Archive for May, 2014

Stretching toward home

By
May 30th, 2014



CrossCul-JCCH-Invitation-1The month of May is winding down, and so too are a pair of events that I've talked about in this space in recent weeks: the "Crossing Cultures: The Art of Manga in Hawaii" exhibit at the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii, and the Kickstarter campaign for the second Taku Taku Matsuri summer festival. Both of them are wrapping up on June 7, and both of them have some new news tidbits emerging that make them worth mentioning here again.

The last event being held in conjunction with the "Crossing Cultures" exhibit is also the biggest one yet, a live drawing session featuring much of the island's top talent -- and perhaps you, too, if  you're artistically inclined. That's because the cartoonists from Comic Jam Hawaii, the group that usually gets together every first and third Sunday of the month at Pearlridge Center, will be setting up shop at JCCH from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday outside the gallery, drawing manga-themed pieces and offering inspiration for attendees to do so as well. Drawing materials will be provided.

Joining them will be some of the artists featured in the exhibit -- Roy Chang, Audra Furuichi, Jon Murakami and Kyunyo. They'll be taking a limited number of commissions for $15 each -- come early to secure your spot. Or if you consider yourself a lucky person, just show up, and you can enter a raffle to win original artwork from them. Roy's piece features his characters, Cacy and Kiara, on paper fans:

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Audra has a watercolor piece with her plush pup creations -- Anpan, Nemu, Enchilada and Blue -- with a giant Pollo:

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Jon's marker piece features Gordon Rider, sidekick Steve the Monkey, and a whole bunch of Edamame Ninjas and Geckos:

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And Kyunyo has a lovely Kuroko's Basketball print:

JCCHMG-Kyun

There also will be other prizes up for grabs, including a Chewbacca backpack. Yup. That's apparently a thing. If you ever wanted to bear the burden of a Wookie on your back, this is your time.

If you haven't had a chance to take in the exhibit yet, you can do so as well, with curator Brady Evans, Journey of Heroes author Stacey Hayashi and the Hachi Maru Hachi gang participating in a gallery walk-through. And yes, you'll probably see your friendly neighborhood anime/manga blogger around as well -- I couldn't possibly miss the biggest celebration of local manga culture since Kawaii Kon last month, could I?

JCCH  is located at 2454 S. Beretania St.; again, the event runs from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday. If you can't make it, the community gallery is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays. For more on the exhibit, visit hawaiimanga.com.

Taku Taku Matsuri's last stand

taku taku matsuri logoOver in Taku Taku Matsuri land, the news is ... well, a bit more sobering at this point. With a bit less than eight days left, the Kickstarter campaign has raised less than 40 percent of its goal, sitting at $735 out of $2,000. The $100 "meal with voice actor Kyle Hebert" tier has gotten a bit sweeter with the addition of a $20 gift certificate for Correct Distortion, purveyors of kimonos, contemporary Japanese fashion and accessories like wigs and jewelry.

But at this point, it would take a lot more than a sellout at that tier to push this campaign over the top ... and it's definitely running out of time. As an official comment posted May 23 on the Taku Taku Matsuri Facebook page noted:

Remember~ even if you pledge, if we don't get fully funded, won't happen~ SO! Share the link and get more people interested!! (≧▽≦)

... so in keeping with Kickstarter's "all or nothing" approach, if this campaign fails, that'll be the end of the discussion about this year's event, and I'll have to find something else to talk about that month, like ... I dunno ... episode-by-episode reviews of Cardcaptor Sakura on Blu-ray or something like that. While that may be fun, it also won't be quite the same. Visit ow.ly/wUtKl to check out the campaign.

Ota-cool incoming!

ARTafterDARK: Rakugaki: A blend of graffiti and traditional Japanese art makes its way to the Honolulu Museum of Art's monthly evening art party, and four of the "Crossing Cultures" artists -- Roy, Jon, Brady and Rose Dela Cruz -- will be part of it as well. Use their drawings, add in a few of your own, and you can create your own souvenir manga to take home. You can also enjoy the Light from Shadow: Gold in Japanese Art exhibit currently on display, sample Japanese foods, and sip on shochu from Iichiko, event sponsors touting "Japan's best-selling genuine shochu." Yum. Learn more about the event at www.honolulumuseum.org/events/art_after_dark/
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 The museum is at 900 S. Beretania St. General admission $10; free for museum members. 6 to 9 p.m. Friday.

Comic Jam Hawaii: Too much drawing over the weekend? Naaaaaaaah. The Comic Jammers will be reconvening for their regular first-Sunday-of-the-month meeting at Pearlridge Center. Visit www.facebook.com/groups/ComicJamHawaii (Facebook login required). Next meeting: 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday.

"Otsukare-sama" Party: Regardless of whether Taku Taku Matsuri reaches its funding goal, organizer Yuka Nagaoka already has another event lined up: a party to let off some steam following the long slog of the academic year. Some of the musical acts who would be performing at Taku Taku Matsuri if the event takes place will be showing up; activities include ... ummm ... table flipping. Hopefully not with the pupus and drinks still on them. That would be kinda bad. For ages 18 and older. Visit www.facebook.com/events/443091685828142/ (no Facebook login required). Ong King Arts Center (184 N. King St.), 5 to 9 p.m. June 7.

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.comNext meeting: 1 to 4 p.m. June 8.

The great Ultra-log of Oahu Ultraman statues

By
May 24th, 2014



016-Ultraman D2Stamp rallies featuring statues of pop-culture icons seem to be a popular way of promoting our island home to visitors from Japan as of late. Regular readers of this blog already know about the "Doraemon Wakuwaku Stamp Rally," a promotion hosted by HIS Hawaii's Lea Lea Trolley that placed 13 statues of everyone's favorite blue gadget cat from the future at various locations between downtown and Kahala.  Since April, though, Doraemon's had company on Oahu, with four 2.5-meter-tall (or a little over 8 feet tall, if you're metric-averse) statues of Ultraman placed at various locations.

It's part of "Ultra Hawaii," a campaign hosted by Hawaii Tourism Japan in conjunction with Tsuburaya Productions, and it's a pretty big deal. So big, in fact, that, as the official campaign canon goes, not only have Ultraman Taro and his parents come to visit the islands, so have two of Ultraman's enemies, Alien Baltan and Pigmon. And they're all happily taking pictures at Waimea Canyon together, lounging poolside, renewing wedding vows, taking surf lessons and doing pretty much all the fun touristy things that fun touristy types do.

Need proof of this harmonious alliance? Here's the official promo video.

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There are more videos where that came from. A lot more, shot on Oahu, Maui, Kauai and Hawaii island — 24 in total. Among the media outlets that have covered this so far: RocketNews 24, Crunchyroll, Huffington Post, Comics Alliance, Japanator and the National Park Service's Pacific island parks blog. Going forward, Erika Engle reported in today's paper (subscription required; do read that article if you can, Ultraman fans) that Ultramen Leo, Tiga, Zero and Ginga will be part of the entertainment during the Pan-Pacific Festival June 13-15.

Of course, you know your friendly neighborhood anime/manga blogger had to get in on the coverage sometime. Coming off hunting down 23 Doraemon statues, finding four Ultraman statues — and perhaps learning more about the promotion in the process — should've been a snap. And it was ... for the most part, anyway.

(more…)

Taku Taku Matsuri hopes for a Kickstart

By
May 15th, 2014



One of the breakthrough otaku-targeted events last year was the Taku Taku Matsuri's natsu matsuri, or summer festival, where about 300 people showed up at Hawaii Kotohira Jinsha-Hawaii Dazaifu Tenmangu on a sunny Sunday in August to cosplay, play games, buy Japanese-themed merchandise and food from a number of vendors, enjoy entertainment and just have a fun time overall. As I wrote last year, organizer Yuka C. Nagaoka started Taku Taku Matsuri to give local fans of anime and manga culture another venue where they could gather, similar to the events she took part in growing up in Japan.

In looking through my records, it seems that I failed to post a gallery of highlights from last year's festivities, so let's correct that now, shall we?

taku taku matsuri logoThis year, Taku Taku Matsuri is scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 9 (it's on Primary Election Day, so don't forget to vote before you go, or at least pull an absentee ballot!). It promises to be bigger -- a one-day mini-anime con of sorts being held at the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii's Manoa Grand Ballroom, with a Star Trek-themed cafe, video game tournaments, a dance party featuring DJ E2D, and special guest Kyle Hebert. Yes, that Kyle Hebert, last here in the islands for HEXXP in 2011, a voice actor best known for his roles as Kiba in Naruto, Kamina in Gurren Lagann, the older version of Gohan in Dragon Ball Z and Ryu in the newer Street Fighter games. Of course, all the accoutrements from last year's event will be back as well.

With a bigger venue and more activities come higher costs. While last year's event featured free admission, there will be an admission fee charged at this year's event. Yuka told me that without any sponsors, she has to pay for everything out of pocket ... and those costs add up pretty quickly.

And that's where the Second Annual Taku Taku Matsuri Kickstarter comes in. Launched about a week and a half ago, the campaign has to date raised $130 ... a decent amount, but there's a good amount of work that needs to be done to reach the goal of $2,000 by June 7. The pledge tiers are simple enough that I can actually include them here on the blog for once:

  • A pledge of $10 and up gets you a ticket at the lowest preregistration price available. (Preregistration tickets outside of the Kickstarter campaign will be $13, while the at-the-door cost will be $15.)
  • A pledge of $25 and up gets you a ticket and a special Taku Taku Matsuri T-shirt.
  • The top tier, at $100 and up, nets you not only a ticket and a shirt, but also an invitation to a special meal (time/place to be determined) with Kyle Hebert the next day, Aug. 10. There are only 10 slots available for that perk, though, so you'll want to jump on that sooner rather than later if you're interested in that.

Of course, you could also throw a few bucks in the campaign's direction even if you can't make it, just as a way of showing your support for events like these in our community.

The thing about Kickstarter is that unless you have the built-in draw of being a known commodity like the Rifftrax trio or can go viral with a clever idea like this guy who's simply printing shirts with his final Kickstarter stats on it, it's so tricky to find enough people who believe in what you're selling to sign on. In the past few years, I've covered successful campaigns and not-so-successful ones in this space. As I understand it, the fate of whether this event takes place as planned depends on how this campaign does; here's hoping this one turns out to be a success story.

If you want to keep tabs on the Kickstarter campaign, visit ow.ly/wUtKl; general news about all things Taku Taku Matsuri can be found at www.facebook.com/taku2matsuri (Facebook login not required). Also, if you're interested in being a vendor or exhibiting artist at the event, email taku2matsuri at yahoo dot com, and Yuka will be happy to help set that up.

Ota-cool incoming!

"Crossing Cultures: The Art of Manga in Hawaii": The Brady Evans-curated exhibit is back, this time at the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii's Community Gallery. Here's my post about the exhibit. From 2 to 3 p.m. Saturday, Patsy Iwasaki and Avery Berido, the team behind Hamakua Hero, will be speaking; that'll be followed next Saturday by a talk by Journey of Heroes author Stacey Hayashi at the same time, while the Comic Jam Hawaii artists will be hanging out from 1 to 3 p.m. May 31. Gallery hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays; admission is free. Visit hawaiimanga.com. Exhibit on display through June 7.

Comic Jam Hawaii: This group of collaborative cartoon artists meets every first and third Sunday of the month at Pearlridge Center; locations within the mall may vary. Visit www.facebook.com/groups/ComicJamHawaii (Facebook login required). Next meeting: 1 to 4 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. May 25.

Oni-Con Hawaii: The discussion continues

By
May 10th, 2014



Imagine, if you will, EVERYTHING you see on this table, PLUS a good stack of Final Fantasy 14 posters and Tak Sakaguchi autographed photos, raffled off one at a time. That was 90% of closing ceremonies, folks.I'm amazed by and pleased with how much discussion my last post on the vague future of Oni-Con Hawaii generated, particularly on Facebook. It's not often that I get feedback on what I've written other than Facebook "likes" and that little widget below the post headline that shows how many times it's been shared, so it's nice knowing that there are people out there who are still checking out this humble corner of the Star-Advertiser online network.

I can't help but think that it also inspired this official statement, posted to the OCH Facebook page around 10:30 p.m. Friday:

We’re glad to see, from recent Facebook and media posts, that you’re so anxious to see what Oni Con Hawaii II has in store for y’all and that you’re eagerly awaiting the date and venue to be announced. And, while we are honored that so many of you have expectations of us that one would usually expect of a 10+ year convention, please remember that this is still only our second year. Nonetheless, we will always strive to bring you the best convention with “A” List guests, more vendors and artists, and entertaining events. Our goal is to keep growing and improving, each year. We're learning how things work in Hawaii and hope you’ll be there with us, for the journey.

We did suffer some unexpected changes, early on and that set us back a bit, so we are having make up some ground, but we should have some very interesting announcements, soon. We know you all deserve better, so although we could cut corners and get some things out faster, we’d rather take the time and do things right. We owe you that. Among the changes we’re excited about is a brand new website with a much better registration system. It’s still under construction, so please follow us for updates on Facebook and Twitter. The activity will be picking up, fairly soon.

We truly appreciate your patience and hope you’ll agree it was worth the wait!

A few thoughts:

  • Okay, so let's keep our expectations in check. It's a valid point: OCH in year two shouldn't be compared with present-day Kawaii Kon, with the latter having recently held its 10th annual show. But consider this: Kawaii Kon in year two was much further along than OCH is now, given the same six-month time frame. The first Kawaii Kon was held on April 22-24, 2005. I reported specifics on the second Kawaii Kon in Cel Shaded six months later, including the venue (the Ala Moana Hotel, and more of it!) and some guests (Robert and Emily DeJesus! Vic Mignogna! Stan Sakai! Jennifer Sekiguchi! David Williams!). And that event was held on April 14-16, 2006.
  • Last week's statement noted that the venue and date would be narrowed down "by the end of next week." This week's statement went back to using the term "soon."
  • I still have yet to be contacted directly by whoever has been posting these statements. I don't think I'm that hard to get a hold of; anyone can comment on these posts, and you don't even have to be a Star-Advertiser subscriber to do so. (Believe me, I have to clean the spam filter regularly to purge dozens of bot comments offering cheap designer-label apparel and health "supplements.") I'm on Facebook, Twitter and now Instagram, too. Swing by sometime. Let's chat. I won't bite.

The statement's already generated its fair share of comments, but I think the one that nailed some of the sentiment out there was posted by user Ming Chi, who ... well, here's the post:

If we want to be more involved, with some of the initial planning, volunteer recruitment and training, and helping Onicon move forward, what exactly would we need to do? I attended as an Artist Alley vendor last year and thought, over all, it was a good experience for my crew and I. However, there did seem to be some miscommunication initially (e.g. I was e-mailed information that became outdated and was updated on Facebook, which I did not know existed at the time), and the conference staff seemed very confused at points with little or no answers as to the overall leadership of the con.

Amanda Maguire brings up a good point, who was running the convention? Folks from Hawaii or folks from Texas? What happened to some of the Hawaii leadership last year? Some of the volunteers seemed very miffed by the whole experience and thought Onicon was not coming back.

Likewise, at least one local gaming/comic store was really put off by their experience at Onicon last year. Instead of staying all three days, they packed up Saturday night and called it quits. Damaging the relationship with a local store probably did not do well for Onicon's reputation here in Hawaii.

It was unfortunate that Hexx-Con disbanded. There were issues there that were not handled in time, and it was starting to bud as a promising con. I do know folks are planning Hawaii Con around the same time, but unfortunately, it's held on the Big Island (Hawaii, not Oahu), and seems to be geared more for mainland/continental attendees as opposed to locals. It is quite cost prohibitive, especially for the younger folks here locally.

I'm commenting here because I do believe that folks in Hawaii would love to have another anime/sci-fi/nerdy/geeky con run tandem of Kawaii Kon annually. Where as Hexx-Con once existed, and Hawaii Con is probably too cost prohibitive for folks on Oahu, Onicon had a good fit when it was hosted last year (although Halloween might not have been the best weekend for it). I want something better, as with many others that are posting. We are concerned based on what we experienced and heard. And we would like to improve on that.

And thus, I am wondering in what ways can we help, and have possible input into Onicon here in Hawaii.

I'm interested in seeing if any of this generates another official response. Let's keep the conversation going, folks.

The search for clarity amid Oni-Confusion

By
May 8th, 2014



The last time I wrote anything about Oni-Con Hawaii (OCH) in this space, I was stressing the importance of communication for the fledgling anime convention, particularly for the people who believed in it enough to buy into this.

2014-prereg-sign

That was more than six months ago. The fact that I'm addressing this here for the first time since then ought to say a fair amount about how much the story has advanced: not much at all.

onicon screenshotSee, after the end of last year's event, OCH just kind of ... disappeared. The website became a single placeholder page (seen at right) that has offered the same message: "A very heartfelt 'Mahalo gozaimasu, y'all!' to everyone who attended and participated in Oni-Con Hawaii 2013 and to our awesome volunteer, staff, and friends who made our first year a big success!! We'll see you all next year, at Oni-Con Hawaii 2014!" Several opportunities to promote OCH at other events -- the New Year's Ohana Festival and Kodomo no Hi at the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii, the Honolulu Festival and Kawaii Kon immediately come to mind -- have passed without a peep. We know more about Taku Taku Matsuri 2 (Aug. 9, Manoa Grand Ballroom at the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii; voice actor Kyle Hebert attending, monthlong Kickstarter preregistration campaign underway) and Kawaii Kon 2015 (March 27-29; first announced guest: voice actor Bryce Papenbrook) than we do about OCH 2014.

Only two official statements have emerged from the OCH camp, both posted within the past few weeks. This statement went up on the OCH Facebook page on April 20:

Sorry all for the long wait. Unfortunately the venue and time frame we wanted is not available. However we are currently looking at different venues and time frames. Which now comes to you. Where would you like to see OCH be next? We look forward to hearing from you! Also updates to the website will be done shortly! Thanks for all your patience!

And this on May 1:

Had some great meetings all this week, and should have narrowed down to a venue and date by the end of next week. Thanks again for all your patience! We are currently already getting our guest all lined up and once the date and venue are secured, announcements will be made!

There was already some buzz on social media about the fate of OCH soon after Kawaii Kon ended early last month, before that first statement was posted. I emailed inquiries to info@oniconhawaii.com and the "parent" convention, Oni-Con in Galveston, Texas, around then; neither have responded as of this posting. Whoever's running the Facebook page has been sporadic in responding to posted comments as well; responding only to say that yes, it won't be long before a date is posted, and no, there's no truth to the rumor that someone ran off with the preregistration money.

There were, as far as I know, three men involved locally in putting together OCH 2013. On Jan. 7, Kell Komatsubara announced on his Facebook page that he would be stepping away from OCH and Babel Entertainment, wishing the volunteer Babel staff well in their future endeavors. Shion Francois, head of Babel Entertainment, told me via email that Oni-Con has been booking guests through his company but couldn't tell me more than that.

It was the third person and one of the most public faces of last year's convention, Steve Okubo, who shed the most light on the matter. Steve told me via email last week that he hasn't had access to the convention's social media accounts and email since December, "so I assume that my services are no longer required with OCH." He believes the Oni-Con Texas board is running those communication channels now and has expressed his concerns to Shion that someone take charge in answering inquiries.

A few other answers from Steve follow. On the matter of why the Facebook page sprung to life only now, and in general, why the information coming from it since last year's event ended has been so vague:

I do not know. I tend to be the naturally trusting type, so my initial thought would be that it is as they said, that they are having trouble finding a venue the right size to accommodate the dates they need for whatever guests they might have lined up, as I understand.

In regards to what happened to the preregistration money:

All the pre-reg money taken in at OCH was collected by JSHOXX/Babel Entertainment, because they had staff available to take care of this at their table and they had the means to take credit card payments. Babel will still be working with OC Texas, booking guests for both Texas and Hawaii. In a conversation I had with Babel, they said that OC Texas told them they will be honoring all the pre-reg sales made at OCH 2013.

And as for whether OCH 2014 will go off as intended:

Again, since I've have no access and have had no communication with whomever is calling the shots, I can't say, for sure, but it is my understanding that they plan to hold the event in the later part of the year.

So that's the story as best I know it at this point.Will any new news show up as promised toward the end of this week? We are in that time frame right now, so we shall see, I suppose.

Truth be told, I'm not sure how this post will be taken by whoever is running OCH. If it gets me blacklisted from attending their future shows, I can live with that. I just think I, as well as anyone who has a stake in whatever they have planned, deserve better treatment, as well as more concrete information, than what's been demonstrated in these past six months.

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