Remember Pokemon Go? The augmented reality mobile phone game that was hotter than a Charizard for a good chunk of the summer of 2016, the one that promised players they could catch Pokemon in the real world? The one that drew this many people to one corner of Kakaako for nights on end when the game first launched in late July?
The visible popularity of PoGo has dropped since those dizzying summer heights. The good will lasted for several months, or about the amount of time it took for the hardest of hard-core players to fill their Pokedexes with every available species. Niantic has updated the game every so often, or about as much as one can expect when they’re still dealing with everyone who stuck around for Ingress. But for every special event, every announcement, every update that featured “minor text fixes” and little else, the frustration has mounted:
Buddy Pokemon introduced (September): “Where are the legendaries (Zapdos, Moltres, Articuno, Mew and Mewtwo), Generation 2, player-versus-player battling and Pokemon trading? Pokemon Go is dead.”
Halloween event (October): “Spooky Pokemon spawns and more candy? But where are the legendaries, Gen 2, PVP and trading? PoGo is dead.”
Ditto appears (November): “Where are the legendaries, Gen 2, PVP and trading? PoGo is dead.”
Thanksgiving event (November): “More XP and Stardust? But where are the legendaries, Gen 2, PVP and trading? PoGo is dead.”
Starbucks and Sprint stores become PokeStops or gyms (December): “Where are the legendaries, Gen 2, PVP and trading? PoGo is dead.”
Pikachus with Santa hats appear (December): “Where are the legendaries, Gen 2, PVP and trading? PoGo is dead.”
Eggs start hatching select Gen 2 babies like Togepi and Pichu: “Where are the legendaries, the rest of Gen 2, PVP and trading? PoGo is dead.”
Christmas event (December): “More starter Pokemon and evolutions spawning? And free egg incubators? But where are the legendaries, the rest of Gen 2, PVP and trading? PoGo is dead.”
Valentine’s Day event (February): “More pink Pokemon spawns and candy? … ehh. You know.”
Yet there are still those of us who have soldiered on through everything. Mostly because we’ve never had the same fortune as those happy posters on the Pokemon Go Hawaii Facebook group that walk three steps somewhere and *BOOF* OH HI DRAGONITE. We’re more casual players, lucky enough to get 10 coins a day if we feel like battling gyms with three Snorlaxes, five Dragonites and a few other random species sprinkled here and there, with holes in our Pokedexes and nothing but Pidgeys, Zubats and Rattatas populating our “Nearby” radars. There are also people like Nick of Trainer Tips, who’s somehow willed daily YouTube content out of the game with videos that are definitely worth watching. (Plus he has ties to Maui, too!)
For those of us who stuck around — and perhaps for some of those lapsed players as well — our patience is about to pay off in a big way. Earlier today, Niantic announced that more than 80 of the long-rumored Gen 2 Pokemon are going to be added to the game later this week, along with new berries, avatars and avatar accessories. Here, have a promo trailer (that thankfully isn’t as pie-in-the-sky as the launch trailer):
… excuse me for a sec … that’s …
OMG IT’S MARILL SQUEEEEEEEEEEE
It remains to be seen whether we’ll see critical-mass crowds at PoGo hotspots like Coral Street in Kakaako, the Waikiki Aquarium and Kapolei Library again like back in the early days, but it’s highly likely this will give the game a nice little kick-start. But here’s the thing: I’ve peeked at the comments on this announcement at various spots (so you don’t have to; many of you have learned never to peek at the comments on anything, as Internet forums are hives of scum and villainy). And guess what they’re saying!
“But where are the legendaries, PVP and trading? PoGo is dead.”
We’ve made it to the midpoint of Con-athon 2016, our coverage of this year’s major local anime/manga/pop-culture conventions, and … whoof. Man. I don’t remember Con-athon 2015 being as much of a grind as we’re seeing this year. A quick recap: Kawaii Kon kicked off the convention season strong in April; Amazing Hawaii Comic Con returned in May, but while they announced a second, smaller event for October, the accounts I’ve heard seem to indicate that attendance was down this year; and Anime Matsuri retreated back to Houston. Meanwhile, planning for HawaiiCon (in September) and Anime Ohana (in November) continue apace. So while there are still six major conventions planned for this year, the faces have shifted somewhat.
Next up to the starting block: year 2 of Comic Con Honolulu, the pop-culture con from the organizers of Kawaii Kon.
Confession time: Among the six conventions that comprised Con-athon 2015, Comic Con Honolulu was the event at which I spent the least amount of time. Three hours, to be exact, enough time to sit in on the Art Improv panel, say hi to a bunch of friends, make a few quick purchases in the Dealer’s Room/Artist Alley, and then dash off to work.
Part of it was out of necessity. There’s only so much vacation time I get every year, after all, so I have to be choosy about which events I commit to visiting for the full run and which ones only get a commitment of a day or shorter. But part of it was also the fact that there wasn’t much of a “wow” factor there for me. Sure, there was a decent guest lineup over which people got excited, but nothing that really grabbed me and said that I absolutely had to go. Besides, Amazing already had Stan Lee in their corner, HawaiiCon convinced me to give them a try based on their booking of three Cowboy Bebop voice actors, and Anime Ohana and Anime Matsuri Hawaii had the whole “hey, we’re new, and we’re right in your anime/manga-loving wheelhouse, please come check us out” sparkle-sheen to them. It’s just the way things work out sometimes.
This year, though? Different story. HawaiiCon and Anime Ohana have joined Kawaii Kon in my con rotation, Anime Matsuri Hawaii went *poof*, and I felt I needed to prioritize a full weekend visit to CCH over braving Amazing again. CCH’s guest roster and the show’s smaller size certainly helped in that decision. Now, of course, the key is in holding my attention …
When/where: Friday-Sunday, Hawai’i Convention Center
Admission: Three-day passes, $65; Friday- or Sunday-only pass, $30 each day; Saturday-only pass, $40. Pass prices apply to attendees ages 5 and up.
How will CCH try to distinguish itself from Amazing, its biggest competition in the market, and draw sufficient numbers to remain a viable show in the process? CCH’s main advantage may lie in its programming diversity — there are far more fan panels and more activities available than just “shop,” “buy themed VIP packages and convention-exclusive comics” and “sit in giant space and listen to featured guests talk.” CCH has also been doing well promoting local talent selling their wares in Artist Alley on their social media accounts … and let’s not forget about the support they’re throwing toward neighborhood eateries with their list of con weekend discounts.
But there’s also no denying that the buzz for the show on my Facebook feed has been more muted. Or maybe that’s just because everyone on my Facebook news feed is talking about the upcoming elections and Pokemon GO and my news feed algorithm is horrifically screwed up as a result. In any case, a quick look at the Dealer’s Room and Artist Alley listings reveal only a fraction of the local vendors and artists that Amazing had in May.
Five Six guests to get hyped for
In past Con-athon roundups, I would’ve used this space for a complete roundup of all the guests appearing at a particular show. But let’s face it: Kawaii Kon had more than 20 guests. Amazing had more than 25. Faced with the prospect of writing another 22 mini-bios for this convention and another 100 gazillion for HawaiiCon, I finally tapped out and said, “OK, I’m just hitting the high points and picking five guests I’m most excited about seeing going forward.”
And then I went and picked six people anyway. Because the sixth person really deserved to be mentioned. Plus I’m writing this blog, so I get to make up all the rules and then break them, right? The full guest list is available at comicconhonolulu.com/guests.
George Takei: Every convention has its “OMG moment” during the guest announcement phase, that one guest over whom people rub their eyes over and over again and pinch themselves and wonder, “Holy cats, is that guy really going to be part of my hometown convention?” Takei is this year’s OMG moment for Comic-Con Honolulu … and arguably the entirety of Con-athon 2016, to boot. Whether you know him as Sulu from Star Trek, a gay rights advocate, the man behind Allegiance (a musical set in the Japanese-American internment camps during World War II) or a huge social media influencer, you know who he is. And you’ll have exactly one chance to see him speak: 2:30-3:30 p.m. Saturday in Main Events (Room 316 ABC). Good luck, folks.
Grant Imahara: Spoiler alert: Our Steven Mark got to chat with the animatronics engineer, modelmaker and Mythbuster in an interview running in Friday’s paper. Definitely worth checking out if you have a chance. Scheduled to appear at two panels: “Bustin’ Myths and Building Robots: The Story of Grant Imahara,” 11 a.m.-noon Saturday in Main Events, and “Discover Grant Imahara,” 11 a.m.-noon Sunday, also in Main Events.
Sean Astin: He’s been a Goonie and a Hobbit. He’s the son of Patty Duke and John Astin, who played Gomez in the original Addams Family. And he’s the voice of Raphael in the ongoing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles animated series. If you need any more convincing than that to see him, then man, you’re tough to please. Scheduled to appear at two panels: “Face to Face With Sean Astin,” 4-5 p.m. Friday in Main Events; and the Voice Actor Round Table (with Jennifer Hale, the voice of female Commander Shepard in the Mass Effect video games, and Phil LaMarr, the voice of Hermes Conrad in Futurama and Samurai Jack) from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. Saturday, also in Main Events.
John Barrowman: Until last week, he was best known as Captain Jack Harkness in Doctor Who and the spinoff Torchwood, as well as the Dark Archer in Arrow. Since then, he’s been that guy who dressed up as Squirrel Girl, Futurama’s Zap Brannigan, Harley Quinn and a dress-wearing Kylo Ren in San Diego. Here’s hoping he has more antics planned for Honolulu this weekend. Scheduled to appear at one panel: “Getting to Know John Barrowman,” 4-5 p.m. Saturday in Main Events.
Fabian Nicienza: Rob Liefeld was a guest at Amazing, so now it’s time for Liefeld’s partner in creating Deadpool to have his say. Nicieza also helped create Shatterstar, the X-Force and Cable; has more than 1,000 comic book writing credits; and is currently working with Stan Lee on Cosmic Crusaders. Scheduled to appear at three panels: “Breaking the Fourth Wall,” 3:15-4:15 p.m. Friday in Panel Room 315; “Behind the Snark,” 5:15-6:15 p.m. Saturday in Main Events; and “Comic Editing and Character Creation,” 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. in Panel Room 315.
Leah Rose: The talented cosplayer and host with the most who’s been featured in this blog before deserves a mention here, as this will be her last local convention as an isle resident before she moves on to Seattle. With Dasha Cosplay, Uncanny Megan and now Leah leaving or about to leave from Hawaii in the past handful of months, all I can say is whyyyyyyyy are the cosplayers all leaving do you not love usanymoooooooore. Umm. *ahem*. You can see her doing hosting duties all weekend or offer hugs and leis at her Artist Alley table, F11.
Will cartoonist Jon Murakami be here?
Three for three, yup! Look for him in Artist Alley, table E12, with his new collection of comic strips from the Hawaii Herald, Generation Gap:Are You Sure These Are Our Grandkids (pictured above), as well as a sale on Gordon Rider back issues, original sketches, and an array of shirts, prints, books and buttons. Can’t make it to con? You still have a few more hours today to get in on the book preorder; visit www.jonjmurakami.bigcartel.com.
(Also, Jon’s still our measuring stick for Con-athon 2016, considering he’s going to almost all the things.)
Anyone else of note?
There’s a guy doing these portraits, that’s for certain.
That artist is MidWeek cartoonist and Cacy & Kiara / Highball & Pepe creator Roy Chang, and he drew that Funko Pop-ified portrait of me last week during a special “Get Pop-Cultured” event at Barnes & Noble Ala Moana. And now it’s my Instagram profile picture, so w00t w00t to that. You can get your own Funkofied portrait — $5 black and white, $10 color — the newest Aloha Pepe issue, and more in Artist Alley, table A3.
Elsewhere in Artist Alley, you’ll find Marisa and Carole Gee with their handmade jewelry and charms at Kawaii Mono (C1); beadspriters extraordinare Dinner Crew Crafts (C11-12); longtime comic creators/anime aficionados Lime Media Hawaii (E9), the anime/manga-inspired artist collective MangaBento (D12), comic artist Christopher Caravalho and Mana Comics (B7),and artists Andy Lee (B1), Reid Kishimoto (E2), Tara Tamayori (F4), Headshot Heroes (C7) and Michael Cannon (E12). Hours are 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday.
Over in the adjacent dealer’s room, Terri Dux and Karl Miyashiro’s one-stop shop for local apparel with clever phrase twists, idkwhat2wear, will be at table 55 with some new cute, clever designs. Pono Comics (52), Dragon’s Lair (42) and Other Realms (46, 47, 57, 58) represent local comic shops this time around. Familiar Kawaii Kon mainstays Anime Palace (25, 36), Hakubundo (50), Michi’s Toy Box (27) and Crappykids (7) will be there, as will everyone’s favorite snack vendors, Brug Bakery (41) and Paradise Kettle Corn (44). Hours are 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday.
Other schedule highlights
Introducing Hitbox Music Ensemble:7:30-8:30 p.m. Friday, Main Events. An ensemble of classical and jazz instrumental and choral musicians performs music from video games, anime, TV shows and movies. Think of it like those Legend of Zelda concerts that have been coming to town, except on a wider scale.
Art Improv,10-11:30 a.m. Saturday,Panel Room 312. One of my must-see panels of the con, it’s what happens when you take a group of Comic Jam Hawaii artists and throw crazy ideas at them in the style of the classic comedy improv show Whose Line is it Anyway? Plus as a bonus, the sketches they draw are up for grabs at the end — you can nab some pretty cool free artwork that way. If you have some time to fill afterward, stick around for a series of drawing tutorials, including Kaci Horimoto on drawing (11:30 a.m.-12:15 p.m.), Reid Kishimoto on inking (12:15-1 p.m.), Rich Rodriguez on drawing from basic shapes (1-1:45 p.m.) and Wynette Sabalburo on coloring with markers (1:45-2:30 p.m.).
Ingress: It’s Time to Move!6-7:30 p.m. Saturday, Panel Room 312. Learn how to play the augmented reality game that I like to think of as the Pokemon GO beta beta as a noble agent of the Enlightened! (oryoucouldjointheResistanceIsuppose) Things that will be discussed at this panel: how the game works, the convoluted backstory that hardly anyone pays attention to, and how the game’s brought together agents from both factions at large events worldwide. Things that will not be discussed at this panel: triangles (lots and lots of them), creepy vans, and Pokemon GO. Seriously, the panelists would like to focus on Ingress, so no PoGo questions, please. Besides …
Pokemon GO Hawaii:8-9 p.m. Saturday, Panel Room 315. … you trainers who’ve taken the parts of the world where Niantic actually has servers up and running (for the most part, *crosses fingers*) by storm get a panel all to yourselves. Meet other players, wave a virtual banner for your team (Instinct! The other two teams who aren’t Instinct!), share your stories, and catch the occasional Rattata or Pidgey or Zubat that happens to wander into the area. Note: Panel will be called off if a 1,000+ CP Mewtwo suddenly spawns down the street. Just kidding; I doubt anything short of the usual “circumstances beyond our control” is going to be canceling this party.
Cosplay Contest:7:30-9 p.m. Saturday, Main Events. You know the drill by now: People show off their craftsmanship with fabulous costumes; the audience oohs and ahhs (and awwwws if the cosplayer happens to be a really cute child); prizes are awarded. And a good time is had by all.
Cardcaptor Sakura: A 20-Year Celebration:1:30-2 p.m. Sunday, Panel Room 312. You thought all the anime/manga panel ideas were exhausted at Kawaii Kon? You were wrong. The fact that this panel is covering one of CLAMP’s classic series makes it even more appealing.
There isn’t much time to explain why I’ve been away for so lo–
… OK, fine, so there’s that. But seriously, there isn’t much time to explain why I’ve be–
… yeah, OK, that too. But that’s really everything that’s been distracting me at the mo–
… umm, let’s just get to this month’s event calendar, shall we?
The Miyazaki Ghibli Film Festival: “But I thought we just had a Ghibli film festival in April!” you say. Ahh, but that one didn’t feature films being screened in the historic Hawaii Theatre. Nor did it feature a festival-exclusive Ghibli-themed T-shirt, a cosplay contest (2 p.m. Sunday), entertainment from the Drowning Dreamers Band (7-7:30 p.m. Friday) and Makkuro KurO.K. (7-7:30 p.m. Saturday), food vendors Pig & the Lady (Friday) and Onomono (Saturday and Sunday) or an Art+Flea-hosted room full of crafters, including friends of the blog Marisa and Carole Gee of Kawaii Mono, who’ll be selling all these Ghibli-themed charms at the event:
Related to that, Kawaii Mono is giving away a Miyazaki prize pack valued at $50; visit instagram.com/kawaiimono808 for details. (If you win, though, you’ll have to pick up your prize at the festival; keep that in mind before you enter.) Best of all, if you just want to skip the movies and enjoy the festivities, admission to that is free. You can visit the crafters in the theater’s Weyand Room from 3 to 8 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday.
Keiki Con: Central Oahu’s largest con-style event is back for a second year in Mililani Mauka, and it’s boasting quite a lineup of guests in the Artist Zone: Pineapple Man creator Sam Campos, Mana Comics creator Christopher Caravalho, Gordon Rider/Ara-Rangers/Edamame Ninjas creator Jon Murakami will all be there Members of Comic Jam Hawaii will be hosting a table with drawing activities (and they’ll be drawing as well!), and Headshot Heroes will be doing a live painting demo (when he’s not giving kids a chance to visit with Elmo, of course). Kawaii Kon/Comic Con Honolulu representatives will be on hand with ticket specials, and they’ll also be giving away two 3-day passes to CCH later this month. And no mini-con would be complete without a cosplay contest, taking place at 11:45 a.m. (and if you’re interested in participating in that, be sure to check in no later than 11:30 a.m.). Food booths, entertainment, and, of course, plenty of activities for the kids round out the event. Mililani Recreation Center 7 (95-1333 Lehiwa Dr.), 10 a.m.-3 p.m. July 9.
Hawaii Geek Meet: If it’s geeky, it’ll probably show up somewhere during this 9th-annual meet-up — cosplayers, a Quidditch team, the Last Outpost and the Pacific Outpost of the 501st Legion being among those who are planning to show up. Also notable: Just four days after the game overwhelmed Android and iOS networks nationwide, there’s already a Pokemon Go farming meetup planned. Geeks are super-efficient! Kapiolani Park, 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday.
Comic Con Honolulu: George Takei, original Star Trek actor and overseer of everything viral on the Internet, is the headliner at this, the next stop for Con-athon 2016. Other key guests from the 22-person lineup include Sean Astin, Sam Gamgee in the Lord of the Rings trilogy; John Barrowman, Capt. Jack Harkness in Torchwood and the Dark Archer in Arrow; Mythbuster Grant Imahara; Deadpool co-creator Fabian Nicienza; and Kristin Bauer, currently starring as Maleficent in Once Upon A Time. Hawai’i Convention Center, Friday-Sunday, July 29-31.