McCully-Moiliili Library’s Mini Con marches on

I’m back from yet another extended hiatus! This one’s going to take a bit more explaining, and I hope to get around to doing that reasonably soon (and preferably not take another two months or so to do so).

2017 Poster smBut we’ve got a lot of news to catch up on. So let’s get right to it: The eighth annual edition of Mini Con at the McCully-Moiliili Library is happening from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. Eight years is a really long time for the local otaku community; for starters, that makes it the second-longest-running event held in consecutive years this century, behind only Kawaii Kon (13 events as of this year). Consider also that it’s outlasted the lifespans of the following now-defunct events combined:

  • HEXXP (three years)
  • Oni-Con Hawaii (one year)
  • Anime Matsuri Hawaii (one year)
  • Anime Ohana (one year)

That’s pretty special. And a lot of it has been built on the foundation that then-young adult librarian, now-branch manager Hillary Chang established when I first wrote about this event back in 2010: a mini Artist Alley, a chance for cosplayers to show off, anime screening throughout, and giveaways up the wazoo. Including these selections that were available at last year’s event.

Yes, that is Godzilla and a rubber chicken, and no, I’m not sure how anyone got along without having these in their lives, either.

This year: There are comics. Lots. And lots. Of comics.

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And just as in previous years, all you have to do to get your hands on some of ’em is to visit the exhibiting artists and authors and complete a stamp card.

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The exhibitors have remained fairly constant as well. Sure, their roles may have evolved over the years — Jon Murakami has added Edamame Ninjas and The Ara-Rangers to his portfolio; Audra Furuichi has scaled back her retail appearances (Mini Con’s the only event she’s appeared at this year!) and shifted her full-time cartooning focus to nemu*nemu: Blue Hawaii in the Star-Advertiser; Kevin Sano is now selling comics and art in a space at Idea’s Music and Books (formerly Jelly’s) in #OurKakaako; and Brady Evans, who’ll be doing art demonstrations throughout Mini Con, now works as collections manager at the Honolulu Museum of Art. But they’ve shown up year after year, and it’s been a nice chance to catch up with what they’ve been doing in a more intimate setting than the bigger events can offer.

New to the festivities this year is Hiroshi Mori, a local expat and University of Hawaii at Manoa alumnus who currently works at the Third Floor in Los Angeles as a previsualization artist, someone who visualizes what complex scenes in movies will look like before they’re filmed. Some of his credits include Mad Max: Fury Road, The Avengers, Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith, and Men in Black 3. His comic Island Kingdom “is inspired from growing up in Honolulu and combining Hawaii’s surf culture with the movies, TV and comic books I grew up with, such as ‘Mad Max: Road Warrior,’ ‘The Yagyu Conspiracy,’ ‘Escape From New York,’ and ‘Conan the Barbarian’ just to name a few,” he told Surfer Today in an article published in January. He’ll have print copies of Part 1 in the series, “Surf or Die,” available for sale.

Also appearing will be author David Estes, who’s written more than 30 sci-fi and fantasy books. The first book in his “Fatemarked Epic” series, Fatemarked, tops Amazon’s Teen & Young Adult Medieval Fiction eBook chart, with several other books in the series not too far behind. He’ll host a writing workshop, “Build Your Own World,” at 10:30 a.m.

McCully-Moiliili Library is at 2211 S. King St.; as always, arrive early for the best parking. Call 973-1099.

 

The Mini-ficent Seven

A number of you who use Facebook probably know about its Memories/On This Day feature, where their little algorithmic thingamabobs and doohickeys dig down deep in your timeline and pull up posts that you might’ve forgotten existed about a week after you posted them.

Today, this memory popped up on my timeline.

Four years ago already ... maaaaaaaaaan ... Photo by Jason S. Yadao.
Four years ago already? Maaaaaaaaaan. We’ve gotten so much more … umm, *vintage* since then. Photo by Jason S. Yadao.

And it reminded me, “Welp, blogger boy, your HawaiiCon vacation’s over, time to get back to work and write a new post.”

Here’s why: The latest edition of Mini Con will be held four years and two days after I posted that picture. This is one of those events that your friendly neighborhood otaku blogger’s been covering for a long time — this is its seventh year, in fact, making it the second longest continually running event I’ve covered, behind only Kawaii Kon.

This year's edition of the Mini Con flyer, by Audra Furuichi. Courtesy image.
This year’s edition of the Mini Con flyer, by Audra Furuichi. Courtesy image.

The formula that McCully-Moiliili Library branch manager Hillary Chang has followed every year is simple, yet effective: Bring in artists Jon Murakami, Audra Furuichi and Kevin Sano as the foundation; supplement with at least one more rotating guest; host a stamp rally and give away prizes throughout the day; give patrons a chance to cosplay.  (This year’s rotating guest is artist Mark Gould, a member of the Hawaiian Comic Book Alliance who’s done a fair amount of freelance work over the last few years, including covers for Slave Labor Graphics’ Model A and contributions to Christopher Caravalho’s Aumakua: Guardians of Hawaii books.)

Not everyone has the time, money and/or energy to attend one or (for the most hard-core crazy among us) several of the otaku conventions held around the state every year; Mini Con’s existed as an option for people to get a free taste of convention life, a slice of Artist Alley in a library setting. This is also going to be Audra’s last event as a vendor for this year, so this will be your last chance to pick up some nemu*nemu merchandise or some of her lovely, lovely original artwork from her in person until … well, Kawaii Kon next spring, I reckon.

All of this is happening from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at the library, 2211 S. King St.; parking at the library is limited, so either plan on showing up early, go across the street to Ross Dress For Less (which has graciously opened up its lot for use by library patrons) or bring a handful of coins to feed the meters. For more information, call 973-1099.

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:

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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).

14 for ’14: Otaku Ohana’s year of memories

It seems there’s an unwritten rule in journalism that whenever a writer or blogger reaches the end of a year, he or she suddenly feels compelled to look back on it and remember the high points and the lows. I’m certainly not one to go against the flow, so hi! Welcome to the Otaku Ohana Year in Review!

While I’d be the first to admit that this has been a disappointing year in terms of Otaku Ohana output — for starters, I still haven’t had time to fully transcribe that interview with voice actor Kyle Hebert that I promised back in August, and let’s not even think about the last time you’ve seen a formal anime or manga review in this space — it certainly hasn’t been a disappointing year for the otaku community at large. One measure of just how vibrant we’ve had it here is the sheer volume of anime features that screened in theaters. Here’s what we saw this year:

  • Anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day: The Movie
  • Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods
  • Expelled From Paradise
  • Evangelion 3.0: You Can (Not) Redo
  • K Missing Kings
  • Ghost in the Shell
  • Ghost in the Shell: Arise
  • Madoka Magica: Rebellion
  • My Neighbor Totoro
  • Patema Inverted
  • Road to Ninja: Naruto the Movie
  • The Tale of the Princess Kaguya
  • Tiger and Bunny: The Rising
  • The Wind Rises

Throw in a bunch of live-action movies including the Studio Ghibli documentary The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness, Thermae Romae II, Lupin the Third and Kikaider Reboot — the last of which proved so popular, the DVD’s backordered online.

Granted, there were a few bumps in the road along the way. A pair of hurricanes forced Taku Taku Matsuri to be pushed back from August to November. That’s more than can be said for Oni-Con Hawaii, which we can safely consider a lost cause with the lack of any solid communication since early May. And the death of Sharon Sakai, wife of Usagi Yojimbo artist Stan Sakai, was a story that resonated far beyond the usual readership of this blog.

But let’s remember all the good that happened in 2014. I went through my photo files and picked out 14 memorable moments from the year. Some of these pictures you might have seen before, whether in this space or on my various social media accounts.

Dorae-mania hits home (April 20)

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Fujiko F. Fujio’s mecha-cat creation was all over town this year, whether plastered on Lea Lea trolleys, in statue form at various sites from downtown to Kahala as part of HIS Hawaii’s Wakuwaku Stamp Rally, on Kindles and Kindle apps in manga form, or on Disney XD in anime form. The biggest attraction in the first few months of the year, however, was “Meet Doraemon: Japan’s Time-Traveling Cat,” an exhibition co-presented by Bishop Museum and the Fujiko F. Fujio Museum. Visitors could see pages of Fujio’s original artwork for the first time on American soil, watch a 10-minute anime short, read the English-translated Doraemon manga on iPads or the manga in other languages sitting on bookshelves nearby; and buy piles upon piles of Fujio character merchandise that also was appearing for the first time on American soil. Tripinator Doraemon looked a little shifty here in the foreground as visitors browsed through the manga at the iPad station.

Ultra-combo! (April 27)

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Not to be outdone by a cartoon mecha-cat, Ultraman and several of his longtime enemies made peace and came down to cavort around Hawaii as part of a promotion by Hawaii Tourism Japan and Tsuburaya Productions. Four statues showcasing different iterations of Ultraman were placed at locations around Oahu — Polynesian Cultural Center, Kualoa Ranch, DFS Galleria and the Hilo Hattie flagship store in Iwilei — and visitors who bought certain tour packages could go around, get their cards stamped and redeem them for cool Ultraman in Hawaii merchandise. As I mentioned in my original post, I love this picture of the Hilo Hattie statue because of the way the lights in the store flared behind it.

Panel de pon! (March 12)

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This is the only picture in this roundup that wasn’t shot by me (it was taken by cartoonist Roy Chang), and for good reason: I was kinda sitting on the panel at the time. I have to confess that I’m usually not one to be the center of attention — it’s the reason why I’ve never done a panel at any event on my own, and why I have an Anonymous Otaku Ohana Director of Forced Social Interaction with whom I attend a number of events these days — so when I was asked to be part of the “Made in Japan, Loved in Hawaii” panel at the Honolulu Festival, I was worried about how things would go. I needn’t have worried — panel mates Brady Evans, Jon Murakami, Roy Bann and Audra Furuichi all helped turn that panel into a lovely lengthy chat about our various fandoms. If you haven’t listened to the panel yet, the audio (which weighs in at 121 MB) remains available for download at ow.ly/uwyBr, while the slides are available at ow.ly/uwyTQ.

Eboshimaro, friend to all children (March 8)

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Ahhhhhhh yes, yuru-chara, the Japanese phenomenon in which mascot characters are called upon to promote certain aspects of their prefecture, company or event. They’re also usually awesomely cute, which would explain why Eboshimaro here, the mascot representing Chigasaki, Japan, had a steady stream of people coming up to him at the Honolulu Festival asking for pictures. Apparently he was tweeting regularly from the festival, too; here are his tweets and pictures from that weekend.

And that wasn’t the only regional mascot to visit Hawaii this year. At the very beginning of Star-Advertiser photographer Krystle Marcellus’ video from the Honolulu Marathon (www.youtube.com/watch?v=ckleJBr–ns), you can catch a good look at Mojaro, the walking monjayaki from Isesaki’s annual Monja Festival. (Monjayaki is okonomiyaki’s messier-looking, higher-stacked cousin.)

That’s right. There exists a pile-of-food mascot. And one that looks like one of the ghosts from Pac-Man had an unfortunate accident, at that.

I’ll give you some time to ponder that.

Singing in the lane (April 4)

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What would a year-end roundup be without at least one highlight from what’s become the biggest event on the annual otaku calendar, Kawaii Kon? As longtime attendees know, a necessary evil of attending anime cons year after year is waiting in lines to get into the various events. This year, though, this guy made waiting for opening ceremonies more tolerable, going up and down with his guitar singing his original song about Kawaii Kon.

It’s all about the details (July 3)

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MangaBento, the anime/manga-inspired group of young artists, held its annual show on the second floor of the Honolulu Museum of Art School. this year’s show, “Showme,” featured this mural lining the elevator. A nice mural, to be sure. But upon closer examination, several smaller flourishes really stood out.

That’s what I love whenever I look at art: taking in the piece as a whole, then looking close-up at the finer details. It’s an experience I hope (and pretty much expect!) to repeat next year.

Sparkle pretty “Ponponpon” party time (July 20)

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Yes, super-omega-popular boy band Arashi performed out at Ko Olina to the delight of thousands of fans both from here and visiting from Japan, and they had the benefit of a pop-up store at Shirokiya and those visitors snapping pictures of pretty much every poster put up around Ala Moana. But their concert tickets were kinda pricey and I didn’t have a vacation day to spare, so this was my J-Pop concert experience for the year: Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, the singer who burst onto the scene with eyeball-dotted shorts, pastel-colored human hearts and flying bread slices and has kept up a consistent pace of releasing weirdly wonderfully artsy odd music videos ever since. Her concert was an extension of that, a whirlwind of tightly choreographed sequences on a toybox-themed stage with a nice selection of her hits to date. And a giant neon-colored bear, too. (The afternoon heat was a bit much for her, though; she said during the concert that she hoped to do an arena show next time she’s in Hawaii.)

Jan-ken-po, art-to-show (May 17)

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In another one of those events that I attended but have yet to write about in this space (*sob*), Patsy Iwasaki and Avery Berido, the Hawaii island-based writer-artist team behind Hamakua Hero: A True Plantation Story, came to Honolulu to talk about the book as part of the revival of the  Crossing Cultures: The Art of Manga in Hawaii exhibit at the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii. Well, okay, so it was Iwasaki doing most of the talking while Berido drew, but it’s okay, we love them both.

Berido’s drawing was given away at the end of the talk via a series of jankenpo matches among audience members. It came down to these two, and the guy on the left won this original piece. Sweet victory, I must say.

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Smiles to go, to go! (May 31)

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I said back in June that this was my favorite picture of the year to date, and now, looking back on a year’s worth of pictures, it remains a favorite of mine. Taken back at the during the Crossing Cultures artist meet-and-greet, it just captures a certain joy between the boy and his newly purchased Blue plushie, and artist Audra Furuichi. Making a child smile with the fruits of what you do for a living is a heartwarming talent to possess, indeed.

Simply having a wonderful Mini Con time (Sept. 27)

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I’ve noticed that at pretty much every midsize and larger event with cosplayers that I’ve attended this year, two people inevitably show up: one guy who cosplays as Deadpool (and who we’ll see later in this roundup, by the way) and Furry Red Friend, a cosplaying Elmo with his human handler. So when the Merc With a Mouth and Captain America Elmo showed up at Mini Con at McCully-Moiliili Library, with a nemu*nemu: Blue Hawaii postcard cutout just begging for a photo op? Hijinks ensued. Naturally.

Striking a pose (Oct. 11)

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Kawaii Kon’s annual Anime Day event showed up at Windward Mall with a mini Artist Alley, several drawing stations and a variety of cosplay competitions. One of those contests was a “pose-off,” where contestants had to come up with choreographed poses within a time limit. Here, two cosplayers prepare to do battle with Street Fighter poses! And then they rushed into battle! Who would reign supreme?!?

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… yeeeeeaaaah, okay, that didn’t end well.

We made it happen (Nov. 22)

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The story of Taku Taku Matsuri 2014 was a story of perseverance on the part of organizer Yuka Nagaoka. A Kickstarter campaign succeeded after much 11th-hour nail-biting. Then Hurricanes Iselle and Julio’s approach prompted her to postpone the event, a decision that drew some criticism when Iselle hit Hawaii island and fell apart and Julio veered away from the islands. Original guest of honor Kyle Hebert and a number of vendors also couldn’t return for the rescheduled event, forcing her to find replacements. And a second crowdfunding campaign on GoFundMe was … well … sluggish.

Yet despite all of that, and with a rallying cry of “We will make it happen,” the rescheduled Taku Taku Matsuri went out without any apparent hitches (although I must admit, I cringed while a full game of Quidditch took place outside the Manoa Grand Ballroom, praying the quaffle didn’t bounce off into one of the glass showcases or over the fifth-floor wall into the courtyard below). Attendees, it seemed, had a good time throughout the event. And Yuka is already proceeding with planning for the 2015 event, so we’ll see how that goes.

Cardboard carnage (Nov. 22)

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The concept of the cardboard mega-brawl: Combatants craft armor and shields from cardboard, then go one-on-one in a ring trying to knock strategically placed foam cups off each other using foam bats. But what do you do when your opponent is someone who showed up at Taku Taku Matsuri wearing full-on Danbo cosplay? Simple: Flail like a bat out of hell.

“Modern Love” meets modern mangaka (Dec. 3)

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We had a number of famous people in the anime and manga industries come to our fair rock in the middle of Pacific this year, among them Masako Nozawa, the voice of Goku in Dragon Ball Z; Hironobu Kageyama, who sang the Dragon Ball Z theme song “Cha-La Head-Cha-La”; Jim Cummings, the voice of Darkwing Duck and Tigger; and Cristina Vee, Mars/Rei Hino in the new Sailor Moon dub. Heck, Jamie Lynn Lano, former assistant to Takeshi Konomi on The Prince of Tennis, moved to Oahu to fulfill a lifelong dream of hers.

But the person who stands out in my mind at the moment is also the one who most recently visited Honolulu, the one whom (shameless plug) we interviewed and will be the subject of one of our first posts of 2015: josei mangaka Erica Sakurazawa, who wrote several books published by Tokyopop in the mid-2000s including The Aromatic Bitters, Angel and Between the Sheets and whose work Love Vibes is currently on display as part of the Honolulu Museum of Art’s “Modern Love” exhibit. Sakurazawa is shown here talking to exhibit curator Stephen Salel during a talk she gave at the museum in early December. Quite a bit of ground was covered in that talk and our interview, and I hope I can get all that out to you, dear readers, sooner rather than later.

So that does it for 2014! On behalf of tag-team partner in fandom Wilma J. and the Anonymous Otaku Ohana Director of Forced Social Interaction, I wish you all the best for the new year. Here’s hoping for many more good memories to come.

Ota-cool Incoming: Mini con carnival, 2014 edition

August was a month dominated by news about anime movies, with three of them — Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods, My Neighbor Totoro and Naruto: Road to Ninja — arriving in the state. This month, news tidbits about small anime-related events have been filling my “what to talk about in Otaku Ohana” inbox (well, that and that interview with Kyle Hebert that I talked about a few posts ago, which I’ll finally get around to transcribing when my birthday staycation kicks in around the middle of next week … fingers crossed). Here’s what’s happening in coming weeks …

cristina veeThe first stop on our tour of mini cons is a return visit to Taku Taku Matsuri, where organizer Yuka Nagaoka has found a new guest of honor for her event postponed from August: voice actor Cristina Valenzuela, better known as Cristina Vee. (That’s her on the right.) Some of Vee’s more prominent anime roles include Mio in K-ON!, Homura in Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Rei/Sailor Mars in Viz’s new Sailor Moon English dub, and Alisa Bosconovitch in Tekken: Blood Vengeance. She’s also voiced various characters in video games including the BlazBlue franchise, Skullgirls and Ar Tonelico. This will be her first con-related visit to Hawaii.

Summer Taku Taku Matsuri: In Fall! is happening Sat., Nov. 22; the GoFundMe campaign with $10 presale tickets and $20 ticket/T-shirt packages will run through Oct. 25 at www.gofundme.com/dbi0fc.

This week, details also began emerging about the fifth annual Mini Con, the anime con in the handy petite size at McCully-Moiliili Public Library. Library manager Hillary Chang’s rounded up her by-now standard roster of all-star artists ready to meet and greet patrons — Gordon Rider artist Jon Murakami, nemu*nemu artist Audra Furuichi, Crazy Shirts designer and Kikaidaverse fan artist Kevin Sano, and the Hachi Maru Hachi creative crew. The event runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sat., Sept. 27, at the library, 2211 S. King St.

Audra designed a set of virtual flyers that double as mobile phone wallpapers; click the thumbnails below to download art from, from left, Jonathan Pinches’ “You Are Not Alone” (from Hachi Maru Hachi vol. 3), Jon and Kevin.

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Last but certainly not least is Kawaii Kon’s third annual Anime Day at Windward Mall in Kaneohe. Nothing really new to report on this front, but I’d still imagine Kawaii Kon’s usual assortment of games, art events, cosplay contests, free anime screenings and a mini Artist Alley will be the order of the day. You’ll probably be able to get discounted three-day passes for next year’s convention (March 14-16) as well. The latest news on that can be found on the Facebook event page, https://www.facebook.com/events/912506692099432/.

Other Ota-coolness

Comic Jam Hawaii: This group of collaborative cartoon artists meets every first and third Sunday of the month at Pearlridge Center; locations within the mall may vary. Visit www.facebook.com/groups/ComicJamHawaii (Facebook login required). Next meeting: 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday.

Downtown Pearlridge globe portalRandom Ingress portal of the post: If you missed the first installment in this new recurring feature in all my “Ota-cool Incoming!” calendar posts, here’s my profile of the portal “Ringy Dingy.” Today’s spotlight: “Down Town Pearlridge Globe.”

Those of you who have been around at least as long as I have remember a time when the two halves of Pearlridge Center were called “Phase I” and “Phase 2.” I’m not sure when exactly it happened, but there was some point where someone probably said, “Hey! Let’s make this center more contemporary and stuff!” So the side anchored by Liberty House and JCPenney became “Uptown Pearlridge,” and the side anchored by Sears became “Downtown Pearlridge.” Uptown was the more distinguished, sophisticated side. Downtown was the side with a splash of urban flair, all neon signs and a giant video screen hanging over that side’s central hub. And the monorail … well, I’m sorry, but that thing looked like what happens before and after someone ingests certain mind-altering substances, with half of it looking like a yellow taxicab and the other half covered in splashy, colorful graffiti.

Well, the monorail’s all one uniform design now, the screen’s gone, and you’d be hard-pressed to find much distinguishing the two sides. This Ingress portal, stationed right around where Comic Jam Hawaii regularly meets, features one of the leftover relics of the era. It’s usually well-contested, but if it’s a Comic Jam Sunday, you can pretty much expect the Face of Hawaii Ingress ™ will be making it Resistance blue. After which someone else will come along and make it Enlightened green again. Circle of life, people. Circle of life.

MangaBento: This group of anime- and manga-inspired artists usually meets every second and fourth Sunday of the month at the Honolulu Museum of Art School (1111 Victoria St.), room 200. Visit www.manga-bento.com. Next meeting: 1 to 4 p.m. Sept. 14.

10636109_561435233979790_6832920851635999729_nArashi in concert: Tickets are still available to see the five-member boy band in concert at 5:30 p.m. Sept. 19 and 20 at Ko Olina’s Naia Lagoon 3, and they’re still $150 per ticket ($75 for children under 15)? Or would we be better off heading over to Shirokiya and its pop-up Arashi Shop to get  and calling it a day? Pick them up exclusively at Ticketmaster.com, and be sure to check out Tom Moffatt Productions’ Facebook event page to see all the rules and procedures involved. (Key elements to note are that there’s a four-ticket limit, sales are limited to customers in the United States and Canada, and you’re going to have to bring the credit card you used to order the tickets to the show itself.) Don’t want to shell out that much, or can’t make it to the concert? The pop-up Arashi Shop is open now at Shirokiya, featuring CDs “and other items not normally available in Hawaii.”

Kikaider Reboot screenings on Oahu: Shotaro Ishinomori’s tale of the android Kikaida and his battles against Professor Gill and DARK has been revamped and prettied up for a new generation, and Honolulu — home to some of the most die-hard Kikaida fans on the planet — will be the first place people in North America can see it. (Yes, I know we’re on a rock in the middle of the Pacific, thousands of miles from North America. But the Kikaider Reboot USA Facebook page is calling this the “North American Premiere,” so I’m running with that.) The film will be running for a week — Oct. 10-16, to be exact — at Consolidated’s Ward Stadium complex. Showtimes have yet to be announced, but here, have an English-subtitled trailer to tide you over until that info comes through.

13 for ’13: Otaku Ohana’s year in pictures

Happy three-days-in-but-still-relatively-newish year! It’s hard to believe that June will mark five years since this blog gained a home on starbulletin.com as an online complement to Cel Shaded. Five years, coincidentally, is also the amount of time it would probably take for me to catch up on all the anime that I’ve been meaning to review in this space if (a) every single anime producer, both in the U.S. and Japan, were to stop releasing anime at this very second, and (b) I watched anime 24/7/365. (And let’s not even think about the manga.)

I’m hoping that review situation improves this year. But before we move forward, let’s take a quick look back at some of the highlights from last year, captured by my trusty camera (and in some cases, my equally trusty smartphone). Some of these pictures have appeared in this space before. Others, I never got around to posting (curse you, real work getting in the way of fun work!). For remembering the year that was 2013, though, they’re fun jumping-off points.

Congratulation! A winner is you! (Jan. 12)

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The final edition of the Liliha Library Anime Art Contest culminated in an awards ceremony at the beginning of the year. Rachel Ruiz placed second in the grades 6-8 category with this piece, for which she won a lovely bag of prizes.

Meanwhile, at the back of the room where the awards ceremony was held, young adult librarian Linda Mediati set up a table with a pile of donated Shonen Jump issues, English and Japanese editions, free for the taking for anyone who wanted them.

Judging by how many Rachel carted off, you wouldn’t be too far off in saying she won twice that day.

The surprise of Haruhi Suzumiya (March 17)

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I’ve mentioned before in this space that I have an affinity for anything and everything related to the Haruhi Suzumiya franchise. So when Haruhi character designer Noizi Ito was announced as a guest for Kawaii Kon, I was ready to go to pretty much anything and everything at which she made an appearance. Hour-long live-drawing panel? Yes, please. Hour-long live-drawing panel where she draws Kawaii Kon mascots Ai-chan and Nami? Oh, yes, thank you very much. Hour-long live-drawing panel where she casually unveils the final cover for her newest Haruhi artbook for the first time anywhere? Oh, baby, yes.

And in case you’re wondering whether the book made it out to Japanese audiences: Yup.

Spartan assault on our hearts (March 17)

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This is the only shot in this collection that wasn’t taken by me, but by one of Kawaii Kon’s staff photographers, Zarli Win. (We’ll see more of him in the next picture.) From where I was standing during the Kawaii Kon Masquerade, my trusty-yet-lacking-in-low-light-situations camera couldn’t have gotten anything as good as this. Being there to soak up the mood was awesome, though: the announcement of the contestant, this little girl in her “Halo Kitty” outfit — a Halo Spartan suit embellished with Hello Kitty accessories — walking out on stage, the collective gasp in the audience giving way to squeals and applause and a barrage of flashbulbs going off around the room.

Wedded bliss (June 2)

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Tag-team partner in fandom Wilma Jandoc married longtime boyfriend Zarli Win in early June. It was a pretty big deal ’round these parts. Was it a ceremony that was full of Win? But of course.

Cait Sith, art guardian (June 18)

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As it has for the past few years, the Honolulu Museum of Art School’s second-floor gallery hosted MangaBento’s annual exhibit. The 2013 edition, “Tomo-E-Ame: Friends-Drawings-Candy,” featured anime-inspired art in a wide variety of media. Among the pieces was this doll of Cait Sith hand-sewn by Heidi Shimada that, when viewed at a certain angle, looked like it was gazing over the gallery.

A master immortalized (July 27)

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Cartoonist Dave Thorne — best known around these parts for his Sunday comic strip “Thorney’s Zoo” — may have died in 2012, but he left behind a body of work that remains beloved to this day. In July, several hundred people showed up for a celebration of life at Bay View Golf Park, with samples of his cartoons posted all over the clubhouse auditorium. One of the highlights was a “chalk talk,” with Alan Low narrating scenes from Dave’s life as Jon Murakami sketched on a giant pad of paper. The last drawing, done in advance: this. A fitting tribute to someone known as “the Yoda of Hawaii cartooning.”

Taku Taku dancing dancing (Aug. 25)

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Taku Taku Matsuri, spearheaded by Yuka C. Nagaoka, debuted in August with a summer festival at Hawaii Kotohira Jinsha-Hawaii Dazaifu Tenmangu. Games were played, art was drawn, food and other collectibles were sold, cosplayers roamed the grounds and played a round of Cosplay Chess, and everyone had a good time.

True to her word in my interview with her, Yuka showed up in a bright red kimono. She even jumped on stage with some of the other cosplayers and danced to Psy’s “Gentleman.”

Crossing cosplay (Sept. 15)

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In September, Gallery Iolani on the Windward Community College campus hosted “Crossing Cultures: The Art of Manga in Hawaii,” an exhibit tracing the history of manga and its influence on artists in the local community that was curated by Pen & Ink Works founder/Hachi Maru Hachi contributing artist Brady Evans. Brady also led a series of curator’s tours for four straight Sundays, where he’d talk about various exhibits … like these costumes of Alphonse Elric from Fullmetal Alchemist and Teddie from Persona 4, part of the section talking about Kawaii Kon.

Oh yes, if you missed the exhibit, don’t worry: Brady’s already told me it’ll be returning in 2014. Details to come.

When “aloha” means goodbye (Sept. 17)

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Toys N Joys, known for years to a certain generation as the go-to place for anime merchandise, domestic and imported video games, closed its doors for the last time on Sept. 23 after a 30-year run in Kaimuki and a 25-year run at the Westridge Shopping Center in Aiea. This whiteboard, sitting in the same display window where toys, replica swords and Airsoft guns once sat in the Kaimuki store, served as a sounding board for some customers to pay their respects.

Angelic consultation (Oct. 2)

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The time between Oct. 1 and Nov. 3 was one of the busiest I’ve seen for the local fan community in quite some time. The month got off to a hot start with two events taking place on the same day: Mini Con at McCully-Moiliili Library, and Kawaii Kon’s Anime Day at Windward Mall. I thought I’d be the only one crazy dedicated enough to make the drive over the Koolaus and attend both events, but it turned out there was another trio: Guardian Angels Dana Aton and Susana Choy of Cosmic Koi, makers of black and white hand-detailed angels’ wings and plasma ear pieces like these, and their adorably adorable lolita-clad daughter, Bella. Here, Bella and Susana shared a moment together at Mini Con.

The Macross miracle (Nov. 2)

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Local anime convention Oni-Con Hawaii debuted this year, and while it had its share of problems, there were some fun times to be had as well. One of those fun times was at the “Filmmaking in Hawaii” panel, where Blood of the Samurai director Aaron Yamasato and Doko Ga TV host/“Japanmania — Sugoi!” blogger Pali Kaaihue talked about some of their projects.

But then came their Fabulous Swag Giveaway. Now, you have to realize that in the upcoming season of Doko Ga TV, Pali talked to some really cool people, including Masako Nozawa, the Japanese voice of Goku in Dragon Ball Z, and Yoko Kanno, composer of anime soundtracks that fill me with warm fuzzies like Cowboy Bebop, Kids on the Slope, Ghost in the Shell: Stand-Alone Complex, Wolf’s Rain and some of the newer series in the Macross franchise. Accordingly, one of the items Pali gave away was something from Macross Frontier. The winner? Milton Streeter, former leader of the Japanese Animation Society of Hawaii and co-host of the “Anime Clubs in Hawaii” panel that took place immediately preceding this particular panel.

As you can see, he was a tad bit enthused.

The art of library talks (Nov. 6)

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I’m not sure how many times over the years that I’ve attended talks by nemu*nemu artist Audra Furuichi about the creative process that goes into her thrice-weekly online comic strip, but one thing’s remained constant: Those talks are always fascinating, and fledgling artists could learn quite a bit from them. These two girls certainly took advantage of the opportunity, practicing sketching on Audra’s tablet after an evening talk at Kapolei Library.

The Journey continues (Dec. 22)

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Journey of Heroes, the graphic novel recounting the story of the 100th Battalion/442nd Regimental Combat Team in World War II, went into a second printing toward the end of the year, with the first public sale of those new books at the Honolulu Gift Fair in mid-December. That’s author Stacey Hayashi in the background … and behind the table in the foreground, helping her sell books and other merchandise chock full of chibi soldier goodness, was MidWeek cartoonist/Cacy and Kiara author Roy Chang.

And that was 2013 in a nutshell! 2014’s already getting off to a busy start with Comic Jam Hawaii returning to Pearlridge on Sunday (1-4 p.m.!) and the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii’s Ohana Festival on Jan. 19. Is another fun year loaded with plenty of pictures in store? You betcha.

Ota-cool! October, part 1: Petite con love

Mini Con 2013 posterWelcome to October, the month where, if you can’t find some event that interests you, you have to start questioning whether your heart’s really still into this anime/manga fandom.

A bunch of major players are hosting events this month: Kawaii Kon. The Hawaii International Film Festival. Taku Taku Matsuri. Oni-Con Hawaii (yes, I’m counting them now even though it’s a November event, because I’m checking in to my hotel Halloween afternoon and will probably be too busy covering it to be able to write them into the November Ota-cool! calendar, so yay). McCully-Moiliili Library manager Hillary Chang. That’s not even factoring in regular meetings of groups like Comic Jam Hawaii and MangaBento, or the Space Battleship Yamato live-action film from 2010 screening at the Ward theaters toward the end of the month.

There’s something going on pretty much every week — so much, in fact, that I ended up breaking up my customary beginning-of-the-month Ota-cool Incoming! post into three parts, for easier reading. And part 1 focuses on the big-bang kickoff to the month, what I saw as one crazy busy day several months ago: Saturday.

About a 30-minute, 14-mile drive separates the Kawaii Kon-hosted Anime Day at Windward Mall and Mini-Con at McCully-Moiliili Library. That information will come in handy for the truly hard-core fans among you, as both of those events are happening at roughly the same time — Anime Day from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Mini Con from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Nemu *loves* the library. Cute Audra Furuichi art courtesy of Hillary Chang.If time and/or parking are your priority, perhaps Mini Con, sponsored by the library, Collector Maniacs and the Ross Dress for Less across the street (in the old Longs building!) ought to be your first stop. Now in its fourth year, Hillary Chang has invited her by-now standard roster of all-star artists ready to meet and greet patrons — Gordon Rider / Ararangers artist Jon Murakami, nemu*nemu artist Audra Furuichi, Crazy Shirts designer and Kikaidaverse fan artist Kevin Sano, and Brady Evans and Tara Tamayori with their dual Pen & Ink Works / Hachi Maru Hachi attack. (It’s super-effective!)

Jon, Audra and Kevin will all have stuff for sale — Audra in particular will have another lineup of I-wanna-buy-them-aaaaaaaaaaaall original artwork — and Pen & Ink Works will host a workshop at 11 a.m. There also will be free swag to collect (bookmarks! pencils!) and free anime screenings throughout the day. Cosplayers also will receive special prizes just for cosplaying, so go for it! Besides, Hillary’s always unveiled a costume of her own every year. You wouldn’t want her to feel all alone in her creative endeavors.

Weird (but given my recent history with covering such events, totally not expected) thing: I don’t think I ever posted a Flickr gallery of last year’s Mini Con. So if you want a taste of what this year’s event will probably look like, here you go:

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Anime Day 2013 logoThe larger of the two events is Anime Day, which took over a bunch of empty storefronts and the centerstage area of Windward Mall last year. Most of the accoutrements from last year’s event are back this year: cosplay contests, free anime screenings and a dealers room / Artist Alley hybrid (where one of the vendors, I understand, will be a certain beading enthusiast who also writes a popular Star-Advertiser business column, selling anime- and video game-themed jewelry). The Comic Jam Hawaii gang will be hosting the Art Wall and sketching stations as well. The only thing that’s missing is that giant Christmas tree that regularly spewed out artificial “snow” in the centerstage area, but that Anime Day was also held in early December, so there’s that.

There’s also the promise of a “few surprises.” If you’ve been keeping track of the Kawaii Kon Facebook page in recent weeks, for starters, there has been that whole “here’s a picture of a particular character … what does this all mean?” running bit … I’m only speculating here, but could we finally be getting some confirmed answers to that question? And will it be, as your friendly neighborhood anime/manga blogger thinks, the announcement of the voice acting trio of Rob Paulsen, Grey DeLisle and Quinton Flynn as guests for Kawaii Kon 2014? We shall see, I suppose.

Weird (but given my recent history with covering Mini Con 2012, totally not expected) thing: I don’t think I ever posted a Flickr gallery of last year’s Anime Day, either. So if you want a taste of what this year’s event will probably look like, here you go:

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

And that’s still not everything going on this weekend. Some other events of note:

Star Wars Reads Day: May the force of literacy be with you! Eight libraries — Aiea, Aina Haina, Hawaii Kai, Kahuku, Kapolei and Mililani on Oahu, Makawao on Maui and Princeville on Kauai — will be hosting Star Wars-themed giveaways and activities. Aiea will host members of the 501st Imperial Legion and the Mandalorian Mercs, as well as offer activities for the kids, between 10 a.m. and noon. Kapolei will also have 501st members and kids’ activities between 10 a.m. and noon, while Mililani will have a bunch of giveaways between 10 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Cap it off with a screening of Star Wars: The Clone Wars from 2:30 to 4 p.m. at Hawaii Kai.

Visual Kei Dark Castle: A Halloween Party: To get a sense of the vibe this regular visual kei club event is going for this month, please watch this video.

And then watch this locally produced homage.

Got it? Awesome. Be a v-kei creature of the night and come out to play at Nextdoor (43 N. Hotel St.) from 9 to 11:30 p.m. Saturday.

Comic Jam Hawaii: This Sunday is the first one of the month, which means it’s time for another Pearlridge sketch session. Join this group of collaborative cartoon artists from 1 to 4 p.m. and draw to your heart’s content. Visit www.facebook.com/groups/ComicJamHawaii.

Keep in mind, this is just what’s happening on one weekend this month. Next time, there’s a whole film festival’s worth of material to delve into. And then after that, there’s the rest of the month to cover.

It’s going to be a wild ride, folks. Strap in and enjoy.