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THE MAZECITY STORY

A tale of animes, otakus and lots of moe

Apon Zahir

Members of MazeCity at MazeCon 2013. â Courtesy photo Members of MazeCity at MazeCon 2013. â Courtesy photo

Now is a very strange time in Bangladesh, a time of political turmoil, civil disobedience and general societal uncertainty, but now is also an era of a booming pop culture scene and a thriving fan culture of international media and arts. A curious contradiction in social paradigms that perhaps encompasses all the traits of the inevitable age gap between the pre-war and post-war populace. But it is essential to keep in mind that the immense popularity of the recent pop culture conventions like the Dhaka Comicon and the Unmad-JCC Comic con did not manifest over night, nor was it engineered by the careful cartography of corporate giants in order to facilitate capital gains and blatant merchandising; rather, such popularity came from the simultaneous impulses of a few ardent fans who decided to spread the love of pop culture without fear of social repercussion. And when it comes to spreading the love by fans, perhaps no community does it better than MaZeCiTy. Theirs is a story that is worth every embellishment.
Although animes (Japanese animations) are fairly popular among young Bangladeshis nowadays, back in 2002-2003, almost no one knew of the medium. They used to watch shows like Samurai X in AXN back then, but people could not distinguish anime from western cartoons. Anime started becoming really popular in Bangladesh due to the airing of the TV channel Animax. Although, perhaps most of us have had their first real brush with anime through a show called Dragon Ball Z aired on cartoon network.
Before the age of animax, there existed a very unique online community. Formerly titled Team Otaku, MaZeCiTy is the self proclaimed ‘first Bangladeshi anime community’, started by a few people who got into watching animes in their childhood. The story of the old Team Otaku (TO) getting together is almost reminiscent of a fantasy role playing game, where heroes set out on an epic quest and gather comrades and party members along the way. So too did Team Otaku start back in early 2006 through a series of fateful meetings, sometimes through a random add on click bd to exchange anime collections, sometimes through a chance meeting at a DVD store while browsing the anime catalogues and sometimes even from allegedly running away from home and spending  two nights at the Dhanmondi 7 mosque! Long story short, four kindred souls from very different walks of life were brought together by fate and a friendship was forged through sharing a similar passion for anime. Mohammed Moinul Islam Monty, Nure-elahi Shonchoy, Mahmud Shuvra, Akib Junayeed, Shahid Wasio and later Toufik Jamal formed Team Otaku, becoming partners in crime and the best of friends.
‘Do you have a dream? How do you think it would feel if you found someone who had the same dream as you? Can you imagine the joy of having friends who share the same dreams and passions? Well, that’s how we all of Team Otaku feel about ourselves,’ explains Monty, one of the oldest members of TO, when asked to elaborate on the Maze City chemistry. But instead of simply holing up and keeping that joy to themselves, TO decided to spread the word around town, that anime lovers were not alone! ‘While we were lucky to have each other united by fate, there may be others like us who still think that he/she is the only one who is an ardent fan of anime in Bangladesh and it would be our job to reach out to them and let them know that they are not alone’, says Shonchoy, who made TO’s first official forum in Bangladesh. Operating from their haunted house headquarters in Jigatola, they have never looked back since.
Through self advertisement on various online communities and chat rooms, they discovered there were more than a few anime fans in Bangladesh as the forum started to gain momentum and as their board reached over 39000+ posts! They decided to have real meetings to get to know each other better. They met at places like Star Kebab and Boomers, first numbering in the tens and ultimately in the hundreds. They renamed themselves Maze City, after a fictional locale of the same name from an anime that was being broadcasted on Animax at the time called The Getbackers. Members of Maze City made a facebook group and a fan page that now has more than 12,000 members! They successfully pulled out their first ‘Mazecon’ back in 2011, which was attended by more than 200 people and which was probably the first cosplay/pop culture convention in Bangladesh! They continued hosting lots of fun events like A Maze City summer party and Iftar party and another very successful Mazecon in 2013. Needless to say, the Maze City family can be counted as the pioneers of the whole pop-culture convention culture in Bangladesh that most of us are familiar with right now. They are indeed a very close group, as stated by Asif Faysal Prangon, an artist and member of Maze City, ‘I feel very closely attached to Maze City, they have become something of a family to me’. Such sentiment is shared among a vast majority of the active members of maze city.
Maze City is a non profit group whose goals and dreams are simple, to promote the love of anime and foster the growth of ‘anime culture’ in Bangladesh. Although many such groups are now rising out of the woodworks, Maze City remains impartial and willing to help anyone out. People from Maze City are regularly on the organising team of big pop culture events like the Dhaka Comicon. So if you are a fan of ‘One Piece’ and have recently have had your mind blown by the return of Sabo, or if you don’t know what any of that means but would like to know more about Japanese anime, you would be a fool to miss out on the Maze City family; for among them, everyone is welcome.


Members of MazeCity at MazeCon 2013. â Courtesy photo

Members of MazeCity at MazeCon 2013. â Courtesy photo

Original members of Team Otaku. â Courtesy photo

Original members of Team Otaku. â Courtesy photo



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