We’re two weeks away from local con sempai Kawaii Kon kicking off at the Hawai’i Convention Center for its 15th year of ani-mayhem and manga madness. Many of you may be running around like headless chickens as I’m typing this, trying to finish up those last pieces of artwork, hemming those last seams for your weekend cosplay, and wondering when the powers that be will release a schedule so that you know when you can tell your friends, “Sorry, can’t go to lunch now, Aya Hirano’s speaking in Room 315.”
Well, I can help with that last part, at least. Because the Kawaii Kon 2019 smartphone app has quietly gone live on an app store near you, in both iOS and Android flavors. Here, have a spiffy-looking opening splash screen.
The app’s debut also marks the debut of this year’s schedule. It’s not the complete schedule — more events will be added in coming days — but there’s certainly more than enough to get started on your custom agenda (which you can also build within the app). Want to learn more about a panel? Click on it to pull up a screen with more information.
It should also be noted that the app seems like it’s a work in progress. Profiles of this year’s guests have been posted, as well as lists of artists in Artist Alley and vendors in the Dealers Room, but as of now, there’s no easy way to cross-reference where everyone’s going to be at a given point in time. If you’ve downloaded previous years’ versions of the app, you may have to re-register an account; I didn’t have a prior version on my phone to test this out, but it seems like this year’s app is a fresh download built on new infrastructure, rather than an updated version of last year’s app.
There’s still plenty to play with, though, and there’s plenty of time for new features to be added. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go cancel any lunch plans I had for con Sunday. Because, you know, Aya Hirano. *squee!*
Nine months in to my newfound freedom to attend pretty much ALL THE THINGS~! when it comes to local otaku culture, I’m finding the experience both exhilarating and exhausting. And that’s just counting the major con circuit. Here, for instance, is the bulk of my coverage of HawaiiCon, the fourth stop of Con-athon 2018 that happened a few weekends ago at the Mauna Lani Bay Hotel and Bungalows on the Big Island.
I needed that bit of R&R. For while there may be only one more stop for the Con-athon circuit this year — Maui Comic Con, Oct. 26-28 at UH-Maui College — the schedule of special events going forward may be one of the busiest fall seasons I’ve seen in the past few years.
It’s fitting, then, that the season kicks off from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday with one of the longer-running events of the modern otaku era: McCully-Moiliili Library’s ninth annual Mini Con. This year’s edition was already shaping up to be the biggest one yet even before the surprise news hit Wednesday evening of a Super-Secret Special Guest of Honor: Usagi Yojimbo creator (and, of course, Groo the Wanderer letterer) Stan Sakai. He’ll be signing books and drawing sketches in exchange for donations to the library, something he also did last November after a talk there.
Returning for another go-round are event mainstays Jon Murakami, Audra Furuichi (in a rare-these-days appearance!), Brady Evans and Kevin Sano. Here are some previews of what they’ll be debuting at this event:
Joining them this year is rising art star Derick “7Sketches” Fabian. He’s best known for his original sticker art, or “slaps,” that mash up characters from cartoons, anime, and comics with hip-hop and local culture. He even contributed a mural to this year’s POW! WOW! Hawaii jam in Kakaako. He has a trio of designs debuting on Saturday.
Night Darling Cosplay x 7Sketches
Also on hand will be representatives from the next mini-con event coming down the pipeline, NEET, which recently announced its autumn event will be held Oct. 12 at the nearby Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii; and Wasabi Magazine editor-in-chief Antonio Vega, who’ll be talking about the publication’s focus on Japanese culture and island life.
You’re going to want to meet everyone, too. Back for another year is the stamp card promotion, where attendees can go around getting stamps from the exhibitors, then turn in completed cards in exchange for free comic books and other stuff. Other activities, like showing volunteers your library card and filling out a program evaluation form, will net you a set of three Mini Con 9 pins.
Cosplay, as always, is encouraged, and a variety of anime, including Boruto and Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card, will be screened. There also will be a number of craft activities and talks throughout the day.
Mini Con 9 is brought to you by the Friends of the McCully-Moiliili Library, Collector Maniacs and Hawaiian Graphics. The library is located at 2211 S. King St.; parking can be a bit tight, but it is possible to find some if you look hard enough. Any questions? Call 973-1099.
Also on the otaku calendar
Hawaii’s first UNIQLO opens: The Japanese clothing retailer renowned for comfortable, cheap attire and otaku-friendly T-shirt designs has been teasing local customers for several months now with a pop-up store near Ala Moana Center’s Centerstage. That experience is about to expand quite a bit, as the full-service store is scheduled to open on the third floor of the mall’s Ewa Wing at 9:28 a.m. Friday, 9/28. (Get it?) I understand some friends of the blog are members of the store’s opening-day staff, so lotsa luck and good fortune to you all.
Shirokiya Matsuri: The fourth monthly edition of the showcase for local crafters and entertainers hosted by emcee extraordinare Remy Zane is taking place from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday at the Shirokiya Japan Village Walk complex, street level on the Ewa end of Ala Moana Center. It’s also Kids’ Day at JVW, so children ages 12 and under can get a free token to spend at one of the complex’s 100 bazillion gachapon machines. Seriously, look at how many there were in August:
It’s GachaponCon, yo.
My Neighbor Totoro in theaters: Chew on this for a bit: This story of two girls and the gentle forest spirits they befriend has been around for 30 years. Feeling old yet? Playing at 12:55 p.m. Sunday (English dubbed), 7 p.m. Monday (subtitled), and 7 p.m. Wednesday (dubbed) at the Regal Dole Cannery 18 theaters, 735-B Iwilei Road. Get your tickets here.
Free Comic Book Day! This Saturday! Lots to talk about! Little time to explain! Let’s get to it.
On Saturday, various comic shops and libraries will be giving away a wide range of comic books as part of Free Comic Book Day. Some will even be hosting special events. It’s a tradition that’s run annually since 2002, and while some of the stores locally have changed over the years, the concept remains the same: give away comic books; expose readers to a wide range of series; get people into stores to peruse their stock.
This year’s event is tied in to that little art film about a big bad giant purple dude, his pretty sparkly glove, and the Marvel Bunch fighting him for it. You might have heard of it. It made a few (hundred gazillion) dollars over the past week or so.
Twenty-four public libraries statewide will be giving away comics this year. It would have been 25, but alas, poor Aina Haina is still recovering from recent flooding.
Your starting lineup on Oahu: (deep breath in)
Aiea Library, 99-374 Pohai Place (where there’s still plenty of parking and a big horking sugar molecule out front)
Hawaii Kai Library, 249 Lunalilo Home Road
Kailua Library, 239 Kuulei Road
Kalihi-Palama Library, 1325 Kalihi St. (special program, see below)
Kapolei Library, 1020 Manawai St.
Liliha Library, 1515 Liliha St.
Manoa Library, 2716 Woodlawn Drive
McCully-Moiliili Library, 2211 S. King St.
Mililani Library, 95-450 Makaimoimo St. (special program, see below)
Nanakuli Library, 89-070 Farrington Highway (the newest library, which means it’s their first year in the program!)
Salt Lake-Moanalua Library, 3225 Salt Lake Blvd.
Waikiki-Kapahulu Library, 400 Kapahulu Ave.
Waimanalo Public & School Library, 41-1320 Kalanianaole Highway
Waipahu Library, 94-275 Mokuola St.
And on the neighbor islands: Hilo, Kailua-Kona and Thelma Parker Memorial Public & School Library on the Big Island; Kahului, Kīhei, Lahaina and Makawao (with a special program!) on Maui; and Hanapepe on Kauai. Lanai Public & School Library will be represented at the Saturday Market from 8 to 10:30 a.m. in front of Cafe 565 on Seventh Street.
As for the comic book stores, there are a number to choose from again. On Oahu, there’s:
Choice Comics (98-1268 Kaahumanu St., suite 104) in Pearl City
Collector Maniacs, 3571 Waialae Ave., suite 102A, Kaimuki
Dragon’s Lair, 95-1840 Meheula Parkway, suite E-10, Mililani
Gecko Books, 1151 12th Ave., Kaimuki
Other Realms, 1130 Nimitz Highway, suite C-140, Iwilei
Westside Comics and Games, 590 Farrington Highway, #538, Kapolei
And for those of you on either Maui or the Big Island, there’s:
Maui Comics & Collectibles, 115 S. Wakea St., Kahului
Game Over Comics, 277 Wili Ko Place, suite 233, Lahaina
Enjoy Comics, 45-201 Pohaku St., Hilo
The special attractions!
Comic Jam Hawaii artists contributed 175 different character bookmarks to sets that will be given away at the libraries, as well as Choice Comics, Dragon’s Lair, Gecko Books, Maui Comics & Collectibles, Other Realms, and Westside Comics & Games. Here’s a look at a bunch of those sets being prepared for shipment.
Members of the Hawaiian Comic Book Alliance will be out in force at various events. Gordon Rider/Honolulu Star-Advertiser/Hawaii Herald artist Jon Murakami, Bandit artist Kaci Horimoto, M artist Dwayne Acoba, and Mash Monster artist Andrew Gutierrez will be drawing free sketches at Dragon’s Lair from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. (The store also has several sales going on: 30 percent off all comics, 10 percent off all hardcover collections and trade paperbacks, and various other markdowns.)
Other Realms, meanwhile, will host Contraptor artist Free Isabelo, Mysterious Things artist Napua Ahina, Cacy & Kiara/Pepe the Chihuahua kalbi wrangler Roy Chang, Pineapple Man artist Sam Campos, Exillion artist DJ Keawekane, Nightmarcher artist Chris Koanui, and Game of Thrones illustrator Mog Park from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Free will be teaching workshops on drawing comics (11 a.m.-noon) and how to produce a comic, from concept to distribution (1:30-2:30 p.m.) and there will be a comic jam session with the artists from 4:30-5:30 p.m. Seats for these three sessions are limited to 20; you can reserve a spot by calling 596-8236 or emailing OtherRealms@hawaii.rr.com.
(Sudden thought: If Free Isabelo is at an event like this, does that make it a Free and Other Artists Comic Book Day? And if he was, for some reason, commissioned to draw a story based on the anime about the Iwatobi Swim Club and then held a release party, would that be a Free Free! Comic Book Day? Yes, these are the kinds of things I think about when I’m not thinking about Kirby.)
Other Realms also has giveaways and discounts, and the first 50 people will receive a FCBD Star Wars Adventures buttons. Cosplayers from League of Shadows Hawaii will be stopping by from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
A number of libraries will be hosting cosplayer appearances; check with your local branch to see who’ll be showing up, and at what times.
Kalihi-Palama Library will host a talk by freelance artist Kanila Tripp from 11 a.m. to noon. Kanila’s done work for DC, Marvel, Image, HarperCollins Publishers and Mattel Toys, and he’ll be discussing his experiences. Cosplayers will be showing up between 1 and 4 p.m. There’s also a make-and-take superhero corner bookmark activity, and a lucky-number drawing — pull a number and win a prize!
Mililani Library will have some cosplayers, and they’ll be screening the 2017 hit Wonder Woman from 1 to 3:30 p.m.
Over on Maui, Makawao Library will host local artist and educator Pam Hayes, who’ll be leading a quick workshop for children in grades 2-12 on classic graffiti art techniques, including bubble lettering embellished with drips, cracks, bricks and flames. That’s happening from 10 to 11 a.m.
And last but certainly not least, an entire comic book store will be holding its grand opening on Free Comic Book Day! In addition to the comic giveaways, the gang at Game Over Comics in Lahaina will be grilling hot dogs and hosting a tournament for the DC Universe brawler Injustice 2 from 2 to 6 p.m. Everything in the store will be 10 percent off, too.
Did I miss anything? Let me know in the comments. And swing by Otaku Ohana on Facebook for any last-minute updates, too.
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.
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.
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!
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.
Anime 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.
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.com. 8 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.
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.
There’s a giant Julie Feied painting hanging in the stairwell between the first and second floors of the Honolulu Museum of Art School.
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.
Thing is, though … there are also cats.
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.
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 …
… Olivia Hansen’s Amazing World of Gumball/Pokemon-inspired “Pigeons and Sheep” …
… and Yoko Kanemoto’s “Cat” (there’s that reference to cats again!).
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).
Kawaii Kon released the first edition of its schedule for this year’s show on Friday, along with a spiffy new app (in both iOS and Android flavors!). Whenever big, juicy chunks of information like this drop in front of me, my friendly neighborhood anime/manga/Con-athon blogger instincts immediately kick in and I try to soak up every last newsworthy tidbit contained within.
And boy, was there something newsworthy in there. More specifically, there was something newsworthy in what wasn’t in there — a longstanding presence at Kawaii Kon, one that’s been around since 2007.
After 10 straight years, there’s no sign of a nemu*nemu booth in the dealers room.
For artist Audra Furuichi, to not be a part of Kawaii Kon 2017 meant either that there was a mistake somewhere in the grand scheme of scheduling things, or she was shifting her resources elsewhere.
Sadly for fans of Audra’s work, the latter is true. Unbeknownst to many of us at the time, the nemu*nemu appearances at the Hawaii Collectors Expo last month and the Mid-Pacific Institute Hoolaulea on Friday were the last we’ll be seeing for the immediate future. In addition to Kawaii Kon, that rules out appearances at other Oahu Con-athon events — Comic Con Honolulu, Amazing Hawaii Comic Con and Anime Ohana — as well.
“No hard feelings to any of the shows — it’s just progressively gotten physically harder to do shows,” Audra told me via Facebook chat on Sunday. “Kinda lacking the endurance I used to have. I also don’t have new merchandise at the moment, so it was a good time to bow out.”
She also cited an evolving audience as a factor. The nemu*nemu online comic has been on hiatus since last July as she’s worked on other projects, and not as many people know about the plush pup duo as they did in the comic’s early years.
“Thought about doing the (Artist Alley), but the long hours and EXTREME COMPETITION OMGWTFBBQ … are big deterrents for me,” she said.
This doesn’t mean the end of all things nemu*nemu, though. Audra’s exploring swinging by Kawaii Kon for a day to drop off something for the art show. The nemu*nemu: Blue Hawaii comic strip is still chugging along in the Star-Advertiser. And she’s been posting some pretty non nemu*nemu artwork at audrafuruichi.com.
And then there’s Audra’s Patreon account, where she’s been sharing sneak peeks at Blue Hawaii strips, digital desktops and other artistic works since January 2015. It’s a way for fans to show their continuing support for her work; it can be difficult to focus on creating art and tending to the business side of things, after all. As of this writing, 61 patrons are contributing $522 a month. (Full journalistic disclosure: I’m one of Audra’s $25/month contributors.)
There’s now an added incentive for people to jump on board: If contributions reach $550 a month, she’ll start regularly drawing a one-shot nemu*nemu comic again, once a month. It’s a perfect incentive for the comic’s 11th anniversary coming up April 1, and all it’ll take is one person contributing $28 a month, or 28 people contributing $1 a month, or some happy medium in between.