Archive for March, 2012

The Cel Shaded Report, 3/29: A sketching situation

March 29th, 2012
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pen and ink works logo

One of the neat things about local anime and manga fandom is how it's spawned an entire generation of people eager to whip out their sketchbooks and draw things inspired by the series that they love. I've seen that talent manifest itself in the Liliha Library Anime Art Contest for the past two years now, MangaBento's art exhibits, and the Artist Alley at Kawaii Kon and HEXXP, and the art's been really, really nice.

Well, it's time once again to nurture that talent. Pen & Ink Works has a neat event coming up from 2 to 5 p.m. Saturday to do just that -- a Sketch Meet where artists can hang out, participate in some drawing games and trade tips with one another. All you need is a sketchbook, some drawing materials (naturally), a mat or a towel ... and some good walking shoes. Some sunscreen may be in order as well.

For while the event will be starting off in front of Shirokiya -- Ala Moana, second floor, just look for them somewhere between the entrance to Macy's and the KZOO studio -- they'll be migrating eventually to Magic Island, across the street. By the way, for the curious, as of this writing the National Weather Service forecast is for mostly sunny conditions with a 20 percent chance of showers, breezy and a high near 75. So unless you have to spend the afternoon, say, in an office working on polishing up the next day's news for the people (sadly raises hand), it sounds like a creative, lovely way to spend a Saturday afternoon and take in another nice day here on the island.

Learn more about Pen & Ink Works at peninkworks.wordpress.com or their Facebook page.

nakamaboko2Writing about this Sketch Meet also reminded me that I have yet to discuss in this space MangaBento's upcoming exhibit, "Nakamaboko: Working Together." Scheduled to run from June 12 through July 14, the exhibit at the Honolulu Museum of Art School (formerly the Academy Art Center at 1111 Victoria St.) will feature art pieces in various media (drawings, paintings, sculptures, photos, costumes and the like) that are inspired by anime and manga. To that end, the group will be accepting community submissions.  Most of the deadlines are in May -- and I'll include reminders in this space as we approach those deadlines -- but if you want to get a head start and mail something in now, you can do so. Send your pieces in by May 23 to:

Devin Oishi
Art Instructor
Kaimuki High School
2705 Kaimuki Ave.
Honolulu, HI 96816

Be sure to include your name; age; school and teacher (if applicable); whether you're a pro, amateur, or student; address; phone number; email address; and a sale price if you want to sell your piece. A complete rundown of requirements is available at the Nakamaboko page at www.manga-bento.com.

Walking in rhythm, singing his song

March 24th, 2012
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walking man coverToday’s profile: The Walking Man (1 volume)
Publisher: Fanfare/Ponent Mon
Age rating
: N/A
Buying it: Good luck -- the publisher's online shop shows no purchase links available, and Amazon's listing shows copies starting from the amazingly low, low price of $67.20. (Keep in mind, this thing's cover price is $16.99.) Best bet may be to hope it pops up at a used bookstore.

This month's Manga Movable Feast, hosted by Ed Sizemore over at Manga Worth Reading, focuses on the hidden treasures of artist Jiro Taniguchi. I call them "hidden treasures" because unlike last month's MMF-featured artist, Osamu Tezuka, you'll hardly ever walk into a store and find books by him sitting on the shelves (at least, not here in the islands, anyway). Granted, there were a handful of his titles that Borders picked up -- that's how I learned of the joys of A Distant Neighborhood -- but, well, we all know where Borders ended up. His most accessible work at the moment, aside from what pops in and out of print on Amazon, may well be Kodoku no Gourmet, the manga he worked on with Masayuki Kusumi about a lone gourmet enjoying the delights at local restaurants and ramen shops that's available on JManga.com.

Shame, really. Because if there's anything A Distant Neighborhood and another series I've briefly addressed in this space, Summit of the Gods, taught me, it's that Taniguchi is a mangaka worth following. Looking at the lineup of MMF pieces reminds me of all the books I've heard of but never had the opportunity to read yet -- The Times of Botchan, The Quest for the Missing Girl, A Zoo in Winter, just to name a few.

To really capture the essence of Taniguchi, though, one needs only to experience The Walking Man. Yes, you could just replace "experience" with "read" in the last sentence. But then you'd be glazing over the whole point of looking at this book.

The premise is as stated in the title: There's this guy -- I'd peg him to be a middle-aged businessman -- and he walks around. A lot. Repeat this over 155 pages, and that's the book. It's like those installments of "The Family Circus" in the Sunday comics where one of the kids wanders around from point A to point B with a dotted line tracing his convoluted path, except these journeys unfold frame by frame in intricate manga storytelling style.

It sounds incredibly dull. And for the manga reader who expects something, anything to happen to the characters they're reading about other than "they exist," it is. Heck, we learn more about the man's dog (his name is Snowy!) than we do about the man himself (his name is [fill in the blank here with whatever you wish, there are no right or wrong answers]!) Here's the essence of the first seven chapters:

  • Man meets bird watchers
  • It snows
  • Man explores town
  • Man climbs tree
  • It rains
  • Man skinny-dips
  • It storms

Throw in the phrase "Walking Man summary" and add in a few punctuation marks, and you could actually fit that into a single tweet with a few characters to spare. (Yes, I actually checked this.)

But The Walking Man isn't meant for those people looking for action-oriented thrills. Rather, its target audience is really those who are able to find beauty in the seemingly mundane. Like I said in my look at A Distant Neighborhood, Taniguchi's strengths are in rendering the intricacies of a particular scene and generating empathy for his characters. Whatever the man experiences in this book, we experience as well. If he feels like getting off a bus and walking to the top of a small hill, basking in the breezes and noting a marker where the altitude is exactly that of the peak of Mount Fuji, then we follow right along with him. When a wayward ball knocks off his glasses and he accidentally steps on them, Taniguchi shows us his blurred world view when he isn't wearing them, and the fractured view when he is.

Devoid of any plot to concentrate on, we're free to focus instead on the details with which Taniguchi has populated this man's world -- the stranger with whom our unnamed protagonist silently bonds on one walk, the wayward elderly lady and the children playing their recorders in the streets on another, the "sklunk!" of a can of coffee dropping from a vending machine. Thus the reason why I wrote earlier that The Walking Man is more to be experienced than to be read becomes clearer: The reason why this book appears at first glance to be about nothing from a storytelling standpoint is because "nothing" is exactly what Taniguchi wanted us to embrace. The man clearly has an identity and a job that keeps him busy, but that doesn't matter; we're always seeing him unplugged from that, walking somewhere, enjoying whatever life happens to present to him on a particular day.

This manga may have been released in 1992 in Japan and around 2004 in the U.S., but its message may be even more relevant in the information-dense, go-go-go environment of 2012: Relax. Take a walk. Enjoy life. That's what's most important.

Amazon's listing shows copies starting from the amazingly low, low price of $67.20. (Keep in mind, this thing's cover price is $16.99.)

The Cel Shaded Report, 3/22: Countdown 358 days

March 22nd, 2012
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If you wanted any indication of how wildly successful Kawaii Kon was this year, all you needed to do was look at the closing ceremonies.

Yes, this means we're continuing our ongoing Kawaii Kon retrospective by jumping straight to the end of it. Yes, I realize that this is a bit like reading part of the beginning of a book, then flipping ahead to see how it all ends, then going back to where you left off to see how everything unfolds. But when you get a turnout like this, you can understand why I'd want to get to talking about this right away.

closing crowd

That's a view of the audience at this year's closing ceremonies. What you have to realize is that past ceremonies have been rather staid affairs -- the guests say their final goodbyes, there's a Q&A/feedback session that's either quick and painless ("We have online forums! Please share your opinions there!") or long and excruciatingly painful to sit through ("Can you repeat the question? We can't hear you from up here!"), and, in recent years, con co-administrator Angel Rumbaoa and some staff members have done a dance number. Here, in fact, is a picture of Rumbaoa getting ready to perform in this year's number.

angel

There were, indeed, animal costumes involved. And K-pop.

This year, though, felt more like a party, the crowning celebration of a whirlwind weekend. There were 6,077 people who attended Kawaii Kon this year, an attendance increase for the seventh straight year. Think about it: Ever since the convention began in 2005, attendance has never dropped. This despite the fact that the anime industry's down, the manga industry's down, there really isn't any single overwhelmingly popular series that people are following at the moment, and the number of places where fans can buy anime and manga locally has dropped off dramatically. Shows you what kind of community we have here out on a rock in the middle of the Pacific that can perpetuate itself like that.

kawaii-kon-logoTo keep the party going, there were two announcements made:

  • Kawaii Kon 2013 will be held March 15-17, once again at the Convention Center. If memory serves, this is the first time we've ever known the date of next's year's con immediately coming out of this year's con. The timing has once again been placed to coincide with spring break -- why change what served so well this year, after all?
  • The first guest for next year is voice actor and Kawaii Kon first-timer Todd Haberkorn, who's had a number of prominent roles over the years: Allen Walker in D.Gray Man, Italy in Hetalia Axis Powers, Keisuke Takahashi in Initial D, Keroro in Sgt. Frog and Kimihiro Watanuki in xxxHolic among them.

Online preregistration isn't available yet, but keep checking back at www.kawaii-kon.org for whenever that goes live. I'll also post a heads-up on my Twitter feed and here on the blog when that happens.

Anime around town

Aiea Library Anime Club: 3 p.m. Saturday at the library, 99-143 Moanalua Road. This month, librarian Diane Masaki will be screening Evangelion 2.22: You Can (Not) Advance. For more information or to RSVP, call 483-7333 or e-mail aiealibraryanimeclub@yahoo.com.

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

World Cosplay Summit road goes through HEXXP

March 21st, 2012
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And now, here's my summary of Kawaii Kon 2012, as told by one file folder on my computer:

Photos. Panel recordings. Videos. Aieeeeeeee.

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Kawaii Kon 2012] Panel discussions: Horikawa, Miya and Amano

March 18th, 2012
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"Meet Ryo Horikawa and Kenichi Miya"

Putting your heart and spirit into whatever role you play is key to a good voice actor, Japanese actor Ryo Horikawa emphasized.

It's that same heart that allows him to differentiate which American voice actors are good. "It's about knowing the character, giving life to the character," Horikawa said.

Kawaii Kon marks Horikawa's first visit to Hawaii, along with fellow seiyuu (voice actor) Kenichi Miya. The two shared a panel on Friday, talking about their careers, their inspirations and the industry in general. That's Miya on the left, Horikawa on the right.

miya_horikawa

With decades of voice acting under his belt, Horikawa now runs a school for aspiring seiyuu. When asked whether it's better for an actor to have a wide range of voices or to concentrate on one role, "It's hard to say," he replied. "There are those who can do multiple and are good and there are those who are known for one voice." What's most important, he said, is to "enhance what you're good at no matter what type you are."

Concentration is another key aspect to what Horikawa does. Because he's played so many different characters over the years, he said he has to completely ignore all his other roles when he goes to voice another one. "It was challenging to play Vegeta at the same time I played a very justice-driven character with a baby face," he said through translator Sachi Kaaihue, that latter description likely referring to Reinhard von Lohengramm from Legend of the Galactic Heroes.

As for Miya, he's a student at Horikawa's school and said that meeting Horikawa-sensei and coming to Hawaii are the defining moments of his career.

Not that Horikawa seems to regard himself as such. Despite the noteworthy roles he's played -- he's most well-known as the voice of the angry Vegeta in Dragon Ball Z, but he's also done Heiji Hattori in Case Closed and Andromeda Shun in Saint Seiya -- he downplayed it when Kaaihue called him "sensei" when introducing him at the start of the panel.

It's probably because Horikawa regards himself as an eternal student, always looking ahead to the next role. When asked about his own defining moment, he said he loved all the characters he played. "The most important thing for me is to feel the new power inside," he said, adding that he constantly wants a challenge, so he looks forward to the next job that could very well be the best of his career.

In fact, his latest role is one that he's quite excited about. He has both a voice and a production role in Magical Dreamers, a new type of manga coming out for iOS and Android devices. Not only is it bilingual, it's also interactive, with voices as well as printed text. (Jason will have more from that panel later.)

Both Horikawa and Miya said they enjoy their careers for the different lives in which they can immerse themselves. For Horikawa, the character of Vegeta is an excuse for him to yell all the time. "It makes me feel fun and excited. ... I'm usually not like that in real life," he said.

Miya is the same. He gets to go on adventures, go to war, and have relationships with the ladies -- things that, he said through a translator, he probably would never get to experience in real life. (I'd argue against "relationships" being included in the "things Miya will not experience" list, though.)

But no matter what that next role might be, whether it be a teenage boy or an angry alien or something completely different, Horikawa's up for the challenge. He's pushing the e-manga as well as working to make his voice acting school truly international, so he's still got a lot more on his plate.

"Face to Face: Yoshitaka Amano"

The same passion for his work can be found in Yoshitaka Amano. Wearing a just-purchased aloha shirt, the artist and character designer described how the vast majority of his artistic inspiration actually came from American sources.

He was a huge fan of Disney characters, he said, having grown up watching the cartoons. In the 1970s, when he was in his 20s, he was influenced by American pop artists such as Andy Warhol, and also by American psychedelic art. He was working in anime at the time, and those influences made their way into his character designs.

amano

Amano likes every character he draws -- or at least he tries to, he said. Like Horikawa, he immerses himself into the person being drawn. "Even if it's a bad guy or girl, there's always something appealing," he said through a translator. He really becomes the person, to the point where, if it's a scary character, he said, he tends to become a little scary in real life.

But, he hastened to add, he usually forgets most of it after he's done, so fans can be assured that Amano won't stay a scary evil guy forever.

Still, Amano apparently better enjoys drawing the bad guys. Actually, he specifically said he enjoys doing the "cool" designs, which most often turn out to be the bad guys. He cited the vampire hunter D as an example of a design he's proud of.

And in a declaration that warms my fangirl heart, Amano said that out of all the Final Fantasy games he's worked on, he loved FF6 the most, although he couldn't say exactly why that was so. In admitting that for the most part he likes easy, "comfortable" drawings because there's less pressure involved, he pointed to FF6's Moogle and Tina (called Terra in the English version of the game) as favorites.

But even with all the fame he's accrued, Amano said he always harbored doubts as to the quality of his work. Did people like his art for itself, or did people like it because they enjoyed the game, anime, or other product that it was associated with? This was one main reason he said he stepped away from character design and went into the fine arts, which comprises about 90 percent of his work now. He's even held a few museum exhibits of his artwork. All of what he described as "getting outside his small box" served to challenge his talent by having viewers focus on his art rather than the game or animated series.

Amano advises other artists to be the same way. For example, when designing a dragon, he said, we are influenced by what others have drawn before. But he "tries to interpret what's in (my) own mind," he said. "If you do that, you can be very different in drawing. Being different is important."

Another key piece of advice: Love what you do. "Then you will work hard and if people don't recognize you, you will still be satisfied," he said.

Then in a complete 180, Amano gave this last piece of advice: Don't listen to his advice. When asked what kind of counsel he's received from other artists, he said he neither received any nor gave much to others. Which is good, he said, "because (I) learned to come up with (my) own ideas." He finished: "Think for yourself. ... Keep inspiration close to your heart."