Pacific Pac-Man

 

Just a short walk from the famous Ala Moana Shopping Center, customers can find a quaint little restaurant and wine bar named Bread and Butter.  However, there is something unusual about this small dining spot.  Outside of the shop, a large statue of Pac-Man stands, welcoming customers in.  Neon lights fashioned into the shape of the classic Pac-Man ghosts shine through the windows of the restaurant, catching the eyes of many a passerby.  Welcome to the Pac-Store Hawaii!

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A few weeks back, I had the fortune to attend the press event and grand opening for the cafe.  I was there to take pictures and assist Boss Yadao with reporting on the cafe here while he writes up an article for the local paper.  (Boss Yadao’s note: You can find that article right here.) The event was great, and I thoroughly enjoyed myself.  We got in early as press, and managed to get some good pictures of everything the place had to offer.  However, the venue quickly filled up once it was opened up to the public, with over a hundred people coming to enjoy the cafe and share their love for Pac-Man.

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Pac-Store Hawaii is a Japanese pop-up cafe, made through the collaboration of Bandai Namco, and Diamond Dining International Corporation.  It is the first of its kind in America.  These types of collaboration cafes are something that are unique to the Japanese anime, manga, and video game industries.  Perhaps some of you readers have heard of the character or series-themed cafes one can find in Japan with collaborations with series like Fate/Grand Order, Re:Zero, or studios like Studio Ghibli.

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Jason’s note: GAH IT’S A PICTURE OF ME *runs off and hides*

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At these cafes, customers can enjoy an environment filled with themed decorations and furniture featuring their favorite characters in the current collaboration.  In the Pac-Store, the tables are decorated with adorable pictures of different Pac-Man characters and mascots.  Hanging on the walls, Hawaii-themed artwork can be found, featuring the characters enjoying local activities like hula dancing or surfing.   Fittingly, the store has its own Pac-Man game cabinet, where customers can play and vie for a spot on the high-score board.

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The cabinet isn’t limited to just Pac-Man either!  I absolutely enjoy playing Galaga.

However, the main event at any cafe is definitely the food, and the food one can find there is definitely a sight to see.  This cafe serves up some incredibly cute food, all in the form of Pac-Man and his buddies.  From Pac-Man shaped pancakes to the Ghost-shaped Red Velvet cake, there are so many different choices, and they’re all so pleasing to the eye that you just want to buy them all, just to take pictures of them.  Lucky for me, they set out the entire menu at the press event, so I got to take pictures of all of these delicious looking novelties.

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Speaking of novelties, there are also special edition merchandise that can only be found at this specific cafe.  This is one of the other draws of these types of cafes, as some of the merchandise they sell is limited to that one specific spot, and it’s only available for a very limited time.  The Pac-Store sells a range of different items, from T-shirts, to tote bags, hats, and even jewelry.

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Note: You can’t actually peel these giant “stickers” off the tables. Believe us, we’ve tried.

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Aside from all of the things to see and eat at the press event, the boss and I also got a chance to hold an interview with the masterminds behind this cafe.  Hide Sakurai, the President and CEO of Diamond Dining International Corporation, met with Kai Tanaka of Bandai Namco about a year ago with the idea of opening up a pop-up cafe using his Hawaii location, Bread and Butter.  We asked him why did he choose Hawaii when his company has other locations in other parts of the world that have larger populations and influxes of tourists. In other words, please support this pop-up endeavor as it may lead to other pop ups of Bandai Namco series/franchises in the future (*cough* Tales series and Gundam please*cough*)

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Jason’s note: GAH IT’S ME AGAIN *runs and hides again*
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Kai Tanaka, executive officer of Bandai Namco’s Life Entertainment Branch, left, and Hide Sakurai, president and CEO of Diamond Dining International Corporation.

Anyways, I’m very sorry this article took so long to put out.  I’ve been swamped with homework and projects as the end of the semester draws near.  I’ll be pushing to get at least two more articles of “Anime is Culture” before the semester ends and my stint as an intern comes to a close.  Those articles will be examining the popular anime of recent years like Attack on Titan and Re:Zero.  Look forward to it!

 

 

 

Video game-themed events press “start” in isles

As I’m writing this in the early, holy-cats-I-remember-staying-up-this-late-when-I-was-working-for-the-Star-Advertiser hours of Friday morning, we’re a few hours away from the kickoff to Kawaii Kon 2018.

But while I’m thinking about that — and the fact that this is the earliest in the year that I’ve ever had to think about Kawaii Kon in my 14 years of covering the con, and I feel so unprepared — there are a few other pieces of news about upcoming events that have crossed my radar. Half of them are happening this weekend, and all of them deal with video games.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that Hitbox Music Ensemble and director Chris Suzuki — the focus of what ended up being my last Kawaii Kon preview at the Star-Advertiser, *sniffle* — will be playing in the Main Events hall, Ballroom B, at 8:45 p.m. Friday. This year’s concert, “And All That Jazz…,” will feature video game music arranged in various styles including swing, big band, funk, soul, and, of course, jazz.  Here, for instance, is some rehearsal footage of “Floral Fury” from Cuphead.

If you like what you hear — or if you just like supporting local music in general — you should also consider throwing a few dollars in the direction of the group’s Patreon page. There’s currently … wait, only one supporter so far? And it’s not me? Well, I should get on that sometime soon. And you should, too.

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One of the showcase events Kawaii Kon is promoting this year is also video game related. “A New World: Intimate music from Final Fantasy” brings conductor Eric Roth, composer Hitoishi Sakimoto (who composed the soundtracks for Final Fantasy Tactics and Final Fantasy XII, but is also responsible for the game soundtracks for classics as diverse as Radiant Silvergun, the Ogre Battle/Tactics Ogre franchise, Gradius V and the Valkyria Chronicles games), and the New World Players chamber ensemble to Honolulu for the first time There’s a VIP meet-and-greet experience for $75 starting at 3:30 p.m. Sunday that includes an autograph and photo op with Sakimoto and first dibs on concert seating; if you just want to attend the concert, it’ll only cost $12, with seating at 4:30 p.m. Sunday in Main Events, Ballroom B. (These costs are in addition to the cost for con admission.)

KH Orchestra

But let’s say you’re into another classic Square Enix franchise, Kingdom Hearts, the Disney/Square crossover adventure with the convoluted timeline that no one can properly explain without a big mess of flowcharts. Kingdom Hearts III is coming out … umm … eventually, but (possibly) before that happens, Honolulu is going to be a stop on the Kingdom Hearts Orchestra World Tour. It seems like if you’re familiar with orchestral performances like the two Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses shows that played in Honolulu, you’ll know what to expect from this show: familiar songs from various games’ soundtracks played by an orchestra while game footage is shown on a giant screen. You know, like this.

KH Orchestra 2

If you’re interested in going, you have some time to plan; the concert’s scheduled for Sunday, Aug. 12, with tickets going on sale Monday, March 26.

Finally, if music isn’t your thing and you’ve somehow made it this far into this post, something really interesting seems to be cooking over at Bread & Butter, the restaurant next door to Shokudo at 1585 Kapiolani Blvd.: Pac-Man. A few days ago, friend of the blog Tara Tamayori posted a picture of this menu from what appears to be a pop-up themed cafe:

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It looks like there are some of the usual crossovers — pancakes, pizza (thankfully without a wedge missing), and generally round Pac-Man-ish foods come to mind — as well as some interesting concepts (a ghost loco moco? Hmm…). The most intriguing take-away from this menu, though? The fact that there’s a Pac-Store opening somewhere at some point during this campaign, which runs through May 31, with “fashion, goods, food and events.” More details as they develop, but this looks like it’s going to be fun.

 

A special plea for #GivingTuesday

As longtime readers know, this is the time of year when we urge everyone — whether you’re gamers, otaku or not — to head on over to the Amazon wishlist of Kapiolani Medical Center for Women and Children and purchase a game, toy, or other item that will be sent directly to the hospital to benefit its young patients and their families. (If you spend $25 or more, you’ll even get free shipping.) The medical center is part of the network served by the Child’s Play charity.

But in addition to that, I’d like to make a different kind of plea this year.

You may know that this blog started off under the auspices of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, now the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Each year during the holidays, the Star-Bulletin ran the Good Neighbor Fund to benefit the Community Clearinghouse and needy Hawaii families, along with printing a list of monetary donations the fund receives — practices that continue today under the Star-Advertiser. The amount of each individual donation varies from $100 or more to, well, far less than that.

Some years ago, a person I once had the acquaintance of was perusing said list and came to the latter part of it.

“Five dollars?!” this person chortled with incredulity. “Gee, now isn’t that SO generous? And it’s being printed in the paper??”

The remark annoyed me. Words — admittedly caustic ones — hovered on my tongue. Unfortunately, I was concentrating far more on something else at the time and so I was unable to form the retort that really should have been said, and the time for saying it passed.

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Have you seen those bright green slips of paper next to the cash register at many grocery stores, part of the annual Check-Out Hunger Campaign to benefit the Hawaii Foodbank? The smallest amount they ask to help is a little under $3 — and from that tiny amount, the food bank promises to feed a child breakfast for a week. What’s considered to be the most important meal of the day, for an entire week! For less than $3! For many of us who are always on the run or in a rush, a cup of coffee alone already costs far more than that per DAY!

Not only that, every dollar raised through the campaign goes directly to the food bank.

When you’re handing over $7 for that chili or Portuguese sausage or cinnamon bread or ice cream, or spending $15 for that deluxe wrapping paper or greeting cards from a catalog, or shelling out $20 for that magazine subscription, think about it: Just how much of that money is actually going to the organization you’re supporting? A dollar? Maybe two or three? Perhaps five, if you’re lucky?

In fact, many donations aren’t a whole lot by themselves. Yogurt lids to help the fight against breast cancer? Worth 10 cents each. Box Tops for Education? Also just 10 cents for each box top or label. Those donation boxes you might see in stores, collecting money for various charitable endeavors? They’re filled with pennies, nickels, dimes.

But when hundreds or thousands of people decide to take the time to do their small part, those resources, so seemingly insignificant, add up to a great deal more.

This is one of the biggest cliches in the book, but I say it nevertheless: Never underestimate what the smallest donation can do — not just in itself, but also added up over time. Don’t ever think that your $1 is too little or too useless to be of any help.

That is why, in these days of special need, with the economy still wobbly and so many more people needing a bit of aid, it’s important to look at what we have and be grateful that we have so much — and then, despite the overall tightening of spending, open those wallets just a tad and give the $1, $2, or whatever little extra we can give. Not only on this Giving Tuesday, but throughout the holiday season and, hopefully, throughout the year.

And I hope that person, especially in these hard times, has come to value just how much good $5 can do.

It’s time to move, Ingress agents … to the potluck

Seemingly lost amid the shuffle of the ebbing/flowing hype machine that is Pokemon Go is the fact that developer Niantic’s other massively multiplayer augmented reality phone game, Ingress, is still happily chugging along a shade over 4-1/2 years. That’s a long time for noble Enlightened agents to be visiting local landmarks, represented in the virtual world as portals, turning those green and creating links and triangular-shaped fields among them, only to have all their hard work erased by those dastardly Resistance-blue agents. (I might be slightly biased. Then again, you probably already knew that.)

So it’s time for a nice little celebration. The local Ingress community is hosting a “First Saturday” event from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at Ala Moana Beach Park, featuring pointers on how to play the game, player-versus-player battles, contests, prizes, a potluck lunch, and, of course, a small batch of the legendary, much-desired, rarely-doled-out “lilypad” pizzelles made by a certain Face of Hawaii Ingress ™. (I understand that alone is drawing out players who haven’t been seen playing the game in months.)

You can find the First Saturday gathering at Picnic Area 12. Here’s a map, drawn (naturally) in the context of the Ingress intel map.

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Consider it a warm-up for the as-yet-unnamed anomaly event coming to Honolulu on Saturday, Dec. 2, where local agents will join agents in other cities in claiming territory for their respective sides in a global effort to reclaim the scattered pieces of something or someone. It’s very complicated.

For more information, visit plus.google.com/u/0/events/cp0c4jggq53260rkk7c34t33lck. And while you’re visiting that site, sign up to bring something to the potluck! Especially you Resistance agents out there … your side is looking a little … sparse. (Worst-case scenario, there’s a lovely Foodland Farms that’s a short walk across the street. Just sayin’.)

ALL THE THINGS April approaches

The “big dog” has a fair amount of company this year.

We’ve known for almost a year now that annual anime squeefest convention Kawaii Kon has been locked in for April 7-9. (Yes, that’s a little over a month away. You have my permission to start flailing in panic and/or glee now.) They’ll have voice actors from popular American shows like Steven UniverseLegend of Korra and Avatar: The Last Airbenderanime voice actors like the voice of Ayano in Lucky Star (*squee!*); and Japanese bands and fashion and a wide variety of other events that I’m hoping to write up in further detail soonish in my long-in-coming-but-gimme-some-more-caffeine-first Con-athon 2017 preview post.

But this year is the first one I can remember in the Kawaii Kon era where those of us in the anime fan community who aren’t already committed to panels/Artist Alley tables/dealers room booths/volunteer staff work are going to have some serious choices to make on whether we want to hang around the con or break away for a bit to catch something else. I’m calling it ALL THE THINGS April. Consider what else has already been announced surrounding that weekend:

April 5, 8 and 10: The Kizumonogatari trilogy plays out. It was a little over a year ago that Kizumonogatari Part 1: Tekketsu screened at Consolidated’s Ward and Mililani theaters. In that movie, audiences were introduced to Koyomi Araragi, a nondescript high school student who was once bitten by a powerful vampire and is only now regaining most of his humanity, but must now help a number of girls afflicted by “oddities.” Part 2, Nekkutsu, featured Koyomi taking on a trio of vampire hunters so he could reassemble the limbs of — yes, this is actually her name — Kiss-Shot Acerola-Orion Heart-Under-Blade, the vampire who helped him. And now here we are at part 3, Reiketsu, in which Kiss-shot is reassembled and Koyomi is juuuuuuuuust about to regain his humanity. Of course, one does not merely walk in to a movie and regain his humanity …

Reiketsu is debuting at Consolidated’s Ward and Kapolei theaters with screenings at 11 a.m. April 8 and 7 p.m. April 10. But for those of you who need a refresher and/or missed Tekketsu and Nekkutsu, Consolidated’s offering a chance for you to catch up with a double feature, also at Ward and Kapolei, starting at 7 p.m. April 5. (Be ready to budget about 2-1/4 hours of your time.) For tickets, visit consolidatedtheatres.com/programs-and-events and set the month to “April” and the event type to “Anime.”

April 7: Your Name has its first confirmed screening date. Consolidated Theatres quietly confirmed on its Facebook page Wednesday night that Makoto Shinkai’s Oscar-ignored masterwork will be playing at its Kahala 8 complex. The announcement was a bit of a surprise — Funimation Films has yet to list any theaters on its Your Name site — and there are no specific showtimes (and thus no online ticket sales) or any indication that it’ll be playing beyond the 7th. Still, though, we’re one step closer to another chance at seeing a movie that drew raves when it played at the Hawaii International Film Festival a few months ago.

vgl_high_res_logo_finalApril 7-8: Video Games Live concerts play at the Blaisdell. Remember the Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses concert a few weeks ago? This is just like that experience, except with a wider variety of video game soundtrack selections played by the Hawaii Symphony Orchestra and 100 percent more Tommy Tallarico. Tallarico is an accomplished video game music composer in his own right, best known for his soundtracks to the Earthworm Jim series and Advent Rising. Here’s his biography. He’s also the co-founder of Video Games Live, which has been playing in concert halls across the country and around the world since 2005. As a blurb on the VGL website puts it: “It’s the power & emotion of a symphony orchestra mixed with the excitement and energy of a rock concert and the technology and interactivity of a video game all completely synchronized to amazing cutting edge video screen visuals, state-of-the-art lighting and special on-stage interactive segments with the audience.”

Tickets — from the $29 cheap seats all the way up to the front-of-house $79 seats — are still available, but with more than 80 percent of the seats already sold for both nights according to Ticketmaster’s seating maps, you’re going to want to get in on the action fairly soon. Visit blaisdellcenter.com/ai1ec_event/video-games-live-2.

Pokemon Go (finally!) gets Gen 2 boost

Remember Pokemon Go? The augmented reality mobile phone game that was hotter than a Charizard for a good chunk of the summer of 2016, the one that promised players they could catch Pokemon in the real world? The one that drew this many people to one corner of Kakaako for nights on end when the game first launched in late July?

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Yeeeeeeeaaaaah. There are a LOT of people playing Pokemon Go. Photo by Jason S. Yadao.

The visible popularity of PoGo has dropped since those dizzying summer heights. The good will lasted for several months, or about the amount of time it took for the hardest of hard-core players to fill their Pokedexes with every available species. Niantic has updated the game every so often, or about as much as one can expect when they’re still dealing with everyone who stuck around for Ingress. But for every special event, every announcement, every update that featured “minor text fixes” and little else, the frustration has mounted:

pogo-lickyBuddy Pokemon introduced (September): “Where are the legendaries (Zapdos, Moltres, Articuno, Mew and Mewtwo), Generation 2, player-versus-player battling and Pokemon trading? Pokemon Go is dead.”

Halloween event (October): “Spooky Pokemon spawns and more candy? But where are the legendaries, Gen 2, PVP and trading? PoGo is dead.”

Ditto appears (November): “Where are the legendaries, Gen 2, PVP and trading? PoGo is dead.”

Thanksgiving event (November): “More XP and Stardust? But where are the legendaries, Gen 2, PVP and trading? PoGo is dead.”

Starbucks and Sprint stores become PokeStops or gyms (December): “Where are the legendaries, Gen 2, PVP and trading? PoGo is dead.”

Pikachus with Santa hats appear (December): “Where are the legendaries, Gen 2, PVP and trading? PoGo is dead.”

Eggs start hatching select Gen 2 babies like Togepi and Pichu: “Where are the legendaries, the rest of Gen 2, PVP and trading? PoGo is dead.”

Christmas event (December): “More starter Pokemon and evolutions spawning? And free egg incubators? But where are the legendaries, the rest of Gen 2, PVP and trading? PoGo is dead.”

Valentine’s Day event (February): “More pink Pokemon spawns and candy? … ehh. You know.”

Yet there are still those of us who have soldiered on through everything. Mostly because we’ve never had the same fortune as those happy posters on the Pokemon Go Hawaii Facebook group that walk three steps somewhere and *BOOF* OH HI DRAGONITE. We’re more casual players, lucky enough to get 10 coins a day if we feel like battling gyms with three Snorlaxes, five Dragonites and a few other random species sprinkled here and there, with holes in our Pokedexes and nothing but Pidgeys, Zubats and Rattatas populating our “Nearby” radars. There are also people like Nick of Trainer Tips, who’s somehow willed daily YouTube content out of the game with videos that are definitely worth watching. (Plus he has ties to Maui, too!)

For those of us who stuck around — and perhaps for some of those lapsed players as well — our patience is about to pay off in a big way. Earlier today, Niantic announced that more than 80 of the long-rumored Gen 2 Pokemon are going to be added to the game later this week, along with new berries, avatars and avatar accessories. Here, have a promo trailer (that thankfully isn’t as pie-in-the-sky as the launch trailer):

… excuse me for a sec … that’s …

marill

OMG IT’S MARILL SQUEEEEEEEEEEE

It remains to be seen whether we’ll see critical-mass crowds at PoGo hotspots like Coral Street in Kakaako, the Waikiki Aquarium and Kapolei Library again like back in the early days, but it’s highly likely this will give the game a nice little kick-start. But here’s the thing: I’ve peeked at the comments on this announcement at various spots (so you don’t have to; many of you have learned never to peek at the comments on anything, as Internet forums are hives of scum and villainy). And guess what they’re saying!

“But where are the legendaries, PVP and trading? PoGo is dead.”

No pleasing some people, I guess.

Otaku Oldies #1: HEY! LISTEN!

Welcome to the first edition of Otaku Oldies, a regular feature (God willing) where I’ll pull a photo from the sprawling 9-year-old Otaku Ohana photo archives and talk a bit about it. Sometimes it’ll be tied in with an upcoming event; sometimes it’ll just be something that I pick on a whim. This time around, it’s definitely an example of the former…

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Hitbox Music Ensemble debuts
July 29, 2016

Comic Con Honolulu last year had its share of headline-making moments — George Takei getting a day dedicated to him, John Barrowman’s encounter with a wild Magikarp baby, guest-related stuff like that.

But last year’s event also marked the debut public concert by Hitbox Music Ensemble, a group of local musicians that performs pieces from popular video game, sci-fi and fantasy franchises. Music from their debut concert included “Rey’s Theme” from Star Wars: The Force Awakens, medleys from Pokemon and Final Fantasy and “Sacred Grove” from The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess.

That last piece seems appropriate for our discussion, with the ensemble’s next performance set for a little over 24 hours from now: They’ll be performing in the lobby of the Blaisdell Concert Hall at 7 p.m. Friday before The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses, featuring the Hawaii Symphony Orchestra and Oahu Choral Society and game footage playing on a giant screen overhead, at 8 p.m.

Here’s a taste, with the ensemble performing “Gerudo Valley” from The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.

There are still tickets available via Ticketmaster; a quick glance as of 5:24 p.m. Thursday showed there are only four seats left at the cheapest rate of $35 (toward the rear balcony), with more available, mostly toward the left and right sides of the concert hall, from $49 to $90, depending on how close you want to sit. Twenty-one $100 VIP packages, which include a poster, a lanyard, a meet-and-greet with producers after the show, and seats closest to the stage, also remain. Use the discount code “HEYLISTEN,” and you can knock 15 percent off those prices; there’s an even deeper discount available for military members with IDs.

For more information, including a list of what you can expect to hear at the concert proper, visit zelda-symphony.com. And if you can’t make it to Friday’s concert (like me, *sob*), Hitbox Music Ensemble already has performances confirmed at Kawaii Kon (April 7-9) and Comic Con Honolulu (July 28-30) later this year. Keep watching your con schedules for exact dates and times.