[Kawaii Kon 2013] Con artistry

One of the things I love about Kawaii Kon is that it’s a venue where artists inspired by the anime and manga that the convention promotes all weekend can show off their work. Heck, there’s an entire room dedicated to that purpose — Artist Alley — and for pretty much its entire nine-year existence, Kawaii Kon has posted on a certain date that tables are available for sale, and they’ll promptly sell out faster than it’ll take for you to read this sentence. Next year, Artist Alley’s moving downstairs to one of the convention center’s larger Kamehameha rooms … where tables will probably sell out faster than it takes for you to read this sentence when they go on sale.

This post is dedicated to all the pretty artwork that I saw during this year’s convention. It’s art so nice that I knew I wouldn’t be leaving the convention without a few pieces in tow. This year, in fact, actually marked a first for me: I came out of Kawaii Kon 2013 having bought more original artwork than anime-related toys. Granted, I’ve managed to cut down my toy purchases over the years to an occasional Nendoroid figure or stuff from my favorite series (get me anything related to Haruhi Suzumiya, Lucky Star, Yotsuba&! or Puella Magi Madoka Magica, and I’ll love you for life). But still … quite unusual.

I was also fortunate enough to be the recipient of some gift art pieces. The first was this drawing of Akemi Homura and Madoka Kaname, two characters from Puella Magi Madoka Magica, by Audra Furuichi.

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Yes, this is the same picture that you can see in the “10 Memorable Moments” post up on Honolulu Pulse. She threw it in with the trio of pretty art pieces I was already buying ā€” Botcha Duck and Anpan, Kana and Nemu, and Yotsuba from the “Going Green” trio ā€” because there was a minor flaw: A small piece of tape accidentally landed on Madoka’s cheek as Audra was drawing it. I showed it to several people, and no one noticed the small tear until I pointed it out. It’s still a really nice, clean piece.

There was also this cartoon card that Comic Jam Hawaii coordinator Michael Cannon whipped up while he was hanging out with cartoonist Jon Murakami at his table.

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There may be a picture of me with this card floating around on the Internet somewhere. But here’s Michael, Jon and Jon’s lovely assistant Gwen with it in Artist Alley. (Jon’s also holding a copy of his new comic, The Ara-Rangers issue 1, now on sale online!)

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It’s been a while since I last embedded a Flickr gallery within a post, so here’s a refresher course on how this works: 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: www.flickr.com/photos/sumiyoshi/sets/72157633093007134/

http://www.flickr.com/apps/slideshow/show.swf?v=124984

Oh yes. In case you’re wondering about where the pretty art from con guest Noizi Ito fits in to all this, there’s a whole other post in me that’ll talk about that. She deserves her own post. Because she came up with the character designs for Haruhi Suzumiya. So she’s awesome like that.

[Kawaii Kon 2013] The 11th memorable moment

Hey, regular Otaku Ohana readers: Jason Genegabus over at our entertainment website, Honolulu Pulse, asked me to write something wrapping up this year’s Kawaii Kon, and I was happy to oblige. You can find that write-up, “Kawaii Kon 2013: 10 Memorable Moments,” here: http://www.honolulupulse.com/sa/kawaii-kon-2013-10-memorable-moments

There were far more than 10 memorable moments, of course. I hope to share more of what I saw in the days and weeks ahead. But yesterday morning, as I was browsing through my Facebook news feed, one post in particular — made to the Kawaii Kon page — caught my attention. And had I known about it when I was writing the Pulse article Sunday night, it easily would have made my list.

The story is by cosplayer Jayson Semetara; the picture, by Mark Parel. Here it is, reprinted in full:

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Kawaii Kon weekend is always fun and joyous with lots of happy memories, but I think this pic tops them all.

While waiting for friends during their Pokemon shoot, this woman was walking around the convention center with her grandpa and stopped in front of me. The man suffers from dementia, and according to the woman his memory is slowly slipping away. However, when he saw me in my Gatchaman costume, he stopped and smiled at me, even shook and held my hand tightly. He even slightly said “Gatchaman!” to me. After taking the photo, his smile was really big, as if he was meeting a celebrity. Later that day, I bumped into the woman again, and she thanked me for the photo op. She said she never saw her grandpa smile that big in months and that he was humming the theme song after leaving.

….it’s memories like this that make me want to put on a costume.
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As of this morning, the post had garnered 66 “likes” on Jayson’s Facebook page and 170 on Kawaii Kon’s page, and had been shared dozens of times. Mark added in comments: “I had to take that photo. The sparkle in his eyes and his genuine smile should make everyone understand why we cosplay…”

Confession time: There are times every now and then when I wonder why I keep writing this blog. There are times when I wonder if there is anyone out there reading my words, aside from the few hard-core readers that I know I have. (Quick side note: Hi, Parv and Dan! Nice meeting you over the weekend! Hope you had a good time!) And then stories like these come along, and I remember once again that I do this because I love sharing stories like these.

Heroes do walk among us. Jayson’s certainly one of mine.

[Kawaii Kon 2013] The surprise cover debut of Noizi Ito

It was a no-brainer that I’d be attending the live-drawing panel of Noizi Ito, the Haruhi Suzumiya and Shana character designer who’s been the target of fanboy squeeing in this space as well as KYAAAAAH~!ing at opening ceremonies. She certainly didn’t disappoint, drawing pictures of Kawaii Kon mascots Ai-chan and Nami during the hour-long panel.

This one's Ai-chan!

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I’ll post a gallery showcasing more of Ito’s drawing process sometime in the (hopefully) near future. It’s rare that Ito does hand-drawn stuff in the first place; she usually works in digital media. (The Ai-chan piece would later sell at the Art Auction for the minimum bid of $750.)

But the real surprise in the panel came in the last five minutes, when translator Lisle Wilkerson started talking about a new book of Ito’s Haruhi Suzumiya-related illustrations being released May 1 in Japan and Ito took out … this.

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An audible gasp could be heard from the crowd when the color page proof popped up on the screen.

“She is just putting in the final touches on this project, on this book,” Wilkerson said. “In fact, you guys are the first — at this convention — the first to ever see the final draft of the cover.”

She paused to chat with Ito in Japanese.

“In Japan, the three girls, that part has already been seen,” Wilkerson said. “But here we see the two boys and also Shamisen, the cute little cat. This has just been added, so people in Japan have not yet seen this.”

Applause followed, and the panel ended a little while later.

There’s just something thrilling about being in an audience when something’s revealed to the world for the first time. The fact that it was something associated with one of my favorite franchises made it all the more special.

[Kawaii Kon 2013] The year of the “KYAAAH~!”

Previously at Kawaii Kon, I wrote this:

Of course, I’m not sure if Jake the Dog and Finn the Human will show up — the preceding few sentences having been a riff on the Adventure Time theme, for those of you not familiar with the show — but who knows, that show is pretty popular, so cosplayers dressing up at those characters may be a virtual lock.

And sure enough, not 30 minutes into my day, these fine cosplayers showed up.

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A Finn with Jake (in his pocket), and a Princess Bubblegum to boot? That’s it, I’ve seen all I needed to see this year, my job’s done, see y’all at Kawaii Kon 2014.

But no, we must press on, because the first day of Kawaii Kon is always a whirlwind of activity, one that usually starts off at opening ceremonies and keeps on building until everyone flops over with exhaustion Sunday evening. I say “usually” because the fireworks actually started about in the hour just before opening ceremonies this year.

That’s right. Crunchyroll and its representative, senior brand manager Keith Kawamura, broke the news that Sparrow’s Hotel, with a Japanese premiere date and a cast announced five days ago, would be making its way to the streaming anime site.

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People in the panel thus knew about the news for several precious, precious minutes before Crunchyroll formally announced it online, Anime News Network picked it up and forums no doubt started buzzing about how good and/or bad it’ll all be. Hey, several precious, precious minutes are an eternity in the Twitterverse.

But back to opening ceremonies. To say it was heavily trafficked would probably be an understatement. Here’s the scene on the fourth floor of the Hawai’i Convention Center a few minutes before 12. The line to the Dealers Room formed on the left; the line to the Main Events Room and opening ceremonies, to the right.

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That’s already a lot of people wanting to get into one or the other. Factor in where the end of the line was, though …

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… yeeeeeeaaaaaah. It would take 15 minutes after the doors opened to get everyone into the room, with staffers checking that badges had those new anti-counterfeiting stickers.

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Pretty packed house, too. Certainly more full than I’ve ever seen opening ceremonies. Consider, too, that this wasn’t even everyone at the convention at the time — Dealers Room line, remember? — and you could say that there are quite a lot of people here this year. And this is only Friday’s crowd!

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After the customary opening video (which will not be shown here because I don’t feel like dealing with copyright claims) and a performance by a Hatsune Miku hologram (which also won’t be shown here because (a) that’s super-tricky to photograph and (b) any photos or videos would never do the real thing justice anyway, because it’s one of those things that just has to be seen in person), the parade of guests began.

And that’s where one of the dominating themes of opening ceremonies — and the title of this post — entered into play. Flash back to last year’s opening ceremonies and the corresponding post, in which I dubbed that year “The Year of the Cat” because of voice actor Lisa Ortiz’s introduction of a plush kitten to beat up during the convention. This year’s trend came courtesy of Lisle Wilkerson, voice of Nina Williams and Christie Monteiro in the Tekken franchise and this year’s translator for the Japanese guests.

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Wilkerson told the audience that she was going to teach them how the Japanese usually scream. “I would like for you to use it when we introduce all our guests,” she said. “So this is how you scream: ‘KYAAAAAAAAH~!'”

And so it went. Voice actor Toshio Furukawa? KYAAAAAAAAH~!

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Fashion designer Mint? KYAAAAAAAAH~!

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Singer Iruma Rioka and guitarist Nemu? KYAAAAAAAAH~!

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Artist Noizi Ito? KYAAAAAAAAH~!

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Vocaloid DJ hachioji-P and professor Toshihiro Fukuoka? … you get the idea.

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Worth noting with Ito: She had with her one of this year’s official Kawaii Kon T-shirts with an image she designed, with all of the guests’ signatures on it.

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And one lucky audience member won it, and she got to hug Ito in the process.

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The KYAAAAAAAAH~!ing didn’t carry over to the guests from the mainland, but the swag giveaways certainly continued. Here are your hosts for part of these proceedings, voice actors Todd Haberkorn and Colleen Clinkenbeard.

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Here are two audience members begging like little doggies in front of Haberkorn to get some stuff.

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And yet the masses wanted more.

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Here’s Haberkorn actually receiving something in return from someone about to get stuff: a … plush crab. Yeah, I don’t exactly get the connection, either. But hey. Free crab. One that’s neither giant nor enemy nor requires the attacking of a weak point for massive damage.

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And then, of course, there was Johnny Yong Bosch and Eyeshine. Hugely popular.

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The masses, naturally, clamored for the stuff that they were giving away, too.

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I understand Eyeshine played a mini-set to close out opening ceremonies. I’d already moved on, though. Far too much else to see and do. A whole bunch of con-tent, you could say.

More from Kawaii Kon, coming soon…

[Kawaii Kon 2013] The final countdown! (dada daaah da, dadadada daaah)

For optimal effect, please press “play” on this video and let the audio play as you read through this post. (Please note, this should only be done in your personal space or with headphones.)

… how about that ’80s hair? Umm. Anyway.

kawaii-kon-logoSo. Kawaii Kon. Those of you who preregistered can pick up your passes at the convention center from 7 to 10 p.m. today; the convention itself runs from Friday through Sunday; and then you won’t have to read about it again here until some point in the future when there’s either a con-related announcement or your friendly neighborhood tag team in fandom, Wilma J. and/or myself, get around to writing about this year’s con experiences, whichever comes first. (We’re really hoping for the latter, but considering I’m usually exhausted by the end of the weekend and poor Wilma is also caught up in the whirlwind that is wedding planning, all bets are off at this point.)

There are far more stories to tell going in to Kawaii Kon than I have time to write up. One of them, about the three-year journey between the first and second issues of local manga anthology Hachi Maru Hachi and the creative talents behind its revival — Jordan Takemoto, Tara Tamayori, Rose Dela Cruz and Brady Evans — is in today’s paper. (For those of you checking out Otaku Ohana for the first time from that article, welcome! Here’s hoping I can update this blog enough times in the future to hold your interest and keep you reading it.) You can get what Brady, Pen & Ink Works, idkwhat2wear, Jon Murakami and the Hawaii State Library people have planned for the convention in that preview, too.

But there were other things that I just didn’t have the place or the space to properly fit into the preview. News stories are by their nature evolutionary creatures, the final product sometimes bearing little to no resemblance to the original idea. So there are fragments lingering with no real place to go, like these comments from one of this weekend’s guests, voice actor Todd Haberkorn:

Most exciting things I’m looking forward to:

— Fresh sushi
— Fans at the con that I haven’t seen before! Fans have expressed their interest in wanting to meet me face to face one day and I’m glad that is finally getting to happen.
— Swimming with sea life — Sharks! Dolphins! I’ve got my chain mail ready to go and partly, its an excuse to get to enjoy the beautiful, crystal clear blue waters of Hawaii!
— Fresh coconut juice — Not coconut milk, juice! I was a fan of coconut juice before it was hip! And to get it from one of coconut’s HQs is gonna be rad.

And here’s a comment from Johnny Yong Bosch, answering the same question of what he’s looking forward to:

This time around we didn’t get a chance to extend our stay, but a stop at the beach is mandatory. I don’t recall the name of the pancake place we stopped at, but we’ll have to make a trip there again. … The Hawaiian fans are very generous and supportive, we’ve made a few friends for life there.

There was also something Tara said during our recent interview that I thought was cute, so I’m including it here. Those of you who are either artists in Artist Alley or who have to tend to some kind of table during the convention will probably be able to relate to what she said when I asked about their con experiences every year:

Iā€™m just stuck at my table. Like a mushroom. Slaving away, cutting out, laminating, coloring ā€¦ everything I should have done beforehand.

So here we are, on the brink of the ninth annual edition of what’s become the premier celebration of the local anime and manga fan community. While there may be a bit of last-minute flailing around as everyone gets ready and gets settled, it’s shaping up to be a fun weekend — albeit a bit wet, if the weather forecasts hold true.

As promised, here are a few more of those last-minute tidbits that have gotten my attention over the past few days:

  • Today is the final day to get stamps in the Kawaii Kon Stamp Rally at 7-Eleven stores statewide. (I finished mine with a post-work store-hopping run through Kalihi and Iwilei a few nights ago!) If you’re leaving your stamping to the last minute, I’d recommend not getting a stamp from the 7-Eleven nearest to the convention center as there is one clerk there who seems to think that the stamps only should be given out with purchase of a Red Bull product. (No purchase is actually necessary.) And if you happen to end up at the same 7-Eleven in Aiea where one of my readers asked for a new stamp card and the clerk proceeded to stamp all six spaces before handing it over, well, lucky you.
  • MangaBento, one of two local groups of anime/manga-inspired artists around town these days, will be stationed in their usual corner of Artist Alley — tables 9-12, to be exact — and they’ll be bringing their usual array of art materials and sketch sheets to the convention. Join them and draw all three days!
  • Life Wallets! Courtesy idkwhat2wear.The UH-Manoa Anime and Manga Society will be demonstrating their new app for Android phones and tablets — an electronic guide to memorable anime quotes, with handy translations and explanations. It’s a work in progress, with a beefier version targeted for completion by 2014. (It already looks pretty spiffy, though.) Members will also be helping Jayson Chun and UH-West Oahu students with their annual Cosplay Cafe, which of course was the featured topic of last year’s Kawaii Kon preview.
  • I’ve already profiled much of what idkwhat2wear will be selling, but Terri Dux introduced a new piece of merchandise Wednesday night that’s certainly worth noting as well: Life Wallets, fabric wallets with silk-screened sketches by Karl Miyashiro lining the insides. You can see a sample of one to the right. They’re cute, they’re $9, and 100 percent of the proceeds will go toward helping family member Pam Dux in her continuing struggle against breast cancer. Get the full Life Wallet story at lifewallet.wordpress.com/2013/03/11/6/

Internet connection willing, I’ll try to update this blog throughout the weekend. Follow me on Twitter, too, at @jsyadao, if that’s your social media cup of tea. Here we go!