Ota-cool Incoming: The merry, merry month of May

If April was the month of anime, with Kawaii Kon and Consolidated Theaters’ Studio Ghibli Festival capturing the attention of local otaku, then May has to be the month where comic culture takes center stage. The Hawaii Comic & Toy Expo kicks it off, Amazing Hawaii Comic Con puts a nice little bow on it, and there’s Free Comic Book Day and a smattering of comic artist appearances in between to keep us all busy.

But that’s not to say it’s all comics; anime/manga fans have some events to look forward to this month as well — a new movie, idkwhat2wear’s annual clearance sale and the return of an annual festival on Maui are just some of the events to look forward to in the next few weeks. I’ll go into greater detail on some of these coming attractions in future posts, but there’s a really busy weekend coming up, so let’s get around to that right now:

Islandwide Spring Crafts and Food Expo: Otherwise known as “the craft fair where idkwhat2wear unloads ALL THE THINGS.” See, every year there’s one show where Karl Miyashiro and Terri Dux blow out their discontinued T-shirt styles at $6 per shirt. These are styles that usually sell for $19-$21 apiece, so yeah, that’s a pretty healthy chunk of savings change. This photo posted to the idk Facebook page reveals they have … oh, a few shirts.


Please save Terri from impending cotton-crushing doom and buy some shirts; they’ll be at booth 705. While you’re at the show, go visit Kawaii Mono with their line of origami jewelry, charms and more at booth 408. Admission: $5 general, $4 military families and seniors ages 65 and older, free for children ages 13 and younger. (Be warned: With The Book of Mormon still at the concert hall and comedian Kevin Hart in concert at the arena Saturday and Sunday, parking in the neighborhood is going to be tight.) Blaisdell Exhibition Hall (777 Ward Ave.); 4-9 p.m. today, 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday.


Hawaii Comic & Toy Expo: Yes, there will be comics, toys and collectibles being sold by more than 40 dealers. But there will be special featured guests in the house, too. Guest of honor Scott Williams is a local boy and University of Hawaii alumnus who’s worked as an artist and inker for Marvel and DC, frequently collaborating with talents like Jim Lee and Frank Miller. Joining him at the show will be local artists Jon Murakami, Kevin Sano, Christopher Caravalho, Andy Lee and HeadShot Heroes. Admission: $3. Ala Moana Hotel (Hibiscus Ballroom), 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; this time around, they’ll be in the center court on the Downtown side of the mall. Visit www.facebook.com/groups/ComicJamHawaii (Facebook login required). Next meeting: 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday.

Also worth noting: The Friends of Aiea Library will be holding a book sale at the library (99-374 Pohai Place) from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday; there will be plenty of parking. And where there may not be anything directly related to otaku culture at this year’s Hawaii Book and Music Festival, at the Civic Grounds near Honolulu Hale downtown, it’s still worth checking out anyway. Because local literature and music never go out of style. That runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Elsewhere around town

Maui Matsuri: A kickoff celebration for Maui’s annual celebration of Japanese culture — featuring taiko performances, karate demonstrations, coloring contests and Hello Kitty — will be at the Queen Kaahumanu Center (275 W. Kaahumanu Ave., Kahului) from 6:30 to 9 p.m. today. It’s just a little taste of what will be happening a little over a week from now at UH-Maui College, with food booths, entertainment, and contests for cosplayers, video gamers and artists inspired by the anime/manga art style. Maui residents, go check out mauimatsuri.com and register for some of those contests now! Presented by the Japanese Cultural Society of Maui. Saturday, May 7, 2-9 p.m.


Free Comic Book Day: It’s almost time for the Annual Comic Book Summer Blockbuster Movie to be released to millions of eager American fanpeeps (*cough*goTeamIronMan*cough*), which means it’s also time for your annual enticement to visit your local comic book store/distributor of choice and pick up a whole stack of free books. Various locations statewide; Saturday, May 7.

Mother’s Day: Don’t forget about your mom. She helped shape you into the person you are today. Also, eat your veggies and don’t slouch, dear. Sunday, May 8.


Free Isabelo appearances: The founder of Live Free Die Free (LFDF) Comics; creator of The Contraptor, a steampunk-inspired tale about a Secret Service agent looking for his brother’s murderer and the conspirators behind President Lincoln’s assassination; and artist behind the “Steam Royals” series of pop culture icons reimagined with a steampunk twist will be appearing at Other Realms (1130 Nimitz Hwy, suite C140) on Free Comic Book Day and on Wednesday, May 18, and Enjoy Comics in Hilo (45 Pohaku St., unit 201) on Sunday, May 15. He’ll also be at Amazing Hawaii Comic Con … see below for some more details about that show.

Joe Rubenstein on Maui: The longtime artist/inker best known for his work on Chris Claremont and Frank Miller’s four-issue Wolverine miniseries in 1982 and his inking on The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe for more than 20 years will be visiting Maui Comics and Collectibles in Kahului (333 Dairy Road, unit 102). Get your autographs and commissions there! Wednesday, May 18.


Project Itoh: Harmony: In this theatrical anime being released stateside by Funimation Films, a mass suicide has rocked the globe, but there’s something about the motives behind the event that seem eerily similar to what Tuan Kirie and her friends attempted when they were teens. Is her old friend Miach Mirie behind the deaths? And if so, how could she be, considering she supposedly died all those years ago? Hmm. Consolidated Ward Stadium 16 theaters, 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 17, and Wednesday, May 18. (I must say, May 18 is shaping up to be a really busy day.)

Cosplay Figure Drawing: Join Mangabento’s Devin Oishi as he leads a six-session series on figure drawing with a key twist: All of the models will be cosplayers. Students can cosplay and interact with the models as well. It’s a fun, informative way to brush up on skills including visual measurement, selecting materials and anatomy. Cost: $150; preregister at https://secure.honolulumuseum.org/auxiliary/Reserve.aspx?p=260. Honolulu Museum of Art School (1111 Victoria St.), room 200; 6-9 p.m. Fridays starting May 20 through June 24.

Amazing Hawaii Comic Con: It’s the second stop of the unofficial official Con-athon 2016! This year’s edition may not have Stan Lee, but it does count among its guests Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman, DC Comics everything extraordinaire Jim Lee, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles co-creator Kevin Eastman, and amazing/astonishing/uncanny/fill-in-your-own-adjective-here X-Men writer Chris Claremont. They’re also targeting us otaku this year, with guests who’ve done voice work for Dragon Ball Z (Sean Schemmel, the voice of Goku! Chris Sabat, the voice of Vegeta! Chuck Huber, the voice of Android 17!) and Street Fighter. Hawai’i Convention Center, Friday, May 20-Sunday, May 22.

The boys, the beasts and the dystopian societies

Last week was supposed to be the week that we here in the 808 state would get to see the English dub of one of the last Studio Ghibli films yet to see wide release in the United States, Only Yesterday. If you looked at the official website’s theater listing through last week, it insisted Feb. 26 would be when the movie opened at the Consolidated Kahala 8 theaters, followed by a March 18 opening at the Palace Theater in Hilo.

Well, the Hilo date remains the same. Tickets ($8 general, $7 students and seniors) for the five-day run are on sale now, in fact. Oahu, though? Apparently you’re going to have to wait until March 11 at the earliest to see it. And that’s not even factoring in how, as I was looking up the ticket information for Only Yesterday early last week, I found out the movie will also be part of Consolidated Theaters’ Studio Ghibli Festival, where every Ghibli movie ever will be playing across all of Consolidated’s theaters on Oahu and Maui for about a month starting in April.

So we’ll save our discussion of the Ghibli stuff for my next post. For now, though, let’s turn our attention to the other anime-related movies of March. It was already shaping up to be a busy month with three movies on the docket — two from Funimation, one from Aniplex.

Kizumonogatari Part 1: Tekketsu

Those of you who follow anime closely — or at least more closely than I’ve been able to as of late — know that there have been a lot of series with the -monogatari suffix attached to them as of late: Bakamonogatari. Nisemonogatari. Nekomonogatari Black. Hanamonogatari. And so on. All of them focus on Koyomi Araragi, a nondescript high school student who was once bitten by a powerful vampire and is only now regaining most of his humanity. Now, however, there are a number of girls afflicted by “oddities” whom he must help.

The franchise is based on a series of light novels by Nisio Isin; the third novel in the series and the one that recounts Koyomi’s origin story of sorts, Kizumonogatari, is available now in English from Vertical. The book is now being adapted into a movie trilogy, and that’s the journey we’re embarking on starting with Part 1: Tekketsu.

Consolidated Ward Stadium 16 and Mililani 14: Japanese with English subtitles, 7:30 p.m. today and 11 a.m. Saturday

The Boy & the Beast

This movie, the latest project from director Mamoru Hosoda (The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, Summer Wars, Wolf Children) to be translated and released in the United States, appeared at the Hawaii International Film Festival in November. It features Kyuta — yet another loner anime protagonist! — embarking on an adventure-filled journey with Kumatetsu, a supernatural beast also isolated in an imaginary world.

Consolidated Kahala 8: Friday and Saturday — English dubbed, 11:10 a.m. and 1:50 p.m.; Japanese with English subtitles, 4:30, 7:10 and 9:50 p.m. Sunday — dub 1:50 p.m.; sub 4:30 and 7:10 p.m.

Regal Dole Cannery: Friday-Monday — English dubbed, 12:30 and 3:50 p.m.; Japanese with English subtitles, 7 and 10 p.m.

Psycho Pass: The Movie

You’ve seen two seasons’ worth of Akane Tsunemori fighting crime in a dystopian future society while rising from being a rookie inspector in Unit One of the Public Safety Bureau’s Criminal Investigations Division to leading the unit. (Or maybe you haven’t. Just roll with me here.) In this movie, set two years after the end of the second season, Japan has begun exporting the technology used to power the society-monitoring Sibyl System to countries worldwide. There’s certainly nothing that could go horribly wrong with that to spur Akane and her unit to action … right?

Consolidated Mililani, Ward, and Pearlridge: English dubbed, 7:30 p.m. March 15 and 16

Elsewhere around town

Comic Jam Hawaii: This group of collaborative cartoon artists meets every first and third Sunday of the month at Pearlridge Center; for their next meeting, they’ll be on the Downtown side of the mall, Center Court. Visit www.facebook.com/groups/ComicJamHawaii (Facebook login required). Next meeting: 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday.

“Dragon Age” film left seeking more substance

DA_titleNote from Jason: We get in a lot of titles for review here at Otaku Ohana Central. Granted, it’s all Funimation anime and Vertical manga these days, but hey, that’s still a LOT of stuff, so it keeps us busy. So busy, in fact, that if you haven’t noticed, we haven’t posted any reviews of anime here since … well, it would take an extensive search through the archives to find that last true anime home video review. (I want to say it goes back to the old “Drawn & Quartered” column in the Star-Bulletin, but I’m probably missing something that’s run since then.)

Recently, though, we got in an advance copy of Funimation’s Dragon Age: Dawn of the Seeker, bowing on Blu-ray and DVD on Tuesday. I knew exactly who to hand it off to: coworker/friend/Dragon Age fangirl Christina Chun. Here’s why I thought she’d be more qualified than either me or tag-team partner in fandom Wilma J. in writing this review:

  • Wilma has heard of Dragon Age, and that’s pretty much it.
  • I managed to pass my Joining and meet Alistair in Dragon Age: Origins, which I believe is 0.000001% of the game’s story (add a few zeroes if you count the downloadable content in that total).
  • Christina played through Dragon Age: Origins. And tweeted about her party. Often. Enough that I remember that she tweeted about her party often to this day.

Game, set, match: Christina. Here’s her review.


I wasn’t inclined to pick up Dragon Age: Dawn of the Seeker, an animated movie based on Bioware’s Dragon Age fantasy RPG series. I didn’t even know about it, and even if I had, I like to play my games, not read them or watch them. I usually pass on video-game-related books or movies. They’re rushed and bland, and rarely contain any magic from the game itself.

Having played Dragon Age Origins (DA:O) and some of Dragon Age II (DAII), however, I was the most qualified person nearby to look at the copy that came to our office.

Here are some thoughts:

Dawn of the Seeker has high production values. As with most anime, background detail is lacking. On the other hand, I’m impressed that Bioware hired MOZOO Inc. and Studio Oxybot to add slick motion capture animation and 3-D modeled characters with an appealing anime cel-shaded look.

Dragon Age wouldn't be Dragon Age without dragons, it's true.

It works well. In true Japanese tradition, watch everyone’s eyes carefully to decipher their emotional level, as faces are expressively rendered. I’d love to play a Dragon Age game in this visual style.

Screenplay writer Jeffery Scott has fashioned a serviceable story. Movie music composer Tetsuya Takahashi does a utilitarian job riffing off Dragon Age game composer Inon Zur, and end credit music by Seether and GACKT is a nice touch. All the voice actors did a fine job of blending in with the one temperament assigned to each character.

The story takes place prior to DAII, and after the fall of Kirkwall in the DA:O expansion “Awakening.” Cassandra Pentaghast, a DAII character, is the focus in this movie as a tsundere warrior descended from a royal Nevarran dragon hunting bloodline, and a member of Seekers of Truth.

From left, Byron, Cassandra's sword teacher; Cassandra; and the High Seeker kneel before the Divine.

Seekers answer to the Divine, leader of the Chantry, aka the world’s most powerful religious order. The story opens with Cassandra and her Seeker company preparing to to rescue a kidnapped Dalish elf girl, presumably at the Divine’s behest. Blood mages have captured her and no one knows why. To make matters worse, these blood mages have also captured a dragon.

To what end? I don’t want to say much more, as it feels much like a standard sword and sorcery plot to pull us from point A to point B. A conspiracy threatens the stability of the Chantry; see if you can figure out who the highest-level conspirators are before the movie outright tells you. Bioware has shaped a dependable Cassandra back story and prequel to DAII, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

My main beef is that there isn’t enough distinguishing the movie as distinctly Dragon Age except for Cassandra. “Keep your focus, Cassandra!” exhorts her mentor Byron as they prepare for battle. It’s a good thing I’m not her, because I found it difficult to focus with so few Dragon Age-specific cues to keep me hooked.

Cassandra's face covered in blood after battle.

There are scattered details such as blood splatter in an early combat scene, similar to that seen in-game with the “gore” setting turned on. A mage also casts Firestorm, a DAII spell, later in the movie. But overall, it’s as though the movie forgot how much enjoyment game fans get from spotting these touches. Without them, Dawn devolves into any other enjoyable, yet fluffy action-filled fantasy most of the way.

I would’ve also liked to see the movie’s templars be less pathetic. No one will ever want to play a templar after seeing them portrayed in the style of Star Wars‘ straw-stuffed Stormtroopers. The mages aren’t much better.

And feel free to skip the first chapter in the Select Chapter menu; it only gives back story to the series’ world that any Dragon Age player would know, and heavy foreshadowing of the plot ahead.

Dawn of the Seeker is entertaining enough for a Dragon Age fan to plunk down a few bills, but a hard sell at full retail. If you have any intention of ever watching it, pre-order before May 29 on Amazon.com to get a significantly discounted price (see below).


Bioware Studio Tour. Follow Dragon Age creative director Mike Laidlaw around his workplace.

Dawn of the Seeker Backstage Pass. Twenty minutes of movie commentary from Bioware-ians.

Dragon Age Production Art. About 60 Dawn of the Seeker art pieces live here.

Previews. There is a short slideshow of production art from the animated Mass Effect movie in the making, a notable addition for Bioware game fans.


English voice main cast: Colleen Clinkenbeard as Cassandra, J. Michael Tatum as Galyan, Chuck Huber as Frenic, R. Bruce Elliott as High Seeker, Christopher R. Sabat as Knight Commander.

Japanese voice main cast: Chiaki Kuriyama as Cassandra, Shosuke Tanihara as Galyan, Hiroshi Iwasaki as Frenic, Takaya Hashi as High Seeker, and GACKT as Knight Commander.

Running time: 90 minutes

MSRP: Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack ($34.98, contains one English dub disc, one Japanese voice/English subtitled disc, and one Blu-Ray disc with content from both DVDs) or DVD ($24.98). Pre-order the Blu-Ray/DVD combo on Amazon.com for $14.86 at the time of this writing.

Release date: May 29