The return of Sugoi and the good moment of manga and anime in Peru

At that time we were so young and we knew so little about everything that nobody used the word to refer to Japanese animation. We didn’t know how to name it. On those lunch afternoons after school, in the 80s, we would tune in to the big-eyed cartoons (that’s what we called them), obsessed with their stories of emotions and contrasts. Sometimes they could be about impossible loves (candy Candy) or tear-draining like the adventure of Framework; and even futuristic war dramas like robotech, where the characters were conflicted and even died (!) before our eyes. Japanese animation prepared a generation of children for the more serious vicissitudes of adult fiction. She felt real and alive.

Robotech was one of the anime that caused a sensation in the 80’s. (Photo: Diffusion)

This story begins on the third floor of a house in San Borja. It’s the beginning of the nineties and the love for little eye drawings has matured. It has become youthful. In this place, the VAF (Video Anime Fans) arose spontaneously, considered the first organized club for fans of the genre, which brought together young people from Lima who would crowd together on weekends at the house of the brothers Rafael and Iván Antezana to watch anime (already they called him that) on VHS cassettes or browsing manga and magazines in Japanese that they brought thanks to post office boxes.

It wasn’t just a matter of watching anime. Some liked to write and to express themselves they had their modest wall newspaper, in that same place. This incipient means of communication, made by and for fans, was the breeding ground that would shape Sugoi, the mythical magazine founded right there, in 1997, and which organized the ‘otaku’ movement in Peru. Sugoi was a rare bird at that time: it was a publication of good graphic quality, admirable periodicity, which spoke of the specific in a universal way, with a wealth of data (there was no Wikipedia at that time) and a special taste for good writing. The magazine even rewarded readers if someone found a misspelling or inaccurate fact.

When We are realized the phenomenon, in April 1998, he humorously baptized them as a “sect”, because of the passion they put into the matter. At its peak, Sugoi’s circulation reached 14,000 copies. They had bookstores in various parts of the country and even a TV program, so popular that it once beat the ratings of leathers, the erotic program with which they shared a signal (Uranium 15). The important of Sugoi It was that he articulated a fan club of more than 3,000 cardholder members who once a month attended marathons on the big screen with unpublished anime in the country. This was the case until 2008 when, after the excitement for the Japanese, the club closed its doors. Three years later the magazine would say goodbye to its public.

"Neon Genesis Evangelion" It was created by the Gainax studio and directed by Hideaki Anno. The anime premiered in October 1995 on TV Tokyo. (Photos: Gainax)

“Neon Genesis Evangelion” was created by the Gainax studio and directed by Hideaki Anno. The anime premiered in October 1995 on TV Tokyo. (Photos: Gainax)

Things have changed a lot since then. Phenomena like dragonball either Narutoor more recent animes like demon slayer Y Attack on Titan, have sparked waves of interest in Japanese animation at the time. To such an extent that it has become ubiquitous. Today you no longer have to go to seedy holes to get titles of the genre. Animes are everywhere: on platforms of streaming (Netflix, Prime Video, HBO Max, the specialized Crunchyroll) and even in our movie theaters. The large Peruvian bookstore chains, in turn, have walls full of manga (Japanese comics) in their offer, something unthinkable 25 years ago. It is with this wind in favor, and thanks to the pandemic, that an old acquaintance has returned to the streets.

The resurrection of “Sugoi”

Ivan Antezanaeditor-at-large of Sugoi, receives us in the same house in San Borja where it all began. The years have passed and now that third floor where she lived is rented. On the first floor of her house, dozens of old Sugoi they make noises, especially in his office. The need for the pandemic made him sell part of that old stock in 2020 and the reception was surprising. He sold more than ten thousand soles worth of old magazines, he says, and one of them was priced at S/400. It was impossible not to dream of a possible return of the magazine to the physical format.

The pandemic helped us. First, with the sales we made in the past forty years, we put together a fund with which we were able to buy a computer. Then we won a fund contest from the Ministry of Culture, without which we would not have been able to return to the streets.”, says Antezana, who defines himself as an autistic person with a special OCD due to spelling. The conversation flies freely for more than two hours on various topics, from the importance of the work of Rumiko Takahashi (Ranma 1/2), the taste shared by the Supetramp band, silent movies, and even the correct use of gerunds.

The memory of Sugoi and how he became successful, step by step, from the first fanzine meganime even being a magazine with a national reach, it takes a good part of the conversation. It is impossible not to refer for a while to the Arenales Shopping Center, whose conversion from a disgraced place to a local stronghold of the otaku community is a direct consequence of Sugoi’s success. “I feel guilty for having created that temple of frikismo,” Antezana laughs, because he knows he is right. The first Japanese-related store was the Sugoi bookstore, in the 1990s, when Arenales was so dead with stores and the public then “that you could hear flies flying,” she says. Now there are many manga bookstores, doll and cosplay clothing stores, restaurants, and even an otaku bar.

Cover of the new issue of Sugoi, which will be distributed this month.

Cover of the new issue of Sugoi, which will be distributed this month.

Today Sugoi is sold in digital format, both old and new issues, in PDF format, from the Sugoi Project website, but they have also returned to print. This has been possible thanks to the pre-sale model that allows them to anticipate demand. There is a captive market, that of your old fan readers, and a new, younger market to satisfy. “Otakus have grown. In a very emotional reunion that we had in 2012, I remember that some of them came with their children”, says the editor. If before they collected their tips to pay the club’s monthly fee, today they are solvent to finance their pleasures.

The most ‘geeky’ orchestra in Peru

One of the former readers and members of the Sugoi Club is the musician Gabriel Vizcarra (38). His first approach to anime was to run into the magazine at a whereabouts and that was a point of no return. His formation drew as much from that inexhaustible quarry of ‘freakism’ as from his formal instruction at the National Conservatory. From the fusion of both passions the Animatissimo Orchestra was born. In the photo you can see Gabriel, with his director’s baton, behind a mask of the “Sin Cara” from the film Spirited Away. Behind him, a group of talented musicians with irreverent looks that border on cosplay.

The violinist and conductor, Gabriel Vizcarra, is the head of Animatissimo, a musical ensemble dedicated to playing the best music from anime and video games. (Photo: Victor Idrogo).

The violinist and conductor, Gabriel Vizcarra, is the head of Animatissimo, a musical ensemble dedicated to playing the best music from anime and video games. (Photo: Victor Idrogo).

/ ©Victor Idrogo/ Iconic

Vizcarra founded the ensemble in 2010, sometimes relying on already existing ensembles such as the Orquesta Juvenil Bicentenario, but it is only today that he feels that the group has taken its final form, with 46 carefully selected members and a parity approach (there are 23 musicians and 23 female musicians). , plus its director.

Animatissimo returned last month, after the stoppage of the pandemic, with a success that nobody expected. In a matter of minutes they sold out three dates at the Gran Teatro Nacional with their show Kaze No Rondoa tribute to the music from the Studio Ghibli films (my neighbor totoro, Grave of the Fireflies, Princess Mononoke). We were there, courtesy of the orchestra, and we can attest that the concert of sobs that could be heard from an audience touched by the hand of nostalgia was just as impressive as Joe Hisaishi’s music.

Part of the Animatissimo orchestra. They attended the session with clothes inspired by classic anime and with polo shirts from the Mundo Reset store (Photo: Víctor Idrogo).

Part of the Animatissimo orchestra. They attended the session with clothes inspired by classic anime and with polo shirts from the Mundo Reset store (Photo: Víctor Idrogo).

/ ©Victor Idrogo/ Iconic

Sleeves from Peru to the world

The great moment of the anime extends to its graphic counterpart, the manga, a kind of black and white comic that in Japan sells for millions. In this regard, we should highlight the great work of the enigmatic Peruvian cartoonist Katzyrine, who has published a manga of her creation in Spain: Do not diewith the publisher NowEvolution.

Cover of Non Moriar, by the Peruvian artist Katzyrine. It was published last year by the Spanish publisher Now Evolution. This year it has reached its second and final volume.

Cover of Non Moriar, by the Peruvian artist Katzyrine. It was published last year by the Spanish publisher Now Evolution. This year it has reached its second and final volume.

It is a fantasy with gothic elements and that revolves around death, although with touches of humor. “The curious thing is that the contract with new authors is usually for a single volume, but they gave me the freedom to do what I thought convenient and develop my ideas,” he says by email about the two volumes of his work that he has published.

Another vein of analysis is the young Peruvian publishers that emerged in a pandemic to officially publish manga in Peru, with much more competitive prices than imported ones. Some are so young that, in the case of Templu Comics, their staff is barely over 20 years old. They opened trail when licensing Give My Regards To Black Jack (Shuho Sato) and Q on the Seaside (Noboru Segawa), among others. And for next year they announce The ex-yakuza’s kitty (Riddle Kamimura).

Cover of El Gatito del Ex Yakuza, the next title of the Peruvian manga publisher Templu Comics. Other titles from his catalogue: Give my regards to Black Jack, Blank Space, Q on the Seaside).

Cover of El Gatito del Ex Yakuza, the next title of the Peruvian manga publisher Templu Comics. Other titles from his catalogue: Give my regards to Black Jack, Blank Space, Q on the Seaside).

They were followed by the also Peruvian Ediciones Hanami, whose greatest success is The dog that guarded the stars, which has been the number one best-selling sleeve in Librerías Crisol. They began their editorial adventure by publishing the Chilean mangaka Saikomic, author of the title Antagonistwhich was a 2020 Tezuka Prize winner. They have then released Coyoteby Sei Awata.

Cover of The Dog Who Watched the Stars, by Hanami Ediciones. They plan to release volume 2 next year.

Cover of The Dog Who Watched the Stars, by Hanami Ediciones. They plan to release volume 2 next year.

The list closes with the publisher Mangaline Peru, which confirms this crazy year that the popular culture of the country of the rising sun has experienced in these modest lands of the sun. And they swear that next year will be better. //