Kawaii Kon 2019: Don’t worry, be app-y

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.

KKon app

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.

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(Shout-out to Hitbox Music Ensemble, by the way.)

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!*

Aloha to a friend of local comics journalism

We’re sorry to report the passing today of author, musician, journalist, historian, artist, and all-around great guy Burl Burlingame. That’s him in the red shirt above, in a photo I took from the last time I saw him: performing as lead singer of Motley Uke, a local ukulele rock band, at Anna O’Brien’s last August.

Burl’s death is worth noting in this space because of how much he meant to the local comic scene. As tag-team partner in fandom Wilma J. reminded me while we were chatting online this morning, “If not for him, we wouldn’t have been able to grace the pages of a major metro paper with our anime/manga/game obsessions.”

Indeed, he was a key figure responsible for two developments that resonate to this day. The first was the creation of “Drawn & Quartered,” the column in the Sunday edition of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin where Wilma and I wrote much of our early material for the paper. As Burl wrote in the inaugural column:

There are two wholly American art forms: jazz music and the “comic” or graphic-based literature. Both are about a century old. There’s not much we can do about jazz around here, but we can take the comics medium seriously. It was born in the newspaper medium, after all, and the Star-Bulletin has always taken the lead in presenting groundbreaking strips, with “Mutt and Jeff” even before the Star married the Bulletin in 1912.

Which, in a single bound, brings us to this column. “Drawn and Quartered” will run every Sunday and deal with the graphics medium and its assorted spinoffs, byproducts and fallout, such as anime, video games, animation, comic books, collectibles, manga, cartooning, comics-influenced movies and television, and whatever else appeals to our glazed eyes.

“Drawn & Quartered” was one of the factors that led to the birth of my weekly anime/manga column, “Cel Shaded,” in 2005, which in turn led to the origins of the blog you’re reading right now. I’m also convinced that it was on the basis of what we wrote for “Drawn & Quartered” that an editor at Rough Guides saw fit to pitch to us an idea that eventually became my book, The Rough Guide to Manga.

The second development: locally sourced comic strips published in the Sunday paper. That started in the Star-Bulletin in mid-May 2001 with a comic drawn by a man Burl called “Hawaii’s jedi master of cartooning,” Dave Thorne, and continues to this day, with Jon Murakami’s “Calabash” and Audra Furuichi’s “nemu*nemu: Blue Hawaii” alternating spots in the Sunday Star-Advertiser.

Our sympathies and hugs go out to his wife, Mary, and their daughters, Amelia and Katie.

Kauai getting its first comic con this year

Con-athon 2019 just gained a new entrant.

On Sunday afternoon, Blood of the Samurai director Aaron Yamasato formally unveiled his latest project: the Kauai Comic Convention, a single-day event to be held June 8 from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the Kauai Marriott Resort in Lihue.

The first batch of announced guests include:

  • Carl Potts, comic artist and former executive editor at Marvel Comics
  • Sifu Mimi Chan, martial artist and model reference used for Disney’s Mulan
  • Hiroshi Kanatani, manga artist known for his work in Shonen Sunday and his illustrations of famous kaiju (including, of course, Godzilla)
  • Zavier “Howsdisguy” Cummings, Kauai-area comedian and YouTuber
  • Stacey Hayashi, screenwriter/producer of Go For Broke: An Origin Story, about the origins of the 100th Infantry Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team, and Military Intelligence Service in 1941
  • Sam Campos, creator of Hawaii’s own superhero Pineapple Man, whose latest work, Hawaiian Avenger Kanaka, debuted last weekend at Amazing Comic Con Aloha
  • Russ Ogi, local artist who’s used 3-D printing to create some really neat-looking samurai helmets

This is the sixth major pop culture convention planned for the state this year; the third to be held on a neighbor island; and, of course, the first one for Kauai in this modern con era.

Details are still sketchy, but keep checking the official con site, https://www.kauaicomicconvention.com, for more information as things develop. Potential exhibitors can apply for space there, too. I’m definitely looking forward to hearing about more.

 

The biggest little event that could is bigger than ever

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.

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I really did attend the con in spurts, though! The five pages of original Archie comic artwork I won at the art auction will attest to that. Photo by Jason S. Yadao.

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.

Stan Sakai at McCully-Moiliili Library
Those are a bunch of original scripts and sketches in the foreground, too. Photo by Jason S. Yadao.

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:

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Kevin Sano has been working on these original sketches on comic backing boards. Photo courtesy of Kevin Sano.
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Audra Furuichi has these original nemu*nemu sketches, as well as some new prints, available for sale. Photo courtesy of Audra Furuichi.

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.

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.

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Not to mention a certain Kirby-obsessed friendly neighborhood otaku blogger, shown here with McCully-Moiliili Library branch manager/Mini Con chief Hillary Chang and volunteer Alyssa Au. Photo courtesy McCully-Moiliili Library.

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.

Mini Con cards
Photo courtesy McCully-Moiliili Library.

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

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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

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:

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You haven’t really lived until you’ve seen this many gachapon machines in one place. Photo by Jason S. Yadao.
It’s GachaponCon, yo.

My-Neighbor-Totoro

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.

Con reschedules; community regroups

A little more than a day after Amazing Comic Con Aloha postponed its show scheduled this weekend. organizers have already announced replacement dates … as well as the first batch of guests. Set aside Feb. 22-24, folks, because Amazing’s now kicking off Con-athon 2019, with legendary artist George Perez and Power Rangers actor Jason David Frank among the first guests announced.

The official statement:

Amazing Comic Con Aloha! in conjunction with Collider is thrilled to announce that their show from this weekend that was postponed due to Hurricane Lane will be rescheduled to February 22nd to 24th 2019! They are also excited to announce that some of their scheduled talent from the postponed show will return to Honolulu, HI along with all new guests to be announced in the coming months. Avengers Infinity Gauntlet/Thanos creator Jim Starlin will return and will be joined by original Infinity Gauntlet artists George Perez and Ron Lim, appearing together in one place exclusively for the first time in several years at Amazing Comic Con Aloha! They will be joined by legendary DC/ Batman artist Neal Adams. Also, in a triumphant return to Amazing Comic Con Aloha!, Power Rangers star Jason David Frank will join us to celebrate 25 years of Might Morphin’ Power Rangers.

Further guest announcements will be coming over the next few weeks. Stay tuned to Amazing Comic Con website and socials for all the latest news.

” We were disappointed to cancel our original dates due to circumstances beyond our control but we are happy to be able to announce replacement dates expeditiously. Hawaii has been great to us and we can’t wait to come back in February 2019 with some of our original guests and all new talent to share their Aloha spirit with the people of Hawaii!!” said Jimmy Jay, Founder Amazing Comic Con.

Attendees who purchased tickets and packages for the original show will be able to use their already purchased tickets for the rescheduled dates including those who purchased tickets through groupon. Further instructions and alternatives will be posted to the Amazing Comic Con website in the coming days. Tickets will go on sale beginning after Labor Day starting at $25.

While Amazing may not be running this weekend, there are a number of activities and sales that have popped up around the island in case you have a con-shaped hole in your schedule that you’d like to fill. (The con’s Facebook page has even been resharing some event notifications as they come in.) Some highlights:

  • Shirokiya MatsuriThe third edition of the monthly Shirokiya Matsuri will be taking place from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. tomorrow at Japan Village Walk, the street-level food court on the Ewa end of Ala Moana Center. This celebration of local and Japanese culture features crafters, an entertainment stage hosted by Remy Zane, and family-friendly activities. (That’s a picture of the first Shirokiya Matsuri at the top of this post.) As a bonus, there are plans for an impromptu Comic Jam in that venue as well, so you can fellowship and draw with a bunch of local artists if you’d like.
  • Artist Neal Adams has been popping up around the Rainbow Tower of the Hilton Hawaiian Village, taking and delivering commissions, signing autographs ($50 each) and selling art. Check on https://www.facebook.com/NealAdamsDotCom for details.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles co-creator Kevin Eastman will be making an appearance tomorrow at Other Realms, 1130 N. Nimitz Highway, suite C-140. Keep watching Other Realms’ Facebook page for details on that.
  • Kevin Sano of Sanoevil Collectibles has a bunch of comics that he was going to sell at the con this weekend at Ideas Music and Books, 670 Auahi St. The store’s open until 7 p.m. today and from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. tomorrow.
  • Fans of gunpla (Gundam models) can swing by Animeya and Collectibles (98-027 Hekaha St., Bldg. 3, Unit 19) for the August Gunpla Meet-Up from 3 to 7 p.m. tomorrow. Bring your favorite kits, show off your completed work, and get some tips from fellow fans.
  • Finally, Dragon’s Lair Comics in Mililani (95-1840 Meheula Parkway; take the Mililani Mauka offramp from the H-2 Freeway to get there) has a weekend sale going on, with 20 percent off all current comics, board games, and trade paperback/hardcover comic collections, and 50 percent off the back-issue bins. The store’s open until 7 p.m. today and 10 a.m.-7 p.m. tomorrow; artist Michael Cannon will be hanging out and drawing sketches for a little while today as well.

The Amazing Comic Con-undrum

This isn’t going to be your typical convention preview.

Amazing Comic Con Aloha, the third stop on the Con-athon 2018 circuit and the last 3-day geek con on Oahu for the year, is scheduled for this weekend at the Hawai’i Convention Center. It’s arguably the state’s largest comic marketplace, boasting a healthy lineup of local and national comic talent in the combined Artist Alley/Dealers Room.

37921010_1347447408719057_5946462936632393728_oThe guest list has traditionally been stacked as well. This year’s pop culture roster includes actress Evangeline Lilly, fresh off her starring stint in Ant-Man and the Wasp; Charles Martinet, the voice of Mario in Nintendo’s long-running franchise; voice actress Tara Strong, the voice of Raven, Harley Quinn, Timmy Turner, Bubbles, Unikitty and Princess Twilight Sparkle, just to name a few of her roles; Justin Briner and Mike McFarland, repping the My Hero Academia dub; and Keith Silverstein, Chloe Hollings and Lucie Pohl, the voices of Overwatch’s Torbjorn, Widowmaker and Mercy, respectively. (Update 10:12 a.m., 8/23: Lucie Pohl has canceled.) Notable artists include Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles co-creator Kevin Eastman, legendary creators Neal Adams and Marv Wolfman, and a good selection of artists from the Hawaiian Comic Book Alliance. (They have a special print available this weekend, too.)

There’s a pretty big elephant in the room, though — an elephant that’s currently at Category 4 and projected to make an impact on the state over the next few days. That’s the Central Pacific Hurricane Center’s latest projected path of Hurricane Lane as of 5 a.m. today at the top of this post.

It’s sent 99 percent of the state into lockdown mode. City, state and federal offices are keeping non-essential workers at home and cutting off services. Schools are closing. Sporting events, the Greek Festival, Blaisdell shows, Honolulu Museum of Arts programming and movie screenings are being postponed or canceled. Heck, even Zippy’s is closing. (Here’s a complete list.)

That other 1 percent? Amazing Comic Con Aloha. Con organizers have repeatedly insisted on social media that #TheConIsON and that they’ve been in constant contact with the proper authorities to ensure the show goes off as scheduled. In fact, VIP members and those who bought premium ticket packages can pick up their passes on the second floor of the Ala Moana Hotel from 6 to 8 p.m., then make their way over to Nocturna Lounge at Waterfront Plaza/Restaurant Row for a pre-show mixer.

I have mixed feelings about all of this. I’m stopping short of urging that people not go, but it’s hard to ignore the fact that the rest of the state is effectively shutting down to prepare for Lane, and that other organizations and venues have deemed the risk too great to proceed with their scheduled events. Something is going to happen over these next few days. The questions are, to what extent? For how long? And how much are we willing to risk our safety for stuff that’s nice to have, but we don’t necessarily need to have?

Here’s where I stand: Con-athon community, I love you guys, but I’m just not willing to commit to attending this weekend. As a result, you might not see my usual flurry of con updates on my social media channels. I’m admittedly someone who looks at things in terms of worst-case scenarios, and Lane just looks too scary right now to leave my shelter-in-place for at least Friday, and probably for Saturday, too. We’ll see about the aftermath on Sunday. I’d love to be proven wrong, but we’ll just have to play the waiting game for that.

There will be other events like this down the line. I just urge you all to use your better discretion in deciding whether to attend.

The road to Con-athon is paved with melting radiators

Day 0 of Comic Con Honolulu was supposed to have a simple schedule for your friendly neighborhood otaku blogger: Check in to the hotel, finish up writing a quick preview of what’s happening this weekend, fetch the Otaku Ohana Anonymous Director of Forced Social Interaction, have a nice dinner back at the hotel, fall asleep in bed while completing Tsum Tsum missions.

Naturally, my car decided that now would be a lovely time to take a vacation as well, promptly melting its radiator in neighboring mall stop-and-go traffic and sending its owner into FLAIL SCALE OVER 9,000! mode.

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The moral of this story, kids: If anyone ever offers to sell you a Ford Fiesta, run away screaming. Photo by Jason S. Yadao. 

And so my schedule was radically reworked, I ended up falling asleep in bed working on this quick preview, and I’m probably the most discombobulated going into a convention since a few years ago, when I attended Kawaii Kon a few weeks after being hospitalized with pneumonia. Whee!

But the main thing is that I’m here, safely ensconced in the con hotel with this lovely view, ready to cover the con!

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There’s a fabulous mountain view here somewhere. Allegedly. Photo by Jason S. Yadao.

… well, OK, I’m ready to cover the con, at least.

Comic Con Honolulu does rekindle the flame of Con-athon 2018, after all, with four major geek culture cons happening on three different islands over the next three months. It can, admittedly, be hard to keep everything straight. And that’s where I come in.

First, a disclaimer: This is only one person’s opinion on what he thinks are the highlights of a particular convention, so you’re going to want to check the show’s website and social media accounts to get a fuller picture of what’s going on.

OK, enough with the introductions. Let’s roll.

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This weekend’s shark-themed con artwork is provided by Michael Cannon. He’ll have these prints available at his Artist Alley table, #422; pick up singles at $2 each, or the full set for 14 for $20. Photo courtesy of Michael Cannon.

Comic Con Honolulu
Today-Sunday, Hawai’i Convention Center
$65 for 3-day pass; $40 Friday; $55 Saturday; $40 Sunday; children 10 and under free with paying adult

It’s the one with: Jeremy Shada, the voice of Finn in Adventure Time; Felicia Day, Internet darling who’s starred in Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, The Guild, and the recent revival of Mystery Science Theater 3000; kamaaina actress and Miss Hawaii USA 1993 Kelly Hu; Jason Isaacs, Lucius Malfoy in the Harry Potter movies; and Kevin Sussman, best known as Stuart the comic store owner in the love-it-or-loathe-it geeky sitcom The Big Bang Theory.

Helping put the comics in this comic con: Captain Marvel and Wolverine creator Roy Thomas; Strangers in Paradise creator Terry Moore; Stan Sakai, kamaaina creator of rabbit ronin Usagi Yojimbo; and current Deadpool artist Scott Koblish, who apparently likes drawing many different ways of killing himself.

Your Overwatch voice actor squad: Junkrat (Chris Parson), Zenyatta (Feodor Chin), Mei (Elise Zhang), Hanzo (Paul Nakauchi), and Roadhog (Josh Petersdorf). Writer Michael Chu will be there, too! And they’ll all be part of what’s being billed as “Blizzard’s Official Overwatch Panel” at 11:30 a.m. Saturday in the Main Events room. The live art auction on Sunday (starting at 10:15 a.m., Panel Room 314) will offer a unique opportunity: The winning bidder will get to play on an Overwatch team with the voice actors against six runner-up bidders. And the auction proceeds go toward supporting Pu’uhonua o Puna, a group set up to help Puna residents displaced by Kilauea’s ongoing activity, so everybody wins!

Notes of note: Event programming has been one of Comic Con Honolulu’s strengths over the past few years, which is to be expected from an offshoot of Kawaii Kon, the anime con that remains the local standard for activities crammed into every day. Here are some highlights:

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Sketches drawn during the 2017 edition of Comic Jam Hawaii’s Art Improv panel cover the floor at the end of the panel. (And attendees get to take home all this free art, too!) Photo by Jason S. Yadao.
  • Traditional favorites include Iron Cosplay, in which contestants cobble together costumes from a random assortment of materials (1:15 p.m. today, Room 312); Comic Jam Hawaii’s Art Improv panel, with artists drawing audience suggestions on the fly (1 p.m. Saturday, Room 314); the cosplay contest (6 p.m. Saturday, Main Events); a pair of cosplay sketching sessions (1:30 p.m. today and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, both in Room 314); and the aforementioned live art auction (10:15 a.m. Sunday).
  • Main Events room concerts include the orchestral stylings of Hitbox Music Ensemble, bringing a program with the theme “Music of the Elements I: Water” at 8:15 p.m. Friday, and the rock ‘n’ rollin’ Otakus at 8:15 p.m. Saturday.
  • Sci-fi fan group The Last Outpost Hawaii is presenting five panels throughout the weekend: “How to Catch an Alien” at 6:30 p.m. today in Room 315; “Build Your Own Superhero” at 4:15 p.m. and “Mad-Lib Theater” at 8:30 p.m. Saturday, both in Room 312; and “Whovian Trivia” at 10 a.m. and “Starship Smackdown!” at 1 p.m. Sunday, also both in Room 312.