Archive for February, 2013

From the Pile: "Absurd" is the word

February 24th, 2013
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Jason's note: From the Pile was supposed to be a semi-regular feature in which we profiled something at random from our large pile of yet-to-be-reviewed anime and manga. Considering the last installment came with Genkaku Picasso back when this blog was regularly updating on the starbulletin.com domain last year, and the last installment before that came with the gawd-awful Master of Martial Hearts aaaaaalllll the way back in 2010, we've kinda abandoned all hope of this being even "semi-regular."  But we still try. Oh, we still try. Anyway, without further ado …

Aron's Absurd Armada coverToday’s profile: Aron's Absurd Armada vol. 1
Author: MiSun Kim
Publisher: Yen Press
Suggested age rating: Older teen 16+
Availability: In print & readily available

Like many other books I get attracted to on a whim, the synopsis of the Korean manwha Aron's Absurd Armada was what drew me in. It seemed like a funny enough series, about the misadventures of a pirate crew under the captainship of one Master Aron, a freewheeling noble who wants to go out and be a pirate because they're "cool." His faithful servant Robin naturally tags along with him to protect him -- because if Aron gets killed, he'll be out of a job, and Robin loves money more than anything.

Along the way they pick up two sailors, Gilbert and Anton, and a mysterious tomboyish girl, Ronnie, who is constantly mistaken as a guy, which provides the fodder for a lot of the jokes. Rounding out the crew is another gender-bender mate, Mercedes the hairstylist, a guy who looks (and acts) like a girl, and "chef" Vincent, whose cooking skills -- or, more accurately, the lack of them -- create concoctions that are probably the most lethal weapon the pirate wannabes have aboard.

You can tell right off the bat that this is going to be one of those series that will live up to its name and makes no bones about it. The character descriptions on the first page, for example, say this about Aron: "He's an immature rascal who drives people up the wall, and he's a stupid dumbass."

After that introduction, I was ready to have a good laugh with what I expected to be a typical manga-style comedy story. But what I found instead is that Armada isn't your usual manga or manwha style; it hews more closely to what's known in Japanese as the 4-koma format. Rather than long-form stories drawn on full pages like regular manga, 4-koma -- an abbreviation of the Japanese term that literally means "4-panel comic" -- is more like the daily newspaper funnies: The strip is divided into four frames and usually ends with a gag.

Because of that, any apparent character development or seriousness during the first three panels is almost immediately wiped away by the silliness of the last panel. There are occasional longer comics that are more in the typical manga format, but even those end just as inanely. At the end of 30 pages, which is as far as I managed to force myself through before tossing the book down in disgust, I wasn't sure if anyone had any "development" at all or if the comics had merely cemented the "Absurd" part of the title.

This steep up-and-down cycle gets stale, extremely annoying and terribly disappointing after just the first few strips. If the technique was meant as a laugh-getter -- hey, here's a totally serious situation but we'll end it on an unexpected ridiculous note because it's FUNNY! -- then it failed miserably. (Actually, after just a few strips, it won't be "unexpected" any more, just exactly HOW it ends will continue to be the surprise.) If the story kept solely to running up the "funny" meter, rather than trying to include some actual development, then Armada might work. Barely.

Adding to the headache is that Kim often squeezes a lot of text and action into the small frames, many of which are divided into even smaller blocks to try to get even more into the story, so the four panels usually turn into six, eight or more. The detailed art style suffers from being squished into such a small space, and a lot of times coherency is sacrificed as well -- at points I struggled to understand the story and which character was saying what.

I read Armada off and on for about a week before I finally gave up. When I opened it up again after a couple of months (because, to be honest, I had nothing else to read and that was the only thing close at hand) and picked up from where I'd left off, I found myself laughing out loud at the gags. But the enjoyment still faded just as quickly as when I'd initially started reading.

So as my experience shows, Armada is one of those books that: 1. grows on you; 2. tickles your funny bone once you understand that it's not a serialized comic; and 3. like anything slapstick, is best in small doses. Emphasis on "small."

Still, in the end, there's only so much I can take, and seeing as this was labeled as volume 1, there's apparently more in store. But my patience and sanity were exhausted by the time I managed to reach the end of the book, and the thought of a "volume 2" and beyond makes my mental faculties scream for mercy. My brain has had all it can handle of Aron's Absurd Armada.

The Cel Shaded Report, 2/22: Magical lyrical cinema transformation

February 22nd, 2013
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Madoka and Kyubey, Nendoroid style. REVEL IN THE PUDGY CUTE.We've known since December that the Puella Magi Madoka Magica double feature -- comprising the films Beginnings and Eternal -- is coming to Honolulu. It's happening just a handful of days from now -- Wednesday and Thursday, to be exact.

But let's say you have the mindset of a typical journalist (like, say, me) and thrive on deadline pressure, taking care of business as close to the last minute as possible (not like, say, me, this time around; I made sure I bought my ticket the day the screenings were announced).

No worries. According to Taylour Chang, manager of the Doris Duke Theatre at the Honolulu Museum of Art, there are plenty of tickets still available. Theoretically, there are enough for you truly hard-core procrastinators to walk up to the theater and buy a ticket on the same day as your show of choice ... but why chance it? Buy a ticket in advance, it's easier.

So how did these films end up at the Doris Duke and not at one of the larger movie chains in town? According to Taylour, it was just a matter of having a good working relationship with the films' distributor, Eleven Arts.

"Abbie Algar, the film curator, and I were coincidently talking about bringing more anime into our programming, and we wanted to reach out to the local anime/manga community," Taylour told me via email. "So the offer came at a perfect time. We connected with Roy from Kawaii Kon, and the ball got rolling."

To sweeten the pot -- if four hours of Madoka Magica goodness wasn't already good enough -- the Kawaii Kon gang will be there as well, selling passes to next month's convention during the intermission. There are also a bunch of activities planned, according to "Roy from Kawaii Kon" -- senior administrator Roy Bann -- but he told me via email that it really depends on who shows up:

We hope that folks will come out in cosplay and if so, we'll hold another Cosplay Runway akin to what we did at Anime Day where we invite costumed attendees up onto the stage and have them say a few words about their costume. We also have several of our other games ready to go including the return of our Plinko board, our Monty Hall-esque First One Up game, Action Stance Pose-Off (where we bring several people on stage and have them do a pose-off of a stereotypical archetype of cartoons, anime, comics, etc), as well as our raffle where we'll be giving away one free three-day pass each night to the audience.

Also in the "play it by ear" category right now: how those 20 limited-edition posters will be given away each night. According to Taylour, they could be handed out at the beginning or during intermission. If you're really after a poster, you'll want to show up early and stick around during intermission to see how that goes.

All of this goes down at 4 p.m. Wednesday and 5 p.m. Thursday at the theater, located on the Kinau Street side of the Honolulu Museum of Art. (Programming note: While the theater doors will open for seating at 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday, they'll open right at 5 p.m. on Thursday -- there's an unrelated lecture scheduled at the theater before Thursday's show.) Tickets are $20 general admission, $18 museum members. Visit www.honolulumuseum.org/events/films/13340-puella_magi_madoka_magica_parts_1_2.

Ota-cool incoming!

"Create a Comic Book": Learn how to compose your own eight-page comic book and get storytelling tips from Michael Cannon of Comic Jam Hawaii at Aiea Library (99-143 Moanalua Road). Art supplies (paper! pencils! crayons!) will be provided, but feel free to bring your own as well if you prefer. (Heck, bring a laptop with a Wacom tablet and Manga Studio 5 if you reeeeally want to show off.) Recommended for ages 8 and up; call 483-7333 for a sign language interpreter or other special accommodations. 2 to 4:30 p.m. today.

Kawaii Kon's Karaoke Kompetition preliminary round: Show off your vocal chops for a chance to be one of nine participants in Kawaii Kon's annual karaoke contest, with a chance to win … well … something. Tryouts to be held at Orvis Auditorium on the lower campus of the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Don't forget to read the rules and submit your paperwork. Presented by the UH Anime & Manga Society. 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday.

MangaBento: This group of anime- and manga-inspired artists usually meets every second and fourth Sunday of the month at the Honolulu Museum of Art School (1111 Victoria St., room 200). Visit www.manga-bento.com. Next meeting: 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday.

Honolulu Festival: The 19th annual edition of this festival celebrating the cultures of Asia and the Pacific rim promises to feature all the elements that have made it so much fun for local anime/manga fans in the past: Kawaii Kon's anime corner, MangaBento's photo booth and games for the kids at the Hawai'i Convention Center; the parade down Kalakaua Avenue late Sunday afternoon; and to top it all off, the Nagaoka Fireworks from Niigata, Japan, on Sunday night. And don't forget about the cultural displays -- the mikoshi are always impressive -- and entertainment at the convention center, DFS Galleria and Waikiki Beachwalk, too! Visit www.honolulufestival.com. March 1-3.

Comic Jam Hawaii: This group of collaborative cartoon artists meets every first and third Sunday of the month in front of Hot Unique Imaging on the Uptown side of Pearlridge Center. Visit www.facebook.com/groups/147779161986428 (Facebook login required). Next meeting: 1 to 4 p.m. March 3.

"How to Draw Manga Faces": If you can't figure out what participants are going to be learning at this workshop at Treehouse (250 Ward Ave., suite 233) presented by MangaBento, you're really reading the wrong blog. Recommended for ages 8 and older; cost is $10, art materials included. Feel free to bring your own, too, if you prefer. (Heck, bring a lapto... wait, I already did that joke with the comic book workshop above. Never mind.) Details and a link to register are at treehouse-shop.com/how-to-draw-manga-faces-workshop. 10 to 11 a.m. March 9.

"Court of Hearts": Visual Kei Dark Castle has been around for just a few months, but this themed dance party presented by Nephilim Hall Productions has already made inroads in courting local fans of visual kei, J-rock and goth loli fashion. This upcoming event at The Loft Gallery & Lounge (115 N. Hotel St., #2) features an Alice in Wonderland theme, a lolita/kodona fashion show and contest, and special guests Yu x Me: Maid Cafe & Host Club. (I've already been told that "Mune Mune Kyun" will not be part of the proceedings.) $10 for ages 21 and up; $15 ages 18-20. Visit www.facebook.com/pages/Visual-kei-Dark-Castle/301847309932258?fref=ts (no Facebook login required). 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. March 9.

Holiday weekend? Not for anime con news!

February 17th, 2013
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Look! It's a new, not-Kawaii Kon-logo image to illustrate this story! It's the con's limited-edition pin for 2013, to be exact. Via the Kawaii Kon Instagram feed.)It took less than 24 hours for my attention to shift from Oni-Con Hawaii's debut back to Kawaii Kon with the convention's unveiling of this year's events schedule, which is always a fascinating read for an anime blogger getting ready to run back and forth between the Ala Moana Hotel and the Hawai'i Convention Center for four days. Download your copy at goo.gl/PBeoJ. Standard disclaimers apply — schedule subject to change, keep checking back for any changes between now and March 15, consult the official program that you'll receive at the convention as well as the vast Kawaii Kon social media network for the most up-to-date information.

Two of the panels also tie in to announcements made in the past few days. Noizi Ito -- the artist over whom I FANBOY SQUEEEEE~~~~~d over a few weeks ago, will be hosting an art portfolio review from 3 to 4 p.m. March 15 in Panel Room 3, and applications are now being accepted to be one of the three artists whose work she'll review. Just email events@kawaii-kon.org by Friday and await further instructions.

The second panel -- "Vocaloids Live," from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. March 17 in the Main Events room -- will bring those popular virtual idols to life in a concert at Kawaii Kon for the first time, courtesy of a fan group from Japan. Refresh your memory on how the technology works with my earlier post on DJ Livetune and Hatsune Miku.

I've been told that more detailed panel descriptions are coming soon, but here are a few other quick observations for now:

  • The Kawaii Lounge, the new panel room at the Ala Moana Hotel that I've talked about in the past, is coming into play much more than I originally thought. Not only is there the late-night programming that I talked about, there are daytime and evening panels being held there as well throughout the convention, making it the convention's fifth panel room.
  • The anime industry will be represented with panels by Crunchyroll (11 a.m-noon March 15, Panel Room 1); Aniplex of America (1-2 p.m. March 16, Panel Room 2) and Sentai Filmworks (1:30-2:30 p.m. March 16, Panel Room 3).
  • Panels featuring groups and/or individuals I've been following here in Otaku Ohana include the Visual Kei Dark Castle panel (11 p.m. to midnight March 15, Main Events); "Yume no Teien Host Club" (hosted by Yu x Me Maid Cafe & Host Club, 4-5 p.m. March 16, Ballroom); a nemu*nemu panel (1-2 p.m. March 17, Panel Room 3); and "Otaku Pictionary" (hosted by MangaBento, 4-5 p.m. March 17, Kawaii Lounge).
  • And the "Best Title for a Panel That Really Makes You Wonder What It's About" award goes to … "Kawaii Kon Trail: You Have Died of Dysentery," happening in the Kawaii Lounge from 10:30 to 11:30 p.m.March 16.

In other con news, fans of the Johnny Yong Bosch-led band Eyeshine will want to keep an eye on the Kawaii Kon Facebook page on Monday, as the convention is promising to post a link for tickets to the band's pre-con gig at the Oceanic Time Warner Cable VIP Music Hall at Dole Cannery (650 Iwilei Road, suite 400). Buying a ticket will grant access to the band for autographs, first crack at buying their new album, and (for preregistered con attendees) a chance to avoid the lines and pick up badges and programs early. You'll want to get on that quickly, though, as only 35 tickets will be available. (Update 2/18, 7:30 a.m.: Here's the ticket sale link. Concert starts at 8 p.m. March 14. Good luck.)

Goodbye HEXXP, hello ... Oni-Con Hawaii?!?

February 16th, 2013
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Back on Feb. 8, Ron Kaneshige, founder of the Hawaii Entertainment Expo (otherwise known as the Hawaii Entertainment Expo Experience, HEXXP, the "HEX-po," and "the con that pretty much made only lateral progress over the years from this"),  posted the following statement to his convention's Facebook page:

For the past 3 years I have poured my heart and all of my finances into building HEXXP. I no longer have the funds necessary to keep it going. As of today, I am officially stepping down from HEXXP.

Oni-Con Hawaii promo imageA handful of condolence messages ensued. But a proper obituary for HEXXP will have to wait for another day (and believe me, there's much to say about the faults and ultimate failure of that con). It took all of eight days before a new challenger entered the local convention arena: This morning, a website and Facebook page launched for Oni-Con Hawaii ... and unlike HEXXP and its nebulous "pop culture convention" designation, it looks like the people behind it are aiming squarely at the Kawaii Kon market, fans of anime, manga and Japanese culture. In other words, you, dear Otaku Ohana readers.

To solidify the transition, the following message was posted to the HEXXP Facebook page this morning:

Dear attendees of HEXXP,

First, we want to thank you for all your support these past three years. It has been a wonderful ride and an awesome experience for all of us. We also want to thank our great guests, vendors, and artist alley participants who have helped HEXXP grow over the years. We have had a chance to meet some amazing artist from Japan, Hawaii, and the mainland and the memories from these past three years will stay with us forever.

Unfortunately, it is time for HEXXP to say goodbye.

But, even as the sun must set on HEXXP, a new day is dawning here, in Hawaii, for fans of Japanese Pop Culture. A new convention will be coming in the Fall of 2013. A collaboration between the Hawaii, the mainland, and Japan, it promises to bring fresh energy to the fans of this genre, here in the 808. For more information please visit www.oniconhawaii.com as well as their official facebook page Onicon Hawaii www.facebook.com/oniconhawaii

And, for those who had already pre-registered for HEXXP 2013, you will be contacted in the next few days. Please watch for it in your email.

Mahalo and aloha.

There's not much information to go on right now, but here's what I do know about Oni-Con Hawaii so far:

  • The image above is pretty much the only official information that's been released so far; indeed, there is no confirmation yet as to when and where Oni-Con Hawaii will be taking place. The timing of this announcement would suggest that the actual event is at least six months away ... perhaps even around the old HEXXP window of sometime in the fall months of September and November.
  • This new convention does have an affiliation with Oni-Con, the Galveston, Texas, anime con that is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. How exactly this parent con will be involved, I'm not sure; I'll be sending out a few inquiries shortly. Also involved: Babel Entertainment, the promoter that brought over many of HEXXP's Japanese guests. It would not surprise me if other former HEX-patriates -- minus Ron, of course -- were part of this venture as well.
  • Yu x Me Maid Cafe & Host Club (home of the "Mune Mune Kyun!") is the first group to officially sign on with this new venture, announcing via its Facebook page that Oni-Con Hawaii will feature its showcase cafe event for this year.

Stay tuned, folks. If Oni-Con Hawaii makes even a little bit of improvement over HEXXP, the local convention scene could get pretty interesting.

The Cel Shaded Report, 2/15: Tabula race-a

February 15th, 2013
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ms5_right_5x5_FinalI think I've written here in the past that my artistic talents hover around those of either Anpan and Nemu or that guy who draws xkcd. But I hang around with cool artistic people with far more talent than I enough to know that (a) Wacom tablets are quite desired among digital artist types and (b) artists can work wonders with Smith Micro's Manga Studio software. (Just look at a bunch of Audra Furuichi's recent sketches on the nemu*nemu blog for proof of that.)

Version 5 recently hit store shelves, so to celebrate, Smith Micro's giving away a Wacom Cintiq tablet and 25 prints signed by Ethan Nicolle, the artist who's brought his young brother Malachai's wild imagination to life through the webcomic Axe Cop. For a chance to win one of these little lovelies (or even the big lovely), all you need to have is a working knowledge of your name, email address and which computing platform you use more often, Mac or PC. Oh, and you have to be 21 or older. (Yes, this is a bit of a roundabout way to get you to sign up for their product mailing list. Feel free to unsubscribe sometime down the line ... but be polite and stick around to hear some of what they have to say first, at least.)

You have until Feb. 28 to enter for your chance to win; visit manga.smithmicro.com/ms5contest/

Ota-cool incoming!

As promised last week, here's your freshly beefed-up edition of what's going on with the local anime/manga community over the next few weeks, with a number of new events of note -- a few art workshops and an Alice in Wonderland visual kei party are among the highlights.

"Anime Rocks!": The second edition of Kawaii Kon's pre-con musical extravaganza spotlights two-time con guests Alt/Air and young rockers Emke at the Hard Rock Cafe in Waikiki, 280 Beachwalk. Also features the debut of the Kawaii Kon 2013 limited edition pin; 15% off food and drink; discounts on convention preregistration; games; and prizes. Read more about it here. 2 to 5 p.m. Sunday.

Comic Jam Hawaii: This group of collaborative cartoon artists meets every first and third Sunday of the month in front of Hot Unique Imaging on the Uptown side of Pearlridge Center. Visit www.facebook.com/groups/147779161986428 (Facebook login required). Next meeting: 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday.

"Create a Comic Book": Learn how to compose your own eight-page comic book and get storytelling tips from Michael Cannon of Comic Jam Hawaii at Aiea Library (99-143 Moanalua Road). Art supplies (paper! pencils! crayons!) will be provided, but feel free to bring your own as well if you prefer. (Heck, bring a laptop with a Wacom tablet and Manga Studio 5 if you reeeeally want to show off.) Recommended for ages 8 and up; call 483-7333 for a sign language interpreter or other special accommodations.  2 to 4:30 p.m. Feb. 23.

Kawaii Kon's Karaoke Kompetition preliminary round: Show off your vocal chops for a chance to be one of nine participants in Kawaii Kon's annual karaoke contest, with a chance to win … well … something. Don't forget to read the rules and submit your paperwork. Presented by the University of Hawaii Anime & Manga Society. 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Feb. 24.

MangaBento: This group of anime- and manga-inspired artists usually meets every second and fourth Sunday of the month at the Honolulu Museum of Art School (1111 Victoria St., room 200). Visit www.manga-bento.com. Next meeting: 1 to 4 p.m. Feb. 24.

Madoka Magica double feature: Watch the magical girl saga unfold in one big four-hour, two-film chunk comprising Beginnings and Eternal, Doris Duke Theatre at the Honolulu Museum of Art. Tickets are $20 general admission, $18 museum members. Visit www.honolulumuseum.org/events/films/13340-puella_magi_madoka_magica_parts_1_2. 4 p.m. Feb. 27 and 28.

Honolulu Festival: The 19th annual edition of this festival celebrating the cultures of Asia and the Pacific rim promises to feature all the elements that have made it so much fun for local anime/manga fans in the past: Kawaii Kon's anime corner, MangaBento's photo booth and games for the kids at the Hawai'i Convention Center; the parade down Kalakaua Avenue late Sunday afternoon; and to top it all off, the Nagaoka Fireworks show from Niigata, Japan, on Sunday night. And don't forget about the cultural displays -- the mikoshi are always impressive -- and entertainment at the convention center, DFS Galleria and Waikiki Beachwalk, too! Visit www.honolulufestival.com. March 1-3.

"How to Draw Manga Faces": If you can't figure out what participants are going to be learning at this workshop at Treehouse (250 Ward Ave., suite 233) presented by MangaBento, you're really reading the wrong blog. Recommended for ages 8 and older; cost is $10, art materials included. Feel free to bring your own, too, if you prefer. (Heck, bring a lapto... wait, I already did that joke with the comic book workshop above. Never mind.) Details and a link to register are at treehouse-shop.com/how-to-draw-manga-faces-workshop. 10 to 11 a.m. March 9.

"Court of Hearts": Visual Kei Dark Castle has been around for just a few months, but this themed dance party presented by Nephilim Hall Productions has already made inroads in courting local fans of visual kei, J-rock and goth loli fashion. This upcoming event at The Loft Gallery & Lounge (115 N. Hotel St., #2) features an Alice in Wonderland theme, a lolita/kodona fashion show and contest, and special guests Yu x Me: Maid Cafe & Host Club. (I've already been told that "Mune Mune Kyun" will not be part of the proceedings.) $10 for ages 21 and up; $15 ages 18-20. Visit www.facebook.com/pages/Visual-kei-Dark-Castle/301847309932258?fref=ts (no Facebook login required). 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. March 9.