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Aloha 'oe and RIP, Sharon Sakai

November 25th, 2014
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family shot

(Stan Sakai, left, grandson Leo, wife Sharon, son Matthew and daughter Hannah gathered for a snapshot last year. The photo was taken in December, shortly before Leo died in his sleep, yet another tragedy to befall the family. Photo courtesy Stan Sakai.)

It pains me to have to write this, but perhaps it was sadly inevitable as well, given her declining health in recent weeks: Sharon Sakai, the wife of Usagi Yojimbo artist and isle ex-pat Stan Sakai, died Tuesday morning surrounded by family at home, according to a Facebook update from Stan Sakai. She was 61.

Sharon's health, as you might remember, and the costs of treating her rare condition were the primary driving force behind a series of charity eBay auctions hosted by the Comic Art Professional Society and a Dark Horse-published book featuring a selection of the auctioned artwork, The Sakai Project: Artists Celebrate 30 Years of Usagi Yojimbo. As Wilma and I wrote in a Sakai Project profile (available to Star-Advertiser subscribers) in July:

BEHIND THE SCENES, Sharon Sakai was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor in 2004. The type 3 atypical meningioma tumor was benign but so rare, the Sakais were told, that among the 9 million patients covered by their insurance carrier, Kaiser Permanente, there were only three cases similar to hers.

Radiation seemed to keep the tumor in check until 2011, when it returned aggressively, paralyzing her left side, including her throat and vocal cords. The side effects of treatment have included diabetes, high blood pressure, loss of hearing and sight, and an inability to eat solid food.

Sakai is now convalescing at home in Pasadena, Calif., confined to bed and breathing through a tracheostomy tube. She's had to be rushed to the emergency room several times and was down to 77 pounds at one point. But through it all, "she still maintains a great positive attitude and is such an inspiration to everyone who knows her," Stan Sakai said via email.

This was one of those stories where you really were rooting for a happy ending, hoping that Sharon would fully recover. Wilma and I read the same thing over and over again, both in the responses to our interview and just in general on social media: Stan is a really nice guy, one of the most highly regarded people working in the comics industry today, and Stan and Sharon were a really sweet couple. Heck, just look at this excerpt from a profile Gary Chun wrote in the Star-Bulletin in 2001:

The girl that Sakai knew throughout his school years -- from Waikiki Elementary, through Kaimuki Intermediate and Kaimuki High School -- is now his wife of 24 years, Sharon. They celebrated the anniversary of their 1977 wedding just this past Wednesday. They are the proud parents of Hannah and Matthew. "Sharon has always been very supportive of me," Sakai said.

They would end up married for 37 years.

As much as we wanted a happy ending for such a charmed and charming couple, though, it simply was not meant to be. Right around the time our article was published on July 27, Sharon was admitted to the ER with a suspected respiratory infection. While she was eventually discharged, treatments took their toll, and she often slept for more than 22 hours a day, waking up for only a few minutes here and there. In an update on Sept. 7, Stan reported that she was effectively blind and deaf and was breathing through a tracheostomy tube, and the family discontinued chemotherapy because getting her to the hospital was too taxing on her and the benefits of treatment were dubious at best. The updates were similar through the rest of September and October -- resting comfortably, sleeping a lot, condition somewhat stable.

On Nov. 13, Stan posted the following:

I have not updated Sharon's condition in awhile. It is difficult to always tell you she is the same, only a little worse. She sleeps almost 23 hours a day now, and is awake for 5-10 minutes at a time. She is sometimes alert, but more often is unaware of her surroundings. Sometimes she will squeeze my hand, though. She is deaf and blind now. We do not know how her other senses are doing, but we try to stimulate them by touching her or massaging her with pikake (jasmine)-scented lotion. She is in some pain from the pressure of the brain tumor. We give her Tylenol or morphine, depending upon how she looks. She always has ice packs under her head and on her forehead to help the pain and, perhaps, it helps with the swelling.

She pulled the oxygen tube from her trach early Wednesday morning. I discovered it when I went down at 5 AM. I had last checked on her at 2:30, so it was sometime during the 2.5 hours. Her oxygen saturation level was at 79%. I think Joan Rivers had gone into her coma because of low oxygenation, so it is a real problem. Anyway, I disconnected her from the oxygenator and onto an O2 tank. The oxygenator has a maximum output of 5 liters/hour whereas the tank is capable of a higher concentration of 8 liters/hour. She was soon back up to 99%. Brain cells start to die from lack of oxygen at 92%, or so I was told. Her blood pressure and heart rate remained really high. I gave her meds and continued to monitor her, and her numbers were back down to reasonable levels in about 90 minutes. She pretty much slept through all of yesterday. Each day brings new challenges but, after more than a year of caring for Sharon at home, we have learned to cope with them calmly and quite quickly. We are so glad she is home and not in the hospital or outside hospice care.

And then came the end. Non-responsive and in declining health on Sunday. A transfer to home hospice care on Monday. One final update this morning. And then ... well, you know the outcome.

Condolence messages have been filling Stan's Facebook page and social media ever since the news broke. Just run a search on Twitter to see who's chimed in there. Wilma and I were chatting about it Tuesday afternoon, and she offered this observation:

Other people have said some really nice things. I was really touched by several people who admired Stan for all his care and devotion, and it was obvious she was very much loved and respected.

I think the best way to describe how I was feeling when I heard the news was, I was alternately feeling very sad and very touched as I read all the comments that were coming in. Like many others, I never met Sharon myself, but it was very touching to see all the outpouring of support.

For his part, Stan thanked everyone for their love and support and said he would be stepping away from Facebook for a bit "to spend time with family and figure out our next steps."

Wilma and I, too, send our condolences to the Sakai family, along with much love and hugs for the days and weeks to come.

Baby, the anime/manga/toon stars shine bright

November 19th, 2014
By



Welcome back to Otaku Ohana, the blog that I've had far too little time to update for one reason or another as of late. I thank you for your continued patience and readership.

One of the combined benefits/drawbacks of not having time to post for so long is that the news tends to stack up. A lot. That's the way it's been with guest announcements at various shows and events around town; one minute, you're hearing that two of the voice actors from your favoritest show in the world ever as you were growing up are coming to town, then the up-and-coming sci-fi convention on another island brings in a few anime-related fan favorites of their own, then a bona fide manga artist shows up, and pretty soon you're sitting down and writing a blog post that runs for more than 1,600 words. Heck, one of these announcements (*cough*Melissa Fahn*cough*) is so new, it hasn't even been formally announced in public yet, but it has been confirmed and vetted for release to me by HawaiiCon, so I'm rolling with it.

You're going to need a scorecard to keep track of everyone who's coming in, so here's a roundup of all the guest announcements that have been made to date. Taku Taku Matsuri, Kawaii Kon, HawaiiCon, even a Honolulu Museum of Art exhibit ... they're all here.

Jamie Lynn Lano

Princess of Tennis coverBest known for: She's one of the rare artists from the United States who's managed to make a go of things in the manga industry in Japan, serving as an assistant to Prince of Tennis artist Takeshi Konomi for about a year as he worked on launching The New Prince of Tennis and chronicling her experience, first on her blog at jamieism.com and then in her memoir released this year, The Princess of Tennis. She's since moved to Oahu and has become a mainstay with the Nightmarchers, Honolulu's Quidditch team (profiled in this story, available to Star-Advertiser subscribers). At Taku Taku Matsuri, she'll be hosting a panel from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. as well as taking part in a demonstration with the Nightmarchers from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m.

Appearing at: Taku Taku Matsuri, Saturday at the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii (2211 S. Beretania St.) Presale tickets ($13) and ticket/T-shirt packs ($20) are available at www.gofundme.com/dbi0fc. Prices will be higher at the door, so save yourself a few bucks and order now.

Cristina Vee

cristina veeBest known for: Mio in K-ON!, Homura in Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Rei/Sailor Mars in Viz's new Sailor Moon English dub, and Alisa Bosconovitch in Tekken: Blood Vengeance -- she's voiced them all in a career that's been going strong since she voiced Nanoha in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha in 2008. She's also voiced various characters in video games including the BlazBlue franchise, Skullgirls and Ar Tonelico.

Appearing at: Taku Taku Matsuri, Saturday. Her panel will run from 3:30 to 5 p.m. with an autograph session to follow from 5 to 6:30 p.m. There are also seven slots still available for a special lunch with her at noon Sunday; those packages, which also include a Taku Taku ticket and T-shirt, are going for $100. Get them at the GoFundMe link above.

Erica Sakurazawa

Aromatic BittersBest known for: Remember back in the early-to-mid-2000s, when Tokyopop was at the height of its "throw all the manga and sorta-manga at the wall and let's see what sticks" power? Among those that got largely lost in that shuffle were six standalone volumes by Erica Sakurazawa published under their "Manga After Hours" banner: Between the Sheets, Angel, Angel Nest, Nothing But Loving You, The Rules of Love and The Aromatic Bitters. As the line's banner would indicate, these weren't your average mass-market titles aimed at teens; instead, they were josei manga, mature stories with a target audience of women in their 20s and older. Johanna Draper Carlson has a profile of those books over at Manga Worth Reading.

Sakurazawa is appearing in connection with the Honolulu Museum of Art's new exhibit opening Thursday, "Modern Love: 20th-Century Japanese Erotic Art," which will feature a section on manga with one of her works, Love Vibes, translated into English. Art from Moyoco Anno (In Clothes Called Fat, Happy Mania, Sugar Sugar Rune) and Suehiro Maruo (Mr. Arashi's Amazing Freak Show, The Strange Tale of Panorama Island) also will be featured. As the exhibit title indicates, there's going to be a lot of imagery containing mature themes in this exhibit, so you'll want to leave the kids at home for this one.

Appearing at: Honolulu Museum of Art Doris Duke Theater, Wed., Dec. 3, 4 p.m. Admission is free. She's also hosting a workshop at the Honolulu Museum of Art School on Dec. 7 where she'll be demonstrating her step-by-step process for drawing manga, but unless you already have an invitation to that, you can't go. Sorry about that.

Todd Haberkorn

Best known for: The newest addition to this guest roundup (announced by Kawaii Kon Sunday night!), Haberkorn's no stranger to our little rock in the middle of the Pacific, having been a guest at Kawaii Kon in 2013. He was recently added to the English dub cast of fangirl fanservice magnet Free! Eternal Summer, playing the role of Haruka Nanase. Other prominent roles include Natsu in Fairy Tail, Death the Kid in Soul Eater, Allen Walker in D.Gray Man, Italy in Hetalia Axis Powers, Keisuke Takahashi in Initial D, Keroro in Sgt. Frog and Kimihiro Watanuki in xxxHolic.

Appearing at: Kawaii Kon, March 27-29. Three-day passes are available online for $53 ($44 children ages 5-12) at www.showclix.com/event/3817763/listing. There are still a few Artist Alley tables available for sale at that link. And if you have some extra piles of cash around the house, please give me some there's still a VIP Package for one person ($750), a VIP Package for two people ($900) and a lifetime membership pass ($3,000) available.

Jess Harnell

Animaniacs v4Best known for: He's played a number of roles over the years -- he was the voice of Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, Bill Clinton and Isaac Newton in the recent CGI revival of Mr. Peabody & Sherman! -- but the one role pretty much anyone who grew up in the '90s remembers him for is Wakko Warner, the baseball-cap-wearing, giant mallet-bearing Warner sibling in Animaniacs with a Ringo Starr-esque voice.

Appearing at: Kawaii Kon, March 27-29.

Rob Paulsen

Best known for: At Kawaii Kon this year, Jim Cummings filled the role of "the guy who voiced half the characters of your childhood" quite nicely. Next year? Paulsen's bringing the other half. Consider his resume: Yakko Warner, Dr. Otto von Scratchensniff and Pinky in Animaniacs. Raphael in the classic Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon. Donatello in Nickelodeon's CGI Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles revival. Carl in The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius. Arthur in The Tick. Throttle in Biker Mice From Mars. P.J. Pete in Goof Troop. Bubsy the Bobcat in those series of Mario/Sonic-esque 2-D platformer games that we'd much rather forget from the Super Nintendo era. The list goes on and on and on.

Appearing at: Kawaii Kon, March 27-29.

Bryce Papenbrook

Best known for: As the first person announced as a guest for Kawaii Kon 2015 -- the news came down at this year's closing ceremonies back in April -- Papenbrook is the person we've known is coming to Hawaii for the longest time. He's the voice of Eren in Attack on Titan, Rin Okumura in Blue Exorcist, Kirito in Sword Art Online and Hanabusa Aidou in Vampire Knight, which I understand are four series chock full of the new hawtness that all the young 'uns have been flocking to in droves in recent years.

Appearing at: Kawaii Kon, March 27-29.

Steve Blum

bebopBest known for: Being the voices of two space voyagers -- Spike Spiegel in Cowboy Bebop, Tom the android in countless Cartoon Network Toonami block bumpers -- as well as the red-cloaked man with his trusty handgun Cerberus, Vincent Valentine, in Final Fantasy VII offshoots Dirge of Cerberus and Advent Children, and the sinister Orochimaru in the Naruto franchise. Blum's previous convention appearance in the islands was at Kawaii Kon in 2007.

Appearing at: HawaiiCon, Sept. 10-13 at the Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel on Hawaii island. Discounted four-day passes ($125), VIP passes ($399) and "Five-Year Mission" passes for the next five years of the convention ($500) are available through Dec. 31 at www.eventbrite.com/e/hawaiicon-2015-pre-sale-passes-tickets-13085636491. (Also, if you're a fan of Farscape, Firefly, Dr. Who or Stargate, you might want to have a look at this Kickstarter campaign that went live Tuesday night. Just sayin'.)

Melissa Fahn

Best known for: Complementing Blum in Cowboy Bebop as the voice of -- take a deep breath here -- Edward Wong Hau Pepelu Tivrusky IV, ace computer hacker aboard the Bebop. She's also continuing the trend of Invader Zim voice actors who have visited our fair isles, being the voice of Gaz in that series. Other roles include Eri Ninamori in FLCL ... and the Tachikoma in Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, which links her to someone else who'll be visiting Hawaii next year...

Appearing at: HawaiiCon, Sept. 10-13.

Mary Elizabeth McGlynn

GitS SACBest known for: Ten years ago this past September, the long-awaited sequel to the Ghost in the Shell movie, Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence, made its U.S. debut. A quick search on Rotten Tomatoes shows that it wasn't nearly as well-regarded as the first one. Looking back now, it was notable for one reason: It marked Mary Elizabeth McGlynn's debut as the voice of Motoko Kusanagi, a role she held throughout the franchise's Stand-Alone Complex phase.  She's also voiced a number of anime roles under the alias of Melissa Williamson, including Julia in Cowboy Bebop, Urd in Ah! My Goddess: The Movie, Nuriko in Fushigi Yugi and Hilda in Outlaw Star.

And voice acting isn't her sole talent in the industry; she's served as ADR director for everything Naruto-related in the United States as well as Cowboy Bebop, and she's sung a number of tracks on the soundtracks for Silent Hill 3, 4 and Origins. (Also, "Your Rain (Rage Mix)" and "You're Not Here" in your Dance Dance Revolution playlists? That's her singing.)

Appearing at: HawaiiCon, Sept. 10-13.

'Kaguya' is a go for Kahala

October 28th, 2014
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First of all, I'd like to humbly thank all of you who offered condolences here, on Facebook and in person for my grandma's recent passing. Truth be told, the only reason I haven't picked up blogging again until now isn't because I've been in mourning ever since the funeral last Wednesday, but because I've been gradually sinking deeper into the depths of what's turned out to be one gollywhomper of a cold. I'll probably be flopping into bed and chatting with friends on my iPad until I pass out in a fever-ridden blob after I finish this post.

kaguyaSo while there's a lot of news to discuss that I haven't gotten around to discussing here yet, I'll just quickly address the most pressing item at the moment in what'll probably be one of the shortest news posts in Otaku Ohana history. Here we go:

Remember The Tale of the Princess Kaguya, the latest film from Studio Ghibli to be translated for American audiences? The one that I said in my last post was opening on Friday at Consolidated's Kahala 8 theaters?

Well, tickets are on sale now. Available showtimes run through Tuesday. There are English-subbed and dubbed screenings, too, yay! (The daytime screenings are dubbed; while evening screenings are subbed.)

The premiere's been pushed up a day, too, so if you want to go see the English-subbed version at 7 p.m. Thursday, you can now do that. Want to do a cross-town double feature on Saturday with The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness, the Studio Ghibli documentary screening at the Dole Cannery theaters as part of the Hawaii International Film Festival at 2:45 p.m. Saturday? You can do that with Kaguya's evening screenings on Saturday, too.

Oh, yes, and here's a trailer that shows off the film's rather distinct animation style.

See you at the movies ... hopefully when I heal up from this cold.

'Kikaider' reloads; 'Kaguya' comes in

October 16th, 2014
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kikaider reloadedIt seems a bit gauche for me to be going into full chatty blogger mode when there's a tropical storm/likely Category 1 hurricane bearing down on our island home and something else I'll talk about in a moment, so here are the highlights from what was supposed to be "Otaku Film Feast-ival Part 2."

>> Kikaider Reboot had its run on Oahu extended; the movie will now be screening at Consolidated's Kahala 8 theaters for a week starting Friday. Of course, the schedule is likely to change in case Kahala Mall decides to close in advance of Ana, but for now here are Fandango's listed showtimes.

>> On Tuesday, film distributor GKIDS revealed that Studio Ghibli's latest film to be translated for U.S. audiences, The Tale of the Princess Kaguya, will be opening for a limited engagement at the Kahala 8 starting Oct. 31. Exact showtimes have yet to be posted, but I'll update you on that whenever I'm able.

And now, a quick housekeeping note: This post is dedicated to the memory of my grandma, Virginia Yadao, who died Tuesday night at the age of 88. (To answer the likely follow-up question: I'm doing fine now, probably because I've had many other things on my mind, but I'm definitely bringing a pile of tissues to the funeral next week.) I'm going to be taking a few days off from blogging, but I hope to be back to write about the films of interest to otaku at the Hawaii International Film Festival by late next week. In case I take longer than that to return, here's the list of films I'm keeping an eye on so you can buy your tickets now:

Stay safe until then, folks.

And the Windward skies bring cosplay vibes to me

October 10th, 2014
By



anime dayI'll get back to part 2 of the otaku film feast-ival next week, but for now there are more pressing matters at hand: namely, there's an Anime Day coming up at Windward Mall from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and, aside from how I've said that a) it's totally a thing and b) those of you who preregistered for Oni-Con Hawaii will want to bring proof of registration to pick up your free DVD, I haven't had a chance yet to fill in some of the finer details about it.

As has been the norm for the past forever now, I don't think I got around to posting pictures from last year's festivities, so here are a few images that show off what you can probably expect to see this year. Here's the crowd gathered around the mall's center stage ...

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... some Naruto charms being sold by our columnist following the business buzz around town, Erika Engle ...

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... someone playing Dance Central on a Kinect-enabled Xbox 360 ...

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... the always busy art wall ...

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... and participants in the Iron Cosplay contest.

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This year, professional cosplayer Leah Rose will be presiding over the festivities at center stage, with activities including:

11 a.m.: Anime ID
11:30 a.m.: Iron Cosplay
1 p.m.: Pose-Off Challenges
1:30 p.m.: Spin-the-Wheel!
2:30 p.m.: Cosplay Runway
3:30 p.m.: Stamp Rally winners announced and final announcements

KK stamp cardMany of those games/events have been run at various other events; Anime ID, however, is debuting here. As for that Stamp Rally: Pick up a card (a facsimile is at right), collect stamps from the six retailers listed (Gyu-Kaku, Animation Magic, Hot Topic, Gamestop, Journeys, Spencer Gifts) and turn it for the chance to win fabulous prizes! (What those prizes are haven't been mentioned yet, but I'd be very surprised if one wasn't a free three-day pass to Kawaii Kon 2015.)

Other Anime Day notes of note:

  • The vendors room -- again across from Glow Putt Mini Golf on the second floor, in what I think was the old Suncoast Video space -- will feature a number of local crafters, including Gordon Rider/Star-Advertiser "Calabash" cartoonist Jon Murakami and idkwhat2wear.
  • Artists can participate in a number of activities as well. Roy Chang, MidWeek cartoonist, Aiea Intermediate art teacher and keeper of Pepe the chihuahua, will offer tips on improving art at his portfolio review booth. Comic Jam Hawaii is hosting the sketch wall, while MangaBento will have tables with coloring and craft worksheets.
  • You can preregister for Kawaii Kon 2015, too!

For the latest info on all things Kawaii Kon, visit www.kawaii-kon.org or www.facebook.com/kawaiikon.