The reign of Hoku Comic Kon Honolulu is nigh

CCH logoThe second stop on our yearlong parade of local conventions, Comic Con Honolulu, is coming up on Friday, and … okay, real talk: Just like how people keep calling the Don Quijote on Kaheka Street “Daiei” or “Holiday Mart,” or people in Waipahu still think of the Don Quijote store there as the old GEM store, or a whole bunch of other “Remember when ______ was ______?” conversations that fill #ThrowbackThursday threads on social media every week, a lot of you out there still think of Comic Con Honolulu as Hoku Kon, right? Even though we went over why the name changed earlier this year? It’s okay; I find myself switching between the two as well.

Whatever you prefer to call it, the convention launched as the all-the-things offspring of Kawaii Kon is ready to show con-goers what it has to offer. While it may not be as big as Kawaii Kon — the entire show’s only taking up the top floor of the Hawai ‘i Convention Center –the enthusiast spirit of the long-running anime convention certainly remains a core element here. Unfortunately I won’t be able to attend this year — we’re still working on taming the beast that is our new editorial computer system — but if I could go, here are what would be some of my highlights.

The Anime portal keyThe intro to Ingress panel! Hear about Niantic’s free-to-play massively multiplayer augmented reality game for almost every smartphone out there (sorry, Blackberry and Windows Phone users). Learn about the convoluted back story — something about a battle for Exotic Matter, aliens that either ought to be welcomed with a platter of cookies or repelled like con attendees who forgot to shower, and a buncha researchers, shadowy types and weird artificial intelligence constructs who have died, shattered into shards and been resurrected more times than the Hawaiian Netmender portal changes hands daily. You can also learn why the Enlightened is awesome (lovely greenish hues over everything; “think green” projects a solid environmental message; noodles) and why the Resistance is … umm … equally awesome (hey, they consistently build my portal at work to level 6-8 with a multihack and heat sink that I quietly hack, happily gearing up to go blow up their portals, links and fields elsewhere, so I’m not complaining).

If you decide to attend and subsequently begin playing, I should note two things. First, apologies in advance for all the free time and gas it ends up sucking up. Second — and I cannot stress this enough — please sign up for the Enlightened. You don’t know how many times I’ve talked about these intro to Ingress panels and ended up having readers join … only for them to become my biggest in-game rivals (*waves at agent ArcturusFlyer*). Sigh. 6:30 p.m. Friday, Panel Room.

Comic Jam Hawaii represents! Some of you may remember the Sketch Improv panel during Kawaii Kon, during which artists from Comic Jam Hawaii improvised sketches based on certain themes and ideas shouted out by the audience. It’s where the world first got to see a fire-breathing Slap Chop chicken …

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… the adventures of a side job-taking samurai …

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… Winnie the Deadpool …

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… a Totoro/Fast and Furious mashup …

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… and, of course, 50 Shades of Totoro.

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Sketch Improv is back for another go-round, this time with a slightly tweaked name (it’s Art Improv in your programs now) and a bigger venue (the Main Events room) but likely with the same sketchy hijinks. It should be a fun morning. That’s from 10:30 a.m. to noon Saturday.

memorabilia showcase 1Several Comic Jam artists will be over in Artist Alley as well. Roy Chang, MidWeek cartoonist and Pepe the Chihuahua’s kalbi handler, will set up his art board and offer free art portfolio critiques. Jon J. Murakami, Star-Advertiser “Calabash” cartoonist and creator of Gordon Rider, the Ara-Rangers, and Edamame Ninjas, will be selling a number of new items, including prints of his work from Udon’s upcoming Capcom Fighting Tribute artbook, original sketches, reusable shopping bags with customized hand-drawn art, and — assuming the books come back from the printer on time — Ara-Rangers issue #2. (Hopefully he gets over his cold in time for con, too … get well soon, Jon!) Kevin Sano and Michael Cannon will each have tables and will be selling prints and original artwork as well. (By the way, to the right, you can see a set of four Minions that Kevin custom-painted in the colors and outfits of various Kikaida characters, which I stuck in my new home office showcase. Clearly I love them. Bonus points to anyone who can identify the other things in the showcase at the moment.) 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Saturday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday.

Gates McFadden and Edward James Olmos! Not gonna lie; these are the only two guests I recognize straight out without having to resort to Google, one being Dr. Beverly Crusher in Star Trek: The Next Generation, the other one being an Academy Award nominee for best actor (Stand and Deliver, 1988). I’m very much a comic/sci-fi blogger in training; heck, when NPR recently released its list of top 100 sci-fi/fantasy books as voted on by listeners, I found I had read … exactly one of them. (Animal Farm. For school. Great book, A++++++ WOULD READ ORWELL AGAIN.) That’s not to say the rest of the guest list, which includes actors Adam Baldwin, Erin Gray, Mira Furlan, Sean Maher and J. August Richards and comic artist Khary Rudolph, is anything to dismiss; it’s a respectable roster that any startup convention would love to have.

It should be noted that the autograph policies were released Wednesday afternoon, and for those of you accustomed to lining up for free autographs and photo ops at Kawaii Kon, there’s going to be a bit of sticker shock involved — if you want a complete collection of Year One Comic-Con Honolulu guest autographs, it’s going to cost you $290. Olmos is the highest at $60, followed by McFadden at $50; Baldwin, Maher and Richards at $40 each; and Furlan and Gray at $30 each. (Rudolph will offer free autographs all weekend.) Want pictures of your experiences? It’s going to cost even more. Welcome to the modern-day convention economy, folks. Strap in your wallets and prepare for the ride.

IMG_8501_editCosplay cosplay cosplay! I’ll readily admit cosplay has become the modern-day equivalent of “Hey! Manga’s a thing! OMG, girls are reading comics now!” in modern-day con culture, the go-to topic mainstream media chooses whenever they want to talk about all those anime/manga/sci-fi/fantasy/comic book/whatever fans converging on Big Convention Spot for the Weekend. Heck, our paper covered that angle on Sunday (premium content; subscribers, please read that article, Mike Gordon and Jamm Aquino did a good job with the words and pictures, respectively). That said, people love to dress up, and cosplayers of all skill levels will be showing up during the weekend, from average fans all the way up to our most prominent local cosplayers (Uncanny Megan, shown above with tag-team partner in fandom Wilma J. at this year’s Kawaii Kon! Leah Rose!). For you do-it-yourselfers, I count at least six cosplay-related panels, from Megan and Leah’s Cosplay Q&A (10-11 a.m. Saturday, Panel Room) to cosplay photography (3-4 p.m. Friday, Panel Room) and a whole variety of topics in between. And that doesn’t even take into account the Cosplay Competition, running from 6-7 p.m. Saturday in Main Events.

Interested in attending? Online registration has ended, but you can buy three-day passes ($55) and single-day passes (Friday, $35; Saturday, $40; Sunday, $30) starting at 9 a.m. Friday on the fourth floor of the convention center. Pre-registered attendees can pick up their passes at the same place starting at 8 a.m. Friday; it’s worth noting that unlike Kawaii Kon, passes will not be available for pickup Thursday night.

Want more information? Visit the con site at comicconhonolulu.com. Questions? Lob ’em at the con’s Facebook page.

Festival follow-up: Something blue, something new

I’ve written quite a bit in this space recently about the flood of major conventions coming our way this year — Comic Con Honolulu, HawaiiCon, Amazing Hawaii Comic Con, Anime Ohana and Anime Matsuri Hawaii are all on deck — but the market for smaller otaku-targeted events lasting a day or shorter is developing quite nicely as well. In the past few days, two news tidbits about smaller events crossed the desk of the New and Improved Otaku Ohana Home Office — I’ll have a few pictures of that soon; getting moved in and setting that up has been the primary reason why I’ve been so silent lately this time — one with bad news, one with good.

taku taku matsuri logoThe bad news is that the third annual Taku Taku Matsuri, which was set to take place Oct. 3 and feature voice actor Richard Epcar and his wife, voice actor/director Ellyn Stern, has been postponed indefinitely due to founder/organizer Yuka Nagaoka’s continued health issues. Here’s a formal statement posted to the Taku Taku Matsuri Facebook page on Saturday:

First of all, thank you to all that have supported us and myself so far with taku taku Matsuri.
With how we had to postpone last year because of hurricanes, postponing the event once again was a decisions I did not want to make. My directors and staff have been working very hard on getting ready in my absence. That is why, originally, I was planning to have the event happen, even with me not physically in Hawaii. However, it has become more and more unknown when I will be able to return.

Let me explain what is going on.
I have a congenital brain disease that was detected two months ago. Because of the danger of the disease, I was told that it is best to have it treated ASAP, so I have returned to Japan for treatment. Unfortunately, things are not going as smoothly as I want them to. 
I have gone through all sorts of MRIs and CAT scans, but the doctors are still unable to make a decision on treatment. 
Just my luck, other health issues are making the last examination they need to make a decision, high risk. That is why right now I am going through treatment for my other health issues. Once that treatment works, I will finally be able to receive the needed examination. Of course after all of that, there is still the actual treatment for the brain disease. As far as the doctors are telling me, either radiation therapy or surgery.

Being in complete medical limbo, I have made the choice to postpone the 3rd annual taku taku Matsuri. Honestly, I feel very frustrated and defeated, having to make this choice. However, I was reminded about what “taku taku Matsuri” is. As corny as it may sound, it really is an event for all Otakus, bunbun-ers, to enjoy! And with taku taku Matsuri unable to deliver 100%, we won’t be able to satisfy all our bunbun-ers!!!

All of this may take more than a few months to be taken care of. I apologize for the wait. However, I will be back, healthier and with a fixed brain, to give you all the best taku taku Matsuri!!

Here’s hoping and praying that Yuka will be able to get her health issues resolved fully sometime down the line.

While we may have lost one event off the calendar (for now), another one has popped up to take its place. The inaugural Aiea Library Mini Comic Con, taking place from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, June 6, will offer, in the words of young adult librarian Diane Masaki’s handy-dandy flier, “a glimpse of what a convention is like, with informative panels, vendors and activities.”

Featured guests and vendors include:

  • Roy Chang, MidWeek cartoonist, Aiea Intermediate art teacher and Cacy and Kiara and the Curse of the Kii author. Roy will be selling prints all day and host a panel on creating stories with manga-style art and comic pages from 1 to 2 p.m.
  • Dasha and Dallas Cosplay — the duo of Daria Roud and Dallas Nagata White — will share their experiences and offer tips on getting into cosplaying from 2 to 3 p.m. Daria will also help kids make their own superhero mask or princess crown from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
  • Artists Jon J. Murakami and Devin Oishi will be selling prints and other merchandise. Jon, of course, is the cartoonist best know for Gordon Rider, Edamame Ninjas, The Ara-Rangers and this here paper’s “Calabash” comic strip; Devin, a longtime MangaBento adviser, has two children’s books under his belt, Pualani and the 3 Mano and Da Blalas.

Cosplayers of all ages are encouraged to attend as well; Comic Jam Hawaii artists will be on hand to sketch cosplayers, and children in the sixth grade and younger are encouraged to enter a cosplay contest from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Aiea Library is located at 99-374 Pohai Place, where, nearly a year after opening, there remains plenty of parking (and two Ingress portals to make green, whoop whoop). Call 483-7333.

A cheap convention deal, and Batou for real

As the competition for local otaku hearts and wallets heats up on the convention/special events circuit, there’s bound to be a fair amount of talk about preregistration deals and guest announcements in the coming months. It’ll certainly be busier than when I had to focus on one, maaaaaaaaybe two major shows and a handful of minor shows in a year. Which is okay with me; busy is always better than being bored and lazing around in bed playing Candy Crush Soda Saga (curse you, level 228!).

Take Sunday, for instance. It’s normally a day of rest for those of you religious enough to observe it as such. But there certainly wasn’t any rest around Otaku Ohana Central, where two news tidbits arrived, courtesy of HawaiiCon and Taku Taku Matsuri.

HawaiiCon logoNow, there’s no denying that HawaiiCon has the highest entry cost of the state’s six conventions — $165 for a four-day pass, plus additional travel costs if you’re not already on Hawaii island. It’s understandable; the science/sci-fi/fantasy convention has positioned itself as a vacation destination at the Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel with premier guests and experiences. But those costs can add up, particularly for the cash-strapped among us (hey, those Nendoroids and Amiibos aren’t going to buy themselves!).

To that end, HawaiiCon has unveiled its Kamaaina Day Pass. These $20 passes — $10 for children ages 6-12 — will let you in the door for the con’s preview day, with events mostly running between 3 and 10 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 10. With 21 guests announced to date, “that’s less than $1 per celebrity,” HawaiiCon chairman/CEO GB Hajim told me via online chat.

“Lots of locals have never been to a con,” GB added. “Don’t even know what it is like. We want them to see how awesome it is.”

You can get those passes — as well as single-day passes for Sept. 11-13, which weigh in at $65 general, $45 children — at www.eventbrite.com/e/hawaiicon-2015-kamaaina-day-passes-tickets-16823407264. To recap, guests include Rod Roddenberry, son of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry; actors Christopher Judge, Teryl Rothery, Tony Amendola, Aaron Douglas and Patricia Tallman; writers Brad Bell and Jane Espenson; voice actors Janet Varney, Steve Blum, Mary Elizabeth McGlynn, Cree Summer and Melissa Fahn; and artists Bill Morrison, Trina Robbins, Steve Leialoha and Sam Campos. Find out more about the convention itself at www.hawaiicon.com.

GitS 2 coverMeanwhile, over at Taku Taku Matsuri, founder/organizer Yuka Nagaoka may be in Japan at the moment, but planning for the third annual single-day fall festival continues in earnest. News emerged Sunday of this year’s special guests: voice actor Richard Epcar and his wife, voice actor/director Ellyn Stern. Epcar is best known as the voice of Batou in Ghost in the Shell, GitS 2: Innocence and GitS: Stand-Alone Complex; Xehanort in various Kingdom Hearts games; Joseph Joestar in Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders; and Raiden in the last two Mortal Kombat games. Stern is best known as the voice of Miyuki Goto in Noein and a number of moms — Ichigo’s in Bleach, Jack’s in MAR, Hiroshi’s in Zenki, and Jiro’s and Marumaro’s in Blue Dragon. 

Taku Taku Matsuri is happening Oct. 3 at the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii’s Manoa Grand Ballroom; tickets — $20 for straight admission, packages including T-shirts and special guest experiences going all the way up to $200 — are available at www.gofundme.com/bunbun-funfun.

Hoku Kon rebrands (and other convention news)

It may not have seemed like it’s been busy around Otaku Ohana Central, what with my general radio silence here for a little over two weeks now, but the truth is that there’s a lot of stuff going on. I’ve just been too busy dealing with a good number of outside-of-work things that have left me too exhausted to do much of anything else. (Nothing too weighty, mind. Unless you consider tag-team partner in fandom Wilma J. and I trading Tsum Tsum hearts back and forth a problem.)

CCH logoOne of the things I did during this recent hiatus, though, actually had something to do with this blog: On Friday, I had a chance to sit down and chat with Faisal Ahmed, co-chairman of Kawaii Kon and Hoku Kon with Marlon Stodghill, about a number of things related to the two conventions. I’ll have more of that conversation posted … umm … eventually (the resolution of that outside-of-work stuff is still very much up in the air), but the biggest thing to emerge from it came at the very end. In a move confirmed on Hoku Kon’s Facebook page last night, the convention has rebranded itself and is now going by the name Comic Con Honolulu.

There’s been a fair amount of discussion following the announcement, much of it centered around possible confusion between this event (happening July 24-26; key guest so far is actress Kelly Hu) and Amazing Hawaii Comic Con (Sept. 18-20; key guest so far is Stan Lee). Here’s what Faisal said about the name change and why they decided to go this route:

People just don’t know what Hoku Kon is, and they’re just like, “Is there any way you can add in the words ‘comic con?'” It’s just one of those things of getting the word out there and getting the people to understand what the show is about. Like, “comic con,” people think of San Diego Comic Con. And as somebody who actually studies trademark law, I think they have a very strong right to the word “comic con,” but unfortunately they don’t. People basically know what it means. It’s become a generic term that everyone goes, “Oh, you’re gonna have comics, sci-fi, fantasy, you’re going to have this giant thing, people dress up.” Everyone knows instantly what it is. And a lot of the radio stations and TV stations I talked to are just like, “If you’re able to add the word ‘comic con’ into your name, I can actually get coverage for it, I can let people know that it’s happening, we can actually make it a bigger deal.”

Which then … with dealing with sci-fi guests, is what they care about. Even if you’re willing to pay a lot of sci-fi guests, they’re not willing to come out unless the show has 7,000 people, 10,000 people, 20,000 people. Because it’s just not worth it to them. And ultimately … my dream for Hoku Kon or Comic Con Honolulu would be to have studios come out, to have Marvel come out and have a presence, have HBO, have Cartoon Network, have all these people come out and basically give people the opportunity to have this interactive experience without having to spend the $10,000 to actually go  to San Diego Comic-Con or go to another show on the mainland, or buy a ticket that’s $300.

The goal is to keep prices low. I’m sure as time goes on they’ll inch up slightly, just as everything in the world does. I really don’t want it to be a show where we have to charge $250 for the opportunity to even show up and then pay more money to do stuff. Everyone I talked to who isn’t a nerd basically is just like, “You need to add the word ‘comic con’ in there and we’ll understand.”

This is actually the first time we’re actually talking about it or announcing it. We’re working on kind of finalizing how it’s gonna happen, just because rebranding is always an arduous task. So we’re going to start having it called Comic Con Honolulu, just so people (a) know where it is and (b) know what it is. We’ll keep the name Hoku Kon as a byline, just because … we have to remember that “hoku” means “star” in Hawaiian, it is a local show. It’s gonna be run by locals, the events are gonna be done all by locals, and again the only mainlanders to do anything are Marlon and I, and our job is support, is to make sure that we can provide all the tools necessary for the show to happen.

… We have to get people kind of used to the name, and used to understanding that Hoku Kon is the exact same thing, it’s run by the same people. It’s just going under this new name to make sure people know what the event is. And the reason we didn’t call it “Hawaii Comic Con” or “Comic Con Hawaii” was just because there’s already HawaiiCon, there’s Amazing Hawaii Comic Con. And we wanted to show that we’re doing something, again, more local. And so that’s why we picked the city.

Three-day passes for Comic Con Honolulu ($45) are now available; applications are also being accepted for Artist Alley tables. For more information, visit www.comicconhonolulu.com. (Or you could plug in hokukon.com for old time’s sake; both addresses will get you to the same destination.)

Meanwhile, at the other conventions:

  • Amazing Hawaii Comic Con is sending down several staff members for an informal meet-and-greet starting at 7:30 p.m. today at Dave & Busters (1030 Auahi St., in the Ward Entertainment Complex). Come down and chat with them; they’ll even buy you your first drink.
  • Anime Matsuri Hawaii‘s Artist Alley table registrations are now live; cost is $170 (plus a $5.24 Eventbrite processing fee) and includes a 6-by-2-foot table, one three-day pass and limited electrical power. Read up on all the rules and sign up at ow.ly/MiE7s. The convention also recently announced its first anime industry guest: Maile Flanagan, the English voice of Naruto Uzumaki (who now follows me on Twitter, *squee*). Three-day passes are $45 through June 15; visit ow.ly/MiGCt to get that set up.
  • Anime Ohana still has their three-day pass for $25, but you’ll have to act fast; that special ends tomorrow. Visit animeohana.ticketbud.com/anime-ohana.
  • And for those of you who really want to plan ahead, Kawaii Kon has opened online preregistration for 2016 — three-day passes are $45 general, $40 ages 5-12. Get started at ow.ly/MiJds.