Writer by day, anime extraordinaire by night

By on May 16, 2018

I was dressed as Howl from the Studio Ghibli film, “Howl’s Moving Castle,” for Zenkaikon. This cosplay is portrayed as Howl’s demon form from the film. (Photos by Emily Jacoby)


Aside from being one of the newest staff writers for the Ephrata Review and the Lititz Record, I also consider myself an anime extraordinaire in my spare time.

Actually, I seem to incorporate anime in almost all aspects of my life, to the point where I don’t even realize it anymore. After all, watching anime became the main reason I aspired to become a writer.

I was finally able to dive into the excitement of another year at Zenkaikon on May 4 through 6, which was held at the Lancaster Marriott at Penn Square in Lancaster.

The last time I was able to attend the convention was in 2013, the first year it was held in Lancaster (it used to take place in Philadelphia), and the convention has truly evolved in the five years since I’ve been there.

The number of vendors selling anime goodies almost doubled and the hotel was a madhouse of people of all ages dressed up as their favorite anime, video game, or movie characters.

Attending an anime convention is like entering a whole new (and exciting) world, where people bring fictional characters to life. I saw a lot of people dressed as the same character, but each added their personal artistic flair to their cosplay, or costume, i to make it completely unique.

Although I had the desire to take part in Zenkaikon for myself, I also had another goal in mind as I walked through the giant revolving door to the Lancaster Marriott ­ finding local residents.

One of the most exciting parts of an anime convention are the attendees. People from all over Pennsylvania travel into Lancaster city to spend the entire weekend at the convention. Some even arrive from other states.

I was lucky enough to discover a few local anime fans in between taking pictures of my favorite cosplays and spending too much money on nerdy merchandise.

Hannah Reitz, 17, a Lititz resident and a junior at Warwick High School, attended Zenkaikon for the third time this year dressed as the fashionable and purple-haired Shuu Tsukiyama, her favorite character from the anime series, Tokyo Ghoul.

“I’ve been a fan of Tokyo Ghoul for three years, and ironically enough, I originally hated Shuu when I first watched it. But I grew to love him over the years because of how eccentric and unique he is, so I thought that it would be fun to bring him to life at a Con,” said Reitz.

People tend to feel a sense of acceptance while taking part in the festivities of the weekend, regardless of age. They ultimately come together under one roof and spend time celebrating something that everyone has in common at the event ­ their love for anime.

Zenkaikon was held at the Lancaster Marriott at Penn Square in Lancaster May 4 to 6. Many went to the event dressed up as their favorite character from an anime or video game. Pictured are (left) Jaime Cruz, Reading, who cosplayed as Ken Kaneki, and (right) Hannah Reitz, a Lititz resident, dressed as Shuu Tsukiyama. Both Reitz and Cruz were dressed as characters from the anime series, Tokyo Ghoul.

“My favorite part about the convention was the atmosphere of it all; everyone showing up in costume and being their crazy selves through characters they love. I also love meeting so many new people, especially ones dressed as characters I knew, and being recognized by so many people,” Reitz said.

That’s one of the amazing parts about an anime convention; if someone recognizes your costume, they can ask to take your picture because they appreciate the style or the character. For me, it’s always a confidence booster.

And it’s a constantly exciting experience as well. People will go out of their way for a picture and to give a compliment.

This year, I was dressed as Howl from the Studio Ghibli film, “Howl’s Moving Castle,” and I had so many people approach me while at Zenkaikon, simply to tell me they loved my cosplay.

On the final day of Zenkaikon, I found myself roaming the lobby of the Lancaster Marriott, asking people where they were from and complimenting them on the effort they put into their costumes.

I took notice to a gentleman dressed in red, who looked as though he had a suit of armor strapped to his back. I immediately knew which character he was ­ Edward Elric from the anime series, Fullmetal Alchemist.

The suit of armor was actually the portrayal of the character’s brother, Alphonse Elric, who had his soul alchemically bound to the steel armor in the anime after a failed human transmutation experiment.

James Castaner, who is formerly from Ephrata, was the man behind the cosplay. He was also accompanied by former Ephrata residents Domonik Castaner, who dressed as Aguilar from the Assassin’s Creed film, and Victor Castaner, cosplaying Maes Hughes, also from Fullmetal Alchemist.

“We’ve been coming to the convention every year since the second year it started in Lancaster. It’s almost like a family tradition,” said James Castaner.

Christopher Wilfong, formerly of Ephrata, dressed up at Maj. Alex Louis Armstrong, also following with the Fullmetal Alchemist series trend, and former Lititz native Josh Skadal, attended the convention in his full Link costume from the popular video game, the Legend of Zelda.

“We just enjoy coming to Zenkaikon. There is always so much going on and it’s always a fun experience,” Wilfong said.

Anime conventions create a world of acceptance and unlikely friendships. A lot of my closest friends have been made either through our mutual love for anime, or while attending a convention together.

“It’s amazing to be surrounded by so many awesome people who have similar interests as you, where you can just be yourself and have a great time. It’s such a fun experience, regardless of whether you’re a huge anime fan or not,” said Reitz.

Emily Jacoby is a staff writer for the Lititz Record Express by day, while indulging in the world of anime and pop culture by night. She welcomes your comments and feedback at ejacoby@lnpnews.com.

Pictured are (left to right) Christopher Wilfong, Victor Castaner, James Castaner and Domonik Castaner, all formerly from Ephrata, and Josh Skadal, formerly from Lititz, in their cosplays for Zenkaikon.



  1. Upton

    May 16, 2018 at 9:36 am

    Nice! “Howl’s Moving Castle” is a great movie! Love Studio Ghibli. Zenkaikon is a great fest and a great addition to Lancaster. Nice work on the story!

  2. Moses Brodin

    May 21, 2019 at 6:11 am

    “you can see that there are quite a few more. Some worth noting are The Anime Network, AnimeSols, Daisuki, Funimation’s own website, the ambitious Viki, and VizAnime.com (which is not on that list for some reason). To be fair, there is a considerable amount of overlap, as you will most likely see much of their content on Hulu or Netflix.

    In any case, there certainly are many options for legally watching anime online.”

  3. Alisha Ross

    June 18, 2019 at 12:18 am

    Just like anything else, anime goes through trends, and now that anime fans have immediate access to what is popular in Japan, they end up gravitating toward the same things. As a result, it becomes a generational thing. In the 80s, American anime fans liked big robots as much as Japan did (Transformers, Battletech, etc). I consider myself an “”old-school Toonami fan””, so I became a huge fan of the stuff made in the 90s. Now, the current generation of Western anime fans like the kawaii/moe/cute-girls-doing-x phenomenon simply because that is what dominates the anime market these days. 10 years from now, it will be something completely different.

    While it may make sense that “”grittier”” stuff would be more popular in America in general (Akira, Dragon Ball Z, and Cowboy Bebop did do well here), that’s on a major mainstream level. For the fans that go to websites like CrunchyRoll, they just want the latest from Japan, and the cuter stuff is what it happens to be at the moment. I think it’s just part of the peculiarities of niche entertainment, especially since it comes from and is catered to the interests of a different country.

  4. DeepOnionWeb

    November 15, 2019 at 6:01 pm

    You all look so hawt! My god. I wish I can pull off those anime customes.

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