Archive for August, 2012

A special "Delivery?" But of corpse!

August 31st, 2012
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kurosagi 1Today’s profile: The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service (12 volumes available, vols. 1 and 2 reviewed)
Author: Eiji Otsuka (writer) and Housui Yamazaki (art) 
Publisher: Dark Horse
Age rating
: N/A, but suggested for mature audiences 18+

It feels as if The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service -- the subject of this month's Manga Movable Feast, hosted by Philip over at Eeeper's Choice Podcast -- has had one foot in the grave for a veeeeerry long time.

You can't really blame fans for being a bit nervous about Kurosagi's English-translated future. Here in the U.S., the only thing regular about Dark Horse's publishing schedule has been its irregularity. If the publishing date records kept by Right Stuf and Amazon are any indication, fans so far have had to endure a seven-month wait (between volumes 1 and 2), a nine-month wait (between volumes 9 and 10) and, perhaps the one that really made their hearts stop beating and made them wonder whether the series had any kind of future or would just be quietly canceled, a wait of a year and seven months (volumes 11 and 12). Assuming things stay on track, it'll be another eight months between volumes 12 and 13, currently due out in November.

As for finding a complete run in print? Good luck finding volume 5, which seems to have disappeared from the ranks of affordable volumes at every online retailer. (Fortunately, Dark Horse has added Kurosagi to the ranks of its digital comic offerings, so you'll just have to endure staring at a screen for a long time in exchange for getting every volume for just $5.99 each.)

It would seem that Kurosagi is one of those series infected with a common manga malaise: the Great Series That Hardly Anyone Knows Exists And/Or Follows. When Borders was in its death spiral last year, I noticed that volumes from the series were among the last to go. (I should know; I was usually the one who'd pick them up.) It's easy to see why it's gone unnoticed: Just look at that cover image above. Stylish? Certainly. Does it say much about the story contained within? Who knows, considering the "Psychic," main character Kuro Karatsu, is the only one facing forward. (Turns out it's a running gag; the other covers in the series, featuring a similar layout with three members of the delivery service on the front and the other three on the back, all have Karatsu facing forward and the others doing something, well, different.) Shielded from "manga cows," that breed of fan who clogs the manga aisle and turns any bookstore into their own lending library, much to the chagrin of people who actually want to buy stuff? Oh yes, definitely; the volumes are shrink-wrapped because of all the violence and nudity.

So it takes a fair amount of effort to ferret out the story ... and what a story it is. What we have here is a "super team" of Buddhist students for hire, summoned to help souls trapped in corpses attain the eternal peace they desire, whether by clients or the dead themselves. (Seeing as how they're college students, they're also eternally scrounging around for enough money to keep the lights on.) We meet Karatsu, a guy who has the ability to hear the voices of the dead, just as he's meeting the other main players: Makoto Numata, a dowser who can find corpses using his special pendulum; Keiko Makino, a rather young-looking gal who's a licensed embalmer; Yuji Yata, a guy who has the ability to channel other beings but mostly channels a foulmouthed alien who manifests himself in the form of a hand puppet; and Ao Sasaki, the brains, businesswoman and buxom beauty behind the creation of the Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service.

kurosagi 2Fair warning: Anyone grossed out by gore and/or in-your-face nudity would best steer away from this series. Six pages into the first chapter of the first volume, there's a close-up of a hanging corpse, flies buzzing around its head. Many breasts get bared, many body parts go flying and much blood goes flowing from that point forward.

But it's rarely gratuitous; in fact, it serves to enhance the sheer shock value of the tales contained within. Consider, for example, the story of that first corpse, who committed suicide after he was kept apart from his girlfriend, a budding pop idol, and now wishes to reunite with her. Let's just say that the young lady committed suicide herself and throw in the phrase "patriarchal necrophilia," and leave it to your imagination to fill in the gaps. (Just note, though, that you probably could never come up with the twists and turns that Eiji Otsuka devises on your own.) There's also an elderly corpse who wishes to return to a place called Dendera, a stylist who cuts far more than hair, and an actuary who has the uncanny ability to predict the chances of someone dying. The team handles all of these situations with a splash of humor and a few meditations on what gives life (and death) its meaning.

But while the first volume with its various stories is certainly good in its own right, the story really hits its stride with volume 2, a seven-chapter arc that starts with a criminal's hanging and ends up with -- take a deep breath here -- a girl who can raise the dead, a doctor gone rogue, a man with a mysterious marking on his fingernail, conspiracies piled upon conspiracies, Yata quitting the delivery service to take on a side job, a company that gives bereaved victims the opportunity to take revenge upon the dead, a merger proposal between the delivery service and this company, the tragedy of Sasaki's past and a bloodthirsty zombie cat.

That's right, a bloodthirsty zombie cat.

Trust me: When you can type the words "bloodthirsty zombie cat" as part of the description of a particular volume, and that's not even the most messed-up thing to show up in that volume ... you know you have to check it out. And then you'll be hooked on the series. It's to die for. Really.

The Cel Shaded Report, 8/30: Blue plush, Manga Swap rush & HEXXP's flush

August 30th, 2012
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Blue with GizmoSince mid-January, Audra Furuichi has been drawing her nemu*nemu spinoff series, nemu*nemu: Blue Hawaii, every third Sunday for our fair publication. If you've been following along regularly (and you really should; it's part of the free, non-paywalled content on our site), you know that the comic strip features Blue, a plush pup from a lost-and-found box sitting in an office somewhere, and his slice-of-life adventures with his friends -- toy robot Gizmo, parrot Ross and goldfish Simon.

This, of course, begs the question: Blue, as I just mentioned, is a plush pup. Anpan and Nemu, the costars of nemu*nemu proper, are also plush pups. And there are Anpan and Nemu plushies for children (and the young at heart) to hold and cuddle in real life. Mini-plushies of intergalactic traveling pup Enchilada and his bird companion Pollo also exist. Surely a real-life Blue plushie wouldn't be too far behind, would it?

Well, guess what: The Blue plushie is really real. Second from left in the photo below. He's joining a larger version of Enchilada and new versions of Anpan and Nemu on sale in mid-September. And as that photo, which showed up on nemu-nemu.com earlier this week, also notes, you could score two of these cuties for free.

MC-PupPrize-thumb-500x282-4597

All you need is a dash of creativity. It doesn't even have to be particularly good artistic creativity, just the ability to take one of these templates ...

nemu template sampler

... and transforming it into your very own pup creation. Like, say, the examples shown below the Aug. 20 installment of nemu*nemu. (And it has to be your own creation, not, say, a pup dressed up in Sailor Moon cosplay.)

There will be two winners: One will be the "judge's choice," while the other, the "people's choice," will be picked by nemu*nemu readers from among 10 finalists.

Interested? Download your templates and get complete contest rules at www.nemu-nemu.com/2012/08/26/contest_2012_win_a_pair_of_pup.php. There's no age limit for submissions (although there is a limit of two entries per person), and anyone worldwide can participate, so get to downloading and drawing already!

The deadline for submissions is at noon Sept. 8 ... a day that also promises to have its own level of craziness, particularly for your tag-team partners in fandom. Why, you ask? Read on...

Manga/anime merchandise mayhem START!

One of the big reasons why I enjoy attending Fanime in San Jose, Calif. -- unexpected presidential visits and six-hour line waits notwithstanding --  is that it's the only anime convention that I know of that has an anime swap meet attached to it. Basically, fans set up shop with their boxes and suitcases full of their extra swag, and fellow fans go around trying their hardest not to buy everything in the room, usually failing miserably. (Or maybe that's just me.) Seriously, the number of bargains and hard-to-find-stuff that pops up at these sales are quite mind-boggling, especially for someone like me, stuck on a rock out here in the middle of the Pacific. Here's a small peek at what it looks like.

Fanime anime swap meet 2010

It's a great idea, and one that I'm surprised hasn't caught on in more places. Heck, you're probably looking at that picture, thinking, "Wow, I have extra stuff! I'd love to have a way to sell my stuff that way!" And then you remember that you're not living in Gilroy or Cupertino or Alameda or Emeryville or any of the other cities in the San Francisco Bay area, and that it costs an arm, a leg and rights to your yet-unborn children to take even one 50-pound-or-less checked bag with you to the mainland these days, and you're sad.

Until now. See, for the past few months at the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii, there's been a monthly bazaar in the first-floor courtyard. It was only supposed to last for the summer months of June, July and August, but, by the force of sheer otaku will (at least, that's how I imagine this going down, anyway), it's been extended into a date in September. And so, on the aforementioned Sept. 8, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., bargain-hunting otaku can buy and sell at the first-ever Manga Swap.

So why will it be sheer insanity for your tag-team partners in fandom? Full disclosure: We're planning on being among the sellers there. We have ... stuff, accumulated from at least a decade, probably more, of collecting craziness. For an example of just how crazy, I humbly submit to you this picture of half the music CD inventory that Wilma will be selling.

Yup, websites devoted to cataloguing Final Fantasy music and anime karaokes will do this to ya.

Half, people. Granted, most of what she's selling are CD singles, but still. HALF.

If you want to join us and sell your stuff, spaces are still available (and free!), but limited. You can also rent either a 6-foot-by-30-inch table ($10) or an 8-foot-by-30-incher ($11) from the center. Or, if you want to just stop by to browse and buy stuff (and on behalf of all of us who are going to be selling there, for the love of all that is righteous and holy, please come and buy stuff), you can do that for free.

The Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii is at 2454 S. Beretania St. For more information, visit www.facebook.com/events/275137595933041/ (Facebook login not required) or email Jtkwlum@gmail.com for a sellers' registration form.

Yet even still more from HEXXP, part 4,929,884,021

hexxp-logoIt seems like every time I turn my attention toward the Hawaii Entertainment Expo, the pop culture convention also known as HEXXP, they've been adding even more guests and events to their 2012 show. This particular update's been revised several times over the past two weeks, in fact. So before things change even more, here are the newest guest announcements:

  • DJ MaRia, Avex Entertainment's resident DJ for House Nation, "the most famous house music party in Japan." HEXXP will mark her second U.S. convention appearance on the heels of A-Kon in Dallas earlier this year.
  • Atelier Pierrot, a clothing brand known for its EGL (elegant gothic lolita) styles. Debuting at HEXXP will be a new line inspired by the magical-girl creation of Go Nagai, Cutey Honey.
  • N.S.D.P., a J-rock band with members that include bassist Kuro (who's performed with the rock band Sophia) and guitarist Yui (no, not that Yui, but the one who's a member of the heavy metal band Cynthia). Here are samples of their music ... and, umm, you might want to start off with your volume low if you don't regularly listen to J-rock. For the record, "N.S.D.P." stands for "Night Spit Death Pain." I think it's safe to say that they will not be doing a cover of "Lazy Harp Seal Has No Job." They'll be making their U.S. convention debut at HEXXP.
  • Angel Anatomy, the duo of Anya St. James and Lorelai Lyn whose new EP will be released under Babel Entertainment this year. Their music style is "ambient, classical, industrial, and a touch of opera," according to their YouTube account; here are some free samples of their music. They'll be opening for Nobuo Uematsu and the Earthbound Papas.

Also showing up on the HEXXP news radar are a pair of special events being hosted by the maid-cafe servers from AniMaid Hawaii on Friday, Oct. 19: an afternoon tea with an assortment of sweets and teas from 3 to 5 p.m., and a "One Piece Special Event," a battle with pirates aboard the SS AniMaid with dinner, drinks and games, from 6 to 7 p.m. Tickets for $16.37 -- that's $15 plus a $1.37 processing fee -- are available now at animaidhawaii.eventbrite.com; there were 28 tickets left for the afternoon tea and 29 for the One Piece event, so you'll probably want to act on that sooner rather than later.

HEXXP is taking place Oct. 19-21 at Aloha Tower Marketplace; for more information or to preregister, visit www.hexxp.com.

The Cel Shaded Report, 8/17: "Madness" at the museum

August 17th, 2012
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It's been a tradition at the Honolulu Museum of Art since 2004: Every third Sunday of the month, thanks to Bank of Hawaii, Honolulu's premier art repository throws open its doors for Family Sunday, an opportunity for families (and groups of friends, couples, single people, et.al.) to walk through the galleries and participate in a number of fun art-related activities for the price of absolutely free.

Family Sunday's always worth attending, but this month's installment is drawing a bit more attention from your friendly neighborhood anime/manga blogger for a simple reason: It's what I like to think of in my own mind as the Otaku Ohana All-Star Super Show ... or, as the museum's has formally dubbed this particular event, "Manga Madness." Consider this roster of people and groups that have made appearances in this space in the past who are showing up at Manga Madness:

  • manga mayhem 7.15Roy Chang, Aiea Intermediate art teacher, MidWeek cartoonist, campaign manager for Pepe the Chibi-huahua and soon-to-be published author (more on that in my next post). Roy's bringing back his one-on-one art portfolio/sketchbook review sessions (seen at right at "Manga Mayhem" at the then-Contemporary Museum in July 2010), the likes of which have not been seen in ... wait, did I just type that right? July 2010?!? My, how time flies. Certainly doesn't seem that long ago. Then again, much can change over a two-year span, I suppose.
  • Jon J. Murakami, Gordon Rider creator and Star-Advertiser "Calabash" cartoonist; Audra Furuichi, nemu*nemu and Star-Advertiser "Blue Hawaii" cartoonist; and Ming Qi Vinci, Kawaii Kon Artist Alley mainstay, who'll be joining artists Sarah Kashiwabara, Darold Ramelb and animation students from the University of Hawaii at Manoa, who'll be working with children to help them create their own books of drawings.
  • Anime/manga-inspired artist group Pen & Ink Works will have several story scrolls on hand to which you can add your own contributions.
  • Oahu Anime Explorer will be screening anime and handing out information about the Hawaii Entertainment Expo (HEXXP) in October.
  • Representatives from Kawaii Kon, who'll be handing out information about their convention in March.
  • Two-time Kawaii Kon guests Alt/Air -- the duo of Aly Ishikuni and Brandon "DJ Kowai Kowai" Udani -- will be bringing their special blend of dance beats and J-pop-inspired vocals for an hour-long performance from noon to 1 p.m.
  • Fashion designer Lauren Lee will have designs from her Monarch Lolita line on display.

Add in a Cosplay Theater with two sketches planned ("At the Beginning," inspired by Cardcaptor Sakura, and "Fighting Game," inspired by Kingdom Hearts), a display of manga-drawing materials by Hawaiian Graphics, an activity where children can make headbands with common manga symbols like giant sweatdrops and diamond-shaped sparkles, and the exhibit on display that inspired all this manga madness in the first place -- "Hiroshige: An Artist's Journey" -- to see, and it becomes clear that there is a lot going on to keep local fans occupied. I'd even go so far to dub this collection of talent and activities as "Mini Con 2012," if not for the fact that Hillary Chang over at McCully-Moiliili Public Library already has the real Mini Con 2012 locked, loaded and ready to roll for Sept. 22. (Details on that as we get closer to that date.)

"Manga Madness" Family Sunday  runs from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, with activities ending at 3 p.m.; for more information and a complete listing of what's going on, visit honolulumuseum.org/events/bank_of_hawaii_sunday/12990-swim

More from the anime news desk

Bargains abound in this edition of the Cel Shaded Report Section Formerly Known as "Anime Around Town," so let's get to it:

kamen rider v3AnimEigo: Owing to the fact that (a) hardly anyone buys old-school anime anymore (even though they really ought to), (b) so few people bought AnimEigo's woefully underappreciated first Yawara box set of 40 episodes, we'll likely never see the remaining 84 episodes localized for the U.S. and (c) AnimEigo's license to release the series is expiring as a result, the company is sending the series out with a bang. Basically, you have until Aug. 31 to scoop up a Yawara set for $19.99. Considering original retail for that set was $134.99, to say that's a hyuuuuuuuge bargain may be the understatement of the century. While you're at it, if you really roll with the old-school and want to pick up some movies featuring Katsu Shintaro as the blind swordsman Zatoichi, six of those movies are also going out of print as of Sept. 18, so you may want to spring for a seven-movie set for $49.99 while you still can. Pick up one or both of these bargains at www.animeigo.com.

Generation Kikaida: The discounts may not be as deep as AnimEigo's, but sales on DVDs from Generation Kikaida tend to be few and far between, so sometimes you just have to seize the moment when you can. Through Aug. 26, save 15% on single volumes of Kikaida or 10% on Kikaida three-disc or nine-disc sets and the Inazuman and Kamen Rider V3 box sets. For a full list of what's on sale -- including posters! -- visit www.generationkikaida.com/store/index.php?main_page=specials&page=1

Manga University: For a limited time, Kindle e-reader versions of their How to Draw Manga: Eyes and How to Draw Manga: Ears guides are 99 cents each (regular price $4.99). They're 28 pages each; click here for the Manga Eyes book and here for Manga Ears.

"Theatrhythm" is gonna get you

August 8th, 2012
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theatrhythm_coversmallIf you thought Square Enix had milked everything possible out of the Final Fantasy series -- you were wrong.

The latest related game in the ever-expanding FF world is Theatrhythm: Final Fantasy for the Nintendo 3DS, which mixes role-playing aspects with rhythm game elements. The forces of the universe known as Cosmos and Chaos are becoming more unbalanced, leaning dangerously toward Chaos (naturally), in turn dimming the light of the Music Crystal, which maintains harmony in the world. You must collect Rhythmia to restore the radiance of the Music Crystal and return balance to the land.

To do so, you assemble a party of four people, who vary in typical RPG stats such as strength and agility. Making up the potential roster is one signature character from each of the FF games from the first one through Final Fantasy XIII. You then choose from several different game types and play through popular songs from the Final Fantasy series.

When playing a song, "triggers" scroll by on the upper screen and you must tap the touch screen at the appropriate time, going along with the music, as the triggers pass over the target, called a "mark" -- much the same mode of play as Konami's Dance Dance Revolution series. In Theatrhythm, there are three different types of triggers: the simple Touch, where you quickly tap the screen; the Slide, when you tap and slide the stylus across the screen for a short distance in the direction that the arrow indicates; and the Hold, where you tap and hold the stylus to the screen until the end of the trigger, at which point you lift the stylus from the screen.

In Series mode, players can tackle tunes from across the Final Fantasy series, grouped by game. (Courtesy Games Press)

Points and Rhythmia are awarded depending on how well you hit the timing of the triggers, ranging from "Critical" for a perfectly timed movement to a "Miss" for a completely missed trigger. Earning more Rhythmia unlocks additional features in the game.

There are also different types of stages that change up the gameplay elements: the Battle Music Stage, the Field Music Stage and the Event Music Stage. The positioning of the triggers and the mark differ in each. Battle has your party members lined up along the right side in typical Final Fantasy style, with a mark in front of each person. Field has your party's leader walking across the bottom of the stage as the triggers scroll by from left to right, and at times you must move the mark to overlap with the trigger. Event shows key scenes from the game in the background as your mark moves all over the screen and passes over the triggers.

You try to get as far as you can within the time gauge shown at the bottom of the screen as the music plays. In Battle, this means defeating as many enemies as possible, so you should pick members who have high Strength, while in Field, this means traveling as far a distance as possible, so you'd like members with higher Agility. Every time you get a "bad" or "miss," points are taken off your hit points gauge, and if it drops to zero, it's game over. Members earn experience points after completing a stage and, just like the typical RPG, they gain levels that in turn increase their stats.

Sound confusing? It is. I strongly, strongly suggest playing through the tutorial several times to familiarize yourself with how each stage works and how exactly to deal with each of the triggers, because simply reading about it is never enough to prepare you for what everything entails.

If you do well in a Field Music Stage, you can summon a chocobo that will give your party a ride. (Courtesy Games Press)

Of course, there's a lot more than this to explore. Like any good RPG, there are items, songs and in-game cards of differing rarity to collect. Get far enough in a Battle stage and you'll encounter a Boss enemy, with the higher chance of picking up a rarer item. Each person can also learn and equip various abilities to raise stats, heal or do extra damage, among other effects. Different modes allow you to play songs grouped by game, individually, or even with a friend. Collect Rhythmia and get good enough scores on songs to reveal hidden characters to add to your roster.

And with this being a music game in this era of downloadable content, it was obvious that Square Enix could make a killing out of selling music DLC -- in fact, the day that the game came out, several gaming sites reported that there were already eight songs available for purchase through Nintendo's eShop. Though considering this game had been released in Japan long before now, it's not surprising that DLC was available so quickly.

The differences between the stages are pretty ingenious. The Battle and Field stages recreate some of the feel of playing in a Final Fantasy game while introducing new challenges. The visuals are both fascinating and distracting, especially in the Event stages -- I dearly would love to see what's going on in the background, but I can't or else I'll lose track of the targets. (There is a Theater feature in which you can unlock the movies that play in Events, to watch without having to worry about missing triggers.)

Just as the music itself became more sophisticated with each new Final Fantasy game, so too do the levels in Theatrhythm get more difficult: Triggers start appearing at somewhat unexpected beats (that are apparently in time with the music somehow); Touch triggers pop up closer together; Slide triggers point in funky directions instead of the standard up/down, left/right;  and backgrounds get more colorful, obscuring the triggers more, especially in Event stages. Higher difficulty levels had me holding my breath because I didn't want something as annoyingly mandatory as breathing to disrupt my delicate rhythm as the triggers came up almost more rapidly than my eyes could follow.

The game also awards some strange bonuses. Not only can you get extra Rhythmia for playing without abilities or items equipped, there are also bonuses if you use a party that consists of all males or all females, or even if you play Theatrhythm on consecutive days.

Phrases such as these, made up of random snippets, encourage your party in battle. With some discouragement thrown in. (Courtesy Games Press)

But the unexpectedly funniest part of the game -- partly because of ridiculous results and partly the utter uselessness of including such a feature, if it can be called that -- are the comments the characters make when you're assembling your party, when they level up, and right before playing a song. That last one is particularly silly: Each person has a number of phrase snippets, and before starting a song, one snippet is pulled out at random from each party member and joined to create such uplifting statements as "My friends, we'll win unwillingly in boldness!" or "I guess we shoot darkly for Cosmos!" or even "Well, I think we hope peerlessly in vain." (Some of the Final Fantasy characters are real downers.)

And yes, Theatrhythm can be played in 3-D, although with my previous experience of getting nauseous after staring for just a few minutes at a game on full 3-D, I was extremely unwilling to turn on that dimension. I finally summoned the courage to try it, and it gives the usual illusion of certain elements being in the foreground and others in the background. Thankfully, the 3-D effect doesn't mess with the eyes too much when playing the main game, because you're so focused on the triggers and marks in the foreground that you ignore everything else. The main drawback to playing in 3-D -- and this will hold true with any game on the 3DS -- is that it makes the screen extremely sensitive to changes in angle; any slight alteration in such will make the playing area largely unviewable. (Have you ever seen those stickers and such where you have to hold it at just the right angle to see it in 3-D, and any other direction won't work? Same principle.)

Overall, it doesn't take very long to finish the main part of the game, but the extra challenges and more difficult versions of songs will have you playing this for some time to come. One tip: Before attempting Expert level and above, find a stylus that has a rubber grip or a similar nonskid surface. The frenetic pace of the triggers caused my hand to slip down the smooth metal of the 3DS's included stylus and messed with my gameplay.

Battle Music Stages have your party members lined up along the right side with the enemy on the left in typical Final Fantasy style. (Courtesy Games Press)

At first glance, Theatrhythm might be a tiresome entry for those fans (such as I, I will admit) who have been rather disgusted with Square's recent attempts at trying to keep making money off the glory days of the Final Fantasy series. The effort produced games like Dissidia and its follow-up Dissidia 012: Duodecim, which took characters from previous FF games and put them into a head-to-head battle royale with villains from the series; numerous spinoffs from the popular Final Fantasy VII game such as Dirge of Cerberus and Crisis Core; and even-more-numerous remakes of older FF games for systems including the Nintendo DS and Playstation. In fact, the story of Cosmos versus Chaos in Dissidia is repeated almost verbatim in Theatrhythm, lending credence to my belief that Square has run out of ideas.

But those willing to keep an open mind will find that Square hit the mark -- no pun intended -- with this game, appealing to the nostalgia of a generation of gamers, of which I am one. I let go of Final Fantasy long ago after life became too busy to fit in the extended hours of playing RPGs, but the series and the music from it have always held a special place in my heart. Plus, the rhythm gamer in me was intrigued by the concept, although I was a bit overwhelmed after reading the instruction book.

Event Music Stages show key scenes from the game as the mark moves all over the screen. (Courtesy Games Press)

I'm glad I overcame that doubt. Not only does Theatrhythm revisit the tunes that are engraved in our memories -- the music is presented in their original, unvarnished glory, so you'll be hearing FF1's 8-bit beeps slowly evolving into FF13's orchestrated tunes -- but the Event stages allow you to relive key scenes in the games that we loved.

The beauty of Theatrhythm is that you're not simply listening to yet another rendition of Final Fantasy music; you're actually becoming a part of it, and in many ways it lets you test how well you know your favorite tune's beats and irregularities. The Slide triggers in particular make you feel like a world-class conductor, letting you pour your emotion into sweeping the stylus to match the emotional highs and lows of the tunes. All that interaction puts a very enjoyable spin on Final Fantasy and is a well-crafted take on a core aspect of the games that hasn't been much addressed outside of Japan. If you loved the music of Final Fantasy, Theatrhythm is definitely a game to try.

The Cel Shaded Report, 8/2: HEXXP opens "Frontier" for new guest

August 2nd, 2012
By



hexxp-logoIt's been quite the busy offseason for the Hawaii Entertainment Expo, also known as HEXXP. Since the last edition of the pop culture convention went off last October, there's been a change of venue (this year's show will be at the Aloha Tower Marketplace), an expansion to three days rather than two, signings of several guests to tickle the fancies of local anime/video game fans (Nobuo Uematsu and the Earthbound Papas! DJ Livetune, mixer of Hatsune Miku tunes!) and the announcement of a few big special events (a World Cosplay Summit regional qualifying round and a Macross 30th anniversary exhibit).

We're a little over two months out before the big event, and the announcements just keep on coming. The biggest one in recent days has been the addition of Japanese voice actress Megumi Nakajima as a guest. Nakajima's most notable role was as Ranka Lee in Macross Frontier; other major roles include Chiho and Chise Mihara in Kobato, Kaede Sakura in Kampfer and Gurania in Lagrange - The Flower of Rinne. (Macross Frontier hasn't been released in the U.S., but Kobato and Kampfer are available through Sentai Filmworks, and Viz has Lagrange available for streaming via Hulu.) She also performed theme songs for all four of those shows. Nakajima last appeared at an American convention at Anime Expo in 2010.

A few other guests that I haven't covered in this space -- some of whom have links to Japanese pop culture -- include:

  • Akiakane, noted Nico Nico Douga/YouTube utaite. Never heard of utaite? Well, that makes two of us. A quick web search -- and the subsequent discovery of an Utaite Wiki -- subsequently taught me that utaite are basically cover artists who perform Vocaloid songs and other anime/video game / J-Pop pieces.  Akiakane's claim to fame: "her rough tone and love to scream in songs." No, really, that's what her Utaite Wiki profile page says. Here's a video of what that same page says is her most popular song, "Rolling Girl."

  • Joji Yoshida, an actor who played Chief Engineer Hiroki in Battleship and has had roles in a number of other Hawaii-filmed projects including the revived Hawaii Five-0, Blue Crush, One West Waikiki and Fantasy Island.
  • Andy Lee, modern zen painter and illustrator who's done work for DC and Marvel Comics. If this is the same Andy Lee whose name pops up in my web searches, he's a frequent collaborator with David Mack on his Kabuki series.
  • Royalvana, online purveyors of Japanese GAL fashion, with brands including GALSTAR, EGOIST and LagunaMoon. The retailer will be holding a fashion show and is looking for models; if you're a size 4 or smaller, email hexxp@azamipro.com with a photo, measurements and shoe size.

I'm hearing there are even more guest announcements -- probably around two or three -- coming soon, so stay tuned.

For those of you interested in the World Cosplay Summit, a special note: U.S. organizer Laura Butler, fresh off a trip to the WCS finals in Nagoya this week, will be in town next week and will be hosting an informal Q&A session at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Kissaten Cafe, 88 Piikoi St. Potential contestants also should note that the window for submitting applications and resumes is now open, through Sept. 5; refresh yourself with the rules and links by looking at the second half of the April 6 Cel Shaded Report.

HEXXP is taking place Oct. 19-21 at Aloha Tower Marketplace; for more information or to preregister, visit www.hexxp.com. (It's been redesigned with a fresher look. Also, credit card payments are now accepted for registrations,  for those of you who were skittish about using PayPal.)

Anime and art around town

Honolulu Museum of Art: Two-pack of events to report on for this weekend. From 6 to 9 p.m. Friday at the museum itself at 900 S. Beretania St., there's "August Moon," "a wine and food benefit for arts education." Jon J. Murakami, "Gordon Rider" and Star-Advertiser "Calabash" cartoonist, and Pen & Ink Works leader Brady Evans will be among the artists drawing live and selling pieces for $25 each. Tickets are $85 in advance, $95 at the door; buy your tickets and get more information at honolulumuseum.org/11652-august_moon_benefit_arts_education

On Saturday, members of the anime/manga-inspired art collective MangaBento will be participating in "PrintBig: From the Ground Up," an event where teams made giant woodcuts that will be inked and steamrollered to produce prints. The artists will arrive at 8 a.m. to set up, with actual printing from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. All of this will be taking place at the museum's Art School, just around the corner from the museum at 1111 Victoria St. Visit honolulumuseum.org/events/12971-printbig_ground

Open Cosplay Shoot: 1 to 6 p.m. Aug. 11 at Sand Island State Park. RSVP as a cosplayer or photographer on Facebook at www.facebook.com/events/268034626639168/