Archive for April, 2012

Disappearing ink: The forgotten Viz Signatures

April 29th, 2012
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This month, the Manga Movable Feast, under the guidance of host Kate Dacey at The Manga Critic, is celebrating manga past and present that have appeared under Viz's Signature imprint. Any series that garners the Signature label likely has several qualities going for it: It's a title geared toward older audiences; it's probably beloved by Manga Movable Feasters (and, by extension, manga bloggers in general) the world over; and, save for a few exceptions (i.e. Tenjho Tenge ... for now, anyway), you'd be really hard-pressed to find anything more than the latest volume of it at your local retailer amid the sea of 500,000 Bleach, Naruto, One Piece and Sailor Moon volumes.

IKKIbanner-NOART-120x60-3rd-yellowAll this talk about the Signature line reminded me of when Viz tried its hardest to nudge it more into the spotlight. Flash back to one week in May 2009, when, in one fell swoop, Viz announced that it was canceling Shojo Beat magazine and starting a new, online-exclusive anthology: Viz Signature Ikki (SigIkki to all its friends), based on a Shogakukan magazine in Japan targeted at young men. The intent was to gauge reader interest in the series posted, with the most popular series getting print runs down the line. I even wrote a Cel Shaded column about it, because really, shock and awe were the moods of the day: Print anthologies, canceled? Legal manga distributed on the Intarwebz, and for free? Revolutionary!

So here we are now, looking back to that seemingly quaint time in the present day (present time, muhahahaha). The print editions of Yen Plus and Shonen Jump also were canceled, moving from print to digital. Shojo Beat's thrived quite nicely, thank you very much, as a Viz manga imprint. Viz has itself jumped wholeheartedly into digital, offering downloads on both computers and Apple's iOS devices. (Sorry, Android users.)

And the Ikki initiative? It seems to be drifting into the Black Hole of Manga Websites.  Those of you who were around to watch as the U.S. manga industry boom slowly imploded upon itself over a five-year span, rendering a good chunk of the "Publishers" chapter of The Rough Guide to Manga outdated within a year of its publication in the process (*sigh*), have seen the signs before: First, the updates become inconsistent; then they become infrequent; then it becomes painfully clear that no one cares about updating the thing at all; and finally you either get one of those lame "THIS DOMAIN IS AVAILABLE FOR SALE" splash pages or an "ERROR 404 PAGE NOT FOUND" message in your browser.

I'd say Ikki's hovering somewhere around the second stage right about now, gradually sliding into the third stage. After several years of updating four times a month with new manga chapters, the schedule slipped to twice monthly last October. After December 9, the updates stopped altogether. Many of the chapters listed in the update calendar are already gone, having been compiled in print volumes. A poll inviting visitors to "Create The Comix Future!" is blank. The last published interview, with Dorohedoro editor Mr. Kouga, was posted on March 25, 2010; the last "Ikki Underground" update was made on Dec. 10, 2009.

It's all good, though, as long as the manga's still coming out somewhere.  And for the most part, the series launched on sigikki.com have continued to live on in print and paid digital apps.

All of them, that is, except for four titles.

For a line that musters modest readership at best, these four -- Bob and His Funky Crew, I Am A Turtle, Tokyo Flow Chart and What's the Answer? -- appear to have been unable to garner enough reader support online to make publishing them worth Viz's time. Here are the stories of the Forgotten Four, along with their SigIkki debut dates and a few thoughts on whether readers really missed out in seeing more.

Bob and His Funky Crew (Nov. 19, 2009)

Viz's synopsis: Meet Bob, the Major League’s legendary cleanup batter who can’t run, can’t field, and can’t play under pressure. His experience, raunchy jokes, and the fact that no one else wants to take his position makes Bob an irreplaceable designated hitter...until he gets traded to the previous year’s division-title team, the Bulldog City Bullies. Together with his funky friends, Youngman “The One-way Runaway Train” (brawling 3rd baseman), “Stink Bug” Jo (2nd base conman), and “The Game Breaker” Jack (relief pitcher with a flea’s heart), the underdogs will reign this baseball season!

Bob and His Funky CrewImpressions: I noted during the Cross Game Manga Movable Feast last year that I love baseball. It stands to reason, then, that I would've loved to have seen more of this series. Would it have fallen into the usual sports story cliched cycle of "introduce the lovable losers, drag them around in the dregs of the league for a while, then watch them slowly pull themselves together and win a championship through determination and sheer force of will"? Probably.

Yet at the same time, I want to believe that Bob and the boys are cut from a different cloth. I want to believe that they're such pathetic losers, they won't have that championship moment for a long, long time, so that we can see them fumbling about for a bit and have fun doing so. These are guys traded from the Los Angeles Earthquakes to the league leaders, the Bulldog City Bullies, in exchange for the Bullies' manager, after all. Absurdist humor prevails throughout, whether it's the Earthquakes' GM wanting to advertise for a new manager on Craigslist with "moderate compensation," an argument between teams that ends up throwing in a discussion on the definition of "permafrost," or Bob and Youngman debating over whose slump is worse and, thus, who can claim more personal responsibility for letting down the team. Those of you who remember Cromartie High School and its dopey delinquents will find a similar feel here. (Although sadly, nothing could possibly equal the comic brilliance that were Cromartie's Mechazawa and Freddie.)

I Am A Turtle (Aug. 20, 2009)

Viz's synopsis: Follow this turtle down a Zen path through the wondrous natural world of Japan. Witness his simple life on a tea farm with his young master. Meet other animals such as his neighbor, the Sea Dog, an owl, a family of boars and, of course, more turtles! Come see how much better life can be when you’re a turtle.

I Am A TurtleImpressions: Well, we never do get to meet any of  Turtle's friends and neighbors, save for a two-page spread with labels denoting who's who. What we do see in our short taste of this series, is how  Turtle got from Africa to Japan (he fell out of his original owner's pant leg as he was smuggled into the country) and Turtle's musings on how furry things are often cute. All of this is told in the style of 4-koma, those four-paneled strips that resemble the traditional U.S. newspaper comic strip.

The thing about these 4-koma series, though, is that they're wildly inconsistent in quality. When the humor clicks, people buy them in droves -- see Azumanga Daioh, K-ON!, Lucky Star and Hetalia. When it doesn't ... well, look at Tori Koro, the bland tale of a bland girl and her bland mom who take in two bland teenage boarders, where it was difficult to tell the characters apart and ComicsOne/DrMaster's splotchy printing sucked out what little life there was left in the drawings. I Am A Turtle certainly doesn't fall on the Tori Koro side of the scale -- Temari Tamura's detailed drawings of the various animals certainly eliminates any potential issues with character design -- but it also doesn't reach the humorous heights of, say, Azumanga. It's definitely not as charming as my current gold standard for the "stories told from the perspective of an animal" category And for a customer who needs more substance before committing to buying a volume of manga, it doesn't feel like I Am A Turtle could deliver on anything more than a series of hit-or-miss gags.

Tokyo Flow Chart (July 30, 2009)

Viz's synopsis: Have you ever wished that somebody else would just DO SOMETHING about the chaos in your life? Then this is the perfect manga for a slacker like you! Tokyo Flow Chart is (probably) the world’s first four-frame comic strip in flow chart format. It breaks down the complexities of life and aids in the mastery of brain skills such as flow-chart-manga comprehension or mental bullet-dodging. As Confusious (sic) say: “let your brain flow with the chart!”

Tokyo Flow ChartImpressions: Actual quote from a blurb at the beginning of the chapter: "The journey toward mastery of Brain Skills begins with a single step. In Chapter 1, we will learn basic flowcharting. First, observe that the flowcharts are organized in two ways: on dark 'main routing' lines, which connect frames along the main flowcharting route and on thinner subrouting lines, which connect frames along secondary flowchart routes. Reading these flowcharts is simple: Read along the main route until you reach the endpoint. Then return to the beginning and follow each subroute in turn."

Translation: "These are 4-koma strips. You can either appreciate the first gag we came up with, or you can take one of the branching paths and hope you like one of the other gags instead."

This, of course, brings back the whole "problem with 4-koma series/why this probably didn't succeed" discussion from I Am A Turtle, except multiplied up to six times per strip with with a flowchart gimmick. And while it's clear that artist Eiji Miruno deliberately draws each individual panel with multiple elements in them so that subsequent panels can riff on different elements, what's less clear is his reasoning for choosing what he does. It can be the T-shirts the characters are wearing, a pigeon that happens to be walking in the background or even flavor crystals in concrete -- it just ends up coming off rather funny, and not particularly in the "ha-ha" sense.

What's the Answer? (Oct. 22, 2009)

Viz's synopsis: What do you get when you mix absurdity, surrealism, and potty humor, and serve it on a bed of wicked satire? The answer is … What’s the Answer? That’s the answer! Each chapter begins with a set-up question. Then you turn the pages to find out not one, not two, but three three (or five, or sometimes seven) possible punch lines. Can you handle the alternative comic alternatives?

What's the Answer?Impressions: If the question was "What's the best way to get American audiences to read What's the Answer? and get them to want more?" the correct answer probably should have been "great googly moogly, why are you even considering publishing What's the Answer? KYAAAAAAH RUN FOR YOUR LIIIIIIIIIIIIIIFE BEFORE IT'S TOO LAAAAAAAATE." In the single published installment that remains, we see a six-panel setup that sets up the question, "What does Santa do on the day before Christmas Eve?"  Then we get three answers: "Fabreeze," "Preparing to risk his life again," and "Shadow clone jutsu."

That's the chapter.

At least visitors to the Ikki site that week got new chapters of Saturn Apartments and Children of the Sea and an interview with Mr. Sato, the editor of Bokurano: Ours, so it wasn't a completely wasted visit.

To its credit, that small snippet does deliver on the promised "absurdity, surrealism and potty humor." Wicked satire, though? Doubt we'll ever see that show up. In fact, the thought of an entire book filled with chapters like these has me recoiling a bit in horror -- sure, there's a chance that there were better examples of artist Tondabayashi's humor, but there's also a greater chance that future installments were even more surreal and unintelligible to the average American reader. Perhaps in this case, the fact we never got anything else from this series was more the result of a mercy killing.

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

April 27th, 2012
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May 5 is just around the corner, and while the numbers of those giant koinobori wind socks that flapped on virtually every street corner when I was growing up seem to have dwindled in recent years, there's no denying that the traditional Japanese celebration of Boys Children's Day is coming right along with that date.

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

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

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

Anime around town

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

    "Ace Attorney," the review: Turnabout perception

    April 13th, 2012
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    Ace Attorney theatrical posterIt makes sense that the person emotionally closest to a particular subject is both the best and worst person to write about it, whether it be a eulogy or a movie review.

    So the argument applies when I leaped at the chance to review the movie Gyakuten Saiban, based on Capcom's video game of the same name that was released in the U.S. as Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney for the Nintendo DS. In case the analogy isn't clear, I am a fan of the game, which is why I allowed myself two viewings of the movie -- renamed Ace Attorney for U.S. audiences -- before I was ready to render my verdict.

    Sometime in the future, crime is so rampant that a new judicial system has been instituted: Prosecutors and defense attorneys go head-to-head in trials that last a maximum of three days and in which solid, physical evidence is the key to getting a "guilty" or "not guilty" verdict. Enter newbie defense attorney Phoenix Wright, who is under the tutelage of lawyer Mia Fey and whom we meet as he is getting trounced in his first trial, which is being held in a backwater courtroom that is apparently the headquarters of the janitorial staff. With Mia's last-minute help, Phoenix wins the trial and saves his client, childhood friend Larry Butz, who has a knack for getting into trouble.

    Phoenix doesn't have time to savor his victory, though: Mia is murdered in their law office not long afterward, and accused of the killing is her younger sister, Maya, who happened to be there that fatal night. Phoenix takes up Maya's defense and discovers that Mia was close to a breakthrough in an old case -- and that something just might have been what got her killed.

    When Maya goes to trial, Phoenix has another blast from the past when he ends up facing the young, infamous prosecutor Miles Edgeworth. As pointed out by other defense attorneys and even by Edgeworth's role model Manfred von Karma, the young man will go to any lengths to speed up the trial and get a guilty verdict. Phoenix will need to be on top of his game to defend against the shady tactics that Edgeworth will be certain to throw his way.

    Hiroki Narimiya as Phoenix WrightThe movie's visuals play well to the envisioned crime-ridden future, with a mostly desaturated, slightly off-color look that mingles at times with bright colors, giving it a post-apocalyptic feel despite the outlandish costumes and hairstyles. The use of screens projected in midair to show evidence in court is another nice futuristic touch.

    The subtitles use the English names of the characters rather than the original Japanese, so those who haven't played the games before and are listening carefully to the spoken dialogue might be thrown off by hearing, for example, "Haine Koutarou" instead of "Yanni Yogi," "Naruhodou" instead of "Phoenix" and "Chihiro" instead of "Mia." Some errors also make their way into the subtitles in the preview version of the movie -- the word "prosecution" is used at one point when it obviously should be "defense," and typos like "trail" instead of "trial" pop up. Whether the actual movie has these errors remains to be seen.

    Those who've played Ace Attorney the game will appreciate the cameos of familiar characters, the re-creation of the courthouse, and the parodies that Phoenix's first trial makes of the game's courtroom antics.

    Let me first speak as a fan and previous player of the Ace Attorney game: I was highly disappointed with the movie upon initial viewing. The characters' personalities don't seem to have been captured very well, and in the filmmakers' attempts to do so, they were instead reduced to ridiculous caricatures of their game selves -- as silly as that may sound, considering the game personas were already caricatures themselves. Phoenix is even more of a bumbling incompetent, with his "cornered" expressions making him seem as though he has a bad case of constipation, and it's painful to watch what feels like interminably long periods in which he's in a jam and trying to figure out what to do. His composure is on the meek side, with a slight hunch as he approaches the judge or witnesses or when laying out his deductions.

    While I'm sure such acting is meant to portray that Phoenix is indeed green when it comes to courtroom trials, it's his burgeoning confidence and stature as he closes in on the truth of the case that originally made him such a powerful character in the games.

    Takumi Saito as Miles EdgeworthThe prosecutors, interestingly enough, go the opposite direction. Von Karma comes off as far, far too much of a father figure, while Edgeworth is simply cold and unfeeling. Both their movie portrayals miss the full extent of the calculating ruthlessness with which they approach their trials and use to crush the opposition into quivering puddles.

    Meanwhile, in the movie's worst turnabout, Redd White's flamboyant, blinged-out, purple-and-pink game character is now a long-haired druggie type who looks like he just crawled out of the sewers. And the development of bungling police detective Dick Gumshoe is almost completely overlooked, so the devotion he shows for Edgeworth comes across as odd.

    A big part of this disappointment is the fact that the very silliness that made the game so fun and the characters so memorable simply cannot be translated well into live action, partially given the laws of physics and partially because of the unwelcome intrusion of realism. In a game, you KNOW you're in for crazy facial expressions, impossible body movements, over-the-top reactions and such. But when you put the stamp of reality on it, you expect realism -- and that eliminates half the enjoyment of the original game. The characters' signature actions just can't be pulled off with any plausibility, and much of the comic relief is lacking and instead comes in unexpected, scattered bits that seem to have been tossed in randomly.

    However, after a second viewing, Ace Attorney played out better, partly because I began appreciating more how the movie managed to squeeze so much background into so little time -- two out of the game's four interconnected cases are focused on while the other two are stripped down to pretty much the announcement of their verdicts -- but also because I tried to rid myself of any preconceptions and see the movie from a non-fan's eyes. I stopped trying to identify who was who and stopped trying to compare them to the game.

    But I also have to admit that it was better mainly because familiarity breeds a kind of liking, and so I was no longer surprised by what I originally saw as the movie's flaws.

    What will a non-fan notice first? The silliness, that's for certain -- the confetti and the exaggerated audience reactions. Possibly the painfully long times when Phoenix displays his constipated countenance. Some scenes that are a few seconds too long (do we really need to focus on the parrot for such a length of time?) and the lack of much logic to the defense's investigations.

    Otherwise, if one can get past the video game absurdity and instead focus on the mystery behind the cases, then this becomes an engrossing court drama. You find yourself sweating bullets as much as if you were in the defendant's chair or in Phoenix's shoes -- after, of course, suspending disbelief enough to allow for some of the more eccentric witnesses and their behaviors. Some aspects of the game's original story are changed for a more dramatic turn, but the revelations behind each crime are still just as tragic.

    The one thing I could not get over, no matter what mindset I was in, was the feeling of, "What, you mean there's still MORE to this movie??" about three-fourths of the way through. Ace Attorney weaves in and out of the cases, slowly connects the dots and then finally reaches a climax in court -- or so it seems. Once you realize this isn't the end of things, not by a long shot, there's almost a sinking feeling. Rather than a happy surprise that there's more to discover, the new revelations and yet another trial are rude interlopers that crash in from out of the blue, especially after the particularly heartbreaking scenes that come just before it.

    But again, that's speaking from the view of someone who already knows the story, and the impact of that foreknowledge can never be completely eliminated. The main thing that appeased my mind on this point was a growing interest, upon subsequent views, in dissecting exactly how the filmmakers played out this part of the story. (I've watched the film about 3.5 times now. And yes, I'm still going to see it in the theater. I've already bought tickets.)

    Overall, as both an adaptation and a stand-alone movie, Ace Attorney isn't bad. It does a good job of recreating in live action a game universe that for the most part just can't really be done in the real world. As much as I loved the game, it's not something I'd want to put myself through again. The finding of evidence, the tension of trying to detect contradictions in testimony, the thrill of discovering how the pieces fit -- that's something that can truly be experienced only once. The Ace Attorney movie, however, is something that the fan in me is thoroughly willing to immerse in time and time again.

    Ace Attorney screens as part of the Hawaii International Film Festival Spring Showcase at 7 p.m. Saturday and noon Sunday at the Regal Dole Cannery Stadium 18 Theatres. For more information or to buy tickets, visit www.hiff.org.

    The Cel Shaded Report, 4/11: Pen and ink words

    April 11th, 2012
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    Remember last week's Cel Shaded Report, where I mentioned that AniMaid Cafe Hawaii was taking applications for volunteers? It's over. Thanks for applying, take care, drive home safely, perhaps we'll do this again next year.

    The preceding 35 words could well have constituted the shortest Cel Shaded Report ever, but fortunately there's another matter of immediate importance to discuss here, something you artsy types will want to jump on right away. Through Friday afternoon, nemu*nemu artist Audra Furuichi isn't just serving up new installments of the plush pup online comic; over at the nemu*blog, she's offering commentary on some of her favorite writing and drawing tools and giving visitors a chance to get some of their own with a $25 gift certificate to JetPens.com, home to a large catalog of art supplies imported from Japan and Germany.

    Interested? Here's all you have to do: Since yesterday and running through Friday, Audra will be writing one post a day that highlights some of the brands she likes to use in drawing nemu*nemu. In yesterday's post, for example, she talked about her favorite brush pens. Today, she's looking at coloring tools. Just leave a comment about what your favorite brands are in relation to the topic of the day -- or which brands you'd love to have -- and that's it! You're entered. Easy peasy. If you'd like to increase your chances of winning, just leave comments on all four posts; you can get one entry per post, for a maximum of four entries. One winner, to be drawn at 5 p.m. Hawaii time Friday (8 p.m. Pacific, 11 p.m. Eastern, for those of you reading this blog in other time zones *waves*), will win the gift certificate.

    Even if the extent of your artistic creativity is figuring out whether to use a smile or a frown on your stick figure drawing, Audra's posts offer some neat insight into the making of nemu*nemu. And when you put it all of these techniques together, you get something like this, a commission I received as part of the recent nemu*nemu vol. 6 Kickstarter drive.

    With a Mr. Buns cameo!

    That's Nemu, Enchilada and the Star-Advertiser's own Blue, three "generations" of plush pups. All I told here was to use those three characters and use the theme of "festivals," and that's what she came up with. I see that every day sitting on my work desk. Still get a thrill looking at it every time. It is awesome.

    Get ready for Kawaii Kon ... again!

    Hard to believe that we're almost a month removed from this year's Kawaii Kon, but, as the closing ceremonies proved, convention officials aren't wasting any time getting attendees hyped up for the next show. After an April Fool's joke newsletter placed Kawaii Kon 2012-1/2 in Cordoba, Spain, in late October (darn, and I was so ready to get my passport papers in order and whip up an Enchilada costume to get ready to cover it ... but only if it didn't conflict with HEXXP, because, come on, there's Nobuo Uematsu and the World Cosplay Summit in my virtual back yard, man!), the real newsletter revealed some information about preregistration for 2013 for people who didn't already do so at this year's convention.

    The day that preregistration is happening is fast approaching. It opens online on Sunday, in fact. For the time being, prices will be set at $38 for general admission three-day passes (for ages 12 and up), and $30 for three-day passes for children ages 6 to 12. If you want a lifetime pass, prices of those are now up to $850. You can pick up those at kawaiikon2013.eventbrite.com.

    While you can't preregister until Sunday, there are a few con-related things you can work on now, if you're so inclined. The annual Mascot Art Contest, running through midnight Hawaii time April 27, is currently accepting entries; just draw one, two or all three of the Kawaii Kon mascots -- Nami, Takeshi and Ai-chan -- in traditional or digital media. The artist whose entry is deemed most representative of the mascots and the Kawaii Kon spirit will win a three-day pass to Kawaii Kon 2013. Find complete rules and how to enter pieces at  www.kawaii-kon.org/community/kawaii-kon-2012-art-contest-rules/.

    Applications for panels for next year's event are also being accepted now. If you've ever wanted to lead a spirited hour-long discussion over, say, whether Pokemon Red/Blue or Pokemon Black/White had the better debuting bunch of Pokemon, now's your chance. (For the record: It has to be Red/Blue. Jigglypuff, Chansey and Psyduck for the win, people.) If you and a co-host can figure out a way to fill three hours' worth of con programming, you both could also receive complimentary three-day passes for your efforts.

    Kawaii Kon is March 15-17; visit www.kawaii-kon.org.

    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 the first four episodes of Fairy Tail. For more information or to RSVP, call 483-7333 or e-mail aiealibraryanimeclub@yahoo.com.

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

    April 5th, 2012
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    I've been doing my fair share of thinking about maid cafes recently. A lot of it has to do with that Kawaii Kon preview article I wrote profiling the UH Cosplay Cafe, but there's also the fact that I've had the song "Mune Mune Kyun" earwormed into my brain ever since I tuned into one of those KZOO Sunday shows featuring K-chan and some of the AniMaid Cafe Hawaii workers. Never heard of "Mune Mune Kyun"? Well, here you go. (Warning: Extreme cuteness and high likelihood of earworming similar to mine ahead.)

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

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

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

    World Cosplay Summit rolls out rules

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

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

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

    Anime around town

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