Miku check, one, two, three

miku shrinkThe latest news from the Hawaii Entertainment Expo (HEXXP) camp that emerged over the past weekend is a tale of two personas — one real, one virtual.

His name is Kz. (Pronounce it “K-Zet,” please.) In 2007, he, along with Kajuki P, formed the music group Livetune. They started off as a doujin music group — think of it like indie bands in the United States — before Victor Entertainment signed them. In 2009, when Kajuki P left to work for Capcom, Kz became Livetune all by himself. He’s since moved from Victor to Toy’s Factory.

Her name is Hatsune Miku, a Vocaloid and the most famous contemporary virtual star this side of that holographic Tupac Shakur at the recent Coachella music festival. For those of you reading this blog who are unfamiliar with the whole Vocaloid phenomenon, gals like Miku are almost entirely computer generated, save for voice samples taken from Japanese voice actresses. Sometimes they even appear in concert, like the Mikunopolis concert at Anime Expo last year. Here’s a clip.

That team is forming the foundation of what we’re going to be seeing at HEXXP in October, as Babel Entertainment presents the Livetune DJ Dance Party Featuring Hatsune Miku. Expect plenty of glow sticks and people dressed up at Miku and all her Vocaloid friends bopping around to some of the crispest Japanese technopop beats out there.

When Livetune and Hatsune Miku get together, they’re quite a formidable musical combo. Livetune’s breakout album on the doujin music scene was the Miku-driven Re:package, which proved so successful that Victor Entertainment’s first release after signing the group was, well, a repackaged version of Re:package, with three new songs. It promptly rose to No. 5 on the Oricon music charts — think of Oricon like Billboard in the U.S. — selling more than 20,000 copies in its first week. A remix album, Re:Mikus, followed in 2009, as well as other singles that have popped up on the Hatsune Miku: Project Diva series of games.

Then there’s “Tell Your World,” just released by Toy’s Factory in March, available for your purchasing convenience on iTunes — a song that Google used in one of its commercials for its Chrome browser.

The Livetune dance party is the first spotlight event for the first day of the convention, Sat., Oct. 20. It joins the previously announced World Cosplay Summit regional qualifier and a concert featuring Nobuo Uematsu and the Earthbound Papas, which are both happening Sun. Oct. 21.

Two-day passes are $55 general admission (ages 13 and up), $20 children ages 6-12; single-day passes are also available. You’ll want to preregister, too, to be entered in the monthly prize giveaways leading up to the convention. For more information on HEXXP or to preregister, visit www.hexxp.com.

The Cel Shaded Report, 4/27: Child’s play, child’s day

May 5 is just around the corner, and while the numbers of those giant koinobori wind socks that flapped on virtually every street corner when I was growing up seem to have dwindled in recent years, there’s no denying that the traditional Japanese celebration of Boys Children’s Day is coming right along with that date.

But we’re all busy people these days. You don’t want to wait until May 5. You want to celebrate the boys children now. Fortunately, the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii has you covered, with the Kodomo no Hi: Keiki Fun Fest taking place from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday. Several groups with ties to the local anime/manga fan community will be there, including MangaBento, the artist group that’ll be bringing along a bunch of arts and crafts for people to work on; Kawaii Kon, offering information on next year’s convention; and HEXXP, offering information on their event this year. (I also have it on good authority that there’s going to be an announcement of the Next Big Thing for HEXXP at the event. It’s so big, you may want to tell your world about it. Just sayin’.) NGN will be screening Doraemon and Anpanman, and Hello Kitty will be one of several mascots wandering the aisles.

Also scheduled for the event: live entertainment, demonstrations, a craft fair, food, prize giveaways and the always fun, off-the-charts-in-cuteness keiki kimono dressing booth. As of yesterday, there were still slots available; cost is $75 ($60 if you’re a JCCH member), and includes the kimono and accessories, dressing by Masako Formals staff and the King Photo Service portrait-sitting fee. (Hair and makeup are not included, and the photos are extra.) Reserve a spot by calling Derrick Iwata at 945-7633, ext. 25.

The cultural center is at 2454 S. Beretania St. in Moiliili; for more information, visit the Kodomo no Hi Facebook page.

Anime around town

The idkwhat2wear gang will be selling buttons, T-shirts and more at the Moanalua High School Spring Craft Fair, Saturday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the school, 2825 Ala Ilima St. Normally this is the part where I’d mention something about where to go for more information, but seeing as how “more information” doesn’t seem to exist anywhere on the Intarwebz, I’ll just offer two pieces of advice: One, if you want to park on campus, show up several hours before the parking lot gates open at 8 a.m. And two, bring an empty stomach. The food stuffs they sell on campus? Deeeelicious.

    The Cel Shaded report, 4/6: AniMaid-ed conversation

    Perhaps there’s someone out there — maybe even someone like you? — who’d like to join in on the fun. Well, it’s your lucky day — AniMaid Cafe Hawaii is now accepting applications for new volunteers.

    I’ve been doing my fair share of thinking about maid cafes recently. A lot of it has to do with that Kawaii Kon preview article I wrote profiling the UH Cosplay Cafe, but there’s also the fact that I’ve had the song “Mune Mune Kyun” earwormed into my brain ever since I tuned into one of those KZOO Sunday shows featuring K-chan and some of the AniMaid Cafe Hawaii workers. Never heard of “Mune Mune Kyun”? Well, here you go. (Warning: Extreme cuteness and high likelihood of earworming similar to mine ahead.)

    Perhaps there’s someone out there — maybe even someone like you? — who’d like to join in on the fun. Well, it’s your lucky day —  AniMaid Cafe Hawaii is now accepting applications for new volunteers. Some of the standards, for those of you who don’t feel inclined to click through at the moment:

    • Must be 18 years old and/or older
    • Must attend all mandatory meetings/training
    • Must provide your own maid/host uniform
    • Must have reliable transportation to/from meetings and the event venue
    • Must send at least two pictures of yourself (pictures must not be be hosted on social media accounts like Facebook or MySpace)

    But let’s say you’re more a fan of the maids and hosts rather than someone who wants to be among their ranks. There’s something for you, too — the AniMaid art contest is now open for entries. Draw, paint or sculpt your favorite maid or host and post your creation on the group’s Facebook page (www.facebook.com/AniMaidHawaii — and yes, the page is viewable to those who have thus far successfully resisted the siren call to join Facebook). Winners will receive a personalized card from his or her favorite maid or host as well as a photo and a special “mystery prize.” Just be sure to keep your work clean — PG-13 or cleaner, please. For the kids. I couldn’t find any ending date for this contest, so I’ll just say for now that the sooner you send in your entries, the better.

    World Cosplay Summit rolls out rules

    World Cosplay Summit USA logoWhile we’re on the subject of HEXXP, further details have emerged about the World Cosplay Summit regional qualifier at the event in October. A lot of further details. An over-2,500-word Facebook post worth of further details. It only serves to reinforce how this competition is leagues beyond your garden-variety cosplay contest, and just how much participants are going to have to step up their games to even be in the running. Consider some of these basic requirements:

    • Contestants must enter as teams of two people, with a single series, performance plans (2 minutes and 30 seconds maximum, please) and props chosen beforehand. That series must have origins in Japan — sorry, Disney, Star Wars, Marvel and DC fans. And even with the Japanese series, there are restrictions — while costumes from Shueisha series like One Piece, Bleach, Death Note, Naruto and Yu-Gi-Oh! are allowed in the preliminary rounds, they won’t be allowed in the finals. (Here’s Anime News Network’s comprehensive list of Shueisha series as a guide. There are … many.)
    • Participants must be at least 18 years old as of Feb. 14, 2013.
    • Each participant must submit a resume that includes  — take a deep breath here — full legal name, cosplay alias, group name, age, date of birth, gender, home address, contact number and email, whether you have a passport, your intended costume and series, cosplay website (if applicable), a history of major costumes and awards, a few sentences about why you love to cosplay, and four photos of your favorite costumes with explanations of why they are your favorites. Each team must also include a team photo, a brief team biography and the general idea for the performance.

    The upside to knowing all of this now is that there’s plenty of time for teams to form and prepare their materials. The resume-collecting process for the Midwest qualifier, at Colossalcon in Sandusky, Ohio, June 7-10, opened March 30 and runs through May 11. I’m only roughly speculating here, but if we go by that timetable, that would mean resume collection for HEXXP will probably start sometime in July. This is something you probably don’t want to leave to the last minute, though. And I can’t emphasize enough: You’ll want to read through all the rules carefully to get everything in order by then. Again, here’s the link: http://www.facebook.com/notes/world-cosplay-summit-preliminaries-united-states/wcs-us-2013-preliminary-circuit-rules/422987357716872.

    Anime around town

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

    World Cosplay Summit road goes through HEXXP

    And now, here’s my summary of Kawaii Kon 2012, as told by one file folder on my computer:

    Photos. Panel recordings. Videos. Aieeeeeeee.

    … yeeeeeaaaaah. Those files are going to take a while to sort through. More reports will have to wait for a future date, though, because there’s so much to cover in the short term — news on Kawaii Kon 2013, highlights from the Hawaii International Film Festival Spring Showcase schedule (Ace Attorney, yaaaaaay), this month’s Manga Movable Feast on the works of Jiro Taniguchi.

    Then there’s the latest news coming out of the Hawaii Entertainment Expo (HEXXP) camp. The convention, which already made a splash earlier this month by announcing Final Fantasy series composer Nobuo Uematsu and his band, the Earthbound Papas, as a guest of honor for this year’s event, recently pulled off another coup, landing a preliminary round for the World Cosplay Summit in 2013. To make things official, here’s an introductory video from WCS-USA organizer Laura Butler and assistant organizer Lynleigh Sato:

    … as well as a link to a second Hawaii-themed video that they made.

    The annual World Cosplay Summit is a big deal. Think of it as being like your typical anime convention cosplay showcase or masquerade, except with a bazillion times more prestige and featuring only the absolute best of the best cosplayers from around the world. The event began in 2003 with five cosplayers representing three countries (Italy, Germany and France); this year, 16 countries are listed as participants. Ever since a competition was established in 2005, though, the United States has won the same number of world championships as the Chicago Cubs have in 103 years: Zero. (Brazil’s won three times, Italy twice, and France and Japan have one title apiece.)

    The winner of the Honolulu competition will move on to the U.S. finals at Katsucon in the Washington, D.C. metro area next February, and the winner from that will head out to Nagoya, Japan to represent the ol’ stars ‘n’ stripes at the summit. Suffice it to say it’ll take more than a set of Pikachu pajamas to win this competition. You may want to get started on that competition-grade costume, umm, now.

    HEXXP will take place Oct. 20-21 at the Aloha Tower Marketplace; for more information or to register, visit www.hexxp.com. Also, a side note on registration: There are now monthly prize drawings for those who have already preregistered for a two-day pass. This month’s prizes are a gift certificate for a two-hour session at Karaoke GS Studio and a $40 gift certificate for Minato Japanese Restaurant. Also, there are 12 of the $100 VIP passes remaining, so if you’re interested, you’ll want to jump on that soon.

    The Cel Shaded Report, 3/9: Fantasy fulfilled

    hexxp-logo2012 is shaping up to be quite the year for local fans of the Final Fantasy video game franchise. The latest game in the series, Final Fantasy XIII-2, recently arrived in stores. Yoshitaka Amano, who’s contributed character designs and artwork to the franchise over the years, will be a major part of Kawaii Kon next week.

    Today, the other pop-culture convention in town, the Hawaii Entertainment Expo (HEXXP), is showing its hand for the first time regarding what’s up for this year’s show. There are now official dates — Sat., Oct. 20 and Sun., Oct. 21 — and a venue — the Aloha Tower Marketplace Waterfront. They’re teaming up with Babel Entertainment and Houston-based anime convention Oni-Con to bring in their first official guest of honor, and it’s a doozy of an announcement — longtime Final Fantasy composer Nobuo Uematsu.

    Chances are that if you’ve remember any music selections from that long-running series, Uematsu had a hand in creating it. The signature prelude? He did that. The victory theme? Yeah, that, too. Can’t forget that chocobo theme, either. Then there are the signature songs — “Terra’s Theme” and “Maria & Draco” from Final Fantasy VI, “Liberi Fatali” from Final Fantasy VIII and “At Zanarkand” from Final Fantasy X, just to name a few. And, of course, the one that gets everyone cheering at a concert, the theme song of the long silver-haired bad boy Sephiroth himself, “One-Winged Angel” from Final Fantasy VII.

    Uematsu will be joined on this trip by his band, the Earthbound Papas. The Papas, which formed soon after Uematsu’s previous group, the Black Mages, disbanded in 2010, continues the tradition of performing rock arrangements of Uematsu’s songs. Their first album, the nine-track Octave Theory, was released almost a year ago and is available on iTunes (or, if you prefer good old-fashioned physical media, CDJapan). Yes, there is a version of “One-Winged Angel” on it, but there are also arrangements of some of the work Uematsu’s done since leaving Square and Final Fantasy behind, including the Xbox 360 games Blue Dragon and Lost Odyssey. The Earthbound Papas will be in concert Oct. 21.

    Lynleigh SatoAlso emerging from the HEXXP camp are initial details about the Masquerade, the event’s showcase cosplay contest. Judging the Masquerade will be Lynleigh Sato, co-founder and president of Sweet Rococo, a one-stop online custom design boutique for fans of Lolita fashion. Sato was a member of the U.S. team at the World Cosplay Summit in 2005 and currently serves as a WCS industry judge and U.S. team assistant organizer. And if entering cosplay contests aren’t your thing, perhaps the “Multiverse Human Chess” event, in which you can dress up and take part in a life-sized game of chess, will be more your style.

    Further details are sure to arrive in coming weeks, but for now: Single-day general-admission passes (for ages 13 and up) for Oct. 20 will cost $25; for Oct. 21, the pass costs $40 and includes the Uematsu concert. Two-day passes are available for $55 and will have some added perks to be announced. For children, the costs are $7.50, $15 and $20.

    There also will be a $100 VIP pass, limited to 25 people, that will give purchasers priority admission to various events, access to a special seating area for the concert that will include a private bar and soda station, and admission to the maid cafe. Since there will be an attendance cap, you’ll want to get your passes, whatever they may be, as soon as possible.

    Visit www.hexxp.com for further details or to register.

    The shrinking world of ‘Arrietty’

    Time’s running out to see The Secret World of Arrietty, now the fourth-biggest-grossing anime film in the U.S. of all time. I’m busy preparing for Kawaii Kon so no time for a promo photo this week. But you’ll notice that we’ve already lost the Regal theaters and the theater in Kailua-Kona, and the remaining theaters have cut back on their screenings. If you want to see Arrietty in theaters, you’ll probably want to make time this week:

    Kaahumanu (Maui): 10:25 a.m. and 12:35 p.m.

    Kahala: 10:45 a.m. and 1 p.m.

    Kapolei:11 a.m. (daily except Sunday); 1:10 and 3:20 p.m.

    Mililani: 11:20 a.m.

    Pearlridge:10:35 a.m.; 12:50 and 3:05 p.m.

    Ward: 10:45 a.m.

    Anime around town

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