It’s time to move, Ingress agents … to the potluck

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 already knew 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.

site12

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 very complicated.

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’.)

ALL THE THINGS April approaches

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 UniverseLegend of Korra and Avatar: The Last Airbenderanime 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.

vgl_high_res_logo_finalApril 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.

Pokemon Go (finally!) gets Gen 2 boost

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?

PoGo crowd
Yeeeeeeeaaaaah. There are a LOT of people playing Pokemon Go. Photo by Jason S. Yadao.

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:

pogo-lickyBuddy 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 …

marill

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.”

No pleasing some people, I guess.

Otaku Oldies #1: HEY! LISTEN!

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…

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Hitbox Music Ensemble debuts
July 29, 2016

Comic Con Honolulu last year had its share of headline-making moments — George Takei getting a day dedicated to him, John Barrowman’s encounter with a wild Magikarp baby, guest-related stuff like that.

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.

Winter’s fastest week has arrived

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!

Words Wilma wrote last year!

Stream!

Schedule!

Donation link!

The charity recipient, Prevent Cancer Foundation!

YouTube archive if you miss anything!

A past favorite (funny edition)!

A past favorite (all the feels edition)!

GO WATCH WHEE

 

Go, speedrunners, go!

Save the animals. Always. Screen grab from Summer Games Done Quick 2015 video.
Donate to a good cause. And save the animals. Always. Screen grab from Awesome Games Done Quick 2015 video.

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.

Continue reading “Go, speedrunners, go!”

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.

ban daisuke

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.

mini con poster

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.

mini con card

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.

03 me Wendy

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.

QuickMechaRide

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:

Screenshot_2015-09-23-17-36-37

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).