Pros and Oni-Cons

Oni-Con Hawaii logoIt’s been two days since the inaugural edition of Oni-Con Hawaii went into the history books, enough time spent here at my unofficial Otaku Ohana anime convention bureau at the Ala Moana Hotel for me to digest what happened, read assorted blog entries, friends’ Facebook posts, and comments left on Oni-Con’s Facebook page for their takes on the event, and skim through about a bazillion cosplay and event photos taken by a bunch of talented photographers.

And now, it’s my turn. I’ll have some of my own photo highlights in an future post, but I’m sure many of you are curious about what I thought of the event first, so here goes.

It’s difficult to talk about Oni-Con without first acknowledging an elephant and a ghost of an elephant in the room: Kawaii Kon and HEXXP, the Hawaii Entertainment Expo. The former has managed to grow in its nine-year existence into being the dominant local anime con experience; the latter was a pop-culture convention that had a few bright spots but ultimately struggled with finding a clear identity before folding after a three-year run.

As I mentioned in my post introducing Oni-Con Hawaii in February, this venture was supposed to be a collaboration between the original Oni-Con in Texas and Babel Entertainment, part of the brain trust behind HEXXP. On paper, that arrangement looked promising enough to produce a viable Kawaii Kon alternative — Babel had connections for good Japanese guests; Oni-Con had roots in the U.S. anime industry hotbed of Texas (home of Sentai Filmworks and Funimation) and about a decade’s worth of con-presenting experience.

In practice? Not so much. For reasons known only to the innermost of inner circles, it seems things went south on that alliance. One sign was the Ayres brothers situation, which I alluded to in an earlier post (and expanded upon in comments). Another sign came with the Marketplace, which started off as a separate Artist Alley (promoted in con documentation as “The Alley”) and dealers room but ended up as a combination of the two, with no evidence of any mainland vendors in attendance. (All the better for local vendors, though.) In fact, the only mainland industry representation would end up being voice actor J. Michael Tatum … and a Funimation logo, seen here on a banner at the closing raffle for people who preregistered for 2014 that went on foreeeeeverrrrrr ceremony.

Imagine, if you will, EVERYTHING you see on this table, PLUS a good stack of Final Fantasy 14 posters and Tak Sakaguchi autographed photos, raffled off one at a time. That was 90% of closing ceremonies, folks.

So the burden fell on the local staff to make things good. They certainly made the most of what they were given, to the point where I heard several comments about how the show ended up better than they expected. To its credit, Oni-Con had more to hold my attention than three years of HEXXP ever did, and if you were a fan of:

  • The work of J. Michael Tatum, Hiroki Takahashi, SANA, Nobuo Uematsu and/or the Earthbound Papas
  • Cosplay
  • The fashions of Atelier Pierrot
  • Local filmmaking
  • Video games, particularly of the fighting/shooting/dance-flailing variety
  • Anime/manga-inspired artsy things
  • Tabletop gaming

… then you probably felt the same way. If not, well … there wasn’t much of anything going on outside of the two panel rooms, the main events room, a video game room, the Marketplace, the Yu x Me Maid Cafe & Host Club and, for two days, the rather sprawling setup of Other Realms. It also seemed odd for them not to be screening any actual anime at what’s supposed to be an anime convention, but anime screenings at conventions take much more than “set up DVD player and projector, pop in disc, welcome people in,” so I can understand how that might fall by the wayside. I was content with going back to my hotel room for a spell; others, of course, may not have had the same luxury.

For me, the fact that there actually was an option for something interesting happening around the corner was a major improvement over something like HEXXP, where there would be one event and then an hours-long gap until the next event. To be sure, Friday and Sunday had their share of programming gaps, but they didn’t seem quite as pronounced. Saturday was probably the closest any Kawaii Kon alternative has come to replicating that convention’s experience to date. After Friday, I was ready to peg attendance around Kawaii Kon year 1 levels; after seeing how busy the main concourse and main events room were on Saturday, it felt more comparable to Kawaii Kon year 3, the first year that con moved to the convention center. Saturday was when I could feel that certain, indescribable energy that I’ve felt at other anime cons, and it was great.

But when things went wrong … oh boy. One of the main reasons why the show exceeded some people’s expectations was because the lead-up to it was rather chaotic, raising concerns about whether it could be pulled off without a hitch. Marketplace vendors didn’t hear about room maps and set-up times until Wednesday of con week, despite several requests. Early pre-registration on Thursday was set up only from noon to 5 p.m., and even those who wanted to do so found themselves faced with locked doors at street-level and convention center staffers who weren’t informed of what was going on. Those same vendors would end up being confused over a discrepancy between the official program and their contracts — the program listed closing time for the Marketplace at 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday; their contracts, 9 p.m. After some back and forth, the time was finally set at 9 p.m. (quite possibly ruining a fair share of evening plans in the process).

Over on the registration front, some preregistration names somehow didn’t make it to the check-in desks, making it that much more important for those attendees to bring their receipts proving that they did pay for certain passes. Plastic holders for con passes ran out on Saturday, followed in short order by lanyards and clips; at one point, registration staff simply punched a hole in the pass and handed it to the waiting attendee. That is, of course, if registration staff was willing to help them; I learned of several stories of grouchy, unhelpful and/or indifferent staffers over the weekend and into Monday. One person checking in was even assisted by a staffer who refused to let go of a partially eaten donut throughout the check-in process. (I take it that was a delicious donut.)

And then there was the case of the skewed Sunday schedule … one that tag-team partner Wilma J. and I got tangled up in. Here’s that schedule as seen in the official program.

Oni-Con Sunday schedule

A little background: As you know if you’re a regular reader, Wilma got married this year. Most of her vacation days this year have been taken up by Kawaii Kon, wedding planning, post-wedding planning and other domestic duties and social obligations. She waited until the schedule was released to decide that she would attend on Sunday only, because (a) she had seen the Earthbound Papas perform at HEXXP last year and sorely wanted some time for herself on Saturday; (b) she had never heard Nobuo Uematsu speak at a panel, so she was looking forward to his Q&A session; and (c) she could get something else signed by him in the autograph session to follow. I, on the other hand, had some prior commitments at church to tend to, so I arrived at the convention center around 1 p.m., tweeted something, and met up with her. We did a circuit around the Marketplace, then headed to what was developing into a long line outside Panel Room 1 around 2:45 p.m. While we waited, I checked my Twitter feed … at which point the following exchange ensued:

//storify.com/jsyadao/oni-con-hi-schedule-chatter.js?header=false[<a href=”//storify.com/jsyadao/oni-con-hi-schedule-chatter” mce_href=”//storify.com/jsyadao/oni-con-hi-schedule-chatter” target=”_blank”>View the story “Oni-Con HI Sunday schedule chatter” on Storify</a>]

Note that when we sent our tweets at 3:15 p.m. we were still going by that schedule above, thinking we were still in line for the Uematsu panel. We never got any word through official channels — just a staff member going up and down the line asking if anyone was interested in ordering “Dancing Dad,” the Earthbound Papas’ new CD that had sold out on Friday.

Upon entering the room, we also learned that the Uematsu signing had been converted into a signing by all of the Earthbound Papas. Thinking fast, I took apart my program, handing her one page, keeping another so that we didn’t look too awkward up there. The band, of course, was quite polite, and we did get the items we wanted signed by Uematsu signed by him, but still, it wasn’t quite the experience we were expecting. Several comments on the Oni-Con Facebook page share our sentiments; Geoff, our original tipster above, mentioned on Facebook that he drove in from Kaneohe exclusively for the music industry and Uematsu panels and was disappointed when he learned they were canceled.

So what happened? As of this writing, I’ve yet to hear any official explanation. Over at the “Tea and Thoughts” blog, though, blogger Kelly offered this observation: Three panels — “Ramblings About Something, Close to Nothing” at 10 a.m., “Japanese Music Industry” at 2 p.m. and the Uematsu panel — were all canceled without any official word posted anywhere on the property. I’ve since been told via Facebook that the “Ramblings” panel was moved to another room, with someone stationed at the door to bring in people. I’m not sure where the discrepancy lies, but the fact that she couldn’t find what was going on is a concern nonetheless.

As I’ve been writing this part of the post, I’ve noticed there’s a theme developing, one that may be the biggest key in determining where this show goes from here: communication, communication, communication. It’s nice to promote the #OniConHI hashtag all over the place and have a Facebook presence, but what good is it if there aren’t enough people monitoring either one to respond to attendee concerns in a timely manner? How can official con accounts have enough time to promote another media outlet’s exclusive Uematsu interview, yet not have enough time to fix a schedule grid that was posted once to the Facebook page? There’s a time to promote and a time for damage control, and it seemed that in the days leading up to and including Oni-Con, there was too much of the former, not enough of the latter. If the people feel you aren’t listening to them, it’s a fair bet that they eventually won’t listen to you.

All things considered, though? There was much to enjoy from the weekend. The 500+ pictures that I’m going to have to sort through eventually to come up with a “Best of Oni-Con” gallery certainly attest to that. It should also be noted that Oni-Con had 8.5 months between when it was first announced and opening day. Kawaii Kon? Announced March 31, 2004; opening day April 22, 2005; time to prepare was a little over a year. There’s certainly quite a bit of room for improvement, but for there to be a show comparable to Kawaii Kon with less time to prepare is a rather laudable feat.

I do hope convention staff take these compliments and criticisms to heart. There’s already quite a bit riding on there being a show next year, considering this was up throughout the weekend:

Wilma was quite torn about whether to take advantage of this, too. $20 is how much she paid for her Sunday-only pass.

And if the closing raffle for people who preregistered for 2014 that went on foreeeeeverrrrrr ceremony was any indication, quite a few people are already signed up and looking forward to next year. I have to admit I’m not one of those who preregistered — I really have to know when events are held far in advance to accommodate a tight vacation schedule at work — but I’m just as curious to see what happens next.

Goodbye HEXXP, hello … Oni-Con Hawaii?!?

Back on Feb. 8, Ron Kaneshige, founder of the Hawaii Entertainment Expo (otherwise known as the Hawaii Entertainment Expo Experience, HEXXP, the “HEX-po,” and “the con that pretty much made only lateral progress over the years from this“),  posted the following statement to his convention’s Facebook page:

For the past 3 years I have poured my heart and all of my finances into building HEXXP. I no longer have the funds necessary to keep it going. As of today, I am officially stepping down from HEXXP.

Oni-Con Hawaii promo imageA handful of condolence messages ensued. But a proper obituary for HEXXP will have to wait for another day (and believe me, there’s much to say about the faults and ultimate failure of that con). It took all of eight days before a new challenger entered the local convention arena: This morning, a website and Facebook page launched for Oni-Con Hawaii … and unlike HEXXP and its nebulous “pop culture convention” designation, it looks like the people behind it are aiming squarely at the Kawaii Kon market, fans of anime, manga and Japanese culture. In other words, you, dear Otaku Ohana readers.

To solidify the transition, the following message was posted to the HEXXP Facebook page this morning:

Dear attendees of HEXXP,

First, we want to thank you for all your support these past three years. It has been a wonderful ride and an awesome experience for all of us. We also want to thank our great guests, vendors, and artist alley participants who have helped HEXXP grow over the years. We have had a chance to meet some amazing artist from Japan, Hawaii, and the mainland and the memories from these past three years will stay with us forever.

Unfortunately, it is time for HEXXP to say goodbye.

But, even as the sun must set on HEXXP, a new day is dawning here, in Hawaii, for fans of Japanese Pop Culture. A new convention will be coming in the Fall of 2013. A collaboration between the Hawaii, the mainland, and Japan, it promises to bring fresh energy to the fans of this genre, here in the 808. For more information please visit http://www.oniconhawaii.com as well as their official facebook page Onicon Hawaii http://www.facebook.com/oniconhawaii

And, for those who had already pre-registered for HEXXP 2013, you will be contacted in the next few days. Please watch for it in your email.

Mahalo and aloha.

There’s not much information to go on right now, but here’s what I do know about Oni-Con Hawaii so far:

  • The image above is pretty much the only official information that’s been released so far; indeed, there is no confirmation yet as to when and where Oni-Con Hawaii will be taking place. The timing of this announcement would suggest that the actual event is at least six months away … perhaps even around the old HEXXP window of sometime in the fall months of September and November.
  • This new convention does have an affiliation with Oni-Con, the Galveston, Texas, anime con that is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. How exactly this parent con will be involved, I’m not sure; I’ll be sending out a few inquiries shortly. Also involved: Babel Entertainment, the promoter that brought over many of HEXXP’s Japanese guests. It would not surprise me if other former HEX-patriates — minus Ron, of course — were part of this venture as well.
  • Yu x Me Maid Cafe & Host Club (home of the “Mune Mune Kyun!”) is the first group to officially sign on with this new venture, announcing via its Facebook page that Oni-Con Hawaii will feature its showcase cafe event for this year.

Stay tuned, folks. If Oni-Con Hawaii makes even a little bit of improvement over HEXXP, the local convention scene could get pretty interesting.

The Cel Shaded Report, 10/19: Manga-style local style sale file

Let’s start off this edition of the Cel Shaded Report with a quick reminder: The Hawaii Entertainment Expo, aka HEXXP, is this weekend. Here’s a post summarizing pretty much everything that’s going on, here’s the schedule, here’s the website, I’ll be popping in and out maybe today, more likely on Saturday, definitely sticking around for a good chunk of Sunday. If you’re going today, by the way, please do stop by the “How to Survive Single-Day and Multi-Day Conventions” panel scheduled for 3 p.m.; it’s hosted by Ray Nagar of Project 760 Productions, who regaled me with tales from the California anime convention circuit Thursday during what started out as a lunch outing but ended up being a five-hour conversation. That’s right, people, five hours. And I was thoroughly entertained for every minute of it. Now, Ray’s panel won’t last for five hours, but I’m sure he can fill his allotted one hour quite nicely, thank you very much.

Not much more to say beyond that, except I hope to see you there and maybe, just maybe, I’ll have a few pictures of what goes on posted here sometime between Monday and the end of the age (and with the way my non-fandom-related to-do list has been lately, it’ll probably be closer to the latter than the former).

Today, however, our focus is on local books with a twist of manga (or, in the case of one of the books profiled here, MangaBento) that have recently gone on sale or are about to hit the market. The first book is one that I profiled in this space a few weeks ago: Journey of Heroes, the graphic novel recounting the story of the all-Japanese American 442nd Regimental Combat Team and the 100th Infantry Battalion and their service during World War II. Author Stacey Hayashi invited me to a reception held for the veterans and their families before the formal debut event; here’s a small gallery of pictures (as in seven!) that I shot while I was there.

http://www.flickr.com/apps/slideshow/show.swf?v=122138

journey of heroesOne thing that I wasn’t able to answer with much certainty in my last post was where people could pick up a copy of this fine publication, whether locally or abroad. I recently learned that the book is available to order for $10 plus shipping and tax at 442comicbook.com/shop.html (please be patient, though, they have a lot of things to take care of at the moment). Those of you locally can buy the book in person at the Noelani Craft & Children’s Fair at Noelani Elementary School in Manoa on Nov. 10. (By sheer coincidence, the Noelani fair’s also going to be the craft fair season kickoff for the nemu*nemu crew, so that’s two reasons right there for you to go.) For the latest updates on all things related to Journey of Heroes, visit www.facebook.com/442comicbook.

As for what I think of the book? I haven’t had a chance to look closely at it yet, but I have given copies to a coworker as well as my esteemed tag-team partner in fandom. Wilma’s read it, and already she’s impressed enough to start working on a review of it. We may have a joint essay for y’all sometime down the line. My coworker, meanwhile, loved the art and the story. She also pointed out one panel that caught her eye in particular to pretty much everyone on our universal copy/design desk that night:

An exact replica of the paper's cover during that time, she tells me.

I think you can understand why she’d be giddy about it.

cacy coverThe second book is Cacy & Kiara and the Curse of the Ki’i, the new young adult novel by Aiea Intermediate art teacher, MidWeek cartoonist and occasional art portfolio/sketchbook reviewer Roy Chang. Cacy & Kiara is the story of two cousins — one a free-spirited public school gal, the other a rather buttoned-up product of a private school — who, while on a field trip to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, get flung together on an adventure of a lifetime involving an ancient Hawaiian artifact and a bunch of bad guys who want to get their hands on it. I’ve been reading through it in my spare time — chapter 8 of 38, so a more extensive review of this book will be coming down the pipeline soon as well — and my first-glance impressions are that Roy’s manga-style illustrations nicely complement the story.

You can check out Cacy & Kiara for yourself starting sometime next week at both Barnes & Noble stores; look in the children/youth “local interests” section. Or, if you’re more inclined to order digitally, you can find it at Amazon, The Islander Group and barnesandnoble.com. Retail price is $11.95. Roy also recently spoke with Pastor Danny Yamashiro on his radio program, “The Good Life Hawaii,” about the book, his story as an artist, and his newfound Christian faith; that hourlong conversation can be downloaded at ow.ly/eBkOw.

pualaniFinally, we have the book that’s worth mentioning simply for its connection to the anime/manga-inspired art group that’s mentioned frequently in this space, MangaBento. Adviser Devin Oishi has released a children’s e-book that gives a local spin to the classic “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” tale, Pualani and the 3 Mano. Pualani is the Goldilocks of this story, a surfing prodigy who, following a massive wipeout, wanders into the cave of three mano, or sharks. Full disclosure: I was one of the people who helped Devin copy-edit the book, so I’ve seen the advance proofs … and the watercolor images included within are quite lovely. Pualani and the 3 Mano is available for $5 on Kindle and its affiliated apps at ow.ly/eBnw5.

More from the anime news desk

Kawaii Kon: We’re in that part of the pre-convention calendar where guest announcements for next year start trickling out. The latest news came a few days ago, when it was revealed that the next guest joining the already announced Todd Haberkorn at next year’s event, happening March 15-17, is Colleen Clinkenbeard, a Funimation voice actor, director and line producer who’s best known as the voice of Luffy in One Piece and Riza Hawkeye in Fullmetal Alchemist. Clinkenbeard’s no stranger to Kawaii Kon, having last visited our fair island home back in 2008. For more information, visit www.kawaii-kon.org.

Hawaii International Film Festival: HIFF is wrapping up this weekend, and with it comes your last chance (for now) of seeing Eight Rangers (9:15 p.m. Saturday) and The Wolf Children Ami and Yuki (12:30 p.m. Sunday). Earlier this week, though, one screening was added to the schedule: the tale of the time-traveling bathhouse architect, Thermae Romae, now has a bonus screening at 8:30 p.m. Sunday. Readers in Hilo, get ready, because Thermae Romae is headed your way as well, at 7 p.m. Monday, Oct. 29. Visit www.hiff.org for most of your ticketing needs (Hilo folk will probably want to wait a few days, though.)

Rose of Versailles hits the Internet: And that’s legal, free streaming of the classic 1979-80 anime, too — no bootleg pirated uploads here. Anyway, to whet your whistle for their upcoming DVD release, Nozomi Entertainment has partnered with Viki to post the entire series online for free … in December. But the first episode, fresh off an advance screening at New York Comic Con last week, is now available, both on Viki and YouTube. Anyone who considers himself (or herself) a scholar of the anime classics owes it to himself to see this episode whenever he can.

The Cel Shaded Report, 9/28: Benefit ballin’ at Nocturna Lounge

lightbox_scifiballWe journalists are admittedly a bit isolated when it comes to exciting events happening out here in our home base of Waterfront Plaza, the complex that contains what most people know as Restaurant Row. Every once in a while you’ll get a nightclub opening that somehow causes women’s underwear to drop for some inexplicable reason or a bakery winning Cupcake Wars, but honestly, our thrills have been limited to Eat the Street events being held kitty-corner from across our offices; the Redbox-esque DVD rental machine being installed at the convenience store downstairs; the bubble drinks served up at the Chinese plate-lunch place; and our building, Building 7, quietly being renamed Star-Advertiser Tower (sorry, Hawaii Family Dental Center).

Which is why an event at Nocturna Lounge on Saturday has me so intrigued. Ostensibly, it’s the Science Fiction Ball presented by the Pacific Outpost 501st Legion, a benefit for Prevent Child Abuse Hawaii, but the event has grown over the past few weeks to be so much more than just a sci-fi gathering. Cosplay fan? Dress up in your own costume or admire those worn by the Costumers Guild of Hawaii, the Ghostbusters group, the 501st and the Last Outpost Star Trek group. Love art? Watch members from Comic Jam Hawaii doing their freestyle sketches, bid on some pieces in an art auction or just buy pieces outright in an art sale. Have a hankering to sing Princess Leia’s Life Day song from The Star Wars Holiday Special? Somehow I doubt that’s in any song catalog anywhere, but there will be karaoke available at the event. Just like to have a chance at winning stuff? Hello, prize raffle.

Representatives from the ubiquitous-as-of-late-in-Cel-Shaded-Reports Hawaii Entertainment Expo (HEXXP) will be there as well, which allows me the chance to talk up another note that came in about that convention next month: Starting Saturday and running through Oct. 11, use the code “PCAH” at registration checkout, and 25 percent of your registration cost will be donated to Prevent Child Abuse Hawaii. (Oh, and by the way, yet another event has been discovered to be running parallel to HEXXP at Aloha Tower. Contingency plans, as has become standard procedure in the past few weeks, are in the works.)

All of this is happening from 4 to 7 p.m. at Nocturna Lounge, across from Ruth’s Chris Steak House here at Restaurant Row on 500 Ala Moana Blvd. Those of you who are over 21 (which I suspect is 100 percent of my reading audience at this point) can stick around past 7 to enjoy the video games and other delights that Nocturna has to offer. Admission is a give-as-you-see-fit donation to Prevent Child Abuse Hawaii (be generous, now, it’s for a good cause). Visit www.facebook.com/events/350332428375781/

More from the anime news desk

World Cosplay Summit USA logoWorld Cosplay Summit U.S. regional qualifier at HEXXP: Remember back in April, when I was talking about all those requirements that you needed to fulfill to be part of the WCS qualifier?  The deadline for one of the most significant requirements is coming up — Oct. 5 is the last day that you can submit resumes, audio and lighting preferences. Get cracking and send that info to wcsprelimsushawaii at gmail dot com.

Hawaii International Film Festival: I’ll have a bit more about fall festival highlights in the next few days — yes, Ghibli films, Mamoru Hosoda and rice rolls gone rogue will all be playing a part in it — but I just wanted to give you non-HIFF members a heads-up that ticket sales to the general public start today. The festival runs from Oct. 11 through the 21st; visit www.hiff.org.

The Cel Shaded Report, 9/21: Mini Con, meet maxi-fun

Mini Con 2012 flyerYou might call it the Little Convention That Could, or perhaps Artist Alley Con 2012, but one thing’s for certain: Mini Con is back for a third year at the McCully-Moiliili Library. And, pardon the cliche, it’s bigger and better than ever! No, really, it’s gotten to the point where it’s started to spill out from the meeting room in which it’s traditionally been held, taking over an area known as the children’s storywell near the circulation desk as well. Sure, it’s no Ala Moana Hotel-to-convention center transition like Kawaii Kon in its third year, or Blaisdell Exhibition Hall-to-Aloha Tower Marketplace like the Hawaii Entertainment Expo in its third year, but still.

Subscribers to this fine publication saw our writeup about it last Saturday in the Today section’s weekly “Kalakoa!” roundup, but for those of you who aren’t subscribers (and why not? It’s cheap, plus it ensures that I have enough money to eat and keep a roof over my head), here’s a recap: Come on down to the library on Saturday, dress up in your favorite costume and get prizes, watch free anime, and meet many cool people including:

  • Jon Murakami, the artist behind Gordon Rider, our paper’s Calabash strip and a number of children’s books and greeting cards.
  • Audra Furuichi and Scott Yoshinaga, Team Kimonokitsy Studios and purveyors of fine plush pup swag for more than six years running now.
  • Kevin Sano, a Crazy Shirts designer who’s also produced some neat prints inspired by Kikaida characters that will be available for sale. Debuting this year: four Hakaida prints.
  • Members of Pen & Ink Works, the anime/manga-inspired art group that debuted at this event last year. Artist Tara Tamayori will be talking about inking techniques at noon, and one-on-one consultations with artists of all skill levels will be available.
  • And new this year, welcome Misty-Lynn Sanico and Alex Alba — and mascot Wormy! — of Hawaii Reads (formerly Hawaii Book Blog), who will be handing out bookmarks and spreading the word about their site, which promotes and examines local literature.

You can also watch your friendly neighborhood Star-Advertiser anime/manga blogger run around taking pictures but generally not saying very much because, even though he just turned 18 (*mumble*timestwo*mumble*) last Saturday, he’s still kinda shy.

Need more convincing? It took one year and 11 days, as well as a leap into the Flickr pool, for me to get this up and running, but I’m finally ready to present some of the highlights I captured from last year’s event. Since it’s been a few months since I posted my last Flickr gallery, here’s a refresher course on how best to use it: To start the slideshow, just press the “play” button in the middle of the frame below. Pause and restart using the button on the lower left. If you want a larger view, click on the icon on the lower right; in that full-screen view, you can also see the captions I’ve written for each picture (using the “Show Info” link) or slow down the automatic scrolling (using the “Options” link). Finally, if you’re viewing this blog on an iOS device (iPad/iPod Touch) and can’t view Flash plug-ins, or if you just want to skip all the slideshow fiddling and go straight to the gallery, here’s the direct gallery link: http://www.flickr.com/photos/sumiyoshi/sets/72157631579553092/

http://www.flickr.com/apps/slideshow/show.swf?v=109615

There’s much fun to be had, for sure. I think there’s too much to cram into three hours like previous years, so this year, Mini Con is lasting a whole extra hour, running from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The library is at 2211 S. King St., and once again I must add the customary disclaimer: Parking in the immediate area is limited, so arrive early, carpool or use public transportation. For more information, visit the Mini Con Facebook page, which is also available to non-Facebook users.

The complete HEXXP 2012 guest roster, take 2

hexxp-logoI really meant for last week’s Cel Shaded Report to be the last major update on the Hawaii Entertainment Expo (HEXXP) story until the event itself. Maybe there would be a few little details to add to the “More From the Anime News Desk” section, but that was it — the guest roster was locked and loaded, the schedule of events was posted, I think it’s time we blow this scene, get everybody and their stuff together, OK, three, two, one, let’s jam.

… and then I went and forgot to put voice actress Megumi Nakajima on the list. This happened despite the fact that the Aug. 2 Cel Shaded Report was about her and all.

Whoops.

Sigh.

So in the interest of being one-stop-shopping complete, let’s try this again. Here is the full guest list for this year’s HEXXP:

  • Angel Anatomy, musical duo with a style that’s “ambient, classical, industrial, and a touch of opera”
  • Akiakane, noted Nico Nico Douga/YouTube utaite (cover artists who perform Vocaloid songs and other anime/video game /J-Pop pieces)
  • Atelier Pierrot, a clothing brand known for its EGL (elegant gothic lolita) styles
  • Andy Lee, modern zen painter and illustrator who’s done work for DC and Marvel Comics
  • Livetune, music mastermind behind the Hatsune Miku Re:package and Tell Your World albums
  • DJ MaRia, Avex Entertainment’s resident DJ for House Nation, “the most famous house music party in Japan”
  • Megumi Nakajima, voice of Ranka Lee in Macross Frontier and Chiho and Chise Mihara in Kobato
  • N.S.D.P., J-rock band
  • Royalvana, online purveyors of Japanese GAL fashion
  • Sana, visual kei guitarist
  • Nobuo Uematsu, music composer for many games in the Final Fantasy franchise, who’ll be performing with his band, the Earthbound Papas
  • Kazuki Yao, voice of Franky in One Piece
  • Joji Yoshida, local actor

HEXXP is happening Oct. 19-21 at the Aloha Tower Marketplace. I mentioned last week that the Slopes of Diamondhead Hui’s “Crazy, Sexy, Ghoul” Halloween party/Make-A-Wish Hawaii fundraiser would be running up against the convention’s Friday night programming; it’s since come to my attention that Scare Hawaii’s “Terror at the Tower” haunted house will also be running concurrently in the same area all weekend, from 6 p.m. through midnight. My advice is very similar to the Mini Con item above: Carpool, take a bus or taxi, or be prepared to either walk from a downtown lot or pay for valet parking. Parking in the immediate vicinity will be tight.

For more information, visit www.hexxp.com. You can also preregister there, but there’s now another way you can get your tickets: Groove Ticket outlets at Local Motion stores statewide, including the Ala Moana, Waikele, Windward Mall, Hawaii Kai and Sheraton Waikiki locations on Oahu; Kihei, Kaahumanu Shopping Center in Kahului and Lahaina on Maui; and the Queens Market Place in Waikoloa on Hawaii island.

More from the anime news desk

Kawaii Kon:It’s late September, but it’s never too early to start thinking about next year and the local anime convention’s ninth annual installment. If you ever wanted to sign up to be a volunteer worker, your time is now: The first of four volunteer staff meetings is being held at 11 a.m. Saturday at Kakaako Waterfront Park. (You’ll have to attend at least two out of those four meetings to qualify as a volunteer.) Bring your properly filled-out forms, available at http://www.kawaii-kon.org/forum/viewtopic.php?f=11&t=7508.

MangaBento: This group of anime- and manga-inspired artists meets from 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday at the Honolulu Museum of Art School, 1111 Victoria St., Room 200. Visit www.manga-bento.com for more information.

Comic Jam Hawaii: Local artists gather to draw collaborative cartoons and other artwork and talk story, 6 to 9 p.m. Wednesday at Kahala Mall, center court area. East-siders, take note: This is the last time they’ll be at Kahala Mall, as they’ll be shifting their sessions to Pearlridge starting next month. Visit http://www.facebook.com/groups/147779161986428/ (Facebook login required).

The Cel Shaded Report, 9/14: Franky goes to HEXXPywood

One Piece vol. 39. That's Franky behind Luffy.“Yao Kazuki.”

It was last Saturday morning, just a handful of hours before Manga Swap was about to kick off, when I first heard the name. At the time, my mind wasn’t really registering what it meant. Tag-team partner in fandom Wilma J. and I were busily setting up this and this. Plus my would-be information giver and name-dropper, Yoshiki Takahashi from the Hawaii Entertainment Expo (HEXXP), was wheeling his own cart of stuff from the elevators to the HEXXP table at the time.

“Wait, what? Who?” I said.

“Yao Kazuki. He’s the last guest. You know, Franky from One Piece.”

“Ohhhhhhhhhhh.”

And so, six days after the announcement debuted at Manga Swap — and with our wallets a bit fuller, our storage boxes a bit emptier, and our sanity lost and found again (well, sorta, on that last one) — I finally have the time and energy to write and confirm that, yes, seiyuu (Japanese voice actor) Kazuki Yao is one of the last guest announcements for HEXXP 2012. Yao is, as mentioned earlier, best known as the voice of One Piece‘s Franky, the cyborg leader of the Franky Family group of ship dismantlers who becomes a valuable member of Luffy’s Straw Hat Pirates. He’s also voiced the hypnotist Marine Jango and the cross-dressing Baroque Works agent Mr. 2 Bon Kurei in the series. Other characters he’s voiced include Koichiro Iketani in Initial D, Marco in Gunslinger Girl, Hideki Kurohagi in the recent Wolverine anime and Ginji Kawai, Sasami’s dad, in Magical Project S. (Yes, folks, if there is ever an excuse to shoehorn Magical Project S into a post, and doing so is actually relevant, I will do it.)

Yao will perform Friday night as part of the “Seiyuu Meets Visual Kei” concert … which, of course, means that someone with visual kei chops had to join him. And so the final final guest announcement is Sana, current guitarist for Kain, former guitarist for Mask and someone who’s a bit difficult to find any English-language info on via Google. This translated interview from 2007 on Shattered-Tranquility.net, however, would indicate that Sana enjoys Giorgio Armani perfume, French movies, Hayao Miyazaki and making stray cats run away. So there is that.

Recapping the rest of the guest list:

  • Angel Anatomy, musical duo with a style that’s “ambient, classical, industrial, and a touch of opera”
  • Akiakane, noted Nico Nico Douga/YouTube utaite (cover artists who perform Vocaloid songs and other anime/video game /J-Pop pieces)
  • Atelier Pierrot, a clothing brand known for its EGL (elegant gothic lolita) styles
  • Andy Lee, modern zen painter and illustrator who’s done work for DC and Marvel Comics
  • Livetune, music mastermind behind the Hatsune Miku Re:package and Tell Your World albums
  • DJ MaRia, Avex Entertainment’s resident DJ for House Nation, “the most famous house music party in Japan”
  • N.S.D.P., J-rock band
  • Royalvana, online purveyors of Japanese GAL fashion
  • Nobuo Uematsu, music composer for many games in the Final Fantasy franchise, who’ll be performing with his band, the Earthbound Papas
  • Joji Yoshida, local actor

Major events at HEXXP include the World Cosplay Summit regional qualifying round on Oct. 21, and a Macross 30th Anniversary exhibit and maid cafe service from AniMaid Hawaii throughout the weekend. For those of you who don’t quite feel like you have what it takes to enter the WCS qualifier, you can take part in the just-announced Costume Masquerade cosplay contest on Oct. 20. Want to know exactly what to do when? Why, the complete programming schedule just got posted Thursday night. (For starters, if you’re an Earthbound Papas fan, be prepared to have a late Sunday.)

HEXXP is taking place Oct. 19-21 at Aloha Tower Marketplace. Yes, that means that HEXXP’s Friday night will run right up against the Slopes of Diamondhead Hui’s annual “Crazy, Sexy, Ghoul” Halloween party/Make-A-Wish Hawaii fundraiser. Yes, contingency plans are in the works. Yes, with a reported 3,000 people attending CSG 2011, that will make getting navigating that area for the latter part of HEXXP’s programming verrrry interesting.

For more information or to preregister, visit www.hexxp.com.

More from the anime news desk

Aiea Library Anime Club: 3 p.m. Saturday at the library, 99-143 Moanalua Road. This month, librarian Diane Masaki will be screening episodes of Fruits Basket. For more information or to RSVP, call 483-7333 or e-mail aiealibraryanimeclub@yahoo.com.

Kikaida at Shirokiya: Aaaaaaaallllll the way back in 1662, Shirokiya opened its first store in Tokyo. Fast forward through 350 years of business ebbs and flows, and things have pretty much come full circle as far as the number of stores that exist in the world is concerned: There is one store left, and it’s the one with the Book-Off, the KZOO satellite studio, the yummy Saint Germain’s blueberry muffins and the second-floor foodie’s paradise at Ala Moana. (Raise your hand if you remember the Shirokiyas at Pearlridge and on Maui. Now, as I’m on the cusp of celebrating my birthday on Saturday, please join me in feeling old.)

The store’s been celebrating its 350th anniversary since August, but an event coming up on Sunday brings another anniversary into the mix: 40 years of Japanese superheroes in Hawaii. Which means it’s time for another recent Shirokiya tradition — a good old-fashioned Generation Kikaida party — to make an encore appearance. There will be stars (Kikaida‘s Ban Daisuke! Kamen Rider V3′s Miyauchi Hiroshi!) signing autographs, balloons, photo ops and “Kikaida-oke.”

For more information, visit www.generationkikaida.com. Oh, and if you have a moment, read Chad Pata’s story, “Kikaida: At Home in the Islands,” in our sister publication, MidWeek. It’s quite good.

Mini-Con 2012: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sept. 22 at McCully-Moiliili Public Library, 2211 S. King St.  I hope to post at least one post on the topic next week (and look for the Kalakoa brief in Saturday’s Today section!), but nemu*nemu artist Audra Furuichi posted this on the Mini Con Facebook event page, and I just had to share it because OMG SO CUUUUUUTE:

Mini Con 2012 flyer

Katamari Damacy gets webcomic treatment: Word out of ShiftyLook, the webcomics portal devoted to resurrecting obscure Namco video game properties, is that Katamari Damacy, that wonderfully quirky game that Wilma and I both adore that involves the Prince of All Cosmos rolling up everything in said cosmos into giant balls to be turned into stars, is going to become a regular comic. It debuts on Monday; Destructoid has a preview. Suffice it to say that with that, the upcoming Klonoa being drawn by The Big O/Mega Man Megamix manga artist Hitoshi Ariga, the upcoming Mappy web animation, and my current faves Bravoman, Dragon Spirit, Rocket Fox and Wonder Momo, ShiftyLook’s become quite the hotbed of artistic talent … and a must-stop site in my daily web wanderings.

The Cel Shaded Report, 8/30: Blue plush, Manga Swap rush & HEXXP’s flush

Blue with GizmoSince mid-January, Audra Furuichi has been drawing her nemu*nemu spinoff series, nemu*nemu: Blue Hawaii, every third Sunday for our fair publication. If you’ve been following along regularly (and you really should; it’s part of the free, non-paywalled content on our site), you know that the comic strip features Blue, a plush pup from a lost-and-found box sitting in an office somewhere, and his slice-of-life adventures with his friends — toy robot Gizmo, parrot Ross and goldfish Simon.

This, of course, begs the question: Blue, as I just mentioned, is a plush pup. Anpan and Nemu, the costars of nemu*nemu proper, are also plush pups. And there are Anpan and Nemu plushies for children (and the young at heart) to hold and cuddle in real life. Mini-plushies of intergalactic traveling pup Enchilada and his bird companion Pollo also exist. Surely a real-life Blue plushie wouldn’t be too far behind, would it?

Well, guess what: The Blue plushie is really real. Second from left in the photo below. He’s joining a larger version of Enchilada and new versions of Anpan and Nemu on sale in mid-September. And as that photo, which showed up on nemu-nemu.com earlier this week, also notes, you could score two of these cuties for free.

MC-PupPrize-thumb-500x282-4597

All you need is a dash of creativity. It doesn’t even have to be particularly good artistic creativity, just the ability to take one of these templates …

nemu template sampler

… and transforming it into your very own pup creation. Like, say, the examples shown below the Aug. 20 installment of nemu*nemu. (And it has to be your own creation, not, say, a pup dressed up in Sailor Moon cosplay.)

There will be two winners: One will be the “judge’s choice,” while the other, the “people’s choice,” will be picked by nemu*nemu readers from among 10 finalists.

Interested? Download your templates and get complete contest rules at www.nemu-nemu.com/2012/08/26/contest_2012_win_a_pair_of_pup.php. There’s no age limit for submissions (although there is a limit of two entries per person), and anyone worldwide can participate, so get to downloading and drawing already!

The deadline for submissions is at noon Sept. 8 … a day that also promises to have its own level of craziness, particularly for your tag-team partners in fandom. Why, you ask? Read on…

Manga/anime merchandise mayhem START!

One of the big reasons why I enjoy attending Fanime in San Jose, Calif. — unexpected presidential visits and six-hour line waits notwithstanding —  is that it’s the only anime convention that I know of that has an anime swap meet attached to it. Basically, fans set up shop with their boxes and suitcases full of their extra swag, and fellow fans go around trying their hardest not to buy everything in the room, usually failing miserably. (Or maybe that’s just me.) Seriously, the number of bargains and hard-to-find-stuff that pops up at these sales are quite mind-boggling, especially for someone like me, stuck on a rock out here in the middle of the Pacific. Here’s a small peek at what it looks like.

Fanime anime swap meet 2010

It’s a great idea, and one that I’m surprised hasn’t caught on in more places. Heck, you’re probably looking at that picture, thinking, “Wow, I have extra stuff! I’d love to have a way to sell my stuff that way!” And then you remember that you’re not living in Gilroy or Cupertino or Alameda or Emeryville or any of the other cities in the San Francisco Bay area, and that it costs an arm, a leg and rights to your yet-unborn children to take even one 50-pound-or-less checked bag with you to the mainland these days, and you’re sad.

Until now. See, for the past few months at the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii, there’s been a monthly bazaar in the first-floor courtyard. It was only supposed to last for the summer months of June, July and August, but, by the force of sheer otaku will (at least, that’s how I imagine this going down, anyway), it’s been extended into a date in September. And so, on the aforementioned Sept. 8, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., bargain-hunting otaku can buy and sell at the first-ever Manga Swap.

So why will it be sheer insanity for your tag-team partners in fandom? Full disclosure: We’re planning on being among the sellers there. We have … stuff, accumulated from at least a decade, probably more, of collecting craziness. For an example of just how crazy, I humbly submit to you this picture of half the music CD inventory that Wilma will be selling.

Yup, websites devoted to cataloguing Final Fantasy music and anime karaokes will do this to ya.

Half, people. Granted, most of what she’s selling are CD singles, but still. HALF.

If you want to join us and sell your stuff, spaces are still available (and free!), but limited. You can also rent either a 6-foot-by-30-inch table ($10) or an 8-foot-by-30-incher ($11) from the center. Or, if you want to just stop by to browse and buy stuff (and on behalf of all of us who are going to be selling there, for the love of all that is righteous and holy, please come and buy stuff), you can do that for free.

The Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii is at 2454 S. Beretania St. For more information, visit www.facebook.com/events/275137595933041/ (Facebook login not required) or email Jtkwlum@gmail.com for a sellers’ registration form.

Yet even still more from HEXXP, part 4,929,884,021

hexxp-logoIt seems like every time I turn my attention toward the Hawaii Entertainment Expo, the pop culture convention also known as HEXXP, they’ve been adding even more guests and events to their 2012 show. This particular update’s been revised several times over the past two weeks, in fact. So before things change even more, here are the newest guest announcements:

  • DJ MaRia, Avex Entertainment’s resident DJ for House Nation, “the most famous house music party in Japan.” HEXXP will mark her second U.S. convention appearance on the heels of A-Kon in Dallas earlier this year.
  • Atelier Pierrot, a clothing brand known for its EGL (elegant gothic lolita) styles. Debuting at HEXXP will be a new line inspired by the magical-girl creation of Go Nagai, Cutey Honey.
  • N.S.D.P., a J-rock band with members that include bassist Kuro (who’s performed with the rock band Sophia) and guitarist Yui (no, not that Yui, but the one who’s a member of the heavy metal band Cynthia). Here are samples of their music … and, umm, you might want to start off with your volume low if you don’t regularly listen to J-rock. For the record, “N.S.D.P.” stands for “Night Spit Death Pain.” I think it’s safe to say that they will not be doing a cover of “Lazy Harp Seal Has No Job.” They’ll be making their U.S. convention debut at HEXXP.
  • Angel Anatomy, the duo of Anya St. James and Lorelai Lyn whose new EP will be released under Babel Entertainment this year. Their music style is “ambient, classical, industrial, and a touch of opera,” according to their YouTube account; here are some free samples of their music. They’ll be opening for Nobuo Uematsu and the Earthbound Papas.

Also showing up on the HEXXP news radar are a pair of special events being hosted by the maid-cafe servers from AniMaid Hawaii on Friday, Oct. 19: an afternoon tea with an assortment of sweets and teas from 3 to 5 p.m., and a “One Piece Special Event,” a battle with pirates aboard the SS AniMaid with dinner, drinks and games, from 6 to 7 p.m. Tickets for $16.37 — that’s $15 plus a $1.37 processing fee — are available now at animaidhawaii.eventbrite.com; there were 28 tickets left for the afternoon tea and 29 for the One Piece event, so you’ll probably want to act on that sooner rather than later.

HEXXP is taking place Oct. 19-21 at Aloha Tower Marketplace; for more information or to preregister, visit www.hexxp.com.