Where one door closes, one more opens

It’s been a whirlwind past few weeks here at Otaku Ohana Central, a time that’s left me little opportunity to sit down and gather my thoughts. But now that things are finally settling into a new normal routine for me — and after a lengthy-even-for-this-blog silence for me of several months — here’s what’s up. Call it a “State of the Otaku Ohana Address,” if you will.

As a lot of you who follow my social media accounts on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook  know by now, after 16-1/2 years, I’ve left the Honolulu Star-Advertiser to take on new challenges as a medical legal editor at the Honolulu Sports Medical Clinic.

It wasn’t a decision made lightly. I grew up reading “Kokua Line” with Harriet Gee, columns by Dave Donnelly and Ben Wood, and Corky Trinidad’s cartoons in the Star-Bulletin. I carted copies of the Advertiser with me to Punahou to do crossword puzzles, pick Pigskin Picks games with friends, and occasionally whack a friend with it. (Yes, I’ve been a word nerd pretty much all my life. Also, sorry, Arlen.)

So to get to work at the Star-Bulletin was … well, for lack of a better term, I was geeking out. I was hired as a copy editor, checking stories from the news, features and business departments for any grammar and content issues, writing headlines. Eventually, along with fellow copy editor/friend/tag-team partner in fandom Wilma Win (née Jandoc), we made our own names for ourselves in print, writing about anime and manga … and, well, the rest is history.

We did a lot for otaku journalism at the paper, from anime and manga reviews as part of a rotating stable of four columnists who wrote the “Drawn & Quartered” column in the Sunday Star-Bulletin features section; to “Cel Shaded,” perhaps the only weekly anime/manga column published in a major metropolitan daily newspaper, from 2005 to 2011; to this blog, established in 2009. Heck, I even wrote a book about manga that was published worldwide. None of that would have been possible without Wilma’s support over the years, and for that I’m eternally grateful.

20171229_161236
My coworkers at the Star-Advertiser feted me with a cake on one of my last days there. It was a total coincidence that the frosting the bakers used was green and yellow — the two colors of my teams in Ingress (Enlightened green!) and Pokemon Go (Instinct yellow!).

But, well, times change. Newspapers don’t have quite the same cachet they used to, having largely been overtaken by TV and the Internet. And after two straight years of layoffs — the bulk of which cut the behind-the-scenes production and copy-editing departments to a bare minimum — I was faced with two options: Stay on, leave myself open to the distinct possibility of being downsized as well, and cut back coverage or even end this blog completely; or explore my options elsewhere. The opportunity presented itself, I chose the latter option, and, well, here we are today.

So what does this mean for Otaku Ohana? Better things, hopefully. There’s no question that those layoffs took their toll on the amount of time and energy Wilma and I had to devote to this blog. Now that my schedule is more flexible (and for now, less stressful), I hope to have more time to really dig into the fun stuff, possibly do more reviews, finally post all of those pictures and interviews over the years that I just haven’t had time to write up, and attend more events that I couldn’t due to my old work schedule. Visiting the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii’s New Year’s Ohana Festival, the Taku Taku Matsuri “Bringing Bun Bun Back” revival, AO Fest and the Hawaii Anime Awards, and NEET, for instance, are definite possibilities now! Along with all the usual Con-athon stops, of course.

As for Wilma? She’s still at the paper. But we promised we’d get together for lunch regularly. So she’ll still be a big part of Otaku Ohana going forward, if not in print, at least in terms of support and backstop edits of my posts.

But here’s the thing. For any of these changes to really matter, we really need to get more eyeballs on this blog. Much of this is my fault; I’ve left this blog to languish for far too long and probably ought to do more to promote it and generate more worthwhile content for it. I’m hoping that with more posts coming down the pipe, those of you still reading this blog will share it with a friend or two, and those friends will share it with their friends, and pretty soon we’ll go viral and have a kajillion subscribers like that famous YouTuber from Hilo. OK, fine, so that’s really pie-in-the-sky thinking. A few more views in the stat counter would be nice, though.

So yeah, 2018 will be the year we Make Otaku Ohana Great Again. Or as we like to call it around these parts, MOOGA. (I just like the way that sounds. Kinda primal and offbeat.) And for the next few months at least, our three-person team is looking forward to sharing a lot of interesting stuff with you.

… why yes, I did just write that we have a three-person team now. Stick around for our next post, and you’ll get to meet our very first Otaku Ohana intern.

The weekend of WOW! has arrived

There are times when one wishes human cloning could be a reality outside of science fiction.

This weekend would be one of those times for me. For some inexplicable reason, Sunday in particular has become one of the busiest, non-convention-related days I’ve seen in quite some time. Saturday has some pretty cool stuff, too, which could be impacted by presidential travel closing key routes to people trying to go places.

There’s quite a bit to get to, so let’s get to the rundown!

Saturday

Stan Sakai visits McCully-Moiliili Library:  Fresh off an appearance at Maui Comic Con, the kamaaina creator of rabbit ronin Usagi Yojimbo will be giving a talk at 10:30 a.m., signing autographs ($5 for up to three signatures) and doing quick sketches ($5 each) in a benefit for the library. Collector Maniacs will also have four rare Usagi Yojimbo individually numbered, hardcover collections for sale for $125 each: “Fox Hunt” (vol, 25, no. 202 of 350), “Traitors of the Earth” (vol. 26, 94 of 350), “A Town Called Hell” (vol. 27, 136 of 350) and “Red Scorpion” (vol. 28, 109 of 350). Also, see those Usagi dolls at the top of this post? You can enter to win one of those. The library is at 2211 S. King St.; arrive early to grab some parking.

Artists’ corner: Cacy & Kiara / Highball & Pepe author Roy Chang will be selling things at the Aiea High School PTSO Craft Fair from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the high school at 98-1276 Ulune St. Marisa and Carole Gee of Kawaii Mono will be selling their jewelry on the Uptown side of Pearlridge Center from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Sunday

anime day 4.0Anime Day 4.0: Kawaii Kon’s mini-con experience is back for a fourth year (and its second at the Shirokiya Japan Village Walk complex at Ala Moana Center). Trivia master extraordinaire Remy Zane will be presiding over a number of games and activities, including a cosplay contest. Comic Jam Hawaii will host the art wall, where anyone can pick up a pen and sketch whatever they want (within acceptable family-friendly parameters, of course). A bunch of artists and crafters (including Jon Murakami and Kawaii Mono!) will be selling their wares as well. Take advantage of Kawaii Kon’s preregistration special and pick up a three-day pass for next year’s con for $55, too! 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

toyfair nov17

Hawaii Toy Fair: If you’re looking for some rare, hard-to-find collectible or just want to stare slack-jawed at just how many Funko Pop figures have been produced over the past few years, this event, packed with more than 50 dealers, can probably help you out. Special guests include Marvel and DC artist Mark Texeira and Game of Thrones storyboard artist Mog Park. Ala Moana Hotel, Hibiscus Ballroom. Admission is $3, but children 5 and under, as well as all cosplayers, can get in free. Visit hawaiitoyfair.com8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Japanese voice actors visit Waikiki Yokocho: This is one of the more surprising events to come down the pipe in some time, so here’s the deal: Voice actors Ryo Horikawa (Vegeta in Dragon Ball Z, Andromeda Shun in Saint Seiya, Heiji Hattori in Detective Conan/Case Closed) and Takumi Kamada (Frederick Ando in Ame-iro Cocoa Series: Ame-Con!!, currently streaming on Crunchyroll) will join musician Kaoru Kondou for a special event at Waikiki Yokocho, the Japanese food alley in the basement of the Waikiki Shopping Plaza (2250 Kalakaua Ave.). The common thread between the three: All of them worked on an anime series about a coffee shop called Rainy Cocoa, which, in its third season, featured a branch opening in Hawaii. So there you go. They’ll be doing a talk show, an autograph session and a mini concert starting at 1 p.m. You can get full details about the event from this flyer.

pikachu movie

Movie screenings: Fathom Events’ first showing of Pokemon the Movie: I Choose You!, a retelling of the origin stories of Ash and Pikachu, and the Hawaii International Film Festival’s first showing of Napping Princess, where a girl’s mysterious dream world is the key to saving her father after he’s arrested for stealing technological secrets, will be at 12:55 and 2:30 p.m., respectively, at the Regal Dole Cannery Stadium 18 complex.

McCully-Moiliili Library’s Mini Con marches on

I’m back from yet another extended hiatus! This one’s going to take a bit more explaining, and I hope to get around to doing that reasonably soon (and preferably not take another two months or so to do so).

2017 Poster smBut we’ve got a lot of news to catch up on. So let’s get right to it: The eighth annual edition of Mini Con at the McCully-Moiliili Library is happening from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. Eight years is a really long time for the local otaku community; for starters, that makes it the second-longest-running event held in consecutive years this century, behind only Kawaii Kon (13 events as of this year). Consider also that it’s outlasted the lifespans of the following now-defunct events combined:

  • HEXXP (three years)
  • Oni-Con Hawaii (one year)
  • Anime Matsuri Hawaii (one year)
  • Anime Ohana (one year)

That’s pretty special. And a lot of it has been built on the foundation that then-young adult librarian, now-branch manager Hillary Chang established when I first wrote about this event back in 2010: a mini Artist Alley, a chance for cosplayers to show off, anime screening throughout, and giveaways up the wazoo. Including these selections that were available at last year’s event.

Yes, that is Godzilla and a rubber chicken, and no, I’m not sure how anyone got along without having these in their lives, either.

This year: There are comics. Lots. And lots. Of comics.

22045639_1580556775297768_4510073688966085769_n

And just as in previous years, all you have to do to get your hands on some of ’em is to visit the exhibiting artists and authors and complete a stamp card.

21766634_1582301558456623_4896144694611754960_n

The exhibitors have remained fairly constant as well. Sure, their roles may have evolved over the years — Jon Murakami has added Edamame Ninjas and The Ara-Rangers to his portfolio; Audra Furuichi has scaled back her retail appearances (Mini Con’s the only event she’s appeared at this year!) and shifted her full-time cartooning focus to nemu*nemu: Blue Hawaii in the Star-Advertiser; Kevin Sano is now selling comics and art in a space at Idea’s Music and Books (formerly Jelly’s) in #OurKakaako; and Brady Evans, who’ll be doing art demonstrations throughout Mini Con, now works as collections manager at the Honolulu Museum of Art. But they’ve shown up year after year, and it’s been a nice chance to catch up with what they’ve been doing in a more intimate setting than the bigger events can offer.

New to the festivities this year is Hiroshi Mori, a local expat and University of Hawaii at Manoa alumnus who currently works at the Third Floor in Los Angeles as a previsualization artist, someone who visualizes what complex scenes in movies will look like before they’re filmed. Some of his credits include Mad Max: Fury Road, The Avengers, Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith, and Men in Black 3. His comic Island Kingdom “is inspired from growing up in Honolulu and combining Hawaii’s surf culture with the movies, TV and comic books I grew up with, such as ‘Mad Max: Road Warrior,’ ‘The Yagyu Conspiracy,’ ‘Escape From New York,’ and ‘Conan the Barbarian’ just to name a few,” he told Surfer Today in an article published in January. He’ll have print copies of Part 1 in the series, “Surf or Die,” available for sale.

Also appearing will be author David Estes, who’s written more than 30 sci-fi and fantasy books. The first book in his “Fatemarked Epic” series, Fatemarked, tops Amazon’s Teen & Young Adult Medieval Fiction eBook chart, with several other books in the series not too far behind. He’ll host a writing workshop, “Build Your Own World,” at 10:30 a.m.

McCully-Moiliili Library is at 2211 S. King St.; as always, arrive early for the best parking. Call 973-1099.

 

The Amazing Hawaii Comic Con photo-ops schedule

Here we are, a little over an hour after Amazing Hawaii Comic Con opened today, and there has yet to be anything posted online from the con’s various social media channels about schedules for photo ops (aside from William Shatner, Jason David Frank and Kevin Eastman) or autographs.

Well, I’ve taken matters into my own hands. Thanks to Facebook user Ayame Takahara, who snapped pictures of the photo-ops board posted on the exhibit hall floor,, I’ve been able to cobble together a version of this weekend’s photo-ops schedule at the convention for anyone needing it, along with relevant prices. Still waiting for an autograph schedule, but I have people keeping an eye out for that as well.

So here you go, the first proof that, yes, the Star Trek: The Next Generation stars will be made available outside of Saturday’s $65 panel:

Screen Shot 2017-08-25 at 4.12.38 PM

Coming to terms with an Amazing weekend

The third entry in Con-athon 2017, Amazing Hawaii Comic Con, is this weekend. And … well, I’ll be honest: It’s the event for which I’ve held the most mixed emotions.

amazing-hawaii-comic-con-logo-ahcc.jpgOn the one hand, it’s become to the local comic fan community what Kawaii Kon has been to the local anime/manga fan community for years: the premier event at which comic fans can showcase their work. Members of the Hawaiian Comic Book Alliance will be out in full force and will have a special print available for a minimum $5 purchase. (You can see what the print looks like in the featured image for this post.) A good number of the state’s comic shops, including Dragon’s Lair, Choice Comics, Westside Comics and Other Realms on Oahu, Maui Comics & Collectibles and Hilo’s Enjoy Comics will be represented there.

On the other hand … man, I am still so torn about these extra-cost, premium a la carte fan experiences. I said it last year when I wrote about this convention, and I’ll say it again: The people willing to shell out extra money are the ones likely to get the most enjoyment out of this show, from the VIP passes promising early admission, express lines and priority seating at general admission panels to the “Ultimate Fan Experiences” tailored to certain guests.

This year, there’s an added wrinkle: One of the biggest panels, a “Star Trek Generations” panel Saturday night hosted by William Shatner that features Star Trek: The Next Generation stars Michael Dorn, Marina Sirtis, LeVar Burton, Gates McFadden and Brent Spiner, will cost an extra $65 to attend ($95 if you want premium seating, $200 if you want to buy it as part of an Ultimate Fan Package that also includes premium seating for the Shatner panel on Sunday, a Shatner autograph ticket, a priority pass for other autograph sessions, an exclusive lanyard and badge, and other Star Trek con-exclusive merchandise).

This wouldn’t bother me so much if I knew what kind of accessibility the general public will be getting to these stars outside of this panel. As of this writing at 8 a.m. today, with the con starting in seven hours, I’ve only seen autograph information posted for Shatner, Power Rangers star Jason David Frank and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles creator Kevin Eastman. I’m one of those people who likes planning where I’m going and roughly how much I’m going to be spending, and to not have this information available before I show up is pretty frustrating.

Anyway, enough from my soapbox. Let’s get to the nitty-gritty fast facts!

Amazing Hawaii Comic Con

When/where: Friday-Sunday, Hawai’i Convention Center

It’s the one with: William Shatner. The actor. Who. Everyone knows played. Captain James. T. Kirk. In the original. Star Trek. And whose. Speaking style. Has been parodied by. Countless people over. The years.

Other notable guests (full roster at amazinghawaiicomiccon.com/guests):

Jason David Frank, the Green/White Power Ranger in the Power Ranger franchise and guy who’s lobbying hard to fight former WWE Superstar ™ CM Punk in MMA combat.

Alan Tudyk, K-2SO in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Wash in Firefly/Serenity, voice of Hei Hei the derpy chicken in Moana, and, as the Otaku Ohana Anonymous Director of Forced Social Interaction likes to remind me, Steve the Pirate in Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story.

Todd McFarlane, creator of Spawn, founding member of Image Comics, and guy who bought the record-breaking home run balls hit by Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and Barry Bonds.

Anime fans won’t feel left out at this year’s show, either; scheduled to attend are Bryce Papenbrook and Trina Nishimura, the voices of Eren and Mikasa, respectively, in Attack on Titan; Bonnie Gordon, the voice of R. Mika in Street Fighter V; and anime YouTubers TheAnimeMan and akidearest.

Other notes of note: As I mentioned earlier, the Hawaiian Comic Book Alliance is going to play a major role in this show. The group will be hosting a “meet the creators” panel at 11 a.m. Saturday, followed by various “Making a Comic Book” panels over the weekend — part 1, “Characters and Story,” at 3 p.m. Saturday; part 2, “Sequential Art,” at 4 p.m. Saturday; and part 3, “Getting Published,” at 11 a.m. Sunday. All panels will be held in Panel Room B.

Also attending this weekend: Stacey Hayashi, author of the Journey of Heroes graphic novel about the 100th Infantry Battalion/442nd Regimental Combat Team and its accomplishments during World War II. Stacey’s now producer/writer of Go for Broke, a movie chronicling those accomplishments, and she’ll be on a panel with director Alex Bocchieri and several local cast members to talk about the movie and preview footage at noon Saturday in Panel Room A. Visit her at booth 319 in the main exhibit hall, too!

How much? Three-day passes are $60; single-day passes are $25 for Friday, $35 for Saturday and $25 for Sunday. VIP packages and select Ultimate Fan Packages start at $150. Children under 10 are free with paying adult, as are all Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts in uniform.

Website: amazinghawaiicomiccon.com

Con-athon 2017 hits ludicrous speed

Welcome back to the escalating arms race that is Con-athon 2017. It’s been pretty quiet as far as conventions and convention-like activities go since Kawaii Kon in early April, save for a smattering of events. Heck, you’ve probably noticed I haven’t written about anything in this space since last month’s MangaBento exhibit. (Long story. We’ve been trying to keep Otaku Ohana on Facebook active, though!)

But here we are, on the verge of kicking off a string of five conventions over the next four months. I know it’s difficult to keep track of which one is slotted where, so I’m hoping to untangle that confusion as we go along. But there’s a show staring us in the face for this weekend, so let’s get things started with …

 

Comic Con Honolulu

When/where: Friday-Sunday, Hawai’i Convention Center

Princess BrideIt’s the one with: Cary Elwes, whose lines from Princess Bride you can probably recite from memory if you’re like all the fans of that movie I know who absolutely adore it … and him. He’ll be signing autographs ($40) and doing photo ops ($40) on Saturday and Sunday, and his single panel of the weekend will be from 11:15 a.m. to noon Sunday in room 316ABC. (You’re going to want to catch this live, because video/audio recording has been banned from that session. So no social media dispatches, sorry!)

And not: Ming-Na Wen, who had to cancel due to an injury suffered filming the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. finale earlier this year. She’s already confirmed as the first guest for Comic Con Honolulu 2018, though, so yay!

Also withdrawing in recent days are actresses Katrina Law and Candice Patton; replacing them are Willa Holland (Thea Queen in Arrow) and Danielle Panabacker (Caitlin Snow in The Flash).

Other notable guests (full roster at comicconhonolulu.com/guests/):

Colin Baker, the Sixth Doctor and the first major Doctor Who cast member to visit Hawaii in the modern con era.

David Gallaher, Honolulu-born comic artist/writer who’ll be selling a con-exclusive variant of his current comic, The Only Living Boy.

Nolan North, voice of Nathan Drake in the Uncharted series on the Sony PlayStation 3 and 4 and Desmond Miles.

Kevin Sorbo, TV’s Hercules.

Other notes of note: In addition to the Elwes panel, audio/video recording and photography also won’t be allowed at the Willa Holland panel (11:15 a.m.-noon Saturday) or the Danielle Panabacker panel (2:45-3:30 p.m. Saturday). Both are in room 316ABC.

CCH Logo BubbleWant to see something other than the guests this weekend? Hitbox Music Ensemble will be performing in concert from 8 to 9:30 p.m. Friday in room 316ABC. (Their performances of various Pokemon Go soundtrack selections already sound pretty good.) The Cardboard Megabrawl, in which people build cardboard armor and then beat the bejeebers out of each other in an attempt to knock off their opponents’ armor, will be from 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday in room 313ABC. The Art Improv panel, in which local artists will be drawing quick sketches using suggestions from the audience, will be from 7 to 8 p.m. Saturday in room 312 (and it’s a great place to get some cool free art!). If you’d like to buy some nice pieces of predrawn/crafted artwork, the Charity Art Auction will be held from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. Saturday in room 315. And everybody’s favorite event, the Cosplay Showcase, will be held from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. Saturday in room 316ABC.

The full schedule is available at comicconhonolulu.com/events/schedule-2017/

How much? Three-day passes are $65; single-day passes are $40 for Friday, $55 for Saturday and $40 for Sunday.

Website: comicconhonolulu.com

Coming up next for Con-athon 2017

Amazing Hawaii Comic Con (Aug. 25-27, Hawai’i Convention Center) features original Star Trek captain William Shatner and Green/White Power Ranger Jason David Frank as its headliners. amazinghawaiicomiccon.com

HawaiiCon (Sept. 14-17, Mauna Lani Bay Hotel and Bungalows, Big Island) has a quartet of Buffy the Vampire Slayer actors (Nicholas Brendon, Charisma Carpenter, Emma Caulfield, Amber Benson); Paul Blake, Star Wars’ Greedo; and Temuera Morrison, Jango Fett in Star Wars Episode 2, on its sizable guest roster. hawaiicon.com

Anime Ohana (Oct. 6-8, Pagoda Hotel): Voice actors Christina Marie Kelly, Molly Searcy and David Wald, who’ve all voiced roles in Akame Ga Kill, are the main attractions at this anime con. There’s also going to be a live Food Wars!-style competition … and if you have any cooking skills that you want to show off in that, you’re going to want to get over to animeohana.com and register right away. (The cutoff to enter that competition is on Monday.)

Maui Comic Con (Oct. 28-29, UH-Maui campus, Kahului): Inker Joe Rubinstein, artist Mark Texeira and actress Galyn Gorg are on board for the second edition of Maui’s contribution to the local con scene. facebook.com/mauicomiccon/

Eat. Draw. Relax. Cat. Bear witness.

There’s a giant Julie Feied painting hanging in the stairwell between the first and second floors of the Honolulu Museum of Art School.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Having such a piece staring you in the face can only mean one thing: It’s time for what’s become an otaku staple around these parts, the annual MangaBento exhibit on the art school’s second floor. Julie’s painting is the first thing that greets you when you go up the stairs to see the exhibit, and every year I marvel at how much detail she manages to cram into her work. This year’s piece is even more impressive, considering how I can recognize many of the MangaBento regulars rendered as caricatures.

The theme for this, the ninth annual show by this group of anything-goes anime- and manga-inspired artists, is “Eat, Draw, Relax.” The gallery aesthetic, with its sky-blue cloths, cloud cutouts and a hanging lawn chair, reflects this theme.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Thing is, though … there are also cats.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Lots.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Of.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Cats.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Which is totally fine! We here at Otaku Ohana embrace almost everything feline, canine, avian, marine and, umm, bunny. *pyon*

But we’re also all about the anime inspirations. And there’s plenty of that in the exhibit. Take Tina Huynh’s polymer clay piece “Dango Park,” which reminds me of a bunch of Kirbies from Nintendo’s Kirby franchise. Which makes me think of the Facebook page, “The same picture of Kirby every day to help you feel better.” And I feel better.

20170608_094602

There’s also Kalani Holland’s “Brynhildr in the Darkness New Year’s,” one of several holiday-themed ink-and-Copic pieces he has in the exhibit …

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

… Olivia Hansen’s Amazing World of Gumball/Pokemon-inspired “Pigeons and Sheep” …

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

… and Yoko Kanemoto’s “Cat” (there’s that reference to cats again!).

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

If you want to check out the exhibit for yourself, your best opportunity this weekend will be at a reception from 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday in the exhibit space. Normally I’d refer to this as an “opening reception,” except the exhibit’s been up since the beginning of the month and is coming down a week after the reception on the 18th, so things are moving pretty quickly going forward. If you can’t make it on Sunday, the gallery’s accessible from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. next week (except perhaps Monday, since that’s a holiday).

The Honolulu Museum of Art is at 1111 Victoria St.; for more information, visit facebook.com/mangabento.