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15 minutes of fame: A chat with "Kubo" director Travis Knight

By
August 26th, 2016



Beetle, Kubo, and Monkey emerge from the forest and take in the beauty of the landscape in "Kubo and the Two Strings." Courtesy Laika Studios/Focus Features.

Beetle, Kubo, and Monkey emerge from the forest and take in the beauty of the landscape in "Kubo and the Two Strings." Courtesy Laika Studios/Focus Features.

It was on my first day back at work after my recent Comic-Con Honolulu vacation that I got the offer from our features editor, Christie Wilson: Would I be interested in doing an interview with Travis Knight, director of Kubo and the Two Strings?

Was I ever.

I mean, it's not every day that your friendly neighborhood anime/manga/cartooning blogger gets handed an opportunity to pick the brain of someone tied in with a major national theatrical release. And not just any someone; this was Travis Knight, CEO of Laika, the stop-motion/computer animation studio behind Coraline, Paranorman and The Boxtrolls, and the son of Nike founder Phil Knight. That's a resume that makes someone a virtual lock on my "people I will talk to no matter what, as long as the offer remains on the table" list.

That "no matter what" clause did come into play a few times. There were a few missed connections, and the publication venue shifted from print to online.  But it finally came to pass that last Thursday -- the morning after I attended the Hawaii premiere of Kubo -- I got to spend 15 minutes on the phone with Knight himself. And ... wow. If you had told me 10 years ago that I would be talking about manga and Japanese culture with an animation studio CEO and director of what would turn out to be the No. 4 movie in the nation at the weekend box office, younger me probably would have freaked the freak out. 

Kubo's certainly a great movie over which to start a conversation. The titular character is a boy who spends his days as a storyteller in a Japanese fishing village, crafting fantastic tales and enlivening origami pieces with his trusty shamisen, and his nights atop a peak, caring for his ailing mom who slips in and out of a trance that seems to be tied in to the rising and setting moon. When Kubo accidentally unleashes a vengeful spirit upon the village, it's up to the boy, a monkey charm brought to life and a quixotic insect samurai to take it out ... and perhaps solve the mystery of what happened to his fallen father along the way. It's the best movie I've seen this year to date, full of Laika's trademark eye-popping animated charm (be sure to stick around for the end credits for a cool behind-the-scenes shot!) and if you haven't seen it yet, you should correct that as soon as possible.

The film marks Knight's debut as director, the natural next stop in a 20-year career in animation that's seen him serve as a production assistant, scheduler, coordinator and producer, taking ideas from conception and development all the way through completion; work as a stop-motion and computer animator; and run a major animation studio. During that time, there was always a part of him that wanted to direct a feature -- "I think it’s sort of a cliche that every animator wants to direct something, and so I guess I am a cliche," he said.

It was just a matter of timing.

"Those early days at Laika, we were trying to get the place up and running, so a lot of the energy early on was just making sure that the place could function," Knight said. "So I’ve been involved heavily on every single film that we’ve done. But once I felt like a) the company was in decent shape, and b) I’d have enough experience that I could bring to bear to direct one of these things properly, and c) that I had enough of an emotional connection with it, that I could honor the story in the best way and bring a unique point of view and perspective to it, all of those things had to align before I was ready to take something on. And on this project, it did."

"Kubo and the Two Strings" director Travis Knight works with Kubo on the "Kubo's Village" set. Courtesy Laika Studios/Focus Features.

"Kubo and the Two Strings" director Travis Knight works with Kubo on the "Kubo's Village" set. Courtesy Laika Studios/Focus Features.

The project featured the convergence of several factors. Directing drew upon every experience Knight had in the industry to date -- "It required an animator’s eye for detail and attention, the ability to focus on the granularity of something," he said. "But at the same time, to not lose sight of the bigger picture." (Even with that, it was the hardest thing he had done in his career, he said.) The story of Kubo's epic journey is a callback to the kinds of fantasy epics Knight enjoyed during his childhood. Sometimes his mom told him those stories, like Kubo's mom shares with her son in the movie. They were tales woven by legends of the genre -- L. Frank Baum, C.S. Lewis, Lewis Carroll. J.R.R. Tolkien was a particular favorite, perhaps owing to the fact that Knight's mom was reading Lord of the Rings while pregnant with him and during postpartum recovery.

And then there was the Japan factor. When Knight was 8, his dad let him tag along with him on one of his business trips there. For a kid who'd grown up in Portland, Ore., going to Japan was a life-changing experience.

"From the moment I set foot in Japan, it really was like I’d been transported to another world," Knight said. "It was so incredibly different, but also just beautiful and breathtaking and almost otherworldly. It was so completely unlike anything I had ever experienced growing up in Portland, everything from the food to the style of dress to the music and the architecture and the art and the movies and the TV shows and the comic books. Everything about it was so totally different from anything I had ever seen before, and I was enthralled by it.

"It really was a revelation for me, and I came back home with a backpack full of manga and art and little artifacts from my journey in Japan, and it really was the beginning of a lifetime love affair that I’ve had with this great and beautiful culture."

Kubo’s story brings magic to life as Little Hanzo, an enchanted origami piece, takes center stage. Courtesy Laika Studios/Focus Features

Kubo’s story brings magic to life as Little Hanzo, an enchanted origami piece, takes center stage. Courtesy Laika Studios/Focus Features

Knight cited the samurai-and-son epic Lone Wolf and Cub and the missions taken on by the titular stoic assassin of Golgo 13 as two series that made an impression on him, the former having a huge influence on Kubo's development. Having grown up on a steady diet of American and British comics, the artistic and storytelling style of manga appealed to him, even if it was all in Japanese and widespread American familiarity with manga's right-to-left, back-to-front format was still more than a decade away at that point.

"I think that’s the mark of how extraordinary these storytellers were that it transcended language," he said. "It was something that could speak to you, even if you couldn’t speak the actual language."

The work of two of Japan's most revered filmmakers, Akira Kurosawa and Hayao Miyazaki, also helped shape Kubo. Knight sees Japan as the birthplace of the modern cinematic epic, with Kurosawa -- a "pictorial Shakespeare," as labeled by Steven Spielberg and affirmed by Knight -- being the director who led the way.

"He was certainly an aesthetic muse for the film, just in terms of how he made films -- composition, cutting, lighting, movement, staging," Knight said. "You could basically take any frame of a Kurosawa film and put it on a wall, I mean, it’s that gorgeous. They look like paintings. I don’t think there’s a filmmaker alive that hasn’t been directly or indirectly influenced by Kurosawa. I mean, you could just look at all of the things … Yojimbo was a huge influence. I mean, I saw Sergio Leone’s Fistful of Dollars and loved it before I even knew that Yojimbo existed. But then of course you find out later that it’s a remake of a Kurosawa film, as so many Western films are."

There are a number of nods to the director's work throughout Kubo. Kubo's dad is modeled after frequent Kurosawa muse Toshiro Mifune, and Kubo's broken home is a callback to the ruined fortress in Rashomon. Several themes that ran through Kurosawa's films are also explored here -- "the exploration of humanism, of existentialism, the role of the ideal, what it means to be a family, what it means to stand up to family sometimes to make the world a better place," as Knight put it.

As for Miyazaki?

"I think that most modern animators ... worship at the altar of Miyazaki," Knight said. "I mean, I love his films, they’re just exquisite. Everything from My Neighbor Totoro to Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke, Kiki’s Delivery Service. I mean, they’re all just lovely films that are so different from each other."

Knight applied two elements common in Miyazaki's films to Kubo. The first features characters that act in shades of gray rather than black and white. Anyone who's seen the movie might be nodding in agreement here over the character arcs, particularly when it comes to Kubo's scene in the graveyard and the moment when the Moon King reveals his motivations.

"I love how Miyazaki approaches films and protagonists and antagonists where there are shades of gray all throughout his filmmaking," Knight said. "Even the villains are not pure evil; oftentimes they’re misunderstood or they have a different perspective or they have shades of light within them. And then the heroes are not completely noble; they have problems of their own. I just love that approach, that there’s empathy toward people who may be misunderstood."

Kubo (voiced by Art Parkinson from "Game of Thrones") takes in the scenery below as he sets off on a journey to his village. Courtesy Laika Studios/Focus Features.

Kubo (voiced by Art Parkinson from "Game of Thrones") takes in the scenery below as he sets off on a journey to his village. Courtesy Laika Studios/Focus Features.

Those characters dwell in a Japan that certainly feels like Japan, even if it's not a direct reflection of any one time in particular. Knight compared it to Miyazaki's fascination for Europe and how it's depicted in his movies, rendering the continent more as an impressionist painting rather than a photograph or a documentary.

"Our version of Japan, it’s a period fantasy, it’s not a photograph," Knight said. "Even though we do incredible, extensive research into regional and historical history, it is a period fantasy. But we want to make sure that our fairy tale has one foot in the real world.

"And so, very much like Miyazaki is, the prism he applies to Europe, that’s what I wanted to do to Japan, is to effectively make an impressionist painting of Japan so that we can capture the feeling, the experience that I had when I was a kid exposed to Japan for the first time, this wondrous, beautiful, magical, breathtaking place. I wanted to try to infuse the film with that kind of spirit, and hopefully it does that."

So as we head into the movie's second weekend in theaters, why see Kubo (which I'd highly recommend you do) or see it again (which I'd highly recommend you do as well)? It's hard for me to summarize it without leaving something out, so here's his complete response:

"On one level I think it operates as just a big, sprawling epic fantasy. It’s a lot of fun, there’s action, there’s adventure, there’s humor, there’s heart. I think what I love about the movie more than the beauty of the images is what’s underneath it. I mean, it is cinematic pageantry, there’s a lot of glorious things to the whole, it does dazzle the eye. But I love the strong beating heart that it has underneath it all. That really gets to the core issue and the core themes that we explore in the movie. Fundamentally it’s a film about loss, it’s about grief. It’s about things that are typically shied away from in films geared toward family, how we confront and deal with significant loss and death and what grief can do to us.

"But at the same time it’s also a film about healing. I mean, we explore this, we have this motif of scars in this movie, where every single central character in the film is physically scarred in one way and emotionally scarred as well. And you know for Kubo, he’s ashamed of his scar. He combs his hair not because he’s trying to be a cool goth kid, he covers his eye not because he wants to have an awesome hairstyle, but because he’s ashamed of what his hair is covering. And he believes like so many of us believe, that a scar is a symbol of injury. But as we go through the film, we also get to this other notion,  come through the other side, that while a scar is a symbol of hurt, it’s also a symbol of healing, after we’ve been ripped to shreds, the scar is something that makes us whole. So by the end of the film, he’s no longer ashamed. He’s an open wound who’s been made whole by this whole experience.

"So fundamentally it’s an exploration of loss, but also of healing. It’s a meditation on compassion and forgiveness and empathy, which I think in this fractured world that we live in, we could all use a bit more of."

kubo5

And that was where our conversation ended ... or at least it would have been, had the studio's PR rep not mentioned that I had time for one last question. So I asked him: "You have the opportunity to sit down with Kurosawa and Miyazaki and talk to them about whatever you want. What do you talk about?"

Knight paused for a moment.

"Oh my goodness," he said. "I don’t even know if I can answer that! I mean, where to begin? They tell you never meet your heroes, never meet your idols, that you’ll be disappointed."

He went on to say that he'd been fortunate enough to have the opposite experience in working on Coraline with two people he admired: author Neil Gaiman -- "a master and a genius who just oozes genius out of his pores" -- and director Henry Selick, who also directed The Nightmare Before Christmas and James and the Giant Peach.

"But that was a working relationship," Knight said. "If I met them as a fanboy for the first time, I would probably be stricken and not be able to say a word. I don’t know … I really don’t know how to answer that question. I wish I had a clever, quippy response, but it’s … when you’ve admired someone’s work for so long and you’ve been drinking it your entire life, the notion of being in the same room and talking with those guys, I don’t even know where I’d begin."

And that was my conversation with Travis Knight. Looking back on the experience a week later, I'd have to say I felt like he would in meeting his filmmaking idols -- total fanboyish glee threatening to turn me into a blubbering pile of squee-ing goo. Throughout this writing cycle, I felt a sense of "OHMYGODOHMYGODOHMYGOD ... OK, let's get to work ... OK, interview's done OHMYGODOHMYGODOHMYGOD." I hope this post captured the essence of what was really an enlightening chat with him.

Oh yeah, and go see Kubo and the Two Strings. Sometime. Definitely.

Ota-cool Incoming: Art and squeeeee~!

By
August 4th, 2016



So many events! So little time. So much Pokemon! So little happiness.

To the calendar!

Special events

draw story logo

Draw Story: Art and Process of Visual Storytelling: If you've ever wondered about how your favorite comics develop into something you can read, or if you're just a fan of work generated by our local community of comic artists, this is your show. The Honolulu Museum of Art is hosting an exhibit collecting work from a selection of artists from the Hawaiian Comic Book Alliance (including MidWeek cartoonist Roy Chang, Con-athon 2016 standard-bearer Jon Murakami, Pineapple Man creator Sam Campos and Mana Comics founder Chris Caravalho) along with several comic-inspired artists (Brady Evans, Devin Oishi). The opening reception is at the art school from 5 to 8 p.m. Friday (be advised that the art museum will be hosting its August Moon food and wine event around the same time, and the Pacific Ink & Art Expo will be going on at the Blaisdell Exhibition Hall, so neighborhood parking will probably be tight), while the exhibit itself runs through Aug. 29.

Pokemon Go Fest at SALT: Coral Street sits a few blocks away from Star-Advertiser Tower in Kakaako. It's rather industrial in nature; there are a bunch of warehouses lining it, and you can also find Highway Inn and Hank's Haute Dogs there. Ever since Pokemon Go launched a few weeks ago, I keep seeing a few players adding confetti-spewing lures to at least eight of the area Pokestops every night and wandering over to claim the nearby Paradise Mural Gym for the glory of Team Instinct or the other two teams that aren't Team Instinct. (Just kidding, Valors and Mystics, you know I love ya. Mostly because I've given up on holding a gym for more than 20 minutes at a time.) Here's the scene on a recent night.

Yeeeeeeeaaaaah. There are a LOT of people playing Pokemon Go. Photo by Jason S. Yadao.

Yeeeeeeeaaaaah. There are a LOT of people playing Pokemon Go. Photo by Jason S. Yadao.

... yeah, it's a nightly PokeStreetParty. And now SALT at Our Kaka'ako -- the development that has Coral Street as its eastern border -- is getting in on the action with a daytime party, featuring live music from DJ Romeo Valentine, a cosplay contest, an Instagram raffle, photo ops with the Hawaii Pokemon Go girls (wait, there are Pokemon Go girls now? Quite a world we live in these days ...) and discounts at various SALT merchants. 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday.

otaku summer festival logo

Otaku Summer Festival: This single-day event is back for a second year with food, games and vendors (including Jon!) offering items that'll make fans of anime, manga and Japanese culture happy. Planned entertainment includes music from The Otakus and a cosplay contest (with prizes!)

Here, have a commercial.

Video Gamers Hawaii will be feeding the shrine's Pokestop with lures regularly and, in conjunction with the Hawaii Video Gamers League, will be hosting Street Fighter V and Guilty Gear Xrd Revelator tournaments. As for that food? Look forward to five kinds of musubi (fried rice, shoyu chicken, kabayaki eel, furikake salmon and sweet sekihan) for $2.50 each, and three kinds of bentos (chicken katsu, katsu curry, salmon yakisoba) for $7.50 each. Admission is free. Hawaii Kotohira Jinsha-Hawaii Dazaifu Tenmangu (1239 Olomea St.), 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday.

Kenshin Part I: Origins: The live-action adaptation of Nobuhiro Watsuki's wandering swordsman manga starring Takeru Sato as Himura Kenshin and Emi Takei as Kamiya Kaoru is making its way back to theaters courtesy of fresh stateside licensing by Funimation. Yes, it's the same movie that first came to town via the Hawaii International Film Festival in 2013. But a) you get to see it on the big screen again and b) there are two more movies in the series that will be making their way down here in the next few months as well. That counts for something, right? In Japanese with English subtitles. General admission: $12.25. Consolidated Ward Stadium theaters, 7:30 p.m. Monday-Wednesday.

Pokemon: The First Movie: It's the first big-screen adventure for Ash, Pikachu and the rest of their PokeBuddies, the debut of Mew and Mewtwo in animated series canon, and it's back on the big screen once again ... and it's in a venue where you can't play Pokemon Go. (Seriously, I'm not sure if it's just my cell phone provider or what, but I've never been able to get any sort of data signal in the Doris Duke Theater. It's just too deep underground.) You can, however, cosplay and enter a trivia contest to win fabulous prizes. Sponsored by Kawaii Kon; tickets are $10 general admission, $8 Honolulu Museum of Art members. 6 p.m. Monday, Aug. 15.

Elsewhere around town

Aiea Library Polar Bear Cafe & Friends Anime Club: Every month, I joke with young adult librarian Diane Masaki that she ought to change the name of the Anime Club to the Polar Bear Cafe & Friends Club, seeing as how the screening schedule for the past few months has consistently been two episodes of the 2012-2013 anime followed by two more episodes of something else. (This month's "friends" remain the ship-gals of KanColle.) Well, it's the end of an era, because the club will be finishing off the series at this meeting (and this running gag in the process). Oh, well. At least I can still call Diane the Face of Hawaii Ingress (tm), right? At the library, 99-374 Pohai Place, where there's still plenty of parking ... and now a giant sugar molecule out front. For more information or to RSVP, call 483-7333 or email aiealibraryanimeclub@yahoo.com. 3 p.m. Saturday.

Comic Jam Hawaii: This group of collaborative cartoon artists meets every first and third Sunday of the month ... and this month, they're back at Pearlridge Center! Happy day! Visit www.facebook.com/groups/ComicJamHawaii (Facebook login required). Next meeting: Pearlridge Downtown (Center Court area), 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday.

[Comic Con Honolulu 2016] The day is Takei's

By
July 30th, 2016



Takei at CCH (courtesy Comic-Con Honolulu)

Today is George Takei Day.

I'm not just writing that because the venerable actor/activist/probable reason why a lot of people are going to be attending Comic Con Honolulu has a panel this afternoon (2:30 p.m.!) and autograph and photo sessions throughout the day. I'm writing that because Mayor Kirk Caldwell made it so.

Indeed, just as the mayor turned an entire weekend in April into Kawaii Kon Days, he's mayorally proclaimed today is Takei's day. Here's a copy of the proclamation; click on it to make it bigger:

George Takei proclamation

A few other con schedule and notes as we head into day 2:

--The Dr. Who panel at 7 p.m. today, originally scheduled to be Whovian trivia, is now the "Russell T. Davies Years vs. the Steven Moffat Years" panel that was originally slotted for 11 p.m. Friday. I know this because I was sitting in the room when the switch was made. Knew none of the answers to the questions. But at least it was informative!

--Some schedule highlights that I missed in my last post: The Cardboard Megabrawl, in which teams have an hour to build cardboard armored suits and then another hour to beat the bejeebers out of one another (within reason) is from 2 to 4 p.m. today in room 313A. There's a preview of the upcoming movie Kubo and the Two Strings -- the latest project from Laika, the studio behind Coraline, ParaNorman and The Boxtrolls -- from 7:30 to 8 p.m. today in Panel Room 315. (Free movie posters will be given out to the first 50 people!) Finally, for those of you who want to publish your own comics, William "Doc" Grant and Wendell Hong with Lime Media Hawaii will be hosting a "Basics of Comic Publishing" panel from 2 to 5 p.m. Sunday in Panel Room 312.

--Weedle is waiting.

Yup, he's here. Along with a buncha Magikarps, Psyducks and Slowpokes. Also, a Pikachu cameo. Photo by Jason S. Yadao.

Yup, he's here. Along with a buncha Magikarps, Psyducks and Slowpokes. Also, a Pikachu cameo. Photo by Jason S. Yadao.

See y'all there.

The Con-athon 2016 players, part 3: Comic-Con Honolulu

By
July 28th, 2016



We've made it to the midpoint of Con-athon 2016, our coverage of this year's major local anime/manga/pop-culture conventions, and ... whoof. Man. I don't remember Con-athon 2015 being as much of a grind as we're seeing this year. A quick recap: Kawaii Kon kicked off the convention season strong in April; Amazing Hawaii Comic Con returned in May, but while they announced a second, smaller event for October, the accounts I've heard seem to indicate that attendance was down this year; and Anime Matsuri retreated back to Houston. Meanwhile, planning for HawaiiCon (in September) and Anime Ohana (in November) continue apace. So while there are still six major conventions planned for this year, the faces have shifted somewhat.

Next up to the starting block: year 2 of Comic Con Honolulu, the pop-culture con from the organizers of Kawaii Kon.

Overview

Jurassic Park cosplayers pose in front of a replica movie Jeep at Comic Con Honolulu last year. Photo by Jason S. Yadao.

Jurassic Park cosplayers pose in front of a replica movie Jeep at Comic Con Honolulu last year. Photo by Jason S. Yadao.

Confession time: Among the six conventions that comprised Con-athon 2015, Comic Con Honolulu was the event at which I spent the least amount of time. Three hours, to be exact, enough time to sit in on the Art Improv panel, say hi to a bunch of friends, make a few quick purchases in the Dealer's Room/Artist Alley, and then dash off to work.

Part of it was out of necessity. There's only so much vacation time I get every year, after all, so I have to be choosy about which events I commit to visiting for the full run and which ones only get a commitment of a day or shorter. But part of it was also the fact that there wasn't much of a "wow" factor there for me. Sure, there was a decent guest lineup over which people got excited, but nothing that really grabbed me and said that I absolutely had to go. Besides, Amazing already had Stan Lee in their corner, HawaiiCon convinced me to give them a try based on their booking of three Cowboy Bebop voice actors, and Anime Ohana and Anime Matsuri Hawaii had the whole "hey, we're new, and we're right in your anime/manga-loving wheelhouse, please come check us out" sparkle-sheen to them. It's just the way things work out sometimes.

This year, though? Different story. HawaiiCon and Anime Ohana have joined Kawaii Kon in my con rotation, Anime Matsuri Hawaii went *poof*, and I felt I needed to prioritize a full weekend visit to CCH over braving Amazing again. CCH's guest roster and the show's smaller size certainly helped in that decision. Now, of course, the key is in holding my attention ...

Basic information

Pepe the Chihuahua shows up for his daily kalbi feeding at Roy Chang's table at Comic Con Honolulu 2015. Photo by Jason S. Yadao.

Pepe the Chihuahua shows up via Tardis for his daily kalbi feeding at Roy Chang's table at Comic Con Honolulu 2015. Photo by Jason S. Yadao.

When/where: Friday-Sunday, Hawai'i Convention Center

Admission: Three-day passes, $65; Friday- or Sunday-only pass, $30 each day; Saturday-only pass, $40. Pass prices apply to attendees ages 5 and up.

Website: comicconhawaii.com

Social mediaFacebook page; @ComicConHNL (Twitter)

Key question for this year

How will CCH try to distinguish itself from Amazing, its biggest competition in the market, and draw sufficient numbers to remain a viable show in the process? CCH's main advantage may lie in its programming diversity -- there are far more fan panels and more activities available than just "shop," "buy themed VIP packages and convention-exclusive comics" and "sit in giant space and listen to featured guests talk." CCH has also been doing well promoting local talent selling their wares in Artist Alley on their social media accounts ... and let's not forget about the support they're throwing toward neighborhood eateries with their list of con weekend discounts.

But there's also no denying that the buzz for the show on my Facebook feed has been more muted. Or maybe that's just because everyone on my Facebook news feed is talking about the upcoming elections and Pokemon GO and my news feed algorithm is horrifically screwed up as a result. In any case, a quick look at the Dealer's Room and Artist Alley listings reveal only a fraction of the local vendors and artists that Amazing had in May.

Five Six guests to get hyped for

In past Con-athon roundups, I would've used this space for a complete roundup of all the guests appearing at a particular show. But let's face it: Kawaii Kon had more than 20 guests. Amazing had more than 25. Faced with the prospect of writing another 22 mini-bios for this convention and another 100 gazillion for HawaiiCon, I finally tapped out and said, "OK, I'm just hitting the high points and picking five guests I'm most excited about seeing going forward."

And then I went and picked six people anyway. Because the sixth person really deserved to be mentioned. Plus I'm writing this blog, so I get to make up all the rules and then break them, right? The full guest list is available at comicconhonolulu.com/guests.

Takei at CCH (courtesy Comic-Con Honolulu)

George Takei: Every convention has its "OMG moment" during the guest announcement phase, that one guest over whom people rub their eyes over and over again and pinch themselves and wonder, "Holy cats, is that guy really going to be part of my hometown convention?" Takei is this year's OMG moment for Comic-Con Honolulu ... and arguably the entirety of Con-athon 2016, to boot. Whether you know him as Sulu from Star Trek, a gay rights advocate, the man behind Allegiance (a musical set in the Japanese-American internment camps during World War II) or a huge social media influencer, you know who he is. And you'll have exactly one chance to see him speak: 2:30-3:30 p.m. Saturday in Main Events (Room 316 ABC). Good luck, folks.

Grant Imahara: Spoiler alert: Our Steven Mark got to chat with the animatronics engineer, modelmaker and Mythbuster in an interview running in Friday's paper. Definitely worth checking out if you have a chance. Scheduled to appear at two panels: "Bustin' Myths and Building Robots: The Story of Grant Imahara," 11 a.m.-noon Saturday in Main Events, and "Discover Grant Imahara," 11 a.m.-noon Sunday, also in Main Events.

Sean Astin: He's been a Goonie and a Hobbit. He's the son of Patty Duke and John Astin, who played Gomez in the original Addams Family. And he's the voice of Raphael in the ongoing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles animated series. If you need any more convincing than that to see him, then man, you're tough to please. Scheduled to appear at two panels: "Face to Face With Sean Astin," 4-5 p.m. Friday in Main Events; and the Voice Actor Round Table (with Jennifer Hale, the voice of female Commander Shepard in the Mass Effect video games, and Phil LaMarr, the voice of Hermes Conrad in Futurama and Samurai Jack) from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. Saturday, also in Main Events.

John Barrowman: Until last week, he was best known as Captain Jack Harkness in Doctor Who and the spinoff Torchwood, as well as the Dark Archer in Arrow. Since then, he's been that guy who dressed up as Squirrel Girl, Futurama's Zap Brannigan, Harley Quinn and a dress-wearing Kylo Ren in San Diego. Here's hoping he has more antics planned for Honolulu this weekend. Scheduled to appear at one panel: "Getting to Know John Barrowman," 4-5 p.m. Saturday in Main Events.

Fabian Nicienza: Rob Liefeld was a guest at Amazing, so now it's time for Liefeld's partner in creating Deadpool to have his say. Nicieza also helped create Shatterstar, the X-Force and Cable; has more than 1,000 comic book writing credits; and is currently working with Stan Lee on Cosmic Crusaders. Scheduled to appear at three panels: "Breaking the Fourth Wall," 3:15-4:15 p.m. Friday in Panel Room 315; "Behind the Snark," 5:15-6:15 p.m. Saturday in Main Events; and "Comic Editing and Character Creation," 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. in Panel Room 315.

Leah Rose: The talented cosplayer and host with the most who's been featured in this blog before deserves a mention here, as this will be her last local convention as an isle resident before she moves on to Seattle. With Dasha Cosplay, Uncanny Megan and now Leah leaving or about to leave from Hawaii in the past handful of months, all I can say is whyyyyyyyy are the cosplayers all leaving do you not love us anymoooooooore. Umm. *ahem*. You can see her doing hosting duties all weekend or offer hugs and leis at her Artist Alley table, F11.

Will cartoonist Jon Murakami be here?

Photo courtesy Jon Murakami.

Photo courtesy Jon Murakami.

Three for three, yup! Look for him in Artist Alley, table E12, with his new collection of comic strips from the Hawaii Herald, Generation Gap:Are You Sure These Are Our Grandkids (pictured above), as well as a sale on Gordon Rider back issues, original sketches, and an array of shirts, prints, books and buttons. Can't make it to con? You still have a few more hours today to get in on the book preorder; visit www.jonjmurakami.bigcartel.com.

(Also, Jon's still our measuring stick for Con-athon 2016, considering he's going to almost all the things.)

Anyone else of note?

There's a guy doing these portraits, that's for certain.

Jason Pop by Roy Chang

That artist is MidWeek cartoonist and Cacy & Kiara / Highball & Pepe creator Roy Chang, and he drew that Funko Pop-ified portrait of me last week during a special "Get Pop-Cultured" event at Barnes & Noble Ala Moana. And now it's my Instagram profile picture, so w00t w00t to that. You can get your own Funkofied portrait -- $5 black and white, $10 color -- the newest Aloha Pepe issue, and more in Artist Alley, table A3.

Elsewhere in Artist Alley, you'll find Marisa and Carole Gee with their handmade jewelry and charms at Kawaii Mono (C1); beadspriters extraordinare Dinner Crew Crafts (C11-12); longtime comic creators/anime aficionados Lime Media Hawaii (E9), the anime/manga-inspired artist collective MangaBento (D12), comic artist Christopher Caravalho and Mana Comics (B7), and artists Andy Lee (B1), Reid Kishimoto (E2), Tara Tamayori (F4), Headshot Heroes (C7) and Michael Cannon (E12). Hours are 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday.

Over in the adjacent dealer's room, Terri Dux and Karl Miyashiro's one-stop shop for local apparel with clever phrase twists, idkwhat2wear, will be at table 55 with some new cute, clever designs. Pono Comics (52), Dragon's Lair (42) and Other Realms (46, 47, 57, 58) represent local comic shops this time around. Familiar Kawaii Kon mainstays Anime Palace (25, 36), Hakubundo (50), Michi's Toy Box (27) and Crappykids (7) will be there, as will everyone's favorite snack vendors, Brug Bakery (41) and Paradise Kettle Corn (44). Hours are 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday.

Other schedule highlights

Introducing Hitbox Music Ensemble: 7:30-8:30 p.m. Friday, Main Events. An ensemble of classical and jazz instrumental and choral musicians performs music from video games, anime, TV shows and movies. Think of it like those Legend of Zelda concerts that have been coming to town, except on a wider scale.

Unconventional jobs for superheroes? Yeah, the Art Improv artists can tackle that. Photo by Jason S. Yadao.

Unconventional jobs for superheroes? Yeah, the Art Improv artists can tackle that. Photo by Jason S. Yadao.

Art Improv, 10-11:30 a.m. Saturday, Panel Room 312. One of my must-see panels of the con, it's what happens when you take a group of Comic Jam Hawaii artists and throw crazy ideas at them in the style of the classic comedy improv show Whose Line is it Anyway? Plus as a bonus, the sketches they draw are up for grabs at the end -- you can nab some pretty cool free artwork that way. If you have some time to fill afterward, stick around for a series of drawing tutorials, including Kaci Horimoto on drawing (11:30 a.m.-12:15 p.m.), Reid Kishimoto on inking (12:15-1 p.m.), Rich Rodriguez on drawing from basic shapes (1-1:45 p.m.) and Wynette Sabalburo on coloring with markers (1:45-2:30 p.m.).

Ingress: It's Time to Move! 6-7:30 p.m. Saturday, Panel Room 312. Learn how to play the augmented reality game that I like to think of as the Pokemon GO beta beta as a noble agent of the Enlightened! (oryoucouldjointheResistanceIsuppose) Things that will be discussed at this panel: how the game works, the convoluted backstory that hardly anyone pays attention to, and how the game's brought together agents from both factions at large events worldwide. Things that will not be discussed at this panel: triangles (lots and lots of them), creepy vans, and Pokemon GO. Seriously, the panelists would like to focus on Ingress, so no PoGo questions, please. Besides ...

Pokemon GO Hawaii: 8-9 p.m. Saturday, Panel Room 315. ... you trainers who've taken the parts of the world where Niantic actually has servers up and running (for the most part, *crosses fingers*) by storm get a panel all to yourselves. Meet other players, wave a virtual banner for your team (Instinct! The other two teams who aren't Instinct!), share your stories, and catch the occasional Rattata or Pidgey or Zubat that happens to wander into the area. Note: Panel will be called off if a 1,000+ CP Mewtwo suddenly spawns down the street. Just kidding; I doubt anything short of the usual "circumstances beyond our control" is going to be canceling this party.

Cosplay Contest: 7:30-9 p.m. Saturday, Main Events. You know the drill by now: People show off their craftsmanship with fabulous costumes; the audience oohs and ahhs (and awwwws if the cosplayer happens to be a really cute child); prizes are awarded. And a good time is had by all.

Cardcaptor Sakura: A 20-Year Celebration: 1:30-2 p.m. Sunday, Panel Room 312. You thought all the anime/manga panel ideas were exhausted at Kawaii Kon? You were wrong. The fact that this panel is covering one of CLAMP's classic series makes it even more appealing.

Momoiro Clover Z tickets on sale this week

By
July 18th, 2016



Courtesy Stardust Promotion Inc.

Courtesy Stardust Promotion Inc.

Ahh, Momoiro Clover Z. Since 2008, the five-member group — Kanako Momota, Shiori Tamai, Ayaka Sasaki, Momoka Ariyasu and Reni Takagi — has carved out their own little niche of the J-pop female idol group market. Anime fans know them as the group that did theme songs for recent installments of Japan's "holy trinity" of anime — Sailor Moon Crystal, Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection "F" and Pokemon — as well as Bodacious Space Pirates. Other people may know them as that group that teamed up with KISS:

And still others may not know them at all. So here, have an introductory video.

We've known since April that they were making their way to Hawaii, but that was pretty much all we knew ... until today. Thanks to an initial tip from L.B. Bryant on Twitter, I've since learned that multiple sources, including the official Trans-America Ultra Live Tour page, AEG Live and Flavorus, have released information on the show — now scheduled for 8 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 15, at The Republik (1349 Kapiolani Blvd., third floor). Oh yeah, and tickets go on sale this week. Shuffle those budgets for otaku-related things, put in for your vacation time and get those credit cards ready!

So for now, here's what we know:

-- General admission tickets are $45; VIP tickets, which include a meet-and-greet panel with the group a few hours before the concert at 5:15 p.m., are $150.

-- There will be staggered ticket sales online at www.flavorus.com/event/Momoiro-Clover-Z/330769. American Express cardholders get first crack on from 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Hawaii time Wednesday. Then there's a Goldenvoice presale — your password on that will be "JUSTICE" — starting at 7 a.m. Thursday. If you miss both of those, general sales of whatever's left start at 10 a.m. Friday.

-- The nearest Ingress portals are "Uraku Waterfall" and "Anonymous Man Mural." I'm not sure whether they're Pokestops or gyms in Pokemon Go or whether they're reachable from The Republik, but there's a good chance of them being one of those.

Good luck, folks. Somehow I have a feeling this show's going to sell out quickly. For more information on the tour and the group, visit www.momoclo.net/ustour2016 .

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