By Jason S. Yadao
To get the obvious first thought out of your mind right away: No, Bento Rakugo is not, as I first thought when the offer came in from my freshly minted Otaku Ohana Anonymous Director of Forced Social Interaction, a new place in town where you can pick up a plastic box with some teriyaki chicken, assorted tsukemono and rice with a nice dusting of furikake and an ume stuck in the middle.
What Bento Rakugo is, though, is a nifty local troupe that shares humorous stories in the style of traditional Japanese rakugo. In rakugo, a single storyteller sits on a pillow before an audience and creates a compact narrative world -- sometimes with multiple characters -- with just a few intonation shifts and a paper fan and a cloth as props.
Here's what it looked like at Waipahu Library on Wednesday.
It's a show that can appeal to audiences young and old, people who may wander into the room just curious about what's going on and friendly neighborhood anime/manga blogger trying to huddle incognito in the back alike. If the format holds for future performances, artistic director/group co-founder/emcee Yasu Ishida will introduce the concept of rakugo and perform some magic tricks, then the storytellers will go up and perform three to four stories, all within the span of an hour that passes way too quickly. They're a bit like long-form jokes building up to a big punch line, but the storytelling aspect adds so much more depth to it.
Here's what it looks like in action with one of the Bento Rakugo players who also showed up at the Waipahu performance, Serina Dunham.
Love her voice. I feel like she could be a great anime voice actor, in the vein of, say, Hilary Haag. But I digress.
Bento Rakugo has two more performances this weekend on Oahu -- 10:30 a.m. Saturday at Aiea Library (99-143 Moanalua Road) and 3 p.m. Sunday at Kaneohe Library (45-829 Kamehameha Highway). Then it's the neighbor islands' turn -- Molokai Library on Monday, Mountain View and Kona libraries on Hawaii island on June 26, Lanai Library on June 27, and Keaau and Naalehu libraries on Hawaii island on July 17. Check with those libraries for times. And if you want to learn more about the group, visit bentorakugo.wix.com/home.
By sheer coincidence, this weekend is a big one for another group with "bento" as part of its name: MangaBento.
Sunday -- which also happens to be Father's Day, so best wishes to all you dads out there -- is opening day for the anime/manga artist collective's annual exhibit, Tomo-E-Ame: Friends-Drawings-Candy. I've seen some of the setup pictures that the group's been posting to its Facebook page, and the display area looks very similar to previous years. (You can find my recap of last year's Nakamaboko exhibit here, here and here.) I, for one, can't wait to see the new artwork and share it with you in my annual series of Flickr galleries
The group will be hosting an opening reception from 2 to 5 p.m. in the Art School's mezzanine gallery ... and as those of you who are veterans of the opening reception circuit know, such events mean there will be food. In this case, your servers will be coming from Yu x Me: Maid Cafe and Host Club, cosplaying as characters from Adventure Time. And they will be serving, among other delectables, bacon-wrapped meat "cupcakes" with a mashed potato "frosting." If that doesn't say "perfect food item to share with Dad on Father's Day afternoon," I don't know what does.
If you can't make it to the reception, you have through July 14 to see the exhibit. As I mentioned in last week's Cel Shaded Report, you can visit Tomo-E-Ame as a free complement to the Lethal Beauty: Samurai Weapons and Armor exhibit over in the Honolulu Museum of Art. For more information, visit www.manga-bento.com.
Anime Manga Society at UH-Manoa: Meetings during Summer Session 1 (through June 28) in Kuykendall Hall, room 306. Screenings TBA. Fridays, 5:30 to 7 p.m.
Aiea Library Anime Club: This month, librarian Diane Masaki is screening Summer Wars at the library, 99-143 Moanalua Road. For more information or to RSVP, call 483-7333 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. 3 p.m. Saturday.
Comic Jam Hawaii: This group of collaborative cartoon artists is on the road again for its second meeting in June, heading to Aiea Library (99-143 Moanalua Road) to put their own spin on the young adult summer reading program theme, "Beneath the Surface." They're taking July off, so this will be your last chance to jam with a bunch of talented artists for a while. Visit www.facebook.com/groups/ComicJamHawaii (Facebook login required). Next meeting: 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday, June 22.
Friends of the Library of Hawaii 66th Annual Book Sale: Every summer for about a week, the McKinley High School cafeteria turns into an oasis for fans of classic media like books, CDs, DVDs, videotapes ... you know, all that stuff that people say the digital age is steamrolling over. Cherish the classics and support the Friends, I say. FLH members get two days' worth of preview sales, June 20 and 21; Hawaii State Federal Credit Union members can join in on the preview sale fun on June 21; for the rest of us, the sale runs June 22-30. Visit www.friendsofthelibraryofhawaii.org/index.php/fundraising/annual-booksale and start planning your trip.
Dave Thorne Celebration of Life: Remembering the life and work of the "father of Hawaii cartooning" with a gathering at Bay View Golf Course (45-285 Kaneohe Bay Drive). July 27, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
Taku Taku Matsuri: A summer festival with an anime/manga slant at Hawaii Kotohira Jinsha-Hawaii Dazaifu Tenmangu. Aug. 25.
Oni-Con Hawaii: Featuring guests Yuko Ashizawa, a fashion designer with Atelier Pierrot, and the return of Nobuo Uematsu and the Earthbound Papas in concert. Also featuring the Cosplay Chess Brigade and Yu x Me Maid Cafe & Host Club. Preregistration open now; $40 for a three-day pass. Artist Alley applications also being accepted (it's $110 per table, which includes two three-day passes). Hawai'i Convention Center, Nov. 1-3.
Kawaii Kon 2014: Guests include voice actors Michael Sinterniklaas and Stephanie Sheh. Preregistration open now; $37 for a three-day pass for children ages 5-12, $42 general admission. Hawai'i Convention Center, April 4-6, 2014.