Anime and Manga returns to Jerusalem despite coronavirus pandemic

In an atmosphere of caution, anime and manga still shine in Jerusalem.

The Harucon anime convention returned to Jerusalem in March (photo credit: PAVEL DMITROCHENKO)
The Harucon anime convention returned to Jerusalem in March
(photo credit: PAVEL DMITROCHENKO)
Despite the coronavirus outbreak gaining ground, the Association of Anime and Manga in Israel (AMAI) returned to the Jerusalem International Convention Center to host the 13th iteration of its flagship event, the Harucon anime convention.
Held on Purim at the beginning of March, before the Health Ministry had ordered all such events to be canceled, the event is usually Israel’s biggest annual confab focusing on Japanese culture, and is supported by the Japanese Embassy in Israel, Nintendo in Israel, the Israel-Japan Friendship Society and Chamber of Commerce, and the comic-book retailer Comikaza.
This year, however, the coronavirus was on everyone’s mind and cast a dark shadow over the event. Before the event, the Health Ministry banned all gatherings of more than 5,000 people, but Harucon was not expecting such a crowd this year and thus was able to go ahead.
The organizers were cautious, too, and provided hand wipes and sanitizer throughout the venue.
However, the event was still dealt a heavy blow by the virus, with many scheduled panels and speakers being canceled. For example, Nintendo Israel, which has been a fixture at the last few conventions with a large gaming room filled with consoles and a variety of games for convention-goers to play, was completely absent. However, that is not to say that the event was lacking. Fans of geek culture in Israel are dedicated, and lectures were still exciting as usual, even those on more niche topics.
Speaking to In Jerusalem, Inbar Eitan, a veteran of the Israeli anime and manga scene, was surprised at how many people showed up to attend her lecture on ‘80s anime.
“Of course it’s not as much as you’d see with more mainstream topics, but people are still going to give their two cents for the things they love,” she said.
Eitan has spoken at several conventions before, and makes an effort to appear at every major convention – which include Harucon and AMAI’s other event, CAMI, as well as the Israeli Society for Science Fiction and Fantasy’s two events, ICon and Olamot. Some of her previous lectures were on rhythm games and on the iconic Castlevania franchise of video games, which has since expanded into a popular Netflix original series.
“One of the things I like about the panels is introducing people to things I love. To me, that’s the most fulfilling part, exposing people to things you love and getting a positive reaction.”
A cosplay enthusiast, Eitan also spoke about Israel’s cosplay scene. Typically, the cosplay contest is one of Harucon’s major attractions, with the winners going to represent Israel at the World Cosplay Summit in Japan. Though it was not held this year, cosplaying was still on display, with many creative costumes of iconic characters showcased by both amateurs and seasoned veterans.
“The cosplay scene here is always changing and growing,” Eitan, who was dressed as a Rowlett from the Pokemon franchise, told In Jerusalem. “Each con you’ll see more impressive cosplays, and the community never fails to amaze me. People actually reach the international standard, and it’s very endearing to see that. I’m always in awe of how much effort they put in.”
As always, another major focus of the convention was the various retailers selling new and second-hand geek merchandise, ranging from cheap used video games and consoles to hats, decorative pillows, posters, figurines, jewelry, costumes and more. These also included creators seeking to show their work, including artists, comic book creators and even video games.
Speaking to In Jerusalem, aspiring game developer David Tzur showed off the game he has been working on largely by himself in his spare time over the past year and a half. Called Cycle, the game is a 2D action platformer with a heavy focus on exploration and backtracking, known among video gamers as a Metroidvania game, in reference to the Metroid and Castlevania franchises that pioneered the genre.
The game includes a story as well, about the protagonist searching for their mother, who never returned after going to repair the inner workings of the Tower of Stars, which provides energy to the land. Its gameplay is solid and has a very mechanical and retro aesthetic, which is helped by the game’s 8-16 bit graphics.
Tzur, who is also a student at Shenkar College of Engineering, Design and Art, makes sure to update people about the progress of his game and posting updates, gameplay footage and concept art on social media and on the game’s official website,, where a fully playable 40-minute demo can be downloaded for free.
Tzur told In Jerusalem that he hopes the game can be finished soon, but admits this is unlikely.
“Game development is very difficult,” he explained, “and Shenkar has a lot of homework.”
While the story looks interesting and the aesthetics don’t feel at all too mundane, the gameplay is very familiar. That makes it seem very accessible to many gamers who have played similar games, and it can be appreciated by casual gamers and hardcore fans alike.
This is reflective of much of the Israeli geek community overall, being very inclusive. And while the coronavirus may have cast a dark shadow over the convention, the convention-goers were largely happy to attend, socialize and share in what they enjoy.