with a live DJ event with attendees dancing to electronic music that incorporated melodies and lyrics from the show.
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Next: Ponycon 4
The next Japan Ponycon is planned for Saturday, November 1 and will take place in Kawasaki. While Japan Ponycon is still small compared to American conventions, its attendees are extremely dedicated to spreading the word about My Little Pony and its message that no matter what country you are in, friendship is magic.
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Contributor Reece Scott holds a B.A. in Japanese from Georgetown University, a Master’s in Modern Japanese Studies from the University of Oxford, and is currently a graduate student in Digital Hollywood University’s Digital Contents Management program here in Tokyo. He is passionate about otaku culture and trends.