When last we left the fundraising effort to help Stan and Sharon Sakai with Sharon's mounting medical bills, the PayPal link for direct monetary contributions was broken. As of today, it's still broken. And apparently it's not getting fixed any time soon, either; Stan noted in a Facebook post early this morning that it'll probably take a few weeks to resolve. (There's an update on Sharon's condition in that post, as well. Oh yes, and you don't need to have a Facebook account to read his updates.)
Good news for those of you who want to contribute right away, though: The Comic Art Professional Society has set up a P.O. box where people can send checks for the cause. (Since the average Otaku Ohana reader tends to skew toward the older demographic, I trust I won't have to explain what a "check" is in this day and age of direct electronic transfers, PayPal and ATM cards.) Make checks payable to CAPS or Stan Sakai and send them to:
P.O. Box 656
Burbank, CA 91503
There's no deadline for contributions, but if you're like me and tend to forget about things the further out they are, you'll probably want to contribute sooner rather than later.
Isle-born Stan Sakai, creator of the comic book Usagi Yojimbo and longtime letterer for Groo the Wanderer, is highly regarded as one of the Really Nice Guys in the comic industry. Tag-team partner in fandom Wilma J. and I found this out firsthand back in 2006, when we sent him a bunch of questions for a Kawaii Kon preview article and he sent back enough material to write that article, an online-exclusive supplement with his travel journal and artwork that ended up gracing our weekend section cover for our con coverage that year. He's been a guest at two Kawaii Kons -- 2006 and 2009 -- and I'm sure anyone who sat in on one of his panels would agree that he's quite an engaging fellow. Here's a picture of him at Kawaii Kon '09 with a sketch of Usagi, his most famous creation.
What many people probably didn't know, though, was that around two years before Stan's first Kawaii Kon appearance, his wife, Sharon, had been diagnosed with a benign meningnoma brain tumor. And while radiation treatment and regular MRIs seemed to keep it in check in subsequent years, according to Stan, it started growing aggressively again in 2010.
She has facial paralysis on the left side (everything happens on the left side). The paralysis includes her throat, vocal chords, and it has even deteriorated her neck bones. She had lost almost 40% of her body weight in a year. She is undergoing chemotherapy. Doctors don't see any end in sight for this. There are complications because of the tumor, medications, or just coincidence--diabetes, high blood pressure, rapid heart rate, compromised immune system. She has a tracheostomy tube for breathing and a G-tube connected to her stomach for a liquid diet. She can take nothing through her mouth. She is bed-bound, but we try to give her daily physical therapy--walking a couple hundred feet with a walker and/or sitting in a wheelchair.
She had been in the hospital and nurse care from April to September, but we are glad she is home. She requires 24 hour care, so daughter Hannah and her family moved in with us. This includes 18 month old grandson Leo, and another grandchild due in February/early March.
While there have been regular updates on Sharon's condition on Stan's page, friends and colleagues have largely shown their support by sharing their thoughts, prayers and well-wishes with the couple. Now, however, a more formal campaign to help pay for the mounting medical bills has emerged: CAPS, the Cartoon/Comic Art Professional Society, is organizing a charity art auction and is now soliciting donations from artists worldwide. The actual auction itself will be announced at a later date. Artists, you can find a form that you can download, fill out and send in with your contribution at www.garageartstudio.blogspot.com/2013/11/help-stan-sakai.html. If you aren't artistically inclined but still want to donate to the cause ... well, this part of the post was where I was supposed to write that you could go to that same Garage Art Studio post and donate via PayPal, but the link is broken at the moment. Stay tuned either here or to my Twitter feed for any further updates.
To Black Friday and beyond!
This special holiday shopping edition of the Ota-cool Incoming! calendar, spotlighting one special anime-themed shopping event and craft fairs where regular local anime con vendors like idkwhat2wear, Bit of Sugar and Team nemu*nemu, Audra Furuichi and Scott Yoshinaga, will be selling stuff over the next few weeks, is unofficially brought to you by "Black Friday vs. Cyber Monday," a classic nemu*nemu comic strip from 2009.
Can't make it to any of these events? Vendor websites are linked in the paragraph above. It should be noted that nemu*nemu has their holiday sale running through Dec. 16 (might I recommend the $25 e-book bundle with all six volumes, freshly recolored volumes 2-4 and introductions by industry luminaries including a certain friendly neighborhood anime/manga blogger?). Audra's taking commission requests, to boot; I've always had to restrain myself from buying every single piece Audra's ever drawn, so now's your chance to have that very same conundrum of choosing what you want to buy. Meanwhile, over at idk's site, you can only buy their shirts at the moment, but every order comes with two randomly chosen buttons.
Art+Flea Presents "Totoro Black Friday": The monthly "destination for creatives, by creatives" takes a Ghibli turn this month. Shop for one-of-a-kind handcrafted items from dozens of vendors. and celebrate the works of Hayao Miyazaki, to boot. Swing by the Photo Ops Hawaii photo booth or watch Andy Lee of Charisma Industries work his drawing magic live, too! Admission: $3, but you can take $1 off if you come dressed as your favorite Ghibli character and another $1 if you bring a new, unwrapped toy for Toys for Tots. Fresh Cafe (831 Queen St.); 5-10 p.m. Friday.
27th Islandwide Christmas Crafts and Food Expo: With idkwhat2wear and Bit of Sugar. Admission: $4 general, $3 military families and seniors 65 and older, free for children 12 and under. Neal Blaisdell Center Exhibition Hall; 4-9 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday.
Hawaii United Okinawa Association Winter Craft Fair: With idkwhat2wear (yup, it's a split-squad weekend for them!), the nemu*nemu crew and all the fresh-out-of-the-fryer andagi and other tasty Japanese treats that you can afford to eat. Admission: Free, but $5 will get you into the banquet hall (where idk and nemu*nemu are) 30 minutes before the formal opening time. Hawaii Okinawa Center (94-587 Ukee St., Waipio Gentry); 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday.
"An Evening in Waipio": With idkwhat2wear. Think of it as like the Winter Craft Fair mentioned above -- right down to the $5 early-bird offer -- except in the dark of night. Hawaii Okinawa Center; 5:30-8:30 p.m. Dec. 11.
Moanalua High School Winter Craft Fair: With idkwhat2wear, the nemu*nemu crew and Bit of Sugar. Admission is free, but bring your walking shoes if you're not there at the crack of dawn waiting for parking, because you'll probably be hiking from somewhere in the surrounding Salt Lake neighborhood. At the high school, 2825 Ala Ilima St.; 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Dec. 14.
Honolulu Gift Fair: Stacey Hayashi, author of the 100th Battalion/442nd Regimental Combat Team graphic novel Journey of Heroes (now heading into a second printing!), will be one of the vendors in attendance. Admission is free. Blaisdell Exhibition Hall; 3-9 p.m. Dec. 20, 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Dec. 21 and 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Dec. 22.
It's been a few weeks since I wrote anything in this space. Can you blame me, really: October was super-busy on the local anime/manga fandom front, and thinking about what went right and what needed improvement with Oni-Con Hawaii was enough to send my brain fleeing to the comforts of Candy Crush Saga and other video games in my mile-high backlog. Probably a good thing that November's been fairly quiet by contrast.
Another thing I did during my impromptu vacation: picking up this cutest of cute cuties, Nendoroid's "maiko" version of Madoka Kaname from Puella Magi Madoka Magica, preordered from MiniQ in Aiea.
This leads to a natural segue: Around eleven months ago, I wrote in this space about Madoka Magica: Beginnings and Eternal, talking about how those two movies were going to arrive at the Doris Duke Theater at the Honolulu Museum of Art in February and retell the entire Madoka Magica epic in one big magical-girl-and-Witch-filled four-hour lump. The double feature arrived, I sat down and watched it all with the Otaku Ohana Anonymous Director of Forced Social Interaction, and -- spoiler text follows, highlight the black box if you're familiar with the franchise or don't mind being spoiled -- everybody died over and over and over again. And it all looked oh so very pretty.
Since then, the third movie that I said was in the works, Rebellion, has been released. Sure, Eternal seemed to tie the story up with the equivalent of one of Madoka's giant pink bows, but nevertheless there's more story content coming down the pipeline. And it's heading back to the Doris Duke Theater next month, in single-serve showings or -- for those of you who either really love yourselves some Madoka Magica and/or have only the day after Christmas free from work like a certain friendly neighborhood anime/manga blogger does -- one big magical-girl-and-Witch-filled six-hour lump (and yes, there are intermissions).
So what will you be getting out of your investment? Kotaku had a tag-team discussion about Rebellion, building from general impressions all the way up to major spoilers, from which I gleaned the following points:
Do not watch the trailer.
No, seriously, do not watch the trailer.
HOLY CATS ARE YOU NOT LISTENING DO NOT WATCH THE TRAILER.
... but hey, guess what, everybody dies over and over and over again again. And it all still looks oh so very pretty.
All it'll cost you is $16 for just Rebellion or $32 for the trilogy marathon; if you're an art museum member, the cost drops to $15 or $30. The marathon starts at 3 p.m. Dec. 26, while individual showings are at 1 and 7:30 p.m. Dec. 27, 28 and 29. Marathon tickets are available at http://ow.ly/qZZ1z; Rebellion-only tickets, at http://ow.ly/qZZ62. One note: While the ticket pages say the films are recommended "for ages 6 and up," I'd recommend against taking anyone younger than age 13. Things can get pretty grim and child-unfriendly, let's just say.
In non-Madoka Magica-related movie news, the Doris Duke Theater will also be hosting the one-showing-only return to the big screen of From Up on Poppy Hill, known around these parts as "the Studio Ghibli movie that I saw five times in theaters hoping to catch the English-subtitled reel, all for naught." The screening, at 11:50 a.m. Dec. 22, will be part of the art museum's Family Sunday festivities which means you can catch it for a very family-friendly price -- $3 adults, $1 children ages 13 and under -- and check out museum exhibits for no additional cost. (Tickets aren't available online, though, so show up at the theater and let first-come, first-served rules take over.)
It's been two days since the inaugural edition of Oni-Con Hawaii went into the history books, enough time spent here at my unofficial Otaku Ohana anime convention bureau at the Ala Moana Hotel for me to digest what happened, read assorted blog entries, friends' Facebook posts, and comments left on Oni-Con's Facebook page for their takes on the event, and skim through about a bazillion cosplay and event photos taken by a bunch of talented photographers.
And now, it's my turn. I'll have some of my own photo highlights in an future post, but I'm sure many of you are curious about what I thought of the event first, so here goes.
It's difficult to talk about Oni-Con without first acknowledging an elephant and a ghost of an elephant in the room: Kawaii Kon and HEXXP, the Hawaii Entertainment Expo. The former has managed to grow in its nine-year existence into being the dominant local anime con experience; the latter was a pop-culture convention that had a few bright spots but ultimately struggled with finding a clear identity before folding after a three-year run.
As I mentioned in my post introducing Oni-Con Hawaii in February, this venture was supposed to be a collaboration between the original Oni-Con in Texas and Babel Entertainment, part of the brain trust behind HEXXP. On paper, that arrangement looked promising enough to produce a viable Kawaii Kon alternative -- Babel had connections for good Japanese guests; Oni-Con had roots in the U.S. anime industry hotbed of Texas (home of Sentai Filmworks and Funimation) and about a decade's worth of con-presenting experience.
In practice? Not so much. For reasons known only to the innermost of inner circles, it seems things went south on that alliance. One sign was the Ayres brothers situation, which I alluded to in an earlier post (and expanded upon in comments). Another sign came with the Marketplace, which started off as a separate Artist Alley (promoted in con documentation as "The Alley") and dealers room but ended up as a combination of the two, with no evidence of any mainland vendors in attendance. (All the better for local vendors, though.) In fact, the only mainland industry representation would end up being voice actor J. Michael Tatum ... and a Funimation logo, seen here on a banner at the closing raffle for people who preregistered for 2014 that went on foreeeeeverrrrrr ceremony.
So the burden fell on the local staff to make things good. They certainly made the most of what they were given, to the point where I heard several comments about how the show ended up better than they expected. To its credit, Oni-Con had more to hold my attention than three years of HEXXP ever did, and if you were a fan of:
The work of J. Michael Tatum, Hiroki Takahashi, SANA, Nobuo Uematsu and/or the Earthbound Papas
The fashions of Atelier Pierrot
Video games, particularly of the fighting/shooting/dance-flailing variety
Anime/manga-inspired artsy things
... then you probably felt the same way. If not, well ... there wasn't much of anything going on outside of the two panel rooms, the main events room, a video game room, the Marketplace, the Yu x Me Maid Cafe & Host Club and, for two days, the rather sprawling setup of Other Realms. It also seemed odd for them not to be screening any actual anime at what's supposed to be an anime convention, but anime screenings at conventions take much more than "set up DVD player and projector, pop in disc, welcome people in," so I can understand how that might fall by the wayside. I was content with going back to my hotel room for a spell; others, of course, may not have had the same luxury.
For me, the fact that there actually was an option for something interesting happening around the corner was a major improvement over something like HEXXP, where there would be one event and then an hours-long gap until the next event. To be sure, Friday and Sunday had their share of programming gaps, but they didn't seem quite as pronounced. Saturday was probably the closest any Kawaii Kon alternative has come to replicating that convention's experience to date. After Friday, I was ready to peg attendance around Kawaii Kon year 1 levels; after seeing how busy the main concourse and main events room were on Saturday, it felt more comparable to Kawaii Kon year 3, the first year that con moved to the convention center. Saturday was when I could feel that certain, indescribable energy that I've felt at other anime cons, and it was great.
But when things went wrong ... oh boy. One of the main reasons why the show exceeded some people's expectations was because the lead-up to it was rather chaotic, raising concerns about whether it could be pulled off without a hitch. Marketplace vendors didn't hear about room maps and set-up times until Wednesday of con week, despite several requests. Early pre-registration on Thursday was set up only from noon to 5 p.m., and even those who wanted to do so found themselves faced with locked doors at street-level and convention center staffers who weren't informed of what was going on. Those same vendors would end up being confused over a discrepancy between the official program and their contracts -- the program listed closing time for the Marketplace at 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday; their contracts, 9 p.m. After some back and forth, the time was finally set at 9 p.m. (quite possibly ruining a fair share of evening plans in the process).
Over on the registration front, some preregistration names somehow didn't make it to the check-in desks, making it that much more important for those attendees to bring their receipts proving that they did pay for certain passes. Plastic holders for con passes ran out on Saturday, followed in short order by lanyards and clips; at one point, registration staff simply punched a hole in the pass and handed it to the waiting attendee. That is, of course, if registration staff was willing to help them; I learned of several stories of grouchy, unhelpful and/or indifferent staffers over the weekend and into Monday. One person checking in was even assisted by a staffer who refused to let go of a partially eaten donut throughout the check-in process. (I take it that was a delicious donut.)
And then there was the case of the skewed Sunday schedule ... one that tag-team partner Wilma J. and I got tangled up in. Here's that schedule as seen in the official program.
A little background: As you know if you're a regular reader, Wilma got married this year. Most of her vacation days this year have been taken up by Kawaii Kon, wedding planning, post-wedding planning and other domestic duties and social obligations. She waited until the schedule was released to decide that she would attend on Sunday only, because (a) she had seen the Earthbound Papas perform at HEXXP last year and sorely wanted some time for herself on Saturday; (b) she had never heard Nobuo Uematsu speak at a panel, so she was looking forward to his Q&A session; and (c) she could get something else signed by him in the autograph session to follow. I, on the other hand, had some prior commitments at church to tend to, so I arrived at the convention center around 1 p.m., tweeted something, and met up with her. We did a circuit around the Marketplace, then headed to what was developing into a long line outside Panel Room 1 around 2:45 p.m. While we waited, I checked my Twitter feed ... at which point the following exchange ensued:
Note that when we sent our tweets at 3:15 p.m. we were still going by that schedule above, thinking we were still in line for the Uematsu panel. We never got any word through official channels -- just a staff member going up and down the line asking if anyone was interested in ordering "Dancing Dad," the Earthbound Papas' new CD that had sold out on Friday.
Upon entering the room, we also learned that the Uematsu signing had been converted into a signing by all of the Earthbound Papas. Thinking fast, I took apart my program, handing her one page, keeping another so that we didn't look too awkward up there. The band, of course, was quite polite, and we did get the items we wanted signed by Uematsu signed by him, but still, it wasn't quite the experience we were expecting. Several comments on the Oni-Con Facebook page share our sentiments; Geoff, our original tipster above, mentioned on Facebook that he drove in from Kaneohe exclusively for the music industry and Uematsu panels and was disappointed when he learned they were canceled.
So what happened? As of this writing, I've yet to hear any official explanation. Over at the "Tea and Thoughts" blog, though, blogger Kelly offered this observation: Three panels -- "Ramblings About Something, Close to Nothing" at 10 a.m., "Japanese Music Industry" at 2 p.m. and the Uematsu panel -- were all canceled without any official word posted anywhere on the property. I've since been told via Facebook that the "Ramblings" panel was moved to another room, with someone stationed at the door to bring in people. I'm not sure where the discrepancy lies, but the fact that she couldn't find what was going on is a concern nonetheless.
As I've been writing this part of the post, I've noticed there's a theme developing, one that may be the biggest key in determining where this show goes from here: communication, communication, communication. It's nice to promote the #OniConHI hashtag all over the place and have a Facebook presence, but what good is it if there aren't enough people monitoring either one to respond to attendee concerns in a timely manner? How can official con accounts have enough time to promote another media outlet's exclusive Uematsu interview, yet not have enough time to fix a schedule grid that was posted once to the Facebook page? There's a time to promote and a time for damage control, and it seemed that in the days leading up to and including Oni-Con, there was too much of the former, not enough of the latter. If the people feel you aren't listening to them, it's a fair bet that they eventually won't listen to you.
All things considered, though? There was much to enjoy from the weekend. The 500+ pictures that I'm going to have to sort through eventually to come up with a "Best of Oni-Con" gallery certainly attest to that. It should also be noted that Oni-Con had 8.5 months between when it was first announced and opening day. Kawaii Kon? Announced March 31, 2004; opening day April 22, 2005; time to prepare was a little over a year. There's certainly quite a bit of room for improvement, but for there to be a show comparable to Kawaii Kon with less time to prepare is a rather laudable feat.
I do hope convention staff take these compliments and criticisms to heart. There's already quite a bit riding on there being a show next year, considering this was up throughout the weekend:
And if the closing raffle for people who preregistered for 2014 that went on foreeeeeverrrrrr ceremony was any indication, quite a few people are already signed up and looking forward to next year. I have to admit I'm not one of those who preregistered -- I really have to know when events are held far in advance to accommodate a tight vacation schedule at work -- but I'm just as curious to see what happens next.