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Ota-cool Incoming: Convention life's just beachy

July 31st, 2015
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So contrary to what I wrote in my last post, I did manage to make it out to Comic Con Honolulu for a few hours last weekend -- thanks to con staff for having a press badge ready to go! -- and managed to catch the Art Improv panel, which ... well, in the spirit of 50 Shades Totoro, here's ... umm ... Magic Mike Baymax.

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Was it fun? Of course. Looks like the next Art Improv panel will be at Kawaii Kon 2016, so you'll want to check that out.

I also got to chat with a bunch of the usual Friends of the Blog, including Ivan Sanidad on the right -- you may know him as "that guy who's been conducting surveys at Kawaii Kon since the dawn of con time" -- and reader Max Ogasawara-Fukumoto.

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Con staff announced at closing ceremonies that first-year attendance was 5,280, a nice number for a first-year con. If you're interested in attending next year, dates have already been announced; save space on your social calendar for July 29-31, 2016.

Back in the days when there was one, maaaaaaybe two or three major cons in the state, this week would be a time to recover and reset for the next event, usually several months away. But this year? The year of All the Things? Let's put it this way: There are two con-hosted beach days coming up in August, one of them happening on Saturday.

Anime Matsuri logoThe more immediate beach day is being hosted by an incoming show, Anime Matsuri Hawaii. The Anime Matsuri Beach and LUV Day will serve two purposes: Not only can attendees cosplay, join a potluck lunch, enjoy some fun activities (Water balloon fights! Relay races! Capture the Flag! "Senpai Says," a version of Simon Says with an anime twist! Watermelon smashing!) and maybe possibly perhaps even win some prizes, they can also learn about volunteer opportunities for the upcoming convention. (Hence the "LUV" part of the event name, an acronym for "Let Us Volunteer.") That's happening from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday near the center part of Ala Moana Beach Park; just aim for the area directly across from Piikoi Street, and you should be able to find them. Here's a map for more exact positioning.

Fifteen days later, on Sunday, Aug. 16, Kawaii Kon will be hosting its annual beach day, also at Ala Moana Beach Park, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. That's pretty much all the information released to date, but if previous years have been any indication, attendees will have a chance to cosplay, eat lunch, enjoy some fun activities (Water balloon fights! Capture the Flag! Sand sculpture building! Watermelon smashing!) and maybe possibly perhaps even win some prizes.

Can't make it to either beach day? Perhaps the idea of being out in the sun-baked real world gives you the heebie-jeebies? Other cons are hosting pre-show events in coming weeks as well. Amazing Hawaii Comic Con is hosting another informal meet-and-greet at Dave & Buster's (1030 Auahi St., in the Ward Entertainment Complex) starting at 8 p.m. Aug. 12. After my experience at the first event -- and given how that day's also featuring half-price games in the arcade -- I think I'm going to sit this one out unless the Otaku Ohana Anonymous Director of Forced Social Interaction insists I go. If you do go, though, maybe you can play a few round of that new Angry Birds machine for me. Plus your first drink is free courtesy of the con crew.

HawaiiCon logoOver on Hawaii island, HawaiiCon is hosting a pair of cosplay contests in coming weeks. The first -- and what likely will be the cutest -- event will be their Keiki Cosplay Contest, part of downtown Hilo's First Friday festivities, from 5 to 7 p.m. Aug. 7 at Kapohokine Adventures, 224 Kamehameha Ave. (If anyone goes to that, please send me a link to your photos. I want to revel in the cuteness. Also, don't forget to fill out this registration form.) The second cosplay contest, for participants ages 14 and older, will run from 7 to 10 p.m. Aug. 14 at Yamada Technologies, 25 Waianuenue St., also in Hilo. Food trucks will be around, so bring an appreciation for cosplay and a hearty appetite.

Elsewhere around town

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.

Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection of 'F': The latest cinematic installment in the Dragon Ball Z franchise will be in theaters next week, and it's a pretty hot Dragon Ball tale, what with the resurrection of F(rieza) and yet another evolution for Goku, known as Super Hyper Turbo Champion Omega Mondo Extreme Over 9,000 Saiyan God Mode Plus Edition Now With Bears Goku. Well, okay, it's actually only Super Saiyan God Super Saiyan mode, but with a new TV series on the way, it's only a matter of time before more convoluted power levels like that come in to play.

Here, have a trailer.

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This movie is enjoying what's been the widest distribution statewide for an anime-related film this year, playing on three major islands (sorry, Kauai, you've been left out yet again). Check Fandango for the latest updates, but here's the list I have of dates and locations:

  • Ward: Tuesday and Wednesday, 7 p.m.; Aug. 8, noon
  • Dole: Tuesday and Wednesday, 7 p.m.; Aug. 8, 11 a.m.
  • Pearlridge: Tuesday and Wednesday, 7 p.m.; Aug. 8, noon
  • Mililani: Tuesday-Thursday, 7 p.m.; Aug. 8, noon
  • Kapolei: Tuesday-Thursday, 7 p.m.; Aug. 8, noon
  • Kaahumanu (Kahului): Tuesday and Wednesday, 7 p.m.; Aug. 8, noon
  • Makalapua Stadium 10 (Kona): Thursday, 7 p.m.; Aug. 8, 11 a.m.
  • Regal Prince Kuhio 9 (Hilo): Aug. 8, 11 a.m.

The reign of Hoku Comic Kon Honolulu is nigh

July 22nd, 2015
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CCH logoThe second stop on our yearlong parade of local conventions, Comic Con Honolulu, is coming up on Friday, and ... okay, real talk: Just like how people keep calling the Don Quijote on Kaheka Street "Daiei" or "Holiday Mart," or people in Waipahu still think of the Don Quijote store there as the old GEM store, or a whole bunch of other "Remember when ______ was ______?" conversations that fill #ThrowbackThursday threads on social media every week, a lot of you out there still think of Comic Con Honolulu as Hoku Kon, right? Even though we went over why the name changed earlier this year? It's okay; I find myself switching between the two as well.

Whatever you prefer to call it, the convention launched as the all-the-things offspring of Kawaii Kon is ready to show con-goers what it has to offer. While it may not be as big as Kawaii Kon -- the entire show's only taking up the top floor of the Hawai 'i Convention Center --the enthusiast spirit of the long-running anime convention certainly remains a core element here. Unfortunately I won't be able to attend this year -- we're still working on taming the beast that is our new editorial computer system -- but if I could go, here are what would be some of my highlights.

The Anime portal keyThe intro to Ingress panel! Hear about Niantic's free-to-play massively multiplayer augmented reality game for almost every smartphone out there (sorry, Blackberry and Windows Phone users). Learn about the convoluted back story -- something about a battle for Exotic Matter, aliens that either ought to be welcomed with a platter of cookies or repelled like con attendees who forgot to shower, and a buncha researchers, shadowy types and weird artificial intelligence constructs who have died, shattered into shards and been resurrected more times than the Hawaiian Netmender portal changes hands daily. You can also learn why the Enlightened is awesome (lovely greenish hues over everything; "think green" projects a solid environmental message; noodles) and why the Resistance is … umm … equally awesome (hey, they consistently build my portal at work to level 6-8 with a multihack and heat sink that I quietly hack, happily gearing up to go blow up their portals, links and fields elsewhere, so I'm not complaining).

If you decide to attend and subsequently begin playing, I should note two things. First, apologies in advance for all the free time and gas it ends up sucking up. Second -- and I cannot stress this enough -- please sign up for the Enlightened. You don't know how many times I've talked about these intro to Ingress panels and ended up having readers join ... only for them to become my biggest in-game rivals (*waves at agent ArcturusFlyer*). Sigh. 6:30 p.m. Friday, Panel Room.

Comic Jam Hawaii represents! Some of you may remember the Sketch Improv panel during Kawaii Kon, during which artists from Comic Jam Hawaii improvised sketches based on certain themes and ideas shouted out by the audience. It's where the world first got to see a fire-breathing Slap Chop chicken ...

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... the adventures of a side job-taking samurai ...

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... Winnie the Deadpool ...

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... a Totoro/Fast and Furious mashup ...

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... and, of course, 50 Shades of Totoro.

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Sketch Improv is back for another go-round, this time with a slightly tweaked name (it's Art Improv in your programs now) and a bigger venue (the Main Events room) but likely with the same sketchy hijinks. It should be a fun morning. That's from 10:30 a.m. to noon Saturday.

memorabilia showcase 1Several Comic Jam artists will be over in Artist Alley as well. Roy Chang, MidWeek cartoonist and Pepe the Chihuahua's kalbi handler, will set up his art board and offer free art portfolio critiques. Jon J. Murakami, Star-Advertiser "Calabash" cartoonist and creator of Gordon Rider, the Ara-Rangers, and Edamame Ninjas, will be selling a number of new items, including prints of his work from Udon's upcoming Capcom Fighting Tribute artbook, original sketches, reusable shopping bags with customized hand-drawn art, and -- assuming the books come back from the printer on time -- Ara-Rangers issue #2. (Hopefully he gets over his cold in time for con, too ... get well soon, Jon!) Kevin Sano and Michael Cannon will each have tables and will be selling prints and original artwork as well. (By the way, to the right, you can see a set of four Minions that Kevin custom-painted in the colors and outfits of various Kikaida characters, which I stuck in my new home office showcase. Clearly I love them. Bonus points to anyone who can identify the other things in the showcase at the moment.) 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Saturday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday.

Gates McFadden and Edward James Olmos! Not gonna lie; these are the only two guests I recognize straight out without having to resort to Google, one being Dr. Beverly Crusher in Star Trek: The Next Generation, the other one being an Academy Award nominee for best actor (Stand and Deliver, 1988). I'm very much a comic/sci-fi blogger in training; heck, when NPR recently released its list of top 100 sci-fi/fantasy books as voted on by listeners, I found I had read ... exactly one of them. (Animal Farm. For school. Great book, A++++++ WOULD READ ORWELL AGAIN.) That's not to say the rest of the guest list, which includes actors Adam Baldwin, Erin Gray, Mira Furlan, Sean Maher and J. August Richards and comic artist Khary Rudolph, is anything to dismiss; it's a respectable roster that any startup convention would love to have.

It should be noted that the autograph policies were released Wednesday afternoon, and for those of you accustomed to lining up for free autographs and photo ops at Kawaii Kon, there's going to be a bit of sticker shock involved -- if you want a complete collection of Year One Comic-Con Honolulu guest autographs, it's going to cost you $290. Olmos is the highest at $60, followed by McFadden at $50; Baldwin, Maher and Richards at $40 each; and Furlan and Gray at $30 each. (Rudolph will offer free autographs all weekend.) Want pictures of your experiences? It's going to cost even more. Welcome to the modern-day convention economy, folks. Strap in your wallets and prepare for the ride.

IMG_8501_editCosplay cosplay cosplay! I'll readily admit cosplay has become the modern-day equivalent of "Hey! Manga's a thing! OMG, girls are reading comics now!" in modern-day con culture, the go-to topic mainstream media chooses whenever they want to talk about all those anime/manga/sci-fi/fantasy/comic book/whatever fans converging on Big Convention Spot for the Weekend. Heck, our paper covered that angle on Sunday (premium content; subscribers, please read that article, Mike Gordon and Jamm Aquino did a good job with the words and pictures, respectively). That said, people love to dress up, and cosplayers of all skill levels will be showing up during the weekend, from average fans all the way up to our most prominent local cosplayers (Uncanny Megan, shown above with tag-team partner in fandom Wilma J. at this year's Kawaii Kon! Leah Rose!). For you do-it-yourselfers, I count at least six cosplay-related panels, from Megan and Leah's Cosplay Q&A (10-11 a.m. Saturday, Panel Room) to cosplay photography (3-4 p.m. Friday, Panel Room) and a whole variety of topics in between. And that doesn't even take into account the Cosplay Competition, running from 6-7 p.m. Saturday in Main Events.

Interested in attending? Online registration has ended, but you can buy three-day passes ($55) and single-day passes (Friday, $35; Saturday, $40; Sunday, $30) starting at 9 a.m. Friday on the fourth floor of the convention center. Pre-registered attendees can pick up their passes at the same place starting at 8 a.m. Friday; it's worth noting that unlike Kawaii Kon, passes will not be available for pickup Thursday night.

Want more information? Visit the con site at comicconhonolulu.com. Questions? Lob 'em at the con's Facebook page.

The Summer of Stuff, part 2: Art with heart aplenty

June 19th, 2015
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Welcome back to the Summer of Stuff! In Part 1, I took a quick look at all the movies screening locally in the past few months. Quick addendum: When Marnie Was There will be screening for a second week at the Kahala 8 theaters, with the same schedule as the first week (see my last post for those details). The Otaku Ohana Anonymous Director of Forced Social Interaction and I saw the English-subtitled version Wednesday night. I thought it was a film that took a while to set up, but once it hits the major revelation of who Marnie is ... well, as they say on the Intarwebz, wow, all the feels. The Anonymous Director's verdict? "It's nice. Just ... nice."

This is why I'm the long-winded friendly neighborhood anime/manga/cartooning blogger behind the keyboard and the Anonymous Director's the socialite in front of it.

This time around, the Summer of Stuff is taking a look at some of the major otaku art events around town ... and the best part is, all of these events feature free admission. One of the annual highlights for me on the Ota-cool Incoming calendar is the annual art exhibit by MangaBento, the group of anime- and manga-inspired artists that hosts a show in the Honolulu Museum of Art School's second-floor gallery. I've covered it rather extensively for three out of the past four years; here's coverage of 2011's "Kakimochi" (part 1part 2), 2012's "Nakamaboko" (part 1part 2) and 2013's "Tomo-e-Ame" (part 1part 2, part 3). (The coverage of 2014's "Showme," sadly, has fallen down the same black hole as many other things over the past year or so, save for a small cameo in the Best of 2014 post.)

Here, have a shot of the gallery space from last year's exhibit.

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This year's exhibit, bearing the theme "This is Fighting Spirit!" -- inspired by Shonen Jump and shonen manga artwork -- is rapidly approaching. Art submissions are being accepted from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday at the Honolulu Museum of Art School (1111 Victoria St.), room 200. Comic Jam Hawaii will also be hosting a jam around that time, where attendees can draw art for the exhibit or do their own thing. The exhibit itself, being staged in the art school's second-floor gallery, launches with an opening reception and potluck from 2-4 p.m. Sunday, June 28, and will be on display through July 12.

Meanwhile, over at the Honolulu Museum of Art's Spalding House -- once known as the Contemporary Museum for those of you who retain old-school place names like me (see also: "Daiei/Holiday Mart" for Don Quijote, "GEM store" for the Sports Authority on Ward Avenue, "Phase 1/Phase 2" for Uptown/Downtown Pearlridge Center), there's a rather novel exhibit opening in that space starting today and running through June 28. "Contempo #ArtShop" -- yes, with the hashtag; it's what's trending, after all -- features a number of pieces by local and international artists. The twist? If you like what you see, you can just buy it, with prices ranging from $30 to $45,000. Here's the catalog. I'd imagine my readers could probably afford the artwork on the lower end of that scale, but if you can afford the upper end, please contact me. I want to be your friend.

IMG_6232 (1)The exhibit has already garnered a fair amount of press for Saturday's pop-up event featuring artists connected to Giant Robot magazine, but what's relevant to our interests here is that several friends of the blog -- Brady Evans, Tara Tamayori (that's her at right), Audra Furuichi, Rose Dela Cruz and Jaymee Masui -- all have pieces available for sale in this exhibit. In addition, Tara, Audra, Brady and Jaymee will be joining artist Iolani Slate for a special "Manga Market" event from 1 to 3 p.m. Wednesday, with a mini Artist Alley-esque setup in the entrance lanai -- prints, original artwork and other merchandise will be available for sale -- live art demonstrations and a make-and-take art table. If you can't make it on Wednesday, the museum is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday and noon to 4 p.m. June 28.

It's a pretty busy summer for Brady, really, as his work is among pieces featured in "Emergence 2015," an exhibit at Pauahi Tower Artspace (in the second-level lobby of Bishop Square's Pauahi Tower, 101 Bishop St.; here's what the building looks like from Tamarind Park). A number of his digital paintings will be on display for the first time outside of Kawaii Kon, as well as a new drawing he did, "Ghost Plants." That exhibit will be on display through July 17; gallery hours are Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

IMG_8214Finally, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention a talk by cartoonist Jon J. Murakami -- Gordon Rider/Edamame Ninjas creator, Star-Advertiser "Calabash" artist, you know the drill -- and Michael Cannon of Comic Jam Hawaii at Kapolei Library at 2 p.m. Saturday, June 27. Jon and Mike will go over the process of creating a mini-comic -- character design basics, layout and story development -- and participants will be given their own materials to create their own comic right there, right then. The library is at 1020 Manawai St.; call 693-7050 if you need any assistance.

The Summer of Stuff, part 1: See you at the movies

June 12th, 2015
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It's never a good time to get sick, but for your friendly neighborhood anime/manga/cartooning blogger in particular, getting sick last week came at a really inopportune time. I'm still shaking the last remnants of what was diagnosed as a viral infection (the formal medical term for "yup, you're coughing and congested; here, have some codeine and get some rest")  I missed the Mini Comic Con at Aiea Library, which saddened me. At one point, between swigs of codeine, I even considered tweeting, "Otaku community newsmakers, please hold off on breaking any juicy news until I have a chance to get better."

Naturally, otaku community newsmakers broke a lot of juicy news while I was sick.

So now I have quite a few announcements to catch up on -- movie screenings! Special events! New convention guests! -- and I'll be starting in on it with this series of posts, "The Summer of Stuff." Because let's face it: If you can't find anything that you're interested in doing in the next few months from everything I've been told about, you're doing the summer wrong.

Take this summer's lineup of movie screenings for Japanese cultural aficionados, for instance. A lot of it is being generated by GKids, working overtime with a weeks-long presentation of animated films from around the world (that is, if your definition of "around the world" is 75 percent Japan, 25 percent France/Italy) and the wide release of When Marnie Was There. There's also a pair of free screenings at Aiea Library in coming weeks.

Let's go to the calendar for some dates, synopses and trailers ...

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Festival follow-up: Something blue, something new

May 27th, 2015
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I've written quite a bit in this space recently about the flood of major conventions coming our way this year — Comic Con Honolulu, HawaiiCon, Amazing Hawaii Comic Con, Anime Ohana and Anime Matsuri Hawaii are all on deck — but the market for smaller otaku-targeted events lasting a day or shorter is developing quite nicely as well. In the past few days, two news tidbits about smaller events crossed the desk of the New and Improved Otaku Ohana Home Office — I'll have a few pictures of that soon; getting moved in and setting that up has been the primary reason why I've been so silent lately this time — one with bad news, one with good.

taku taku matsuri logoThe bad news is that the third annual Taku Taku Matsuri, which was set to take place Oct. 3 and feature voice actor Richard Epcar and his wife, voice actor/director Ellyn Stern, has been postponed indefinitely due to founder/organizer Yuka Nagaoka's continued health issues. Here's a formal statement posted to the Taku Taku Matsuri Facebook page on Saturday:

First of all, thank you to all that have supported us and myself so far with taku taku Matsuri.
With how we had to postpone last year because of hurricanes, postponing the event once again was a decisions I did not want to make. My directors and staff have been working very hard on getting ready in my absence. That is why, originally, I was planning to have the event happen, even with me not physically in Hawaii. However, it has become more and more unknown when I will be able to return.

Let me explain what is going on.
I have a congenital brain disease that was detected two months ago. Because of the danger of the disease, I was told that it is best to have it treated ASAP, so I have returned to Japan for treatment. Unfortunately, things are not going as smoothly as I want them to. 
I have gone through all sorts of MRIs and CAT scans, but the doctors are still unable to make a decision on treatment. 
Just my luck, other health issues are making the last examination they need to make a decision, high risk. That is why right now I am going through treatment for my other health issues. Once that treatment works, I will finally be able to receive the needed examination. Of course after all of that, there is still the actual treatment for the brain disease. As far as the doctors are telling me, either radiation therapy or surgery.

Being in complete medical limbo, I have made the choice to postpone the 3rd annual taku taku Matsuri. Honestly, I feel very frustrated and defeated, having to make this choice. However, I was reminded about what "taku taku Matsuri" is. As corny as it may sound, it really is an event for all Otakus, bunbun-ers, to enjoy! And with taku taku Matsuri unable to deliver 100%, we won't be able to satisfy all our bunbun-ers!!!

All of this may take more than a few months to be taken care of. I apologize for the wait. However, I will be back, healthier and with a fixed brain, to give you all the best taku taku Matsuri!!

Here's hoping and praying that Yuka will be able to get her health issues resolved fully sometime down the line.

While we may have lost one event off the calendar (for now), another one has popped up to take its place. The inaugural Aiea Library Mini Comic Con, taking place from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, June 6, will offer, in the words of young adult librarian Diane Masaki's handy-dandy flier, "a glimpse of what a convention is like, with informative panels, vendors and activities."

Featured guests and vendors include:

  • Roy Chang, MidWeek cartoonist, Aiea Intermediate art teacher and Cacy and Kiara and the Curse of the Kii author. Roy will be selling prints all day and host a panel on creating stories with manga-style art and comic pages from 1 to 2 p.m.
  • Dasha and Dallas Cosplay — the duo of Daria Roud and Dallas Nagata White — will share their experiences and offer tips on getting into cosplaying from 2 to 3 p.m. Daria will also help kids make their own superhero mask or princess crown from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
  • Artists Jon J. Murakami and Devin Oishi will be selling prints and other merchandise. Jon, of course, is the cartoonist best know for Gordon Rider, Edamame Ninjas, The Ara-Rangers and this here paper's "Calabash" comic strip; Devin, a longtime MangaBento adviser, has two children's books under his belt, Pualani and the 3 Mano and Da Blalas.

Cosplayers of all ages are encouraged to attend as well; Comic Jam Hawaii artists will be on hand to sketch cosplayers, and children in the sixth grade and younger are encouraged to enter a cosplay contest from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Aiea Library is located at 99-374 Pohai Place, where, nearly a year after opening, there remains plenty of parking (and two Ingress portals to make green, whoop whoop). Call 483-7333.