14 for ’14: Otaku Ohana’s year of memories

It seems there’s an unwritten rule in journalism that whenever a writer or blogger reaches the end of a year, he or she suddenly feels compelled to look back on it and remember the high points and the lows. I’m certainly not one to go against the flow, so hi! Welcome to the Otaku Ohana Year in Review!

While I’d be the first to admit that this has been a disappointing year in terms of Otaku Ohana output — for starters, I still haven’t had time to fully transcribe that interview with voice actor Kyle Hebert that I promised back in August, and let’s not even think about the last time you’ve seen a formal anime or manga review in this space — it certainly hasn’t been a disappointing year for the otaku community at large. One measure of just how vibrant we’ve had it here is the sheer volume of anime features that screened in theaters. Here’s what we saw this year:

  • Anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day: The Movie
  • Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods
  • Expelled From Paradise
  • Evangelion 3.0: You Can (Not) Redo
  • K Missing Kings
  • Ghost in the Shell
  • Ghost in the Shell: Arise
  • Madoka Magica: Rebellion
  • My Neighbor Totoro
  • Patema Inverted
  • Road to Ninja: Naruto the Movie
  • The Tale of the Princess Kaguya
  • Tiger and Bunny: The Rising
  • The Wind Rises

Throw in a bunch of live-action movies including the Studio Ghibli documentary The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness, Thermae Romae II, Lupin the Third and Kikaider Reboot — the last of which proved so popular, the DVD’s backordered online.

Granted, there were a few bumps in the road along the way. A pair of hurricanes forced Taku Taku Matsuri to be pushed back from August to November. That’s more than can be said for Oni-Con Hawaii, which we can safely consider a lost cause with the lack of any solid communication since early May. And the death of Sharon Sakai, wife of Usagi Yojimbo artist Stan Sakai, was a story that resonated far beyond the usual readership of this blog.

But let’s remember all the good that happened in 2014. I went through my photo files and picked out 14 memorable moments from the year. Some of these pictures you might have seen before, whether in this space or on my various social media accounts.

Dorae-mania hits home (April 20)

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Fujiko F. Fujio’s mecha-cat creation was all over town this year, whether plastered on Lea Lea trolleys, in statue form at various sites from downtown to Kahala as part of HIS Hawaii’s Wakuwaku Stamp Rally, on Kindles and Kindle apps in manga form, or on Disney XD in anime form. The biggest attraction in the first few months of the year, however, was “Meet Doraemon: Japan’s Time-Traveling Cat,” an exhibition co-presented by Bishop Museum and the Fujiko F. Fujio Museum. Visitors could see pages of Fujio’s original artwork for the first time on American soil, watch a 10-minute anime short, read the English-translated Doraemon manga on iPads or the manga in other languages sitting on bookshelves nearby; and buy piles upon piles of Fujio character merchandise that also was appearing for the first time on American soil. Tripinator Doraemon looked a little shifty here in the foreground as visitors browsed through the manga at the iPad station.

Ultra-combo! (April 27)

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Not to be outdone by a cartoon mecha-cat, Ultraman and several of his longtime enemies made peace and came down to cavort around Hawaii as part of a promotion by Hawaii Tourism Japan and Tsuburaya Productions. Four statues showcasing different iterations of Ultraman were placed at locations around Oahu — Polynesian Cultural Center, Kualoa Ranch, DFS Galleria and the Hilo Hattie flagship store in Iwilei — and visitors who bought certain tour packages could go around, get their cards stamped and redeem them for cool Ultraman in Hawaii merchandise. As I mentioned in my original post, I love this picture of the Hilo Hattie statue because of the way the lights in the store flared behind it.

Panel de pon! (March 12)

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This is the only picture in this roundup that wasn’t shot by me (it was taken by cartoonist Roy Chang), and for good reason: I was kinda sitting on the panel at the time. I have to confess that I’m usually not one to be the center of attention — it’s the reason why I’ve never done a panel at any event on my own, and why I have an Anonymous Otaku Ohana Director of Forced Social Interaction with whom I attend a number of events these days — so when I was asked to be part of the “Made in Japan, Loved in Hawaii” panel at the Honolulu Festival, I was worried about how things would go. I needn’t have worried — panel mates Brady Evans, Jon Murakami, Roy Bann and Audra Furuichi all helped turn that panel into a lovely lengthy chat about our various fandoms. If you haven’t listened to the panel yet, the audio (which weighs in at 121 MB) remains available for download at ow.ly/uwyBr, while the slides are available at ow.ly/uwyTQ.

Eboshimaro, friend to all children (March 8)

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Ahhhhhhh yes, yuru-chara, the Japanese phenomenon in which mascot characters are called upon to promote certain aspects of their prefecture, company or event. They’re also usually awesomely cute, which would explain why Eboshimaro here, the mascot representing Chigasaki, Japan, had a steady stream of people coming up to him at the Honolulu Festival asking for pictures. Apparently he was tweeting regularly from the festival, too; here are his tweets and pictures from that weekend.

And that wasn’t the only regional mascot to visit Hawaii this year. At the very beginning of Star-Advertiser photographer Krystle Marcellus’ video from the Honolulu Marathon (www.youtube.com/watch?v=ckleJBr–ns), you can catch a good look at Mojaro, the walking monjayaki from Isesaki’s annual Monja Festival. (Monjayaki is okonomiyaki’s messier-looking, higher-stacked cousin.)

That’s right. There exists a pile-of-food mascot. And one that looks like one of the ghosts from Pac-Man had an unfortunate accident, at that.

I’ll give you some time to ponder that.

Singing in the lane (April 4)

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What would a year-end roundup be without at least one highlight from what’s become the biggest event on the annual otaku calendar, Kawaii Kon? As longtime attendees know, a necessary evil of attending anime cons year after year is waiting in lines to get into the various events. This year, though, this guy made waiting for opening ceremonies more tolerable, going up and down with his guitar singing his original song about Kawaii Kon.

It’s all about the details (July 3)

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MangaBento, the anime/manga-inspired group of young artists, held its annual show on the second floor of the Honolulu Museum of Art School. this year’s show, “Showme,” featured this mural lining the elevator. A nice mural, to be sure. But upon closer examination, several smaller flourishes really stood out.

That’s what I love whenever I look at art: taking in the piece as a whole, then looking close-up at the finer details. It’s an experience I hope (and pretty much expect!) to repeat next year.

Sparkle pretty “Ponponpon” party time (July 20)

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Yes, super-omega-popular boy band Arashi performed out at Ko Olina to the delight of thousands of fans both from here and visiting from Japan, and they had the benefit of a pop-up store at Shirokiya and those visitors snapping pictures of pretty much every poster put up around Ala Moana. But their concert tickets were kinda pricey and I didn’t have a vacation day to spare, so this was my J-Pop concert experience for the year: Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, the singer who burst onto the scene with eyeball-dotted shorts, pastel-colored human hearts and flying bread slices and has kept up a consistent pace of releasing weirdly wonderfully artsy odd music videos ever since. Her concert was an extension of that, a whirlwind of tightly choreographed sequences on a toybox-themed stage with a nice selection of her hits to date. And a giant neon-colored bear, too. (The afternoon heat was a bit much for her, though; she said during the concert that she hoped to do an arena show next time she’s in Hawaii.)

Jan-ken-po, art-to-show (May 17)

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In another one of those events that I attended but have yet to write about in this space (*sob*), Patsy Iwasaki and Avery Berido, the Hawaii island-based writer-artist team behind Hamakua Hero: A True Plantation Story, came to Honolulu to talk about the book as part of the revival of the  Crossing Cultures: The Art of Manga in Hawaii exhibit at the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii. Well, okay, so it was Iwasaki doing most of the talking while Berido drew, but it’s okay, we love them both.

Berido’s drawing was given away at the end of the talk via a series of jankenpo matches among audience members. It came down to these two, and the guy on the left won this original piece. Sweet victory, I must say.

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Smiles to go, to go! (May 31)

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I said back in June that this was my favorite picture of the year to date, and now, looking back on a year’s worth of pictures, it remains a favorite of mine. Taken back at the during the Crossing Cultures artist meet-and-greet, it just captures a certain joy between the boy and his newly purchased Blue plushie, and artist Audra Furuichi. Making a child smile with the fruits of what you do for a living is a heartwarming talent to possess, indeed.

Simply having a wonderful Mini Con time (Sept. 27)

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I’ve noticed that at pretty much every midsize and larger event with cosplayers that I’ve attended this year, two people inevitably show up: one guy who cosplays as Deadpool (and who we’ll see later in this roundup, by the way) and Furry Red Friend, a cosplaying Elmo with his human handler. So when the Merc With a Mouth and Captain America Elmo showed up at Mini Con at McCully-Moiliili Library, with a nemu*nemu: Blue Hawaii postcard cutout just begging for a photo op? Hijinks ensued. Naturally.

Striking a pose (Oct. 11)

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Kawaii Kon’s annual Anime Day event showed up at Windward Mall with a mini Artist Alley, several drawing stations and a variety of cosplay competitions. One of those contests was a “pose-off,” where contestants had to come up with choreographed poses within a time limit. Here, two cosplayers prepare to do battle with Street Fighter poses! And then they rushed into battle! Who would reign supreme?!?

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… yeeeeeaaaah, okay, that didn’t end well.

We made it happen (Nov. 22)

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The story of Taku Taku Matsuri 2014 was a story of perseverance on the part of organizer Yuka Nagaoka. A Kickstarter campaign succeeded after much 11th-hour nail-biting. Then Hurricanes Iselle and Julio’s approach prompted her to postpone the event, a decision that drew some criticism when Iselle hit Hawaii island and fell apart and Julio veered away from the islands. Original guest of honor Kyle Hebert and a number of vendors also couldn’t return for the rescheduled event, forcing her to find replacements. And a second crowdfunding campaign on GoFundMe was … well … sluggish.

Yet despite all of that, and with a rallying cry of “We will make it happen,” the rescheduled Taku Taku Matsuri went out without any apparent hitches (although I must admit, I cringed while a full game of Quidditch took place outside the Manoa Grand Ballroom, praying the quaffle didn’t bounce off into one of the glass showcases or over the fifth-floor wall into the courtyard below). Attendees, it seemed, had a good time throughout the event. And Yuka is already proceeding with planning for the 2015 event, so we’ll see how that goes.

Cardboard carnage (Nov. 22)

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The concept of the cardboard mega-brawl: Combatants craft armor and shields from cardboard, then go one-on-one in a ring trying to knock strategically placed foam cups off each other using foam bats. But what do you do when your opponent is someone who showed up at Taku Taku Matsuri wearing full-on Danbo cosplay? Simple: Flail like a bat out of hell.

“Modern Love” meets modern mangaka (Dec. 3)

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We had a number of famous people in the anime and manga industries come to our fair rock in the middle of Pacific this year, among them Masako Nozawa, the voice of Goku in Dragon Ball Z; Hironobu Kageyama, who sang the Dragon Ball Z theme song “Cha-La Head-Cha-La”; Jim Cummings, the voice of Darkwing Duck and Tigger; and Cristina Vee, Mars/Rei Hino in the new Sailor Moon dub. Heck, Jamie Lynn Lano, former assistant to Takeshi Konomi on The Prince of Tennis, moved to Oahu to fulfill a lifelong dream of hers.

But the person who stands out in my mind at the moment is also the one who most recently visited Honolulu, the one whom (shameless plug) we interviewed and will be the subject of one of our first posts of 2015: josei mangaka Erica Sakurazawa, who wrote several books published by Tokyopop in the mid-2000s including The Aromatic Bitters, Angel and Between the Sheets and whose work Love Vibes is currently on display as part of the Honolulu Museum of Art’s “Modern Love” exhibit. Sakurazawa is shown here talking to exhibit curator Stephen Salel during a talk she gave at the museum in early December. Quite a bit of ground was covered in that talk and our interview, and I hope I can get all that out to you, dear readers, sooner rather than later.

So that does it for 2014! On behalf of tag-team partner in fandom Wilma J. and the Anonymous Otaku Ohana Director of Forced Social Interaction, I wish you all the best for the new year. Here’s hoping for many more good memories to come.

Local manga exhibit crosses over to JCCH

One of the highlights of last year’s otaku calendar was “Crossing Cultures: The Art of Manga in Hawaii,” an exhibit curated by Pen & Ink Works founder Brady Evans that traced the history of manga locally, from its origins in Japan to its influences on the local fan community. I spotlighted it twice in this space during its run, once before it opened, once before it closed. It was a great opportunity to look at original artwork from the featured artists and learn about their creative processes.

I’m still trying to figure out how they let this dork in the building to be part of the exhibit, though.

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CrossCul-JCCH-Invitation-1But let’s say you weren’t able to make it out to see the exhibit last year. It happens; maybe you were too busy during the time it was up between Sept. 6 and Oct. 2, or maybe the drive over the Koolaus to the Windward side didn’t agree with you. Fortunately for you, there’s a second chance coming up to see it, as the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii over in Moiliili hosts its revival starting Saturday. (Members and invited guests can get a sneak peek at 5:30 p.m. Friday, with Brady leading a walkthrough at 6 p.m.)

Brady recently told me that there’s been a healthy chunk of new content added to the exhibit to make a visit worthwhile to those of you who did visit last year. The highlights:

  • Kyunyo, the doujinshi artist featured in the Kawaii Kon section last year, is getting her own spotlight space this year. Pages from her latest work, “Define” — inspired by the anime series Magi — and a copy of the book itself will be on display.
  • Last year’s exhibit had a “Guide by Cell” feature, where visitors could call a number and hear some of the artists talk about their work. New recordings have been added, so this year, you can listen to Audra Furuichi (nemu*nemu), Jordan Takemoto and Tara Tamayori (Hachi Maru Hachi) and Stacey Hayashi (Journey of Heroes) along with last year’s lineup of Brady, Rose Dela Cruz (exhibition label illustrator), Jon Murakami (Gordon Rider), Roy Chang (Cacy & Kiara and the Curse of the Ki’i) and Patsy Iwasaki and Avery Berido (Hamakua Hero).
  • Roy and Audra have painted new murals. Here, have some photos Brady took of their work in progress.

  • The Kikaida section has been beefed up, with more memorabilia — including vintage Kamen Rider, Go-Ranger and Kikaida figurines! — from Scott Shinsato on display.
  • The Alphonse Elric and Persona Teddy costumes have been retired in favor of Voltron, also by the same artist. You might have seen it walking around Kawaii Kon last month.
  • “Meet the Artist/Author” sessions include Patsy and Avery (both of whom are flying in from Hawaii island!) to talk about Hamakua Hero (May 17. 2-3 p.m.) and Stacey talking about Journey of Heroes (May 24, 2-3 p.m.) There’s also going to be a Comic Jam & Artists Showcase with the artists from Comic Jam Hawaii from 1 to 3 p.m. May 31.

The exhibit runs through June 7 at JCCH (2454 S. Beretania St.), The community gallery is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays; admission is free. Ingress players, there’s a portal on site as well as several others within walking distance (all of which consistently hit max-level 8 under Resistance control, sigh). For more on the exhibit, visit hawaiimanga.com.

Ota-cool Incoming!
(special weekend of May 3-4 edition)

The return of “Crossing Cultures” is just one of the events happening in what’s turned out to be a really busy weekend not just for events with an element of otaku-ness in them, but in general. Unrelated to our discussion here, there’s Spam Jam, AARP’s paper-shredding event in Aiea, a craft and gift fair at Recreation Center 5 in Mililani, a neighborhood garage sale in Waipahu mauka of the Leeward Y, near Waipahu Uka Neighborhood Park … yeah, there’s a lot of stuff going on. And that doesn’t even count the fact that Sunday’s Star Wars Day (May the 4th, get it?). Here are the highlights.

Ninth Annual Hawaii Book & Music Festival: It’s going to be a busy weekend for Brady and some of the other “Crossing Cultures” artists/authors, as Hawaii Manga — with Brady, Stacey, Roy and the Hachi Maru Hachi gang — will have a booth as part of the annual celebration of local authors and musicians. Swing by the festival’s Author’s Pavilion around 4 p.m. Sunday and you can see Brady, Stacey and Jon talking about the exhibit and manga in Hawaii, too. On the Civic Center grounds near Honolulu Hale; 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

FCBD_nodateFree Comic Book Day: Stefanie Nakasone did a good job in our print edition (subscription required) summarizing what’s going on, but for those of you who don’t want to click through, here’s a quick, Twitter-attention-span summary: Saturday. Free comics. Four stores (Westside Comics and Games, Gecko Books, Collector Maniacs, Other Realms), 17 libraries (12 on Oahu, plus Hilo and Thelma Parker Memorial on Hawaii island, Kihei and Lahaina on Maui, and Princeville on Kauai). Go get some (keeping in mind that not all of these books will be available at all locations).

And now, courtesy of The Face of Hawaii Ingress ™, Diane Masaki, here’s who’s showing up where for Free Comic Book Day at the libraries. Unless otherwise noted, all appearances will be at 10 a.m.:

Aiea: Hellboy, Powergirl, Supergirl, White Power Ranger, maybe Cyclops
Aina Haina: Batman and Kamen Rider
Kalihi-Palama: Angel (X-Men: First Class edition), Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, maybe Cyclops
Mililani: Wolverine (plus two surprise guests), Batman, maybe Luigi
Lahaina: Scout Trooper from the 501st Imperial Legion
Kapolei: Members of the 501st Imperial Legion (2-4 p.m.)
Salt Lake: Member of Team Rocket, Jubilee, maybe Cyclops

idkwhat2wear T-shirt blowout: The (take a deep breath here) 17th Islandwide Spring Crafts and Food Expo for Mother’s Day (aaaaaand exhale) is also happening this weekend. I mention this here is because frequent anime con exhibitor/friend of the blog idkwhat2wear will be clearing out T-shirts at this event for $5 each. To drive this point home, this picture appeared on the idk Facebook page late Wednesday afternoon.

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… yeeeeeaaaaah, that’s a lot of shirts.

Find them in booth 705 at the Blaisdell Exhibition Hall. $4 general admission, $3 military members and seniors 65 and older, free for children ages 13 and under. 4-8 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Saturday, and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday.

Kodomo no Hi: Sure, Children’s Day is technically on Monday, but Sunday’s as good a time as any to welcome back a JCCH event that skipped last year. Jon will be exhibiting at this event, and MangaBento will have a booth set up with various activities for the kiddies. Audra’s also going to be there to promote the Crossing Cultures exhibit from 11 a.m. to noon. They’ll be part of a day that will also feature entertainment, cultural and martial arts demonstrations, the traditional children’s kimono dressing and a keiki kendama tournament. (Your friendly neighborhood anime/manga blogger once tried one of those kendamas at the behest of the Otaku Ohana Anonymous Director of Forced Social Interaction. It … didn’t go very well.) At the center, 2454 S. Beretania St.; admission is free. 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday.

Hawaii Comic & Toy Expo: More than 20 dealers will be on hand to happily take all the money you have … umm, I mean, heartily encourage and nourish your various collectible and comic passions. Also in attendance will be artists Sam Campos, Andy Lee, Theodore Lee, Kevin Sano and Kanila Tripp. Admission is $3; children under 5 are free. Visit www.hawaiicomictoyexpo.com. Ala Moana Hotel (Garden Lanai room), 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday.

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). 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday.