[Anime is Culture] Get in the Robot, Shinji: “Evangelion” and Post-Bubble Japan

The future is grim.  You did everything your parents told you to do to succeed.  You studied hard. You passed your exams. You graduated and applied for a job at a company.  Surely, there would be a job waiting for you.  Just like it had been for your father.

Instead, everything your parents told you was a lie.  Companies are no longer hiring younger workers en masse, preferring to hold onto their older employees to not break their promises of lifetime employment to them.  Only the top 10 percent of graduates are even considered now, with those missing that cut falling by the wayside.  What’s even scarier is that the competition to enter the workforce is nothing like what your parents faced.  Hyper-confident and hyper-capable women are now able to enter the running, and the companies are scooping them up in droves.

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Every year, thousands of students take college entrance exams trying to make it into the top universities.  Many of these students will not make it. (image via japantimes.co.jp)

Welcome to the Post-Bubble Era of Japan.  As you may recall from my last Anime is Culture article, Japan started making huge concentrated efforts to rebuild their broken country after World War II.  With the rise of democracy and assistance from the American government (as shady as it was, it did help their recovery), Japan rose from the ashes like a phoenix.

With Article 9 in place, the Japanese were prevented from funding a full standing military.  Instead, they focused on promoting their peace policies by developing technology that could be used to improve the lives of people around the world.  In doing so, during the 1970’s and ’80’s, Japan became an economic powerhouse.  Companies like Toyota and Sony were worldwide names that put out products sought by millions around the world.  This would be Japan’s economic bubble.

Such success led to the prosperity of the Japanese people.  During this time, the vast majority of Japanese considered themselves middle-class on the socioeconomic scale.  Men would go to school and then apply for company jobs.  After graduation, these companies would pick them up, and their careers would be set.  Everyone was able to earn a living wage and live relatively comfortable lives.

However, this would not last.  Around 1990, the economic bubble burst, causing thousands of companies to lose money and default on loans.  This led to massive unemployment, and a huge economic crisis fell upon the people.  The generation of young men and women that came of age during this time were promised the same opportunities that their parents had enjoyed, but the bursting of the bubble effectively shut them out.  Instead of accessible employment, there was now a small window where only the elite could enter through.

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If you can’t make it into a steady job, you end up working multiple part time jobs to make ends meet.
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These office workers are the ones who made it.  They had to fight and struggle VERY hard to get to where they are now. (image via shutterstock.com)

This grim and foreboding atmosphere was what influenced the tone and stories of anime during the ’90s.  One of the greatest examples of a post-bubble series is the highly influential anime Neon Genesis Evangelion.  In the series, the world has been destroyed by a cataclysmic event known as the Third Impact.  As a result, more than 50 percent of the human population was wiped out, and those who are left struggle to survive in a world where the sea is dyed red like blood.

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One of anime’s cult classics and the series that defined a generation.

The main character, Shinji Ikari, is a young adolescent man that is forced by his father to fight in a giant robot against alien lifeforms known as “Angels.”  However, this isn’t the only struggle he faces.  He also struggles to come to terms with the new social norms he’s entering into.

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Shinji is the representation of the Japanese post-bubble male.  He doesn’t want to pilot and fight in the EVA, but he is forced to do it.

He is forced to do the dirty work of NERV headquarters when fighting the Angels.  When he’s not fighting, he’s under rigorous testing and examination.  Not only is he constantly bombarded by work like this, he is also surrounded by capable women that outshine him.  Rei Ayanami, the First Child, is a model soldier, following her orders without dissent or complaint, almost like a machine.  Asuka Langley Soryu, the Second Child, is a German-born pilot that demonstrates superiority in everything she does.

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Rei (White) and Asuka (Red) represent the hyper competent women that are entering the workforce and realms that were traditionally reserved for men.
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Shinji is constantly overwhelmed by the pressure of the expectation put on him and often retreats into himself.

This is representative of the the world seen by the Post-Bubble Generation.  Shinji is the post-bubble male who has to struggle to survive in the unforgiving world of NERV, which is representative of the Japanese company.  He managed to get in, but only because his father is the head of NERV.  However, his performance as a pilot is an utter disappointment  compared to the other more capable women, and it shows in his father’s favor for Rei.  This relationship he has with the other pilots shows how the post-bubble male viewed his job prospects.  If he was lucky enough to get a job, he still would never be able to compete with the influx of women into the workforce.

This mindset lead to many men losing confidence in themselves.  Just like Shinji, they viewed themselves as weak and unable to do anything by themselves.  They want to rely on the help of their parents, who know that they are struggling but can’t really help.  This leads into Shinji’s struggle with the adults in his life.  Much like his strained relationship with his father, Gendo, the post-bubble male wanted desperately to gain the recognition and acceptance of the older generation, but they were left to fend for themselves instead.  The companies would only accept them into the fold if they found a use for them, just like how Gendo did with Shinji.   The women who entered the workforce ahead of the post-bubble men could now exert their power over these young males, and the shift in gender-power dynamics was incredibly daunting to them.

On one hand, you have Ritsuko, NERV’s chief scientist and the one in charge of monitoring the usefulness of the EVA pilots.  She is cold, calculating, and regards Shinji not as a person, but more of a lab rat or tool to further her own research and goals.  On the other hand, there’s Misato, Shinji’s direct superior and caretaker.  She pushes herself onto him, making him roommate with her.  While she does it in good nature, Misato lords her femininity over Shinji as she tries to mold him into what she believes is a better man.

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Misato is a woman who isn’t afraid to flaunt her femininity.
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Ritsuko is job oriented and sees others as tools to further her own research and goals.

So what do you do when your world view and job prospects mirror the apocalyptic world of Evangelion?  How do you survive in the world when you can’t get a job because of the rise of women and the highly selective hiring process?  We’ll discuss this in my next “Anime is Culture” post, “Hide to Survive: Otaku, NEET, and Hikikomori.”

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Welcom to the NHK was a series that really captured the thoughts and mindsets of NEET and Hikikomori.

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!

 

 

 

[Kawaii Kon 2018] Recovery of an otaku intern

Hey everyone!  Sorry I haven’t posted recently.  Besides last weekend being the dates for the local area’s only anime and manga convention, I dislocated my shoulder and have had my arm in a sling until yesterday!  However, I’m fine now, and the doctor said I can resume light tasks with my arm again.  Never underestimate LARP (Live Action ROle Play) events at these conventions!

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Artist Alley was bustling as usual.

Anyways, I thoroughly enjoyed my time at the convention.  Despite the mishap, I got to do everything I wanted to do in my previous post.  The How to Draw with Voice Actors panel was incredibly entertaining.  The panel featured the talent of English voice actors Christine Cabanos (Silica from Sword Art Online), Carrie Keranen (Satsuki Kiryuin from Kill la Kill), Brittney Karbowski (Black Star from Soul Eater), and local-born actor Micah Solusod (Soul from Soul Eater).

The idea was for one voice actor to draw one of their characters, using a reference, with their drawing projected live to the audience, but not to the other panelists.  At the same time, the featured actor described the character to the other panelists, who had to draw what they thought the character looked like.  The results were both incredibly creative, and insanely hilarious.

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The voice actors take their positions as Micah Solusod is the first to live draw.
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Micah Solusod grades Brittney Karbowski’s interpretation of his description of Yuno from Black Clover.
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For the record, here’s what Yuno is supposed to look like. (via blackclover.wikia.com)
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Micah Solusod’s rendition of Karbowski’s character, Black Star.
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… aaaaaaaand here’s actual Black Star. (via souleater.wikia.com)
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Christine Cabanos did an amazing job drawing her character, Silica.
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Micah Solusod’s drawing of Satsuki Kiryuin from Kill la Kill according to Carrie Keranen’s descriptions.
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… aaaaaaaand you get the idea. (via https://www.pinterest.com/pin/351843789614099869)

You can see most of the panel right here in this video posted by YouTube user Pipperry Took.

And here are the last few minutes.

I also got to participate in the Cardboard Megabrawl.  My friends made some ridiculous looking armor for me in our 1-hour time limit.  However, that was short lived as this was the event where I dislocated my shoulder.  Haha, it was fun while it lasted, but I’ll have to rethink my strategy for next time if I don’t want to risk popping the same shoulder out again.

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Little did I know that my armor would not protect me from what was to come…

Despite the mishap, I continued to attend the convention after the docs at the hospital treated me.  I was in a sling for the rest of the weekend, so I couldn’t really take any pictures.  I did manage to catch Cristina Vee’s 2nd autograph session.  I missed the first one because of the shoulder the previous day.  It was so exciting to meet one of the voice actresses whose work I’ve been following for years!

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So glad to have had this signed by Cristina Vee!

Events like Kawaii Kon are few and far between here in Hawaii, but that makes these types of conventions all the more worth it to attend.  I am always amazed at how quickly the convention center is transformed from an empty building into three floors of otaku-dom.

These conventions are such a huge contribution to the community.  They create a safe space, in a sense, for people to freely express themselves.  It doesn’t matter who you are, or where you’re from; your religion, sexuality, etc.  Everyone is there to do one thing, and that is to celebrate and enjoy our love for anime, manga, video games, comics, cosplay, and all other facets of the otaku and nerdist kingdoms.  If only the world could reflect that sort of unity.

Anyways, that’s it for my post-convention report.  It’s not much because of the injury, but I’ll try to make up for it with other interesting articles, like my next one!  My next Anime is Culture post will be addressing the topics of hikikomori and the pressures of Japanese society portrayed in anime/manga.  This might hit some people a little close to home, but please 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.

 

[Kawaii Kon 2018] Lancen’s pre-show picks

Hey all!  Sorry for the lack of a post last week.  I had an extremely busy weekend and no time to write, or even watch anime.  Anyways, for those who don’t know, this upcoming weekend is Hawaii’s very own anime convention, Kawaii Kon!

Every year, thousands of attendees, both local and out-of-state, visit the Hawai’i Convention Center to share in their love and enjoyment of the Japanese anime and manga culture.   Usually I would be setting up a table to sell my artwork, but this year I’ll be just a regular attendee.  Well, not so regular, as I will be making an effort to write a report for each day.

The boss asked me to write about 3 events or activities I’m excited to attend, so I’ll do just that.

How to Draw with Voice Actors
3-4 p.m. Friday, Ballroom B

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Haha, this is what I looked like at the past Kawaii Kons — dead tired behind my art table. But I enjoyed seeing people enjoy my stuff.

As something of an artist myself, this event really caught my eye.  I’ve always been stuck behind a table for many of my previous conventions, so I could never attend events like these.  I really wanna see if my favorite English voice actors can draw the characters they voice, and hopefully there will be an opportunity to request a character for them to draw!

Meeting Cristina Vee

Panels:
Cristina Vee Q&A
11 a.m.-noon Friday, room 315

How to Draw With Voice Actors
3-4 p.m. Friday, Ballroom B

Women of Animation
1:15-2:15 p.m. Saturday, Ballroom B

Ask an Anime Character
Noon-1 p.m. Sunday, Ballroom B

Autographs:
2:45-5:15 p.m. Saturday and 1:30-3 p.m. Sunday

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Cristina Vee plays the voice of Noel Vermillion (center), one of my favorite characters from BlazblueCourtesy Arc System Works.

Cristina Vee is by far one of my favorite English voice actresses to date, playing roles like Noel Vermillion (Blazblue series), Sakura Matou (Fate series), and Homura Akemi (Puella Magi Madoka Magica).  I have been requesting her appearance for years now, and it’s so nice to see my request coming true.  I can’t wait to get my Blazblue merchandise signed, and hopefully I’ll be able to draw her a little something as a gift for all her hard work!

The Cardboard Mega Brawl
3-4 p.m. Saturday 
(setup 2-3 p.m.), Exhibition Hall 2 & 3

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This was back in 2014, the year our team took 1st place in the Cardboard Mega Brawl.  This wasn’t at Kawaii Kon, but it’s a reminder of how long I’ve been building for my friends.  It’s my turn now!

Every year, I’ve built cardboard armor for my friends to compete in.  This year, it’s my turn to pit myself against the other fighters in the ring.  Using only cardboard, duct tape, and pool noodles, teams have an hour to hastily construct armor and weapons, then pit themselves against one another, trying to knock off the cup targets placed on each others’ armor, or completely destroy those cup targets.  It’s crazy yet controlled in these wack battles.  I also have a couple of friends competing, and I hope I get to battle against them.

Anyway, those are my top things I’m looking forward to so far.  I haven’t totally checked out the schedule, and sometimes things are added last minute.  I’ll be making an effort to write about my convention experiences every day of the convention, and hopefully I get a lot of good pictures.  Until then, I’ll be cramming homework so that my weekend is totally stress free.  I was also thinking of doing something special on this blog, but we’ll have to wait and see. 😉

 

“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.

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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.)