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.

FF KKon

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.

 

“Sailor Moon” musical heads to Oahu theaters

A few weeks ago, Anime News Network broke the news that Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon: The Musical-Le Mouvement Final, the last in a trilogy of live-action musicals based on the Sailor Moon saga, would be screening in theaters across the country starting March 10. I looked at the website ANN linked, saw Hawaii wasn’t on the initial list of 18 cities, shrugged and went on with my life.

This morning, the Otaku Ohana Anonymous Director of Forced Social Interaction sent along a link to that same website. I clicked through again, and … yay! We’re on distributor CineLife Entertainment’s radar now!  Specifically, the musical’s listed as screening at Consolidated’s Pearlridge theaters, and Regal’s Dole and Kapolei Commons theaters.

Here’s the plot, according to CineLife:

In “Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon: The Musical-Le Mouvement Final,” Usagi Tsukino says farewell to Mamoru Chiba as he is set to leave for school in America. As Usagi says goodbye, she faints, and a super idol group called the Three Lights appear to catch her fall. Meanwhile, new enemies – the “Shadow Galactica,” are calling themselves Sailor Guardians and are aiming to steal Sailor Crystals! A mysterious young girl named Chibi-Chibi and a new group of Sailor Guardians, called the Sailor Starlights, also appear, but are they friend or foe? Can Sailor Moon and the Sailor Guardians stop the Shadow Galactica before it’s too late?

I cross-referenced the theater listing with what Fandango has in its ticket database, and while tickets and dates are available for the Pearlridge screenings (11 a.m. Saturday, March 24, and 7 p.m. Monday, March 26), there isn’t any word yet on the Regal screenings. I’ll update this post (and our various social media channels) whenever that information arrives.

A really, really fast plug for the Anime Swap Meet and Hawaii Collectors Expo

The Anime Swap Meet, hosted by Kawaii Kon, is back for a fourth year at the Hawaii Collectors Expo at the Blaisdell Exhibition Hall. And after a year’s hiatus, tag-team partner in fandom Wilma Win and I are back to sell more of our stuff!

Here’s a sneak peek at one of the six(!) boxes we’re bringing.

ASM 2018 box
The sign still isn’t for sale. But I’m still bringing it for display purposes. Because it really is a cool sign.

So as you can imagine, we’ve been doing a lot of running around, gathering extra stuff to pack, taking care of a lot of other assorted life things in between and not having a lot of extra time to write a post about it for this here blog. Considering showtime for us is in a little over 12 hours from my writing this, we’re cutting publication of this post pretty close.

So here are the high points, in handy bullet-list form:

  • Collectors Expo 2018We have stuff! Come buy it!
  • A number of like-minded fans will be there to sell their stuff, too, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday.
  • We have stuff! We’d like to think it’s all quite affordable!
  • Speaking of affordable, Kawaii Kon will be selling three-day passes to next weekend’s convention. (Holy cats, it’s next weekend already!) It’s your last chance to buy ’em at a discounted rate.
  • Did I mention that we have stuff to sell?
  • The Anime Swap Meet is just one corner of the 28th annual Hawaii Collectors Expo, which, in addition to housing vendors of any collectible you could possibly imagine, is also spotlighting the Costumers Guild of Hawaii and artists Jon Murakami, Roy Chang and Mog Park. You should buy stuff from them.
  • Although we’ll be happy and grateful if you buy stuff from us, too.
  • Admission is $5 general per day, $2 for senior citizens, and free for anyone with a military ID or a badge from last year’s Kawaii Kon or Comic Con Honolulu. You can also get $1 off by printing out or showing the image available at this link.

Hope to see you there! (And please buy our stuff. Lugging six heavy boxes into the Blaisdell Exhibition Hall and setting everything up in about an hour is going to take a lot of work. I should get some coffee chilled and ready.)

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.

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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.

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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.

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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:

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