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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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*)
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!
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.
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.)
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.
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:
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.
Seemingly lost amid the shuffle of the ebbing/flowing hype machine that is Pokemon Go is the fact that developer Niantic’s other massively multiplayer augmented reality phone game, Ingress, is still happily chugging along a shade over 4-1/2 years. That’s a long time for noble Enlightened agents to be visiting local landmarks, represented in the virtual world as portals, turning those green and creating links and triangular-shaped fields among them, only to have all their hard work erased by those dastardly Resistance-blue agents. (I might be slightly biased. Then again, you probably alreadyknew that.)
So it’s time for a nice little celebration. The local Ingress community is hosting a “First Saturday” event from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at Ala Moana Beach Park, featuring pointers on how to play the game, player-versus-player battles, contests, prizes, a potluck lunch, and, of course, a small batch of the legendary, much-desired, rarely-doled-out “lilypad” pizzelles made by a certain Face of Hawaii Ingress ™. (I understand that alone is drawing out players who haven’t been seen playing the game in months.)
You can find the First Saturday gathering at Picnic Area 12. Here’s a map, drawn (naturally) in the context of the Ingress intel map.
Consider it a warm-up for the as-yet-unnamed anomaly event coming to Honolulu on Saturday, Dec. 2, where local agents will join agents in other cities in claiming territory for their respective sides in a global effort to reclaim the scattered pieces of something or someone. It’s verycomplicated.
For more information, visit plus.google.com/u/0/events/cp0c4jggq53260rkk7c34t33lck. And while you’re visiting that site, sign up to bring something to the potluck! Especially you Resistance agents out there … your side is looking a little … sparse. (Worst-case scenario, there’s a lovely Foodland Farms that’s a short walk across the street. Just sayin’.)
The “big dog” has a fair amount of company this year.
We’ve known for almost a year now that annual anime squeefest convention Kawaii Kon has been locked in for April 7-9. (Yes, that’s a little over a month away. You have my permission to start flailing in panic and/or glee now.) They’ll have voice actors from popular American shows like Steven Universe, Legend of Korra and Avatar: The Last Airbender; anime voice actors like the voice of Ayano in Lucky Star(*squee!*); and Japanese bands and fashion and a wide variety of other events that I’m hoping to write up in further detail soonish in my long-in-coming-but-gimme-some-more-caffeine-first Con-athon 2017 preview post.
But this year is the first one I can remember in the Kawaii Kon era where those of us in the anime fan community who aren’t already committed to panels/Artist Alley tables/dealers room booths/volunteer staff work are going to have some serious choices to make on whether we want to hang around the con or break away for a bit to catch something else. I’m calling it ALL THE THINGS April. Consider what else has already been announced surrounding that weekend:
April 5, 8 and 10: The Kizumonogatari trilogy plays out. It was a little over a year ago that Kizumonogatari Part 1: Tekketsu screened at Consolidated’s Ward and Mililani theaters. In that movie, audiences were introduced to Koyomi Araragi, a nondescript high school student who was once bitten by a powerful vampire and is only now regaining most of his humanity, but must now help a number of girls afflicted by “oddities.” Part 2, Nekkutsu, featured Koyomi taking on a trio of vampire hunters so he could reassemble the limbs of — yes, this is actually her name — Kiss-Shot Acerola-Orion Heart-Under-Blade, the vampire who helped him. And now here we are at part 3, Reiketsu, in which Kiss-shot is reassembled and Koyomi is juuuuuuuuust about to regain his humanity. Of course, one does not merely walk in to a movie and regain his humanity …
Reiketsu is debuting at Consolidated’s Ward and Kapolei theaters with screenings at 11 a.m. April 8 and 7 p.m. April 10. But for those of you who need a refresher and/or missed Tekketsu and Nekkutsu, Consolidated’s offering a chance for you to catch up with a double feature, also at Ward and Kapolei, starting at 7 p.m. April 5. (Be ready to budget about 2-1/4 hours of your time.) For tickets, visit consolidatedtheatres.com/programs-and-events and set the month to “April” and the event type to “Anime.”
April 7: Your Name has its first confirmed screening date. Consolidated Theatres quietly confirmed on its Facebook page Wednesday night that Makoto Shinkai’s Oscar-ignored masterwork will be playing at its Kahala 8 complex. The announcement was a bit of a surprise — Funimation Films has yet to list any theaters on its Your Name site — and there are no specific showtimes (and thus no online ticket sales) or any indication that it’ll be playing beyond the 7th. Still, though, we’re one step closer to another chance at seeing a movie that drew raves when it played at the Hawaii International Film Festival a few months ago.
April 7-8: Video Games Live concerts play at the Blaisdell. Remember the Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses concert a few weeks ago? This is just like that experience, except with a wider variety of video game soundtrack selections played by the Hawaii Symphony Orchestra and 100 percent more Tommy Tallarico. Tallarico is an accomplished video game music composer in his own right, best known for his soundtracks to the Earthworm Jim series and Advent Rising. Here’s his biography. He’s also the co-founder of Video Games Live, which has been playing in concert halls across the country and around the world since 2005. As a blurb on the VGL website puts it: “It’s the power & emotion of a symphony orchestra mixed with the excitement and energy of a rock concert and the technology and interactivity of a video game all completely synchronized to amazing cutting edge video screen visuals, state-of-the-art lighting and special on-stage interactive segments with the audience.”
Tickets — from the $29 cheap seats all the way up to the front-of-house $79 seats — are still available, but with more than 80 percent of the seats already sold for both nights according to Ticketmaster’s seating maps, you’re going to want to get in on the action fairly soon. Visit blaisdellcenter.com/ai1ec_event/video-games-live-2.
Remember Pokemon Go? The augmented reality mobile phone game that was hotter than a Charizard for a good chunk of the summer of 2016, the one that promised players they could catch Pokemon in the real world? The one that drew this many people to one corner of Kakaako for nights on end when the game first launched in late July?
The visible popularity of PoGo has dropped since those dizzying summer heights. The good will lasted for several months, or about the amount of time it took for the hardest of hard-core players to fill their Pokedexes with every available species. Niantic has updated the game every so often, or about as much as one can expect when they’re still dealing with everyone who stuck around for Ingress. But for every special event, every announcement, every update that featured “minor text fixes” and little else, the frustration has mounted:
Buddy Pokemon introduced (September): “Where are the legendaries (Zapdos, Moltres, Articuno, Mew and Mewtwo), Generation 2, player-versus-player battling and Pokemon trading? Pokemon Go is dead.”
Halloween event (October): “Spooky Pokemon spawns and more candy? But where are the legendaries, Gen 2, PVP and trading? PoGo is dead.”
Ditto appears (November): “Where are the legendaries, Gen 2, PVP and trading? PoGo is dead.”
Thanksgiving event (November): “More XP and Stardust? But where are the legendaries, Gen 2, PVP and trading? PoGo is dead.”
Starbucks and Sprint stores become PokeStops or gyms (December): “Where are the legendaries, Gen 2, PVP and trading? PoGo is dead.”
Pikachus with Santa hats appear (December): “Where are the legendaries, Gen 2, PVP and trading? PoGo is dead.”
Eggs start hatching select Gen 2 babies like Togepi and Pichu: “Where are the legendaries, the rest of Gen 2, PVP and trading? PoGo is dead.”
Christmas event (December): “More starter Pokemon and evolutions spawning? And free egg incubators? But where are the legendaries, the rest of Gen 2, PVP and trading? PoGo is dead.”
Valentine’s Day event (February): “More pink Pokemon spawns and candy? … ehh. You know.”
Yet there are still those of us who have soldiered on through everything. Mostly because we’ve never had the same fortune as those happy posters on the Pokemon Go Hawaii Facebook group that walk three steps somewhere and *BOOF* OH HI DRAGONITE. We’re more casual players, lucky enough to get 10 coins a day if we feel like battling gyms with three Snorlaxes, five Dragonites and a few other random species sprinkled here and there, with holes in our Pokedexes and nothing but Pidgeys, Zubats and Rattatas populating our “Nearby” radars. There are also people like Nick of Trainer Tips, who’s somehow willed daily YouTube content out of the game with videos that are definitely worth watching. (Plus he has ties to Maui, too!)
For those of us who stuck around — and perhaps for some of those lapsed players as well — our patience is about to pay off in a big way. Earlier today, Niantic announced that more than 80 of the long-rumored Gen 2 Pokemon are going to be added to the game later this week, along with new berries, avatars and avatar accessories. Here, have a promo trailer (that thankfully isn’t as pie-in-the-sky as the launch trailer):
… excuse me for a sec … that’s …
OMG IT’S MARILL SQUEEEEEEEEEEE
It remains to be seen whether we’ll see critical-mass crowds at PoGo hotspots like Coral Street in Kakaako, the Waikiki Aquarium and Kapolei Library again like back in the early days, but it’s highly likely this will give the game a nice little kick-start. But here’s the thing: I’ve peeked at the comments on this announcement at various spots (so you don’t have to; many of you have learned never to peek at the comments on anything, as Internet forums are hives of scum and villainy). And guess what they’re saying!
“But where are the legendaries, PVP and trading? PoGo is dead.”
Welcome to the first edition of Otaku Oldies, a regular feature (God willing) where I’ll pull a photo from the sprawling 9-year-old Otaku Ohana photo archives and talk a bit about it. Sometimes it’ll be tied in with an upcoming event; sometimes it’ll just be something that I pick on a whim. This time around, it’s definitely an example of the former…
But last year’s event also marked the debut public concert by Hitbox Music Ensemble, a group of local musicians that performs pieces from popular video game, sci-fi and fantasy franchises. Music from their debut concert included “Rey’s Theme” from Star Wars: The Force Awakens, medleys from Pokemon and Final Fantasy and “Sacred Grove” from The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess.
That last piece seems appropriate for our discussion, with the ensemble’s next performance set for a little over 24 hours from now: They’ll be performing in the lobby of the Blaisdell Concert Hall at 7 p.m. Friday before The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses, featuring the Hawaii Symphony Orchestra and Oahu Choral Society and game footage playing on a giant screen overhead, at 8 p.m.
Here’s a taste, with the ensemble performing “Gerudo Valley” from The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.
There are still tickets available via Ticketmaster; a quick glance as of 5:24 p.m. Thursday showed there are only four seats left at the cheapest rate of $35 (toward the rear balcony), with more available, mostly toward the left and right sides of the concert hall, from $49 to $90, depending on how close you want to sit. Twenty-one $100 VIP packages, which include a poster, a lanyard, a meet-and-greet with producers after the show, and seats closest to the stage, also remain. Use the discount code “HEYLISTEN,” and you can knock 15 percent off those prices; there’s an even deeper discount available for military members with IDs.
For more information, including a list of what you can expect to hear at the concert proper, visit zelda-symphony.com. And if you can’t make it to Friday’s concert (like me, *sob*), Hitbox Music Ensemble already has performances confirmed at Kawaii Kon (April 7-9) and Comic Con Honolulu (July 28-30) later this year. Keep watching your con schedules for exact dates and times.
Awesome Games Done Quick, the winter edition of the biannual marathon where elite gamers run through and beat more games in a week than I ever will in the next 20 years or so, is back, streaming live through Saturday night.
As those of you who’ve watched any portion of a Games Done Quick marathon know, one of the underlying principles of the event is, “Gotta go fast!”
So in the spirit of that principle, I will now be speedrunning the rest of this post. And … go!
So you know that we here at Otaku Ohana love our video games. And gamers don’t often have the greatest reputation — you know the stereotypes, which I won’t deign to repeat here. You also know we love our charity gaming events — see our past coverage of Child’s Play Charity, which helps children’s hospitals worldwide.
But the idea of using video games as a fundraiser has been around for years, and lately it’s been getting more mainstream recognition. A subgenre of this is the speedrunning category, in which gamers finish games as fast as they can — exploiting things like glitches and technical aspects of games to complete them in mere minutes to several hours instead of the, say, 80 hours we mere mortals probably spent. (Yeah, that was me with Final Fantasy III/VI. But only because I was trying my darnedest to get Economizers for everyone so they could all cast spells for a measly 1 magic point! Anyway, I digress.)
Admittedly, I’d never heard of speedrunning until just a few years ago when I stumbled across a particular video game marathon for charity. Seeing the insane skills and the vast knowledge that the gamers had to employ to effortlessly whip through these games like Simon Belmont through Dracula, the same games that I loved and sweated and cursed over and spent wayyyyy too much of my life — that got me COMPLETELY hooked. And the fact that this was being done to benefit a worthy cause was a big, big bonus.
It’s only in the past few months that I became aware of various other video game marathon charity events, both speedrunning and otherwise, and I’d like to spread the word about them by sharing them here. These broadcast live online, usually via Twitch, and they’re listed here in generally chronological order. (Please note that the months listed are only an estimate based on when they occurred last year and that they may change.) Check them out and, if you can, please donate to their cause! Remember, even a dollar is a big help. Even if you’re not able to donate, you can help by talking about them on social media and raising awareness about them and the causes they support.
With most of these events, your money goes directly to the chosen charity and is tax-deductible. But be sure to check with the charity for information for tax purposes.
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.
Hello, Kikaida starBan 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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:
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).
Hi everyone, Jason here. Tag-team partner in fandom Wilma J. and I both attended “Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses” at the Blaisdell Concert Hall Friday night, and we each had our own takeaways from the show. Most of the music commentary will be handled by Wilma, while the extracurriculars will be handled by me (written in chunks of italic type).
Video game fans in Hawaii, particularly fans of the Legend of Zelda series, were treated Friday night to the Symphony of the Goddesses — the first large-scale, multimedia game concert held in the isles. Joining forces with Jason Michael Paul Productions, who has produced other video game concerts in the U.S. such as “Dear Friends: Music from Final Fantasy” and its subsequent “More Friends” concert, were the Hawaii Symphony Orchestra and the Oahu Choral Society.
Cosplaying was encouraged at the concert, and quite a few people took advantage of that, although it was mostly different versions of the game series’s main characters, Link and Zelda. There was also a Groose from Skyward Sword running around, as well as a Ravio from A Link Between Worlds, among the few exceptions. Navi the fairy from the Ocarina of Time also made an appearance, holding a speech bubble with her well-known phrase, “Hey! Listen!”
Several people wore the title mask from the game Majora’s Mask. Many others simply wore Zelda-related shirts — dozens roamed around with tops emblazoned with the game’s logo, the all-important Triforce, the equally important heart meter, the iconic 8-bit sword from the original game for the Nintendo Entertainment System, and much more. It was great to see such a wide array on display.
For me, that diversity came in stark contrast to the official merchandise table — one T-shirt design, an official concert poster, a book of Zelda series sheet music and copies of the Hyrule Historia art book and Link Between Worlds for the Nintendo 3DS were all that were being offered. All of those seemed to be selling well — heck, the books sold out — but still, c’mon, people, we want to throw MORE money at you. Give us some CDs or a nice glossy program or something. Please?
Before the concert began, a slideshow was projected on a large screen above the orchestra, showing trivia questions on the various Zelda games interspersed with various scenic shots. There weren’t many questions; the entire thing scrolled by in about five minutes or so before repeating. We took our seats about 10 minutes before the concert was scheduled to begin and saw the trivia go through maybe 1.5 cycles.
When the lights dimmed and conductor Amy Andersson took her place in front of the orchestra, someone — I don’t know if this was official or not, but my guess is not, considering the surprised reactions on some of the symphony members’ faces — started off the evening by yelling out the phrase that has become a hallmark and one of the running jokes of the series: “Hey! Listen!”
I don’t think it was, either. Which brings me to my “I guess I’m one of those crotchety old people now, because I’m about to go off on young people these days” rant: There were quite a few people who treated the show like one of the side events of an anime convention rather than something with the gravitas of a symphony orchestra concert.
Now, granted, I’ve seen this sort of thing happen before — Wilma and I attended the “Dear Friends” concert in Los Angeles in 2004 — so I was willing to concede that, yes, not everyone’s going to dress up in their nicest attire. A good chunk of the audience probably hasn’t seen the symphony perform since elementary school field trip days. But still, that comment, the random CHEE-HOOOOOOting here and there, the whispered snark by the people in balcony row L, around the high 20-low 30s seats — yes, I’m specifically calling you guys out, particularly the guy who was whispering something about Harvest Moon at the beginning of the “Great Fairy’s Fountain” intermezzo — ugh. Just because you paid $48 and up doesn’t give you the right to turn it into a personal Mystery Science Theater 3000-esque snarkfest and dampen the experience for those around you who came to listen to and appreciate the music.
And don’t even get me started on some of the people I noticed in front of me secretly recording parts of the concert on their phones …
(I must say that thankfully, the concertgoers in my area quietly enjoyed the show, clapping and hooting only when appropriate.)
The symphony began with an overture encompassing a medley of tunes from the Zelda series, choreographed to video shown on the screen that was made up of gameplay clips starting with the beloved original Legend of Zelda for the Nintendo Entertainment System and going all the way through to A Link Between Worlds for the Nintendo 3DS.
Afterward, Remy Zane, a DJ with KORL 97.1 (and who, incidentally, is also one of our friends!), came out onstage to welcome the audience and give a short explanation of what we would be hearing. There were audible laughs and groans at the mention of Tingle (another inside joke; if you play Ocarina of Time you’ll understand). Remy came out on stage at various points during the concert to briefly introduce the pieces.
The first interlude was a rendition of the Gerudo Valley theme from Ocarina of Time. That theme is one of my favorite songs in the entire series, and this version gave much more energy to the original Spanish-inspired, softly passionate tune, especially when the camera trained on first violinist and symphony concertmaster Ignace Jang, who played with such intensity that you couldn’t help but get fired up. (A roving camera occasionally broadcast stage happenings on the screen, including various orchestra members, the chorus, the conductor, and Remy’s short spiels.)
In contrast, the next interlude — a medley of various boss battle themes — was mediocre. Boss themes are usually heart-pounding pieces of music, and with good reason, but the arrangement of these tunes was uninspired and didn’t really match the excitement of the onscreen video.
Throughout the concert, stage lighting added another level of emotion to the music and videos, more subtle than not, except when the lighting turned a fiery red to match, for example, the lava-based stage of the giant dinosaur boss King Dodongo from Ocarina of Time. Another more-subtle-than-not addition was the Oahu Choral Society. I’ve watched two video game concerts now and I’ve always felt a little sorry for the choral performers. Their singing was complementary rather than in the forefront, and I’m sure it was always meant to be that way. The chorus was also pretty hidden all the way back in the stage (people in the back rows probably had a better view of the chorus; we were sitting much nearer to the stage and could just barely see the tops of their heads), and if the camera hadn’t shown them on screen from time to time, you probably would not have realized that they were adding their voices to the instruments. I would love to know what exactly they WERE singing, as none of the Zelda music has lyrics.
I was up in the balcony, and yes, I could see the chorus. There were some points when their involvement was a bit more subtle than others, and the only way I could tell they were singing then was when I could see them raising their songbooks and turning the pages. It was a nice addition, although I’ve often wondered what they think whenever they’re called upon to sing selections from various video game soundtracks: “‘Something something something something SEPHIROTH?’ What did I get myself INTO here?”
The next two interludes were pretty straightforward though still eminently enjoyable suites of music from Majora’s Mask and A Link Between Worlds. Then came a Prelude, telling the story of the creation of the land of Hyrule, which involves the three goddesses — Din, Nayru and Farore — alluded to in the concert’s title. The video for this segment was taken directly from the Ocarina of Time and I assume that the Prelude was simply an orchestration of the accompanying music in the game (it’s been a long time since I played the game and I can’t remember how the music went). Then came a couple of movements with tunes from Ocarina of Time and Wind Waker. Again, it was all very much straightforward, nothing outstanding, but solidly performed.
I would, however, take issue with Remy’s comment about Wind Waker, in which he said that it is one of Nintendo’s biggest hits in the series. I may be in a minority here, but I did not enjoy Wind Waker very much, and I thought I remember reading that it didn’t do too well. The art style was completely different from anything in the series up till that point, and while that did give me pause, the main thing I disliked about the game was the near-endless sailing you had to do to travel to other places. The long, monotonous expanses of water broke up the action and bored me half to death. Even when you later unlocked warp portals, they often weren’t close enough to the area you really wanted to go to, forcing you to do yet more sailing. Exploring was also tedious, and the controls of the ship were sometimes difficult to handle. But, well, hey; if it was a commercial success for Nintendo (enough that they decided to do an HD remake for the Wii U, even), then power to them, but all I know is that it’s not a game I’d rate very highly among the series.
For my part, I thought Wind Waker was OK. Better than Twilight Princess, for sure, which lost me on that cursed mandatory fishing minigame(Wii version) and Link’s transformation into a wolf, which seemingly lasted foreeeeeeeever and bored me to a point where I didn’t feel like waiting for him to be transformed back into a human (Gamecube version). And for the record, the Otaku Ohana Anonymous Director of Forced Social Interaction now likes Toon Link more than Standard Canon Link because “he looks cute.” So there’s that.
After a 15-minute intermission, we returned to an intermezzo of the soothing Great Fairy Fountain theme (minus the rather frightening, echoing cackles of the Great Fairy herself, thankfully) before moving on to a suite from Twilight Princess.
But as much as the video game world has gone forward in terms of graphics and sound, the theme of the night, really, was nostalgia. And the last movement — “Time of Falling Rain” from A Link to the Past — before the Finale showed this well. As Remy mentioned during one of his times onstage, “Falling Rain” is one of the most popular pieces from the series overall and the performance garnered a lot of applause. Heck, Link to the Past and its semi-sequel A Link Between Worlds are two of the series’ most beloved titles.
“Falling Rain,” like the rest of the performance, was accompanied by scenes from the game. But because this was a Super Nintendo game, that meant going back to the two-dimensional, sprite-based world of Hyrule. As Link to the Past is one of my favorite games in the series, I didn’t mind — and in fact I got a HUGE nostalgic kick out of it all, especially when the orchestra moved into the Dark World theme, a subtly menacing bit of music that gained some lightheartedness in this arrangement.
The orchestra, chorus, conductor and producer Jason Michael Paul — who came out on stage after the Finale — got standing ovations, naturally. And just as naturally, there was more to come after the Finale. First came new music and exclusive clips from Majora’s Mask 3D, a remake of the original Nintendo 64 game that’s due out in North America in mid-Februrary for the Nintendo 3DS. And lastly came a brief medley of Wind Waker music and scenes from its rerelease on the Wii U.
The concert overall was what I expected. My main big disappointment is that the original Zelda overworld theme didn’t get the singular performance that I felt it should have been given. It’s hands-down the most recognizable piece in the whole series, and while it was woven into other movements, I feel it should have gotten its own standalone orchestration.
Now, the main theme may very well have been covered in other seasons — apparently, the Symphony of the Goddesses has had different “seasons” with playlist changes; the one we heard at the Blaisdell was the “Master Quest season.” But if it has, then I wish it would be included as a staple bonus in all later seasons. I was waiting on pins and needles for that song, and it sadly never came.
Another disappointment is that more Zelda games from the handheld consoles weren’t represented. For example, Link’s Awakening, originally for the Game Boy, was an excellent addition to the series with a great storyline, interesting new gameplay elements and an exquisitely beautiful theme in “The Ballad of the Wind Fish,” and I would have loved to hear that song orchestrated. Granted, famed Zelda series composer Koji Kondo was not the composer for most of the handheld games and so I’m sure there were licensing or other rights issues, but there are still good pieces of music and if it were possible to incorporate more, I’d love to hear them.
Also a letdown was the fact that there were no printed programs. While I, like Jason mentioned above, would have immediately bought a commemorative glossy book, I was more disappointed that there was no regular concert program. Yes, most of the people attending were most likely fans of the series and already knew the games quite well, but many others weren’t, and a program giving a brief history of the series would’ve been nice. And Zelda-related stuff aside, EVERYONE would have benefited from having information on the producer, original composers, music arrangers, the conductor, the symphony orchestra, the chorus, the video editor, lighting director, stage staff, etc. The program is also often where production people often give thoughts or other behind-the-scenes looks at the music, etc. The lack of all that was an unfortunately lost opportunity.
But after all that, the positives still outweigh the negatives, and if another season of “Symphony of the Goddesses” came along with a different selection of music to perform, I’d still go see it.
I would, too. Hopefully the success of this show will encourage other touring symphonic suites to stop by here as well — Final Fantasy concert, anyone? Or perhaps “Video Games Live“? One can dream.
It really is an experience, especially if the concert is always being tweaked and improved. I appreciate any event that elevates and enhances what is often seen as a “juvenile” activity, and lots of kudos go out to everyone from the producers to the orchestra to the fans for making this happen. Here’s hoping this won’t be the last such concert that we see here.