Animated Messages of Hope: Votive Prayers from the Nintama Rantarô Anime Pilgrimage
Throughout the year the fans of the anime series Nintama Rantarô trek to the city of Amagasaki in Hyogo prefecture to participate in an “anime pilgrimage.” A primary attraction of the Nintama pilgrimage is the Nanamatsu Hachiman Shrine where fans publically display “ema” (votive prayer tablets) illustrated with their favorite Nintama characters. Japanese use ema to communicate their prayers to deities. Nintama fans, adapted the ema as a powerful medium for communication between fans: unconventional prayers and vibrant play emanate from the fan artwork expressing adoration for the Nintama characters (and their creator) and narrating how the anime characters serve as a source of strength for facing life’s many uncertainties. This ethnographic study punctuated by the 2011 earthquake/tsunami disaster reveals the contemporary social and economic concerns held by the youthful, predominately female Nintama fans and, importantly, their hope for a good life.