Archive for September, 2012

The Cel Shaded Report, 9/28: Benefit ballin' at Nocturna Lounge

September 28th, 2012
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lightbox_scifiballWe journalists are admittedly a bit isolated when it comes to exciting events happening out here in our home base of Waterfront Plaza, the complex that contains what most people know as Restaurant Row. Every once in a while you'll get a nightclub opening that somehow causes women's underwear to drop for some inexplicable reason or a bakery winning Cupcake Wars, but honestly, our thrills have been limited to Eat the Street events being held kitty-corner from across our offices; the Redbox-esque DVD rental machine being installed at the convenience store downstairs; the bubble drinks served up at the Chinese plate-lunch place; and our building, Building 7, quietly being renamed Star-Advertiser Tower (sorry, Hawaii Family Dental Center).

Which is why an event at Nocturna Lounge on Saturday has me so intrigued. Ostensibly, it's the Science Fiction Ball presented by the Pacific Outpost 501st Legion, a benefit for Prevent Child Abuse Hawaii, but the event has grown over the past few weeks to be so much more than just a sci-fi gathering. Cosplay fan? Dress up in your own costume or admire those worn by the Costumers Guild of Hawaii, the Ghostbusters group, the 501st and the Last Outpost Star Trek group. Love art? Watch members from Comic Jam Hawaii doing their freestyle sketches, bid on some pieces in an art auction or just buy pieces outright in an art sale. Have a hankering to sing Princess Leia's Life Day song from The Star Wars Holiday Special? Somehow I doubt that's in any song catalog anywhere, but there will be karaoke available at the event. Just like to have a chance at winning stuff? Hello, prize raffle.

Representatives from the ubiquitous-as-of-late-in-Cel-Shaded-Reports Hawaii Entertainment Expo (HEXXP) will be there as well, which allows me the chance to talk up another note that came in about that convention next month: Starting Saturday and running through Oct. 11, use the code "PCAH" at registration checkout, and 25 percent of your registration cost will be donated to Prevent Child Abuse Hawaii. (Oh, and by the way, yet another event has been discovered to be running parallel to HEXXP at Aloha Tower. Contingency plans, as has become standard procedure in the past few weeks, are in the works.)

All of this is happening from 4 to 7 p.m. at Nocturna Lounge, across from Ruth's Chris Steak House here at Restaurant Row on 500 Ala Moana Blvd. Those of you who are over 21 (which I suspect is 100 percent of my reading audience at this point) can stick around past 7 to enjoy the video games and other delights that Nocturna has to offer. Admission is a give-as-you-see-fit donation to Prevent Child Abuse Hawaii (be generous, now, it's for a good cause). Visit www.facebook.com/events/350332428375781/

More from the anime news desk

World Cosplay Summit USA logoWorld Cosplay Summit U.S. regional qualifier at HEXXP: Remember back in April, when I was talking about all those requirements that you needed to fulfill to be part of the WCS qualifier?  The deadline for one of the most significant requirements is coming up -- Oct. 5 is the last day that you can submit resumes, audio and lighting preferences. Get cracking and send that info to wcsprelimsushawaii at gmail dot com.

Hawaii International Film Festival: I'll have a bit more about fall festival highlights in the next few days -- yes, Ghibli films, Mamoru Hosoda and rice rolls gone rogue will all be playing a part in it -- but I just wanted to give you non-HIFF members a heads-up that ticket sales to the general public start today. The festival runs from Oct. 11 through the 21st; visit www.hiff.org.

"Orchestra" manga plays to a different Beat

September 22nd, 2012
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Grand Guignol Orchestra vol 1Today’s profile: Grand Guignol Orchestra vol. 1
Author: Kaori Yuki
Publisher: Viz
Suggested age rating: Older teen 16+
Availability: Suggested retail (print) $9.99; rare locally, available online. Suggested retail (digital) $4.99.

This month, the Manga Movable Feast -- hosted by Manga Report blogger/Fake AP Stylebook "bureau chief" Anna Neatrour -- is an all-Shojo Beat, all-the-time affair. While the Feast lasts just for a week out of every month, this one could theoretically last for an entire year if the manga bloggerati deemed it so. There are a lot of titles carrying the Shojo Beat banner these days, and clearly the imprint has moved on from "ill-fated monthly anthology in the vein of Shonen Jump" to become a lineup that could go toe-to-toe with the Shonen Jump lineup for bookshelf dominance (taking Shonen Jump's current Big Three of One Piece, Naruto and Bleach out of the equation first, of course).

The problem was in picking which series I'd focus on for this post -- would it be a proven mainstream favorite like Ouran High School Host Club, Skip Beat or Vampire Knight? A so-good-but-no-one-is-reading-it-other-than-us-manga-bloggers series like Otomen, We Were There or Kaze Hikaru? The wide-eyed sparkly shoujo that is Arina Tanemura? The enigma that is B.O.D.Y., stuck on its 10th of 15 volumes for two years now and presumably canceled? So. Many. Good. Choices.

And then the inspiration hit me. Or rather, my eyeballs. It had to be Grand Guignol Orchestra.

See, there was something about Grand Guignol Orchestra that struck me as ... different, somehow. Sure, it's by Kaori Yuki, who's contributed titles both to the Shojo Beat catalog (Cain Saga! Fairy Cube! Godchild!) and Viz's pre-SB lineup (Angel Sanctuary!). But ... well, here, have a look at this cross-section sampling of Shojo Beat volumes from my collection. Or more specifically, the spines of said volumes.

SB titles

The majority of series, from Short-Tempered Melancholic on the left through Vampire Knight, use what, for lack of a better term, I'll call the "SB Sans Serif" font for the titles and author names. Most of them are consistent on the number font, as well, although there's some variety in the numbers for Dengeki Daisy and Butterflies, Flowers. Then you get a bit of variety with Oresama Teacher, Seiho Boys' High School!, Kamisama Kiss and Natsume's Book of Friends. Even with that variety, though, you still see one design consistency throughout: white background, pink Shojo Beat logo at the top. Quite consistent, easy to pick out on a bookshelf.

And then there's Grand Guignol Orchestra. Look at it, all black and Gothic and alone on the right. If it was an actual person, it would have a dark cloud hovering over it at all times, sulking off in the corner with Depeche Mode playing on the stereo. Not even Yuki's Godchild pulled off that feat. There are a few other times when Shojo Beat spines have deviated that drastically from the norm -- Black Bird, Library Wars: Love and War, Jiu Jiu, Sakura Hime. But in general, you just don't see the same kind of spine design variety that you do in the Shonen Jump line. I know I keep bringing up the Borders liquidation sales of a few years back and how I ended up picking up several good series by virtue of the fact that no one else would touch them despite the ever-plunging percentage cuts; this was another of those series. It looks that different, apparently.

But is this shoujo manga? Ohhhhhh yes. Take a good look at that cover up top, the person holding the accordion. That's Lucille, the orchestra's leader. Long flowing hair, rather dainty facial features, a person with a beautiful singing voice. All qualities of someone who'd make a lovely young woman.

Or so you'd think. Because Lucille is a man. A very pretty man, but a man nevertheless. He's what's known in this series' universe as a philomela, or nightingale, "people who undergo treatments to eliminate their gender, in order to become people with voices like angels," as some expository dialogue helpfully points out. To complicate matters further, the group's pianist, Eles, the one who joins them in the first few chapters, the one who looks like a boy and acts like a boy ... is actually a girl, commanded by her father to assume the persona of the brother that she had to burn to death a few years back.

Ahh, shoujo manga, with your androgynous pretty boys and headstrong girls. Don't ever stop bringing the crazy.

Gender-bending hijinks aside, what we have here is a good, fun action-packed romp. The orchestra itself is a band of rogues -- "made up solely of convicts and sinners with sinister pasts," as their would-be employer points out in the first chapter -- called upon to battle what amounts to a zombie apocalypse and taking all the jobs that the royally sanctioned orchestra simply won't touch. These aren't your garden-variety zombies, though -- they're "guignols," once-normal people transformed into freakish living-dead dolls from the effects of a virus spreading across the land. The music the trio -- or quartet, with the addition of Eles -- performs together is powerful enough to eliminate guignols. And when you have situations like an entire town surrounded by guignols, or a duke who has a harem of obedient maids filling his castle for some strange reason, that special music will definitely come in handy.

With all that going for this volume, though, there's one flaw: We learn much about Lucille and Eles in this volume, but the other two orchestra members just don't seem to matter quite as much yet. We know the cellist, Gwindel, keeps a hedgehog in his top hat for some reason, and the violinist, Kohaku, is prone to solving every problem with a healthy dose of violence. But that's pretty much it. There are clearly more mysteries to be solved in this five-volume series, chief among them a statement Kohaku makes: "We're Lucille's prisoners. We're together by contract, not by choice." Yuki demonstrates in this volume, through the way she reveals Lucille's and Eles' gender secrets, that she has a knack for making readers think they know what's going on ... and then pulling the rug out from under them and changing the rules.

It's great. And based on its strong start, it seems like a series that's certainly worth tracking down.

The Cel Shaded Report, 9/21: Mini Con, meet maxi-fun

September 21st, 2012
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Mini Con 2012 flyerYou might call it the Little Convention That Could, or perhaps Artist Alley Con 2012, but one thing's for certain: Mini Con is back for a third year at the McCully-Moiliili Library. And, pardon the cliche, it's bigger and better than ever! No, really, it's gotten to the point where it's started to spill out from the meeting room in which it's traditionally been held, taking over an area known as the children's storywell near the circulation desk as well. Sure, it's no Ala Moana Hotel-to-convention center transition like Kawaii Kon in its third year, or Blaisdell Exhibition Hall-to-Aloha Tower Marketplace like the Hawaii Entertainment Expo in its third year, but still.

Subscribers to this fine publication saw our writeup about it last Saturday in the Today section's weekly "Kalakoa!" roundup, but for those of you who aren't subscribers (and why not? It's cheap, plus it ensures that I have enough money to eat and keep a roof over my head), here's a recap: Come on down to the library on Saturday, dress up in your favorite costume and get prizes, watch free anime, and meet many cool people including:

  • Jon Murakami, the artist behind Gordon Rider, our paper's Calabash strip and a number of children's books and greeting cards.
  • Audra Furuichi and Scott Yoshinaga, Team Kimonokitsy Studios and purveyors of fine plush pup swag for more than six years running now.
  • Kevin Sano, a Crazy Shirts designer who's also produced some neat prints inspired by Kikaida characters that will be available for sale. Debuting this year: four Hakaida prints.
  • Members of Pen & Ink Works, the anime/manga-inspired art group that debuted at this event last year. Artist Tara Tamayori will be talking about inking techniques at noon, and one-on-one consultations with artists of all skill levels will be available.
  • And new this year, welcome Misty-Lynn Sanico and Alex Alba -- and mascot Wormy! -- of Hawaii Reads (formerly Hawaii Book Blog), who will be handing out bookmarks and spreading the word about their site, which promotes and examines local literature.

You can also watch your friendly neighborhood Star-Advertiser anime/manga blogger run around taking pictures but generally not saying very much because, even though he just turned 18 (*mumble*timestwo*mumble*) last Saturday, he's still kinda shy.

Need more convincing? It took one year and 11 days, as well as a leap into the Flickr pool, for me to get this up and running, but I'm finally ready to present some of the highlights I captured from last year's event. Since it's been a few months since I posted my last Flickr gallery, here's a refresher course on how best to use it: To start the slideshow, just press the "play" button in the middle of the frame below. Pause and restart using the button on the lower left. If you want a larger view, click on the icon on the lower right; in that full-screen view, you can also see the captions I've written for each picture (using the "Show Info" link) or slow down the automatic scrolling (using the "Options" link). Finally, if you're viewing this blog on an iOS device (iPad/iPod Touch) and can't view Flash plug-ins, or if you just want to skip all the slideshow fiddling and go straight to the gallery, here's the direct gallery link: http://www.flickr.com/photos/sumiyoshi/sets/72157631579553092/

There's much fun to be had, for sure. I think there's too much to cram into three hours like previous years, so this year, Mini Con is lasting a whole extra hour, running from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The library is at 2211 S. King St., and once again I must add the customary disclaimer: Parking in the immediate area is limited, so arrive early, carpool or use public transportation. For more information, visit the Mini Con Facebook page, which is also available to non-Facebook users.

The complete HEXXP 2012 guest roster, take 2

hexxp-logoI really meant for last week's Cel Shaded Report to be the last major update on the Hawaii Entertainment Expo (HEXXP) story until the event itself. Maybe there would be a few little details to add to the "More From the Anime News Desk" section, but that was it -- the guest roster was locked and loaded, the schedule of events was posted, I think it's time we blow this scene, get everybody and their stuff together, OK, three, two, one, let's jam.

... and then I went and forgot to put voice actress Megumi Nakajima on the list. This happened despite the fact that the Aug. 2 Cel Shaded Report was about her and all.

Whoops.

Sigh.

So in the interest of being one-stop-shopping complete, let's try this again. Here is the full guest list for this year's HEXXP:

  • Angel Anatomy, musical duo with a style that's "ambient, classical, industrial, and a touch of opera"
  • Akiakane, noted Nico Nico Douga/YouTube utaite (cover artists who perform Vocaloid songs and other anime/video game /J-Pop pieces)
  • Atelier Pierrot, a clothing brand known for its EGL (elegant gothic lolita) styles
  • Andy Lee, modern zen painter and illustrator who's done work for DC and Marvel Comics
  • Livetune, music mastermind behind the Hatsune Miku Re:package and Tell Your World albums
  • DJ MaRia, Avex Entertainment's resident DJ for House Nation, "the most famous house music party in Japan"
  • Megumi Nakajima, voice of Ranka Lee in Macross Frontier and Chiho and Chise Mihara in Kobato
  • N.S.D.P., J-rock band
  • Royalvana, online purveyors of Japanese GAL fashion
  • Sana, visual kei guitarist
  • Nobuo Uematsu, music composer for many games in the Final Fantasy franchise, who'll be performing with his band, the Earthbound Papas
  • Kazuki Yao, voice of Franky in One Piece
  • Joji Yoshida, local actor

HEXXP is happening Oct. 19-21 at the Aloha Tower Marketplace. I mentioned last week that the Slopes of Diamondhead Hui's "Crazy, Sexy, Ghoul" Halloween party/Make-A-Wish Hawaii fundraiser would be running up against the convention's Friday night programming; it's since come to my attention that Scare Hawaii's "Terror at the Tower" haunted house will also be running concurrently in the same area all weekend, from 6 p.m. through midnight. My advice is very similar to the Mini Con item above: Carpool, take a bus or taxi, or be prepared to either walk from a downtown lot or pay for valet parking. Parking in the immediate vicinity will be tight.

For more information, visit www.hexxp.com. You can also preregister there, but there's now another way you can get your tickets: Groove Ticket outlets at Local Motion stores statewide, including the Ala Moana, Waikele, Windward Mall, Hawaii Kai and Sheraton Waikiki locations on Oahu; Kihei, Kaahumanu Shopping Center in Kahului and Lahaina on Maui; and the Queens Market Place in Waikoloa on Hawaii island.

More from the anime news desk

Kawaii Kon:It's late September, but it's never too early to start thinking about next year and the local anime convention's ninth annual installment. If you ever wanted to sign up to be a volunteer worker, your time is now: The first of four volunteer staff meetings is being held at 11 a.m. Saturday at Kakaako Waterfront Park. (You'll have to attend at least two out of those four meetings to qualify as a volunteer.) Bring your properly filled-out forms, available at http://www.kawaii-kon.org/forum/viewtopic.php?f=11&t=7508.

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

Comic Jam Hawaii: Local artists gather to draw collaborative cartoons and other artwork and talk story, 6 to 9 p.m. Wednesday at Kahala Mall, center court area. East-siders, take note: This is the last time they'll be at Kahala Mall, as they'll be shifting their sessions to Pearlridge starting next month. Visit http://www.facebook.com/groups/147779161986428/ (Facebook login required).

Specter of disappointment loomed large

September 17th, 2012
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As the scheduled October release date approaches for the fifth game in the much-heralded "Professor Layton" series, subtitled "Miracle Mask," let us have a little retrospective on the previous game, "Professor Layton and the Last Specter" for the Nintendo DS.

I think every time a new game in the "Layton" series comes out, I also hit a new low in terms of desperation and sanity loss.

lastspecter_coverFor "Last Specter," I actually started an intermittent countdown to its release date on my Twitter feed. The only reason it was intermittent was because the surrounding days also happened to be chock full of personal stuff that prevented my fangirl mind from drooling over the impending "Layton" release every second.

Two nights before the scheduled release, my mind slowly started whirring. Very slowly, because the aforementioned personal stuff was still in full swing and still taking up the majority of my brain power. But apparently my hysteria takes an amazingly short time to spool up to sky-high levels, as evidenced by the fact that I was already trolling the website of the particular store that I bowled into last year to get the previous "Layton" game, hoping to find that store's new Sunday ad to check if they'd have the game on the day of release. Keep in mind that I was frantically trying to get this information on Saturday night. I figured that hey, it was already midnight on the East Coast by this time, surely the latest flyer would be posted!

I found the ad and rapidly flipped through the digital pages. Much to my disappointment, the game was not listed. I then decided to check certain other likely stores' websites, hoping for a glimmer of hope in once again getting the game two hours earlier, as with what happened with "Unwound Future." Still nothing. My despair was growing.

Being that "Last Specter" was released nearly a year ago, I can no longer remember the exact sequence of events that led up to me eventually getting the game in my hands on the afternoon of the release date -- which, as tag-team-partner-in-fandom Jason Y. tells me, was a moving target, with the date having been changed several times. I do not remember any of that, so I can no longer write about it. Which is probably just as well, considering the already pathetic state of my mind as evidenced by previous paragraphs. I do remember that Jason managed to snag me a copy on the morning of release at a certain big-box store that we never thought about checking originally, which hopefully means that I have more options this year for getting "Miracle Mask" early in the morning. I cannot remember how my feverish fangirl self managed to survive that ENTIRE MORNING knowing that "Last Specter" was available on the mainland but might very well not exist here on our little island in the Pacific. I can only barely remember reading the instruction book and then popping the game in my Nintendo DS.

So anyway. "Last Specter" is the first of a prequel trilogy to the "Professor Layton" games in which we see how the good professor and his young apprentice Luke first met. The game opens with Layton at his office at Gressenheller University, where he receives a certain letter that causes him to drop everything and rush out -- although not, of course, without first having a spot of tea freshly brewed by his housekeeper, Rosa.

As Layton drives away, he runs into -- or more appropriately, is chased down by -- a young woman named Emmy Altava, who was hired by the dean to be the professor's new assistant. He has Emmy read the letter, which is from his old friend Clark Triton, the mayor of the town of Misthallery. The town is being destroyed by a mysterious giant, and Clark asks his friend to investigate. But there's also a hidden message in the letter that makes Layton think there's much more going on. Emmy accompanies him to Misthallery and they meet with Clark.
Something dastardly is happening in the town of Misthallery, and Mayor Clark Triton asks his old friend Layton and the professor's assistant Emmy to investigate. --Courtesy GamesPress
The mayor is glad to see Layton, but he denies sending the letter that brought the professor into town. Eventually they discover that Clark's son, Luke, was the one who sent the message. The boy has become somewhat of a recluse since the specter arrived; he desperately needs to talk someone to about the incidents, which is why he enlisted Layton's help. Turns out that Luke is able to predict the specter's attacks, and according to his calculations, one is scheduled that night. Layton, Emmy and Luke hurry off to the North Ely part of town to uncover what they can about this destructive giant.

"Last Specter" has all the familiar aspects. Anyone who's played previous games will immediately fall into the well-worn routine of tapping madly around each scene to find hint coins. It was worse for me in this game after I discovered that the availability of hint coins within each screen is triggered by certain events -- not all the hint coins will be there the first time you visit, so it will take several visits to grab all the coins in one scene. This causes some funny breaks in the storyline:

  • "Oh, there's the door. Let's knock!" -- But first, let me tap around for hint coins.
  • "Look, there's a bell on the counter. Let's ring it and see what happens!" -- Yeah, after I tap around for hint coins.
  • "Come on, we need to hurry to North Ely before the specter appears!" -- Wait, I have to tap around for hint coins!

Again, "Last Specter" includes some improvements over the previous game -- or perhaps "twists" is a better word. Characters once again move animatedly onscreen in the same manner I noticed in "Unwound Future," but now the environment itself is much more interactive -- signs at a rope bridge tilt or twist when you tap on them, mailboxes open and shut, sunlight fades in and out of a shady forest, a woman's luggage falls off a cart. (I tried to tap on that last one to replace it on the wagon after being alarmed by its unexpected falling-off, but to no avail.)

Lead a tiny kitty out of a maze by tempting her with fresh fish. You'll see the cat run up to each fish and gobble it up. --Courtesy GamesPressSome of the puzzles are more dynamic, as well. One brain teaser requiring you to fill buckets at water fountains shows the containers being filled and makes splashing noises when you trace your path near the fountains. Another, in which you must lead a cat out of a maze by using fish as bait, shows the tiny kitty running to each fish and quickly devouring it until nothing but bones are left.

Something else new are mandatory puzzles that, unlike regular ones that are preceded by the well-known "Puzzle!" marker, are introduced with the "Layton" logo and are built directly into the storyline without necessarily having to initiate conversation with a villager. They must be solved to advance the story, but are worth zero picarats and are usually more interactive than normal puzzles.

One thing I'm not particularly pleased with is the increase in the number of puzzles that require you to rotate pieces before putting them into place. As I noted in "Unwound Future," the game and/or touch screen isn't often sensitive enough, or perhaps it's too picky -- a lot of times I found myself rotating a piece when I wanted to slide it into place, and vice versa, causing a lot of frustration.

One neat new feature is you can now move around the shoe and suitcase icons to wherever you want them to sit on the screen. Now left-handers will no longer have to bear the indignity of blocking their screens when moving to tap on the respective icons. Although a caveat is the location of hint coins -- you might inadvertently be obstructing your way to a coin by moving the icons, so I choose to leave them in their default placements.

Another thing that's been changed -- at least after you solve a certain small number of puzzles -- is the screen that comes up after you input your answer, in which you see one of the game's characters reacting to whether your answer was correct. It's now a kind of sliding puzzle rather than showing the person's plain expression, so you can't tell which way your answer is going until the last second. It's not something that matters much in the long run, but it was nice to have a little more forewarning as to whether you'll be doing the puzzle again.

The conversation that comes up when tapping items is also kind of annoying -- the dialogue appears the first time you tap on something when you enter a screen, no matter HOW many times you've visited the screen before -- but I guess it's slightly less irritating than previous games, which would bring up the same dialogue EVERY SINGLE TIME you tapped a particular item.

But the biggest change is the fact that "Last Specter" is not just one game. It's TWO games: Included on the same DS card is a role-playing game called "London Life."

As a fan of "Layton," I was, of course, drawn to "Last Specter" for the simple fact that it was another game in the series. The addition of "London Life" was just a bonus for me, aside from the usual in-game secrets to find and mini games to complete and weekly downloadable puzzles. And as I am generally an anti-spoiler person, I didn't try to look up any details of what this "London Life" was supposed to encompass, although the title alone is pretty much a dead giveaway.

The first 'request' you'll get is to talk to your new landlady, Ingrid, outside the house you'll soon be living in.And "dead" is certainly what it sounds like. Despite my determination to not follow news of the game, I couldn't help but pick up bits and pieces. It seemed as though the RPG consists mainly of Layton and Luke walking around and, well, doing everyday stuff. Now while this might sound like an incredibly dull premise, one must remember the wild success of Nintendo's "Animal Crossing" -- a game in which all you do is gather fruit and lumber and whatnot, ride the train, visit friends in neighboring towns, comb for seashells and fossils, all in the name of stashing up cash to buy cute stuff to decorate your home. In other words, Life.

"London Life" sets the tone for cuteness and a bit of surprise, with one introductory screen cautioning of the tiny populace, clothing, and plants within, and another warning: "This game is played with the Control Pad and buttons. Put away your stylus!" It was a concept that admittedly was rather foreign on the touch-screen DS, as I kept tapping the screen intermittently during the character creation portion to make my choices. I quickly got the hang of this strange "D-pad and buttons only" scheme, however, and I was on my way to picking various appearance and personality traits and playing some ordinary, brown-haired, punk-styling female with a sweet tooth in Little London.

You'll meet some familiar characters -- Sammy the rock-n-rolling conductor and the Molentary Express from "Diabolical Box" are the first you'll encounter -- along with plenty of ordinary townspeople.

I got a kick out of seeing what stuff is available for you to do in this game, just by checking out your stats in the menu. Among other things are counters for Flowers Picked and Fish Caught, and options for the (rather mysterious) Livelihood and Newspaper (both of which are locked at the beginning of the game but I'm sure will be made clear later).

One of the first jobs you can do for money is picking up litter around the town. Someone's gotta do it, I guess.Aside from that, this really does start off as "Life." Check all your surroundings by simply going up to an item and pressing A, and you'll get descriptions that are funny in their ordinary-ness. You go around completing "requests" that the townspeople give, which start off pretty mundane at the beginning: The first "request" you get is to see your new landlady, who then gives you another "request" to register your address at City Hall, and then "requests" that you visit the department store. It's not all worthless, at least: All these manini tasks add to your Happiness score.

One extremely useful control to remember: Press the B button while walking to walk faster. It will relieve most of the boredom that comes from strolling about Little London when you want your promenade to be more brisk than leisurely.

It's all somehow entertaining in its simplicity and stupidity. At one point I put my DS to sleep and recounted to my ever-patient fiance the first few moments of life in Little London, with these constant and rather silly "requests" that aren't really anything such.

"See," my fiance responded. "I told you it was going to be a quest-based game. And you keep doing them again and again, so they're 're-quests'!"

My fiance is one of the kings of bad puns.

Don't knock "London Life," though. I found it strangely addicting, but it's perhaps because I have an affliction for exploring and discovering things, as Nintendo's "Legend of Zelda" series has ingrained in me. Echoes of the DS game "Hotel Dusk" (which I previously reviewed) by the late, lamented Cing are here as well, with the silly descriptons of plants, furniture, and other ordinary objects almost as fun to read as Kyle Hyde's comments are in "Hotel Dusk."

Overall, though? There's a reason why this review is coming nearly a year after "Last Specter" was released. There was just something about the game's story that didn't hold my attention as much as previous ones. The first "Layton" game, "Curious Village," certainly set the series' precedent for off-the-wall explanations, but I was already tired of that implausibility by the second game, "Diabolical Box." The secret behind this game's titular specter could be seen from a mile away, although the secrets beyond THAT were a little more engaging, at least.

Still, I'm a fan and I fully intend to immerse myself in the next game, "Miracle Mask." I'm interested in seeing how they incorporate 3-D into the puzzles, if at all. At the same time, I'm hoping that 3-D won't be essential in too many of them, given how easily it strains the eyes, and when a puzzle stumps me, I can be staring at the screen for hours.

And, of course, here's hoping that I'll actually find a copy of the game on the scheduled release date of Oct. 28.

The Cel Shaded Report, 9/14: Franky goes to HEXXPywood

September 14th, 2012
By



One Piece vol. 39. That's Franky behind Luffy."Yao Kazuki."

It was last Saturday morning, just a handful of hours before Manga Swap was about to kick off, when I first heard the name. At the time, my mind wasn't really registering what it meant. Tag-team partner in fandom Wilma J. and I were busily setting up this and this. Plus my would-be information giver and name-dropper, Yoshiki Takahashi from the Hawaii Entertainment Expo (HEXXP), was wheeling his own cart of stuff from the elevators to the HEXXP table at the time.

"Wait, what? Who?" I said.

"Yao Kazuki. He's the last guest. You know, Franky from One Piece."

"Ohhhhhhhhhhh."

And so, six days after the announcement debuted at Manga Swap -- and with our wallets a bit fuller, our storage boxes a bit emptier, and our sanity lost and found again (well, sorta, on that last one) -- I finally have the time and energy to write and confirm that, yes, seiyuu (Japanese voice actor) Kazuki Yao is one of the last guest announcements for HEXXP 2012. Yao is, as mentioned earlier, best known as the voice of One Piece's Franky, the cyborg leader of the Franky Family group of ship dismantlers who becomes a valuable member of Luffy's Straw Hat Pirates. He's also voiced the hypnotist Marine Jango and the cross-dressing Baroque Works agent Mr. 2 Bon Kurei in the series. Other characters he's voiced include Koichiro Iketani in Initial D, Marco in Gunslinger Girl, Hideki Kurohagi in the recent Wolverine anime and Ginji Kawai, Sasami's dad, in Magical Project S. (Yes, folks, if there is ever an excuse to shoehorn Magical Project S into a post, and doing so is actually relevant, I will do it.)

Yao will perform Friday night as part of the "Seiyuu Meets Visual Kei" concert ... which, of course, means that someone with visual kei chops had to join him. And so the final final guest announcement is Sana, current guitarist for Kain, former guitarist for Mask and someone who's a bit difficult to find any English-language info on via Google. This translated interview from 2007 on Shattered-Tranquility.net, however, would indicate that Sana enjoys Giorgio Armani perfume, French movies, Hayao Miyazaki and making stray cats run away. So there is that.

Recapping the rest of the guest list:

  • Angel Anatomy, musical duo with a style that's "ambient, classical, industrial, and a touch of opera"
  • Akiakane, noted Nico Nico Douga/YouTube utaite (cover artists who perform Vocaloid songs and other anime/video game /J-Pop pieces)
  • Atelier Pierrot, a clothing brand known for its EGL (elegant gothic lolita) styles
  • Andy Lee, modern zen painter and illustrator who's done work for DC and Marvel Comics
  • Livetune, music mastermind behind the Hatsune Miku Re:package and Tell Your World albums
  • DJ MaRia, Avex Entertainment's resident DJ for House Nation, "the most famous house music party in Japan"
  • N.S.D.P., J-rock band
  • Royalvana, online purveyors of Japanese GAL fashion
  • Nobuo Uematsu, music composer for many games in the Final Fantasy franchise, who'll be performing with his band, the Earthbound Papas
  • Joji Yoshida, local actor

Major events at HEXXP include the World Cosplay Summit regional qualifying round on Oct. 21, and a Macross 30th Anniversary exhibit and maid cafe service from AniMaid Hawaii throughout the weekend. For those of you who don't quite feel like you have what it takes to enter the WCS qualifier, you can take part in the just-announced Costume Masquerade cosplay contest on Oct. 20. Want to know exactly what to do when? Why, the complete programming schedule just got posted Thursday night. (For starters, if you're an Earthbound Papas fan, be prepared to have a late Sunday.)

HEXXP is taking place Oct. 19-21 at Aloha Tower Marketplace. Yes, that means that HEXXP's Friday night will run right up against the Slopes of Diamondhead Hui's annual "Crazy, Sexy, Ghoul" Halloween party/Make-A-Wish Hawaii fundraiser. Yes, contingency plans are in the works. Yes, with a reported 3,000 people attending CSG 2011, that will make getting navigating that area for the latter part of HEXXP's programming verrrry interesting.

For more information or to preregister, visit www.hexxp.com.

More from the anime news desk

Aiea Library Anime Club: 3 p.m. Saturday at the library, 99-143 Moanalua Road. This month, librarian Diane Masaki will be screening episodes of Fruits Basket. For more information or to RSVP, call 483-7333 or e-mail aiealibraryanimeclub@yahoo.com.

Kikaida at Shirokiya: Aaaaaaaallllll the way back in 1662, Shirokiya opened its first store in Tokyo. Fast forward through 350 years of business ebbs and flows, and things have pretty much come full circle as far as the number of stores that exist in the world is concerned: There is one store left, and it's the one with the Book-Off, the KZOO satellite studio, the yummy Saint Germain's blueberry muffins and the second-floor foodie's paradise at Ala Moana. (Raise your hand if you remember the Shirokiyas at Pearlridge and on Maui. Now, as I'm on the cusp of celebrating my birthday on Saturday, please join me in feeling old.)

The store's been celebrating its 350th anniversary since August, but an event coming up on Sunday brings another anniversary into the mix: 40 years of Japanese superheroes in Hawaii. Which means it's time for another recent Shirokiya tradition -- a good old-fashioned Generation Kikaida party -- to make an encore appearance. There will be stars (Kikaida's Ban Daisuke! Kamen Rider V3's Miyauchi Hiroshi!) signing autographs, balloons, photo ops and "Kikaida-oke."

For more information, visit www.generationkikaida.com. Oh, and if you have a moment, read Chad Pata's story, "Kikaida: At Home in the Islands," in our sister publication, MidWeek. It's quite good.

Mini-Con 2012: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sept. 22 at McCully-Moiliili Public Library, 2211 S. King St.  I hope to post at least one post on the topic next week (and look for the Kalakoa brief in Saturday's Today section!), but nemu*nemu artist Audra Furuichi posted this on the Mini Con Facebook event page, and I just had to share it because OMG SO CUUUUUUTE:

Mini Con 2012 flyer

Katamari Damacy gets webcomic treatment: Word out of ShiftyLook, the webcomics portal devoted to resurrecting obscure Namco video game properties, is that Katamari Damacy, that wonderfully quirky game that Wilma and I both adore that involves the Prince of All Cosmos rolling up everything in said cosmos into giant balls to be turned into stars, is going to become a regular comic. It debuts on Monday; Destructoid has a preview. Suffice it to say that with that, the upcoming Klonoa being drawn by The Big O/Mega Man Megamix manga artist Hitoshi Ariga, the upcoming Mappy web animation, and my current faves Bravoman, Dragon Spirit, Rocket Fox and Wonder Momo, ShiftyLook's become quite the hotbed of artistic talent ... and a must-stop site in my daily web wanderings.