Wisconsin’s largest Anime and Japanese cultural event, Anime Milwaukee (AMKE), hosted its 13th annual gathering from February 14 to 16 at the Wisconsin Center, welcoming more than 10,000 guests from the area, around the country, and overseas.

Fans traveled from across the Midwest, the United States, and internationally to attend the three-day tribute of Japanese entertainment. Anime Milwaukee was founded by the Japanese Animation Association at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 2007. It grew exponentially each year until by 2011 it had to move to Milwaukee’s largest convention space.

Anime Milwaukee celebrates the culture of Japan. Fascination with Anime has skyrocketed into a multibillion dollar industry through the internet. It has a devoted fan base that transcends age and gender, and relishes its complex plots dealing with emotions, relationship struggles, and adventurous quests.

Held at the Wisconsin Center, all three floors of the facility were fully booked full with vendors, artists, video game entertainment, programming, and special events. Connected by skywalk, the Hyatt also hosted AMKE events. The Japanese cultural event offered something of interest for all ages, and has become an important multicultural venue for Milwaukee because Anime removes racial and gender barriers for fans of the illustrated stories.

Japanese Animation, known as Anime, became popular in America in the late 1970s with TV shows like Speed Racer, Battle of the Planets, and Star Blazers. By the 1990s the industry had exploded with imported hits like Pokémon, Gundam, Dragonball Z, and Neon Genesis Evangelion.

These TV shows and their supporting films, merchandise, music, and games captured the imagination of American youth who are now well into their professional careers. What was once required enthusiasts to ship VHS cassette tapes from Japan to watch, is now a digital media stream broadcast 24 hours a day on services like Crunchyroll.

The economic impact of the Anime Milwaukee event has been estimated to bring over three million dollars to city vendors and establishments. This photo essay highlights some of the sights and participants who celebrated and shared their love for Japanese culture and entertainment from AMKE 2015 to 2019.