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.

Anime Swap Meet’s back at Blaisdell

Around this time last year, tag-team partner in fandom Wilma W. and I took part in the rite of passage that dedicated otaku like us engage in every so often when we get tired of looking at our stuff: We packed a bunch of it up and sold it at the Anime Swap Meet at the Blaisdell Exhibition Hall.

20160220_090826It was a lovely little opportunity. We got a 5-square-foot space, part of a larger block Kawaii Kon gets from the Hawaii Collectors Expo. We made a fair amount of money, and we met some nice people, too. Like Marisa Gee of Kawaii Mono, who bought a number of my DVDs while exhibiting impeccable fashion sense wearing Fat Rabbit Farm T-shirts. Or the enthusiastic gals who snapped up a bunch of Wilma’s Ace Attorney goodies, then went on to host the Ace Attorney live-action roleplaying fan panel at Kawaii Kon. (The half hour I was able to catch before I had to rush off to another panel was quite entertaining.)

And it’s neat to browse through the rest of the expo, too … we were across from a retro-gaming booth that had the attract mode music from Super Mario World for the Super Nintendo looping all weekend, and I picked up an oh-so-cute Bellossom plushie from another vendor for only $5.

We aren’t going to be making a return appearance as sellers again this year, for various reasons. But there are going to be a number of similarly enthusiastic otaku who will be more than happy to sell you their stuff in our place.

hawaii-collectors-expo-2017This year — the Anime Swap Meet’s third, the Hawaii Collectors Expo’s 27th — promises to be an even bigger party. Artist Audra Furuichi’s kicking off the year for nemu*nemu at the event and will have her usual assortment of merchandise and original drawings for sale, and MidWeek cartoonist/Pepe the Chihuahua kalbi handler Roy Chang will be selling his books and drawing Funko Pop-ified sketches of anyone who wants them. Several artists from Comic Jam Hawaii will be hosting a drawing table for the little kidlets. Replicas of the Ghostbusters Ecto-1 and Jurassic Park Jeep will be on display for photo ops. And, of course, Kawaii Kon representatives will be on hand, although they’ll be selling three-day badges for the upcoming con on Sunday only.

The Hawaii Collectors Expo begins tonight from 4 to 9 p.m. and continues from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. The Anime Swap Meet will be open Saturday and Sunday only. Admission is free for children under 11 years old, military with valid ID, or anyone with a Kawaii Kon or Comic Con Honolulu badge from last year; $5 general per day; $7.50 for a three-day pass; or $2 for senior citizens. If you are going to be paying to attend, you can print out this copy of the image above, bring it to the ticket-sellers and save $1.

For more information, visit hawaiicollectorsexpo.com.

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?

PoGo crowd
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.

Avex places restrictions on exports

avct-10031As a fan of anime, manga and related merchandise, I’ve imported my fair share of Japanese goods from various retailers including Amazon Japan and CD Japan. And I’ve had to deal with the hassles of such (I’m looking at you, sky-high shipping fees for one CD single).

But at least they were readily available (relatively) from reputable sellers. Now, it seems that’s about to change for quite a few series. I received this email from CD Japan just a few hours ago:

Unfortunately, Avex Pictures, the publisher of popular anime titles such as “Yuri!!! on Ice” and “Osomatsu-san” and others is restricting exports of Blu-ray, DVD, and CD titles.

This restriction has been applied to all online shops within Japan, including CDJapan.

In accordance to the restriction, majority of titles published by Avex Pictures will become unavailable for shipment outside of Japan as of the following time.

Restriction begins to apply at:
6:00PM (Japan Time UTC+9) on February 15, 2017

After the above indicated time, it will no longer be available for any order to be shipped outside of Japan.

To clarify which items will be restricted, the following indication will be displayed right on the product page.

ATTENTION!!! This product will no longer be available for any order to be shipped outside of Japan starting at 6:00PM (Japan Time UTC+9) on February 15, 2017

However, all existing orders as well as all orders placed BEFORE the above indicated time will be shipped normally.

The issue’s being discussed in a thread over at Fandom Post. According to that thread, Amazon Japan seems to have already blocked future orders, but CDJ is being more lenient as evidenced by their email. It certainly seems like a strange move on Avex’s part — or on ANY company’s part, I think — to ban exports, but maybe there’s some hope if the restriction means the company might be trying to move into North America or other places. Even if that were the case, I think it’s well known that releases in different countries often include different things, whether they be extra features in DVDs/BDs, extra songs, special artwork, etc., and getting those extras is really the whole reason we collectors import stuff in the first place.

So if you’re a fan of anything related to Avex — which is a large corporation and does have a hand in a lot of series and artists — and you regularly import Japanese discs, you might want to get an order in at CDJ before the time listed above. Japan is 19 hours ahead of Hawaii time, so 6 p.m. Feb. 15 in Tokyo will be 11 p.m. Feb. 14 here (that’s today!), if my time conversion math is correct.

avcd-10241My main purchases related to Avex are their Super Eurobeat CD series, which I’m not certain is part of the ban, and “Initial D.” Oh, and Ayumi Hamasaki, but it’s been a long time since I’ve gotten any of her albums. I also sometimes get the odd CD single for opening/ending themes to anime that I may not be a diehard fan of but whose songs I happen to hear and like. The prospect of no longer being able to easily get any more of these from a retailer I’ve come to trust and regard highly over the years is disappointing. Of course, as others have pointed out, the secondhand market is still an option, but that requires jumping through a lot more hoops and you won’t be guaranteed to get things like limited editions and first pressings in sealed condition, if at all. But at least so far, the restriction is only on discs and not books or collectible merchandise, so if you’re not a big music buyer (which I happen to be, sigh), you might not have to worry an awful lot — yet.

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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.

Winter’s fastest week has arrived

Awesome Games Done Quick, the winter edition of the biannual marathon where elite gamers run through and beat more games in a week than I ever will in the next 20 years or so, is back, streaming live through Saturday night.

As those of you who’ve watched any portion of a Games Done Quick marathon know, one of the underlying principles of the event is, “Gotta go fast!”

So in the spirit of that principle, I will now be speedrunning the rest of this post. And … go!

Words Wilma wrote last year!

Stream!

Schedule!

Donation link!

The charity recipient, Prevent Cancer Foundation!

YouTube archive if you miss anything!

A past favorite (funny edition)!

A past favorite (all the feels edition)!

GO WATCH WHEE

 

It’s a new day, yes it is

Ahh, 2016. The year that held so much promise until it actually happened. And now a bunch of our favorite entertainers are dead, a giant wall’s been built between red and blue voters, rail transit’s cost has risen to an estimated hundred bazillion dollars, and Pokemon Go went from the promise of this:

… to the reality of this:

m0wuie0

So yeah, it’s pretty easy to think of last year as one that we should’ve abandoned around, say, February. It particularly rings true for me, considering:

  • I lost pretty much all of March to a cold that escalated to pneumonia, landing me in the hospital for a week.
  • A handful of coworkers at the Honolulu Star-Advertiser were laid off, including some good friends, in September.
  • I’m not sure what happened to a good chunk of the pictures I took during the first half of this year.
  • A lack of free time combined with a yearlong case of writer’s block is terrible for a blog and even more deadly for a freshly independent entity like Otaku Ohana.

A strange thing happened on the way to me labeling 2016 as “that speed bump we hit between 2015 and 2017,” though: I looked through a bunch of the pictures that I did find and found plenty of bright spots. You can’t hate on a year where this wild Magikarp suddenly spawned at the Comic Con Honolulu Pokestop, for starters.

mm1-cch-karp

You might know this sweetie as the Magikarp Who Made the Internet’s Collective Heart Melt, thanks to a post by a certain actor who played Capt. Jack Harkness and Comic Con Honolulu guest that same weekend in July:

We saw our share of celebrity guests — Barrowman, George Takei, Stans Lee and Sakai, Robert Kirkman, Johnny Yong Bosch, Steve Blum, Jonathan Frakes and Walter Koenig were among the stars who showed up at various events over the year. Two photos really caught my attention in that department. The first was taken in mid-January, when Stan Sakai and his wife, Julie, came down to visit and have lunch with a bunch of local cartoonists. Here’s Stan drawing in the famed FuzZz 😸 Cat-a-log, a sketchbook filled with cat sketches by people both famous and anonymous over the years.

mm7-sakai-20160116_131251

And then there was Nichelle Nichols. The actress who played Uhura in the original Star Trek wasn’t listed for any events other than signings and photo ops at HawaiiCon in September. So when she showed up during the Star Trek 50th anniversary all-star panel, the atmosphere was electric, and she drew a standing ovation from the assembled audience. Here she is sitting next to Chase Masterson during the panel.

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And while Anime Matsuri Hawaii disappeared and Anime Ohana pushed back its second event by almost a year, the local convention family still managed to grow, with Maui Comic Con drawing several hundred people to Lahaina in November. Here’s con organizer Alika Seki, left, chatting with Darkwing Duck artist James Silvani and writer Aaron Sparrow about the proper care and feeding of conventions.

mm2-mcc-seki-dws

There were so many moments like that last year. Moments where we were able to find our happy place, to escape from the increased drudgery and despair of the world today. I think we need more of those, and looking back on — and sharing! — some of those fond memories of years past will be an increased priority for us here at Otaku Ohana this year. Because we should be able to enjoy SOME aspect of our lives, right?

Happy new year, everyone. Here’s hoping this year turns out to be the best year ever. And if it isn’t … well, I’ll be happy to settle for another year of life, good health and being around loved ones.