Anime Matsuri Hawaii cancels 2016 convention

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One of the biggest burning questions of Con-athon 2016 — aside from “Can our otaku community really support six major conventions in one year?” and “Should I get the Cardcaptor Sakura Blu-ray box set or four Nendoroid figures?” — has been “What’s going on with Anime Matsuri Hawaii?”

Sure, there was the promise that they would be back this year, made — as these promises usually are — at the end of last November’s show. But while Kawaii Kon, Amazing Hawaii Comic Con, Comic Con Honolulu, HawaiiCon and Anime Ohana were announcing dates and/or fleshing out their guest lists, AMHI had … well, that promise, along with a few occasional “hi, this page is still being updated, at least!” types of updates on the Facebook fan page. And people were starting to wonder about what was going on. And wonder some more. And some more. And … well, let’s just say I broke out the popcorn (with mochi crunch and furikake!) for the most recent flare-up. I was getting a lot of behind-the-scenes, off-the-record buzz speculating on what was going on, but there really wasn’t anything formal.

That changed tonight, when AMHI co-chairman Deneice Leigh posted this statement:

In the interest of the restructuring and expansion of Anime Matsuri Houston, we have decided not to host Anime Matsuri Hawaii this year. This was an extremely difficult decision to make. However, with our anticipated growth and changes this year, it is necessary for us to give our full focus to the Houston show in order to provide our attendees with the best experience possible. We are incredibly grateful for the support and enthusiasm from our Hawaii fans and staff, and we sincerely apologize for any inconvenience. John and I were honored to host our show in beautiful Honolulu, and we look forward to potentially returning in 2017.

As a thank you to everyone who has been with us, we are offering a 15% discount to Anime Matsuri Houston 2017. The discount code will be sent out to all who registered to AM Hawaii last year.

More historical perspective and analysis to come …

Ota-cool incoming: Dressed to impress

Cosplay doesn’t exist in a vacuum. As much as we’d like to twitch our noses and *poof* a lovely costume of Sailor Moon or Tuxedo Mask into existence a la Samantha in Bewitched (note: this is what I’m talking about, for those of you who may not be old enough to remember Bewitched), the truth is that it takes a lot of work to craft a costume that turns heads at conventions and other special events.

One of the tools of the trade that cosplayers use is the dress form. Think of it as a mannequin torso on a stand; here’s a selection of what’s available on Amazon. Of course, getting a dress form means spending more money, something that may be in short supply when taking into account all the other supplies one needs to create a high-quality costume.

That’s where a workshop happening this weekend at Aiea Public Library comes in.

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Representatives from Anime Matsuri Hawaii will be on hand to show workshop attendees how to create their own dress forms without having to order the real thing; apparently all you need is some duct tape, some plastic wrap and a willing victim partner. They’ll provide the tape, wrap and some fabric that can be used to stuff mannequins or for other crafts and cosplay; you can bring your own partner, as well as a T-shirt that you don’t mind cutting up to make a complete dress form.

Interested? The workshop runs from 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday. It’s free, but be sure to RSVP to cosplay@animematsuri.com if you’re interested so the workshop organizers can bring enough supplies. Aiea Library’s at 99-374 Pohai Place, where there’s still plenty of parking as well as a certain Face of Hawaii Ingress ™ who’s on the final stretch to hitting max-level 16 in the game (in spite of Enlightened efforts to slow her down, too, *sigh*). Call 483-7333.

Elsewhere around town

Kawaii Kon / Comic Con Honolulu volunteer staff meetings: The third session for Kawaii Kon volunteers and the second for Comic Con Honolulu volunteers are coming up, a checkpoint worth noting for those of you interested in helping take care of all the behind-the-scenes things that keep the two events running smoothly every year. Prospective volunteers have to attend a minimum of two staff meetings to qualify for work, after all, and the clock’s ticking … louder for Kawaii Kon in particular, of course, but ticking nonetheless. For more details on volunteering (as well as an enrollment form for anyone joining the party), visit kawaiikon.com/volunteering/volunteer-rules-faqs or comicconhonolulu.com/volunteer/volunteer-rules-requirements. Saturday at the Ala Moana Hotel Plumeria Room; 1:30 p.m. for Kawaii Kon, 3 p.m. for Comic Con Honolulu.

Comic Jam Hawaii: This group of collaborative cartoon artists meets every first and third Sunday of the month at Pearlridge Center. Yes, there are other things going on on Sunday — the 50th Superb Owl will be overseeing some panthers and horses playing sportsball on one channel, puppies will be romping around on another channel, and it’s the only day of the year when people actually want to watch commercials. If none of those catch your fancy, though, perhaps some drawing is in order. Visit www.facebook.com/groups/ComicJamHawaii (Facebook login required). Next meeting: 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday, Downtown section of the mall.

The Anime Matsuri Hawaii preview: It’s kinda con-plicated

There have been six major conventions this year in our state. I know I keep writing that fact in this space over and over again, but it’s something that’s boggled my mind all this year. It’s a profound time for the local otaku community, one that’s grown from roots in anime and manga to encompass general animation and sci-fi/comic culture as well.

You’d think a friendly neighborhood anime/manga blogger would be having the time of his life with all these cons coming in. Yet as the year’s worn on — and it HAS been wearing on me; note how I’ve only had the energy to write fragments of posts about Con-athon 2015, that period between September and October where we had events going on for five straight weekends — the storylines, and figuring out what to write about and not write about here, have become increasingly complicated.

Sure, the first half was just fine — Kawaii Kon was Kawaii Kon, Comic Con Honolulu was a nice sci-fi/comic twist on the Kawaii Kon formula, and HawaiiCon was the vacation-with-some-con-fun of my dreams that I’d really love to return to next year. But then things took a turn for the strange. Amazing Hawaii Comic Con proved that at my age, there really IS a cap on how many attendees and lines one can tolerate before wanting to run screaming back to the safety and solitude of the Otaku Ohana home office. A few weeks after that, Anime Ohana went in the opposite direction, snatching the title of “the state’s most intimate con of the year” away from HawaiiCon (albeit likely unintentionally).

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And now we’ve come to the year’s last major convention: Anime Matsuri Hawaii, the local spin-off of a convention that’s been held in Houston since 2007. On the one hand, it’s an anime convention with a heavy dash of professional cosplay and J-fashion. Guests include voice actors Crispin Freeman, Johnny Yong Bosch and Maile Flanagan; Masahiko Otsuka, president of Studio Trigger (Kill la Kill, Little Witch Academia); professional cosplayers Vampy, Goldy, Stella Chuu and Reika; music guests Brilliant Kingdom and DaizyStripper; Shunsuke Hasegawa, Putumayo designer; Chinatsu Taira, Metamorphose designer; and Yui Minakata, KERA and Gothic Lolita Bible model. Over in the exhibitor area, you’ll see a number of familiar faces including Gordon Rider/Star-Advertiser “Calabash” cartoonist Jon J. Murakami, Crazy Shirts artist Kevin Sano, Lorenzo Trinidad and Trinigrafx Comics, Charisma Industries, the MangaBento gang, A Bit of Sugar, Crappy Kids, and … umm … Hen Da Ne, otherwise known as “that dealers room space with that guy who always shouts about ‘fresh hot yow-weeeeeee’ and stuff.” Other highlights include:

  • Two screenings of Little Witch Academia: The Enchanted Parade (touted as the “U.S. premiere” on the schedule, although Trigger representatives screened the finished OAV at Anime Expo earlier this year), at 3 and 7 p.m. Saturday.
  • The first formal Funimation industry panels at a local convention, hosted by company representative Justin Rojas.
  • The J-Fashion show (8 p.m. Friday) and Cosplay Showcase (4 p.m. Saturday).
  • DaizyStripper, with opening act Brilliant Kingdom, performs live in concert at 9 p.m. Saturday.

You can find the full schedule at animematsurihawaii2015.sched.org.

On the other hand, there are a number of factors that have hurt the convention. It’s going up against Black Friday and the opening weekend of the Christmas shopping season. Two major craft fairs — the Winter Craft Fair at the Hawaii Okinawa Center in Waipio Gentry, and the Islandwide Christmas Crafts and Food Expo at the Blaisdell Exhibition Hall — will also be running over the weekend, meaning some vendors who might have been all-in for AMHI are instead either selling at those craft fairs or splitting staff and merchandise among shows.

Then there are the events touted on the convention’s website in March that disappeared over the next eight months and aren’t on the final schedule — Club AM (advertised as a late-night dance party for the first two nights of the convention), AM Idol (a talent competition), a formal dance, an anime music video competition and a car show among them. A few days ago, the maid cafe was converted to a cosplay recovery lounge. “Nerdlesque,” a show combining burlesque performance with geek culture, morphed into “Intro to Nerdlesque,” a panel in which Chuu talks about the show. Finally, while I was working on this post early Thanksgiving afternoon, it was announced that cosplayer Yuegene Fay would be canceling her previously announced appearance due to problems with her U.S. customs and immigration paperwork.

Those are easily chalked up to, and forgiven by, logistical issues. But perhaps the biggest elephant in the room, the one that’s spawned an online petition calling for a boycott of everything Anime Matsuri LLC touches and a fair amount of discussion in social media, are the allegations of sexual harassment and general malfeasance levied against con directors John and Deneice Leigh based on what’s happened in Houston and several other places. The Houston Press, an alternative weekly newspaper (think of it as being like the old Honolulu Weekly), ran a pair of articles on the subject; you can read them here and here. You can look up many of the main players and their blogs elsewhere on the Internet if you so choose.

It is what it is. I respect those people’s views, and I can understand why they would want to boycott the show. I also know there are volunteers on the AMHI staff — people who have joined and have stayed on despite knowing this info — who are working hard to present the best show to their attendees this weekend.  If I were a full-time blogger rather than a full-time copy editor/page designer who fits blogging in between Tsum Tsum and Ingress sessions and trying to rest and recuperate from all that editing and designing, I certainly would have liked to have had a sit-down with the Leighs to talk about the allegations. But I’m not, and as a journalist by trade,  I don’t feel it’s fair for me to pass judgment on covering or not covering a show unless I gave them a chance to respond first.

And so, the show goes on, and I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt for now. If I hear anything otherwise, though … we’ll see. If you’d like to join me at the show, prices at the door are $60 for general-admission 3-day passes; $25 for children’s 3-day passes; $30 for Friday passes; $35 for Saturday passes; and $25 for Sunday passes.

And after that I’m going on another mini-vaca… wait, what? Kawaii Kon has a bazillion guests now? Comic Con Honolulu’s built a respectable guest roster, too? And HawaiiCon has Chekov, Uhura and Troi on their 2016 guest list, and they’re moving to the Mauna Lani Bay Hotel & Bungalows? Well. Otaku blogger better blog…

Ota-cool Incoming: La-la-la-la-la-la-la-la, Halloween party

Those of you who are J-pop fans probably mourned a little bit when local FM radio content went from 24/7 to a few hours every week on the K-pop station with DJ Chikapin’s “J-Morning Saturday” (woo-hoo!). I was sad, but I eventually adjusted; K-pop does have its fair share of catchy tunes, after all (and equally weird music videos, too; hello, Orange Caramel). It’s only when I was writing this Halloween edition of the Ota-Cool Incoming calendar that I realized the biggest void KORL 97.1’s conversion from J-pop to hip-hop left on the local radio landscape.

Namely, we aren’t getting Halloween Junky Orchestra’s “Halloween Party” played several times a day, every day, during this month anymore.

But we will soldier on, dear readers. Mostly because in the Year of All the Things, there’s not much time to sit around and mourn — there’s just too much to do. This particular round starts with what I like to call National Cosplay Recognition Day on Saturday, and Halloween Comicfest. Think of it as being exactly like Free Comic Book Day, except with more orange and spooooooky motifs in the promotional logos.

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There’s quite a bit of anime/manga-fan-friendly stuff being handed out this time around, including “Birth of Kitaro” from Drawn & Quarterly (hey, more translated GeGeGe no Kitaro is being released! Yay!), Junji Ito’s “Fragments of Horror” from Viz,  and a mini Yo-kai Watch comic, also from Viz. Fans of more traditional comics have Archie, Harley Quinn, Doctor Strange, Batman, Spider-man and Avengers stories to look forward to, among others.

Participating stores around the state include:

  • Other Realms (The Nimitz Center, 1130 N. Nimitz Highway, suite C-140, Iwilei)
  • Gecko Books & Comics (1151 12th Ave., Kaimuki)
  • Dragon’s Lair (95-1840 Meheula Parkway, space E-10, Mililani)
  • Westside Comics and Games (590 Farrington Highway, #538, Kapolei)
  • Maui Comics and Collectibles (333 Dairy Road, #102, Kahului)

Selection will vary depending on what each individual retailer orders, so don’t get too upset if what you’re looking for isn’t available. Make sure to buy something else from the store, too; they may be free to you, but they certainly aren’t free for the people providing them.

In the afternoon, there’s the AMHI Halloween Walk. Anime Matsuri Hawaii and KZOO Radio are co-hosting this stroll through Ala Moana Center. Dress to impress in your finest cosplay or J-fashion coordinates, and you could win an upgrade to a Superpass — the convention’s VIP pass — or a free autograph session with a guest who’d normally have a paid session. The fun starts in front of the KZOO studio in Shirokiya at 2 p.m. Saturday and runs through 4 p.m.

After the walk, you have several options: Stick around to hand out treats in front of the KZOO studio between 5 and 6 p.m. (download the security release form here); position yourself for nighttime Halloween hijinks in Waikiki; or head over to the Blaisdell Concert Hall for the Hawaii Symphony Orchestra’s live performance of the Nightmare Before Christmas soundtrack, starting at 7:30 p.m.

Or if you prefer (or live closer toward west or central Oahu and don’t feel like driving aaaaaaaaall the way into town),  you could hop into your vehicle of choice and head on over to attend the Halloween Cosplay Runway at Pearlridge Center. Kawaii Kon and Comic Con Honolulu are hosting this kickoff to Pearlridge Center’s Trick-or-Treat Extravaganza. Talk about your costume, then just work it on stage, baby. That’s taking place at the Pearlridge Uptown Center Court from 5 to 6 p.m.

Have fun and stay safe out there, folks. And don’t eat too much candy. You’ll rot your teeth out.

Elsewhere around town

Anime Matsuri Hawaii: I’ll have a full update on all the upcoming cons in my next post, but for now I should mention that the deadline for online preregistration for AMHI is fast approaching; cutoff time is 11:59 p.m. local time Saturday. So if you’ve been on the fence about attending this convention on Thanksgiving weekend, now’s the time to decide if you’re going to pay $55 for a three-day pass for it (or $20 if there’s a child ages 6-12 involved, or $150 if you’d like to go the VIP Superpass route). Tickets for the Grand Tea Party at the Ala Moana Hotel ($35; Sunday, Nov. 29, noon-3 p.m.) are also running scarce. Guests include voice actors Maile Flanagan, Johnny Yong Bosch and Crispin Freeman; Justin Rojas from Funimation; Masahiko Otsuka, Studio Trigger president; professional cosplayers Vampy, Goldy, Yuegene Fay, Stella Chuu and Reiko; Yui Minakata, fashion model featured in KERA and the Gothic Lolita Bible; and fashion designers Shunsuke Hasegawa (Putumayo) and Chinatsu Taira (Metamorphose). Visit hawaii.animematsuri.com.

anthem

The Anthem of the Heart: From the makers of Anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day: The Movie: The One Based on the Anime Series: Which They Also Did comes another tale of emotionally scarred youths which, judging by the official synopsis, seems like it could be another tearjerker:

Jun is a girl whose words have been sealed away. She was once a happy girl, but because of a certain thing she said when she was very young, her family was torn apart. One day, the egg fairy appeared in front of her and sealed away her ability to talk in order to stop her from hurting anybody else. Since this traumatic experience, Jun lives in the shadows away from the limelight. But, one day she is nominated to become an executive member of the “community outreach council.” On top of that, Jun is also appointed to play the main lead in their musical…

Bring your tissues or handkerchiefs to the Consolidated Ward Stadium 16 theaters at 7 p.m. Monday and noon Nov. 7.  For more info on the movie, visit anthemoftheheart.com.

Ota-cool Incoming: Cons, cons everywhere, and nary a time to breathe

It’s been a wild past few weeks here at Otaku Ohana Central, a time that’s included voice actors conducting panels after a lovely morning swim off Hawaii island, some friendly neighborhood anime/manga/cartooning blogger dork talking for a good 40 minutes or so at the University of Hawaii at Hilo, a governor and a congressman offering proclamations and plaudits for comics legend Stan Lee, and lots and lots and lots of waiting in lines.

Also, this happened.

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Hello, Kikaida star Ban Daisuke. Nice to finally get to meet you. Although it was a bit awkward when the person we thought was going to take our picture wandered off to go take pictures of the other costumed characters at Kikaida Day. But I digress.

I’ll have some thoughts on my recent 11-day span of otaku craziness in my next post (which I will try to post really, really soon even if it kills me in the process), but I reeeeeeaaaaaallly need to take a look at what’s coming up over the next few weekends first. We’re coming up on the third of five straight weekends of otaku-related activities, and keeping everything straight (and perhaps pushing you, dear reader, to attend an event or two in the process!) is what I do best. Or at least try to do best, anyway, whenever I have the time/energy to do so.

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Our tour of events starts with Saturday and Mini Con at McCully-Moiliili Library. Branch manager Hillary Chang has been putting on this free little slice of comic-con culture for six years now — holy cats, I feel old just typing that — and this year’s installment is, pardon the cliche, bigger and better than ever before.

Longtime exhibitors Jon Murakami (Gordon Rider, Ararangers, the Star-Advertiser’s “Calabash” strip), Audra Furuichi (nemu*nemu, the Star-Advertiser’s “nemu*nemu: Blue Hawaii” strip) and Kevin Sano (Crazy Shirts artist and painter of many Kikaida-themed Minion toys) will be joined this year by Christopher Caravalho, Aumakua: Guardians of Hawaii artist. Brady Evans from the Honolulu Museum of Art will host a digital painting demo at 11 a.m., where you can learn how he creates pretty prettiness like “Wisteria” here. Young adult author David Estes will give a talk at 11:45 a.m., “From Accountant to Author: Getting Started as a Writer.” Collect a stamp from everyone and receive a free comic! Here’s what the stamp card looks like.

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Of particular note is that this will be the last time you’ll be able to pick up some of that sweet nemu*nemu merchandise in person this year; Audra’s said she’s going to be skipping her traditional holiday craft fair circuit in favor of travel, so stock up on those gifts now! (Or you could just go online and order anytime, but hey, I’m old-school. Personal interaction’s always nice.) Cosplay, of course, is also welcomed; heck, here’s Hillary cosplaying with coworker Wendy Araki at last year’s event.

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Mini Con runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at McCully-Moiliili Library (2211 S. King St.); as I recommend every year, you’ll want to come early for the best parking opportunities. There’s a new, welcomed twist this time around, though: Overflow parking will be available in the Ross Dress for Less lot across the street. Yay! Call 973-1099 for more information or if you need to make special arrangements.

anime day 2015

A week later, Kawaii Kon will be hosting its fourth annual Anime Day at Windward Mall. Everything you loved about past Anime Days will be back for another round, including the Cosplay Runway, games, art activities, discounted three-day passes for Kawaii Kon 2016, a selection of Artist Alley vendors (including the Star-Advertiser’s own Erika Engle and her handcrafted jewelry!) and a mall-wide stamp rally for the chance to win a fabulous prize. All of this happens from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the mall, 46-056 Kamehameha Highway. And, of course, admission is free! Visit facebook.com/events/899357246825955/ for the latest details.

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And then about a week after that, on Oct. 9-11? It’s time for Anime Ohana, the fifth of our state’s six-convention windfall this year. As I noted earlier this year, this convention, started by Kawaii Kon founder Stan Dahlin and Sentai Filmworks producer David Williams, will feature voice actors Jessica Calvello (Hange Zoe, Attack on Titan; Yuri, Dirty Pair), Monica Rial (Kaede Kayano, Assassination Classroom) and David Matranga (the title role in Orphen) and all the usual accouterments we’ve come to know and love from the other four conventions this year. (Seriously, if you have to ask what kinds of activities will be available, you really haven’t been paying much attention to the con scene this year.)

All this is going down at the Pagoda Hotel at 1525 Rycroft St., just a short walk away from YogurStory, Walmart, Walgreens, Don Quijote, Like Like Drive Inn, Hokkaido Ramen Santouka … umm, can you tell some of the places I’ll be stopping by during con down time? For the latest news, visit the event page at facebook.com/events/742706302513876/; for passes (available in 1-3 day varieties for both children and adults), visit animeohana.com.

Elsewhere around town

Aiea Library Polar Bear Cafe & Friends Anime Club: Every month, I joke with young adult librarian Diane Masaki that she ought to change the name of the Anime Club to the Polar Bear Cafe & Friends Club, seeing as how the screening schedule for the past few months has consistently been two episodes of the 2012-2013 anime followed by two more episodes of something else. (This month, the “friends” part will likely be Squid Girl.) Every month, she gives me the same response: “Pfffffffft.” I’ll keep trying, folks. At the library, 99-374 Pohai Place, where even now, more than a year after opening, there’s still plenty of parking. For more information or to RSVP, call 483-7333 or email aiealibraryanimeclub@yahoo.com. 3 p.m. Saturday.

Anime Matsuri Hawaii LUV Day: “LUV” is short for “Let Us Volunteer,”and at this event, you’ll get to meet con directors John and Deneice Leigh and learn everything about volunteer opportunities at the last convention of the year, being held over Black Friday weekend (Nov. 27-29). Bonus: There will be games! And prizes! Lili’u Theater, Hawai’i Convention Center (room 310, in the corner closest to Kalakaua Avenue and the Ala Wai Canal), 2 to 6 p.m. Saturday.

Ingress First Saturday: Ever wanted to learn how to play Niantic Labs’ massively multiplayer augmented reality smartphone game? Feel like honing your skills and learning playing tips from high-level agents? Want to meet The Face of Hawaii Ingress in person? Care to see what Niantic is capable of producing before their new likely-to-be-a-megahit collaboration with Nintendo, Pokemon Go, goes live and turns what we’ve known for several years as the Hawaiian Netmender Fountain portal into Jigglypuff? Come to Kapiolani Park for a day of cross-factional rivalry, fellowship, and … triangles! Lots! And lots! Of TRIANGLES~!

Meet at the Diamond Head Landmark portal (www.ingress.com/intel?ll=21.265395,-157.82058&z=17&pll=21.265395,-157.82058 for those of you with scanners; about halfway between the Waikiki Aquarium and the Natatorium on the park side of Kalakaua Avenue for those who don’t). To the Enlightened, may the odds be forever in your favor. To the Resistance, umm … enjoy the cross-factional potluck afterward? Yeah. That’s it. Starts at 9 a.m. Oct. 3.

Random Ingress Portal of the Post:

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Meet Drainage Marker! It’s … a drainage marker! On the corner of South King Street and Ward Avenue!

(Yeah, Niantic’s portal approval team was probably half-asleep when they approved this one.)

Gamer Expo 2015: The second annual edition of what’s been called the state’s largest video game event will feature tournaments for pretty much all the hot games out there (Super Smash Bros.! Hearthstone! Halo! Street Fighter! League of Legends! More!), a retro gaming section, and pretty much all the pew-pew-hack-slash-kick-punch-it’s-all-in-the-mind action you could possibly want. Special guests include Super Smash Bros. pro players Corey “False” Shin, Larry “Larry Lurr” Holland, William “Dkwill” Walsh, Max “Max Ketchum” Krchmar and Michael “MikeKirby” Alvare, and noted Hearthstone streamer Hafu. Presented by eSports HI; $25 general admission, $43 VIP pass. The Modern Honolulu (1775 Ala Moana Blvd.); 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Oct. 3.

The big convention roundup

Yes, four out of six shows for this year are done, and it’s already time to start thinking about next year. Con dates are already scheduled out through next September, in fact! Here’s everything I know so far. Unless otherwise noted, con venue is the Hawai’i Convention Center:

Anime Matsuri Hawaii: Featuring guests — deep breath in, Jason — voice actors Johnny Yong Bosch, Crispin Freeman and Maile Flanagan; Justin Rojas, representing Funimation; Masahiko Otsuka, president of Studio Trigger (the studio behind recent hits Kill la Kill and Little Witch Academia); musical guest DaizyStripper; professional cosplayers Goldy, Yuegene Fay, Stella Chuu, Reika and Vampy Bit Me; fashion designers Shunsuke Hasegawa (Putumayo designer) and Chinatsu Taira (Metamorphose chief designer); and KERA/Gothic Lolita Bible model Yui Minakata. And exhale. Nov. 27-29.

Kawaii Kon: The 12th annual edition of Hawaii’s first anime convention will feature a return visit by voice actor Johnny Yong Bosch and his band, Eyeshine, as well as the first visit by Japanese rock band Loverin Tamburin. April 8-10.

Amazing Hawaii Comic Con: Save the date! The follow-up to what may well be the biggest pop-culture convention in Hawaii now (pending the formal release of attendance numbers and what I’ve heard about really crowded conditions Friday and Saturday) will be May 20-22.

Comic Con Honolulu: Kawaii Kon’s pop-culture con spinoff hopes to build on its strong debut with guests Erin Gray (Col. Deering, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century), Colin Ferguson (Federal Marshal Jack Carter, Eureka), Summer Glau (River Tam, Firefly/Serenity) and Kristin Bauer (Maleficent, Once Upon A Time). July 29-31.

HawaiiCon: Guests announced so far include Simpsons/Futurama artist Bill Morrison, actress Nichelle Nichols (Uhuru in the original Star Trek) and science fiction author John Scalzi.  Sept. 15-18, Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel (Hawaii island).

Ota-cool Incoming: Convention life’s just beachy

So contrary to what I wrote in my last post, I did manage to make it out to Comic Con Honolulu for a few hours last weekend — thanks to con staff for having a press badge ready to go! — and managed to catch the Art Improv panel, which … well, in the spirit of 50 Shades Totoro, here’s … umm … Magic Mike Baymax.

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Was it fun? Of course. Looks like the next Art Improv panel will be at Kawaii Kon 2016, so you’ll want to check that out.

I also got to chat with a bunch of the usual Friends of the Blog, including Ivan Sanidad on the right — you may know him as “that guy who’s been conducting surveys at Kawaii Kon since the dawn of con time” — and reader Max Ogasawara-Fukumoto.

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Con staff announced at closing ceremonies that first-year attendance was 5,280, a nice number for a first-year con. If you’re interested in attending next year, dates have already been announced; save space on your social calendar for July 29-31, 2016.

Back in the days when there was one, maaaaaaybe two or three major cons in the state, this week would be a time to recover and reset for the next event, usually several months away. But this year? The year of All the Things? Let’s put it this way: There are two con-hosted beach days coming up in August, one of them happening on Saturday.

Anime Matsuri logoThe more immediate beach day is being hosted by an incoming show, Anime Matsuri Hawaii. The Anime Matsuri Beach and LUV Day will serve two purposes: Not only can attendees cosplay, join a potluck lunch, enjoy some fun activities (Water balloon fights! Relay races! Capture the Flag! “Senpai Says,” a version of Simon Says with an anime twist! Watermelon smashing!) and maybe possibly perhaps even win some prizes, they can also learn about volunteer opportunities for the upcoming convention. (Hence the “LUV” part of the event name, an acronym for “Let Us Volunteer.”) That’s happening from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday near the center part of Ala Moana Beach Park; just aim for the area directly across from Piikoi Street, and you should be able to find them. Here’s a map for more exact positioning.

Fifteen days later, on Sunday, Aug. 16, Kawaii Kon will be hosting its annual beach day, also at Ala Moana Beach Park, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. That’s pretty much all the information released to date, but if previous years have been any indication, attendees will have a chance to cosplay, eat lunch, enjoy some fun activities (Water balloon fights! Capture the Flag! Sand sculpture building! Watermelon smashing!) and maybe possibly perhaps even win some prizes.

Can’t make it to either beach day? Perhaps the idea of being out in the sun-baked real world gives you the heebie-jeebies? Other cons are hosting pre-show events in coming weeks as well. Amazing Hawaii Comic Con is hosting another informal meet-and-greet at Dave & Buster’s (1030 Auahi St., in the Ward Entertainment Complex) starting at 8 p.m. Aug. 12. After my experience at the first event — and given how that day’s also featuring half-price games in the arcade — I think I’m going to sit this one out unless the Otaku Ohana Anonymous Director of Forced Social Interaction insists I go. If you do go, though, maybe you can play a few round of that new Angry Birds machine for me. Plus your first drink is free courtesy of the con crew.

HawaiiCon logoOver on Hawaii island, HawaiiCon is hosting a pair of cosplay contests in coming weeks. The first — and what likely will be the cutest — event will be their Keiki Cosplay Contest, part of downtown Hilo’s First Friday festivities, from 5 to 7 p.m. Aug. 7 at Kapohokine Adventures, 224 Kamehameha Ave. (If anyone goes to that, please send me a link to your photos. I want to revel in the cuteness. Also, don’t forget to fill out this registration form.) The second cosplay contest, for participants ages 14 and older, will run from 7 to 10 p.m. Aug. 14 at Yamada Technologies, 25 Waianuenue St., also in Hilo. Food trucks will be around, so bring an appreciation for cosplay and a hearty appetite.

Elsewhere around town

Comic Jam Hawaii: This group of collaborative cartoon artists meets every first and third Sunday of the month at Pearlridge Center; locations within the mall may vary. Visit www.facebook.com/groups/ComicJamHawaii (Facebook login required). Next meeting: 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday.

Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection of ‘F’: The latest cinematic installment in the Dragon Ball Z franchise will be in theaters next week, and it’s a pretty hot Dragon Ball tale, what with the resurrection of F(rieza) and yet another evolution for Goku, known as Super Hyper Turbo Champion Omega Mondo Extreme Over 9,000 Saiyan God Mode Plus Edition Now With Bears Goku. Well, okay, it’s actually only Super Saiyan God Super Saiyan mode, but with a new TV series on the way, it’s only a matter of time before more convoluted power levels like that come in to play.

Here, have a trailer.

This movie is enjoying what’s been the widest distribution statewide for an anime-related film this year, playing on three major islands (sorry, Kauai, you’ve been left out yet again). Check Fandango for the latest updates, but here’s the list I have of dates and locations:

  • Ward: Tuesday and Wednesday, 7 p.m.; Aug. 8, noon
  • Dole: Tuesday and Wednesday, 7 p.m.; Aug. 8, 11 a.m.
  • Pearlridge: Tuesday and Wednesday, 7 p.m.; Aug. 8, noon
  • Mililani: Tuesday-Thursday, 7 p.m.; Aug. 8, noon
  • Kapolei: Tuesday-Thursday, 7 p.m.; Aug. 8, noon
  • Kaahumanu (Kahului): Tuesday and Wednesday, 7 p.m.; Aug. 8, noon
  • Makalapua Stadium 10 (Kona): Thursday, 7 p.m.; Aug. 8, 11 a.m.
  • Regal Prince Kuhio 9 (Hilo): Aug. 8, 11 a.m.

Hoku Kon rebrands (and other convention news)

It may not have seemed like it’s been busy around Otaku Ohana Central, what with my general radio silence here for a little over two weeks now, but the truth is that there’s a lot of stuff going on. I’ve just been too busy dealing with a good number of outside-of-work things that have left me too exhausted to do much of anything else. (Nothing too weighty, mind. Unless you consider tag-team partner in fandom Wilma J. and I trading Tsum Tsum hearts back and forth a problem.)

CCH logoOne of the things I did during this recent hiatus, though, actually had something to do with this blog: On Friday, I had a chance to sit down and chat with Faisal Ahmed, co-chairman of Kawaii Kon and Hoku Kon with Marlon Stodghill, about a number of things related to the two conventions. I’ll have more of that conversation posted … umm … eventually (the resolution of that outside-of-work stuff is still very much up in the air), but the biggest thing to emerge from it came at the very end. In a move confirmed on Hoku Kon’s Facebook page last night, the convention has rebranded itself and is now going by the name Comic Con Honolulu.

There’s been a fair amount of discussion following the announcement, much of it centered around possible confusion between this event (happening July 24-26; key guest so far is actress Kelly Hu) and Amazing Hawaii Comic Con (Sept. 18-20; key guest so far is Stan Lee). Here’s what Faisal said about the name change and why they decided to go this route:

People just don’t know what Hoku Kon is, and they’re just like, “Is there any way you can add in the words ‘comic con?'” It’s just one of those things of getting the word out there and getting the people to understand what the show is about. Like, “comic con,” people think of San Diego Comic Con. And as somebody who actually studies trademark law, I think they have a very strong right to the word “comic con,” but unfortunately they don’t. People basically know what it means. It’s become a generic term that everyone goes, “Oh, you’re gonna have comics, sci-fi, fantasy, you’re going to have this giant thing, people dress up.” Everyone knows instantly what it is. And a lot of the radio stations and TV stations I talked to are just like, “If you’re able to add the word ‘comic con’ into your name, I can actually get coverage for it, I can let people know that it’s happening, we can actually make it a bigger deal.”

Which then … with dealing with sci-fi guests, is what they care about. Even if you’re willing to pay a lot of sci-fi guests, they’re not willing to come out unless the show has 7,000 people, 10,000 people, 20,000 people. Because it’s just not worth it to them. And ultimately … my dream for Hoku Kon or Comic Con Honolulu would be to have studios come out, to have Marvel come out and have a presence, have HBO, have Cartoon Network, have all these people come out and basically give people the opportunity to have this interactive experience without having to spend the $10,000 to actually go  to San Diego Comic-Con or go to another show on the mainland, or buy a ticket that’s $300.

The goal is to keep prices low. I’m sure as time goes on they’ll inch up slightly, just as everything in the world does. I really don’t want it to be a show where we have to charge $250 for the opportunity to even show up and then pay more money to do stuff. Everyone I talked to who isn’t a nerd basically is just like, “You need to add the word ‘comic con’ in there and we’ll understand.”

This is actually the first time we’re actually talking about it or announcing it. We’re working on kind of finalizing how it’s gonna happen, just because rebranding is always an arduous task. So we’re going to start having it called Comic Con Honolulu, just so people (a) know where it is and (b) know what it is. We’ll keep the name Hoku Kon as a byline, just because … we have to remember that “hoku” means “star” in Hawaiian, it is a local show. It’s gonna be run by locals, the events are gonna be done all by locals, and again the only mainlanders to do anything are Marlon and I, and our job is support, is to make sure that we can provide all the tools necessary for the show to happen.

… We have to get people kind of used to the name, and used to understanding that Hoku Kon is the exact same thing, it’s run by the same people. It’s just going under this new name to make sure people know what the event is. And the reason we didn’t call it “Hawaii Comic Con” or “Comic Con Hawaii” was just because there’s already HawaiiCon, there’s Amazing Hawaii Comic Con. And we wanted to show that we’re doing something, again, more local. And so that’s why we picked the city.

Three-day passes for Comic Con Honolulu ($45) are now available; applications are also being accepted for Artist Alley tables. For more information, visit www.comicconhonolulu.com. (Or you could plug in hokukon.com for old time’s sake; both addresses will get you to the same destination.)

Meanwhile, at the other conventions:

  • Amazing Hawaii Comic Con is sending down several staff members for an informal meet-and-greet starting at 7:30 p.m. today at Dave & Busters (1030 Auahi St., in the Ward Entertainment Complex). Come down and chat with them; they’ll even buy you your first drink.
  • Anime Matsuri Hawaii‘s Artist Alley table registrations are now live; cost is $170 (plus a $5.24 Eventbrite processing fee) and includes a 6-by-2-foot table, one three-day pass and limited electrical power. Read up on all the rules and sign up at ow.ly/MiE7s. The convention also recently announced its first anime industry guest: Maile Flanagan, the English voice of Naruto Uzumaki (who now follows me on Twitter, *squee*). Three-day passes are $45 through June 15; visit ow.ly/MiGCt to get that set up.
  • Anime Ohana still has their three-day pass for $25, but you’ll have to act fast; that special ends tomorrow. Visit animeohana.ticketbud.com/anime-ohana.
  • And for those of you who really want to plan ahead, Kawaii Kon has opened online preregistration for 2016 — three-day passes are $45 general, $40 ages 5-12. Get started at ow.ly/MiJds.