Archive for the ‘anime’ Category

A cheap convention deal, and Batou for real

May 4th, 2015
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As the competition for local otaku hearts and wallets heats up on the convention/special events circuit, there's bound to be a fair amount of talk about preregistration deals and guest announcements in the coming months. It'll certainly be busier than when I had to focus on one, maaaaaaaaybe two major shows and a handful of minor shows in a year. Which is okay with me; busy is always better than being bored and lazing around in bed playing Candy Crush Soda Saga (curse you, level 228!).

Take Sunday, for instance. It's normally a day of rest for those of you religious enough to observe it as such. But there certainly wasn't any rest around Otaku Ohana Central, where two news tidbits arrived, courtesy of HawaiiCon and Taku Taku Matsuri.

HawaiiCon logoNow, there's no denying that HawaiiCon has the highest entry cost of the state's six conventions -- $165 for a four-day pass, plus additional travel costs if you're not already on Hawaii island. It's understandable; the science/sci-fi/fantasy convention has positioned itself as a vacation destination at the Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel with premier guests and experiences. But those costs can add up, particularly for the cash-strapped among us (hey, those Nendoroids and Amiibos aren't going to buy themselves!).

To that end, HawaiiCon has unveiled its Kamaaina Day Pass. These $20 passes -- $10 for children ages 6-12 -- will let you in the door for the con's preview day, with events mostly running between 3 and 10 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 10. With 21 guests announced to date, "that's less than $1 per celebrity," HawaiiCon chairman/CEO GB Hajim told me via online chat.

"Lots of locals have never been to a con," GB added. "Don't even know what it is like. We want them to see how awesome it is."

You can get those passes -- as well as single-day passes for Sept. 11-13, which weigh in at $65 general, $45 children -- at www.eventbrite.com/e/hawaiicon-2015-kamaaina-day-passes-tickets-16823407264. To recap, guests include Rod Roddenberry, son of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry; actors Christopher Judge, Teryl Rothery, Tony Amendola, Aaron Douglas and Patricia Tallman; writers Brad Bell and Jane Espenson; voice actors Janet Varney, Steve Blum, Mary Elizabeth McGlynn, Cree Summer and Melissa Fahn; and artists Bill Morrison, Trina Robbins, Steve Leialoha and Sam Campos. Find out more about the convention itself at www.hawaiicon.com.

GitS 2 coverMeanwhile, over at Taku Taku Matsuri, founder/organizer Yuka Nagaoka may be in Japan at the moment, but planning for the third annual single-day fall festival continues in earnest. News emerged Sunday of this year's special guests: voice actor Richard Epcar and his wife, voice actor/director Ellyn Stern. Epcar is best known as the voice of Batou in Ghost in the Shell, GitS 2: Innocence and GitS: Stand-Alone Complex; Xehanort in various Kingdom Hearts games; Joseph Joestar in Jojo's Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders; and Raiden in the last two Mortal Kombat games. Stern is best known as the voice of Miyuki Goto in Noein and a number of moms -- Ichigo's in Bleach, Jack's in MAR, Hiroshi's in Zenki, and Jiro's and Marumaro's in Blue Dragon. 

Taku Taku Matsuri is happening Oct. 3 at the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii's Manoa Grand Ballroom; tickets -- $20 for straight admission, packages including T-shirts and special guest experiences going all the way up to $200 -- are available at www.gofundme.com/bunbun-funfun.

Anime Ohana means a growing convention family

April 11th, 2015
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It was 10 years ago April 21 when I wrote the following for what was then the Star-Bulletin:

(Anime/manga fans') passion will be on display throughout the weekend as Kawaii Kon, the first anime convention to be held in Hawaii, starts tomorrow at the Ala Moana Hotel. … All of this comes courtesy of a team led by convention director Stan Dahlin. Kawaii Kon is a homecoming of sorts for Dahlin, a 1983 Radford graduate who has helped stage a similar convention, Anime Weekend Atlanta, for the past 10 years.

"It all started with a conversation with my friend David Williams of ADV Films," Dahlin said. "He knew I was originally from Hawaii and suggested that maybe there should be a show there. I dismissed his suggestion at first, but then I really gave it serious thought."

Since then, Kawaii Kon has grown into the first name people have thought about when considering local anime conventions. Heck, the show drew more than 10,000 people this year. While there's been a competing event here and there these past few years, it's a reign that's gone pretty much unchallenged.

And then came this year.

If you've been reading this blog for a considerable amount of time, you already know that this year has been the most remarkable one I've ever seen in terms of incoming conventions. Kawaii Kon's in the books, but to recap, there's still Hoku Kon in July, HawaiiCon (on Hawaii island) and Amazing Hawaii Comic Con in September, and Anime Matsuri Hawaii in November. That's five conventions that we knew about before Kawaii Kon kicked off in late March.

Soon after Kawaii Kon ended, though, tag-team partner in fandom Wilma J. alerted me to some buzz making the rounds during con weekend. A sixth major convention -- and the third anime-related one, to boot -- had emerged as a new challenger on the local scene. And after a few weeks of looking at the website, monitoring some of the social media chatter about it and securing a contact from within the organization, I finally have enough confirmed information to pass along to you, dear Otaku Ohana readers.

Anime Ohana logoMeet Anime Ohana, a convention that's happening Oct. 9-11 at the Pagoda Hotel. As someone who posted a confirmed registration receipt noted, the event is being presented by Hawaii Anime Fairs LLC, a business partnership that formed in Texas in December with two names on the paperwork: Stan Dahlin and David Williams. That's right: The founder of Kawaii Kon, who left that con's leadership team in 2013, has created a new convention for local fans, and will be running and managing it with help from the longtime ADV/Sentai Filmworks producer.

"It is amazing how great things can grow out of something as simple as a phone call." Williams told me via email. "I was very happy to see what has become of my small comment to Stan. We have long felt Hawaii deserved a good second convention later in the year and had hoped one would come along, but finally decided to start our own. We have some exciting plans to cover what we think are some neglected areas in the future that will make Anime Ohana stand apart but for now are focused on a general first-year convention to get ourselves established and the ball rolling."

Along for the ride are Anime Ohana's first confirmed guests, voice actresses Jessica Calvello and Monica Rial. This will be the first isle convention visit for Calvello, known for her roles as Hange Zoe in Attack on Titan, Yuri in Dirty Pair, and the voice of Excel for 13 episodes of Excel Saga before she had to withdraw due to vocal chord damage. Rial, best known as Kaede Kayano in Assassination Classroom, Bulma in Dragon Ball Z Kai, Hyatt in Excel Saga and about a bazillion other roles (seriously, look at her Anime News Network encyclopedia page) was a guest at the first five Kawaii Kons but has not been back since 2009.

"Our guest list, both currently announced and possible announcements, is focused on people who haven’t been to Hawaii before or haven’t been back in many years," Williams said.

There's also been a bit of discussion on social media on whether the event is, indeed, legitimate, with conflicting reports on whether the Pagoda had even been locked up as a venue in the first place. Williams reassured me on that front as well.

"The Pagoda Hotel is indeed the confirmed venue for Anime Ohana," Williams said. "We are looking forward to working with the people there, and they are excited to have our event at their facilities. As we are starting off with a smaller first-year convention, it doesn't make sense to jump into as large a space as, say, the (Hawai'i Convention Center). Thus we looked around for a location that would have the space we needed and was available during the times we wanted as well. The Pagoda Hotel fit both needs wonderfully."

Interested? If you preregister before May 1, you can get a three-day pass for $25. VIP passes -- which include a free T-shirt, head-of-the-line autograph privileges, early entry/seating to all con events and the dealers room, and special one-on-one events with con guests -- are also available for $150. And you can order a T-shirt for $25. All of that is available at animeohana.ticketbud.com/anime-ohana.

"We are working hard to put on a good show for the fans, and we hope they enjoy our events and meeting our guests and just have a good time," Williams said.

To keep up with the latest Anime Ohana happenings, visit the website at animeohana.com, "like" their Facebook page, and/or follow their Twitter feed.

HIFF's otaku highlights: "Marnie," "Unsung Hero"

April 9th, 2015
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This year's Kawaii Kon was huge. An announced 10,450 people passed through the tightened-security halls of the convention center. I Instagrammed and tweeted whatever I felt like Instagramming and tweeting, took all three days to track down friends in Artist Alley (a task that used to take just a handful of hours to do on the first day), even helped the Otaku Ohana Anonymous Director of Forced Social Interaction deal with a thing or two. When it was all over and I filed my annual Kawaii Kon memorable moments post for Honolulu Pulse, I resolved to take some time off to recharge some seriously drained blogger batteries.

I just didn't think it would take a good chunk of two weeks for me to feel like those batteries had finally reached "ready to write again!" status. Heck, an entire wave of Nintendo's Amiibos was announced, then promptly sold out, in less time than that. (I'm sad, too. I really wanted Ness.) Which means that a backlog of blog posts that I have yet to write, including interviews with manga artists Erica Sakurazawa and Moyoco Anno, has grown even larger in the meantime. Apologies for that.

So I'll start off a little small and work my way up to the bigger posts I had in mind. Our starting point: the upcoming Hawaii International Film Festival Spring Showcase at the Regal Dole Cannery Stadium theaters. It kicks off Friday and runs through April 19, and Anderson Le, festival programming director, emailed me during my recharging period to give me a heads-up about two movies that might be of interest to you, dear Otaku Ohana readers.

marnieThe must-see film that lit up pretty much everyone's radars locally when it was announced is, of course, When Marnie Was There, notable for being not only the last Studio Ghibli firm for director Hiromasa Yonebayashi (who also directed the studio's Secret World of Arrietty; he left the studio at the end of 2014) but also the last film for Studio Ghibli for the foreseeable future. It's based on a novel by Joan G. Robinson; here's the synopsis HIFF provided:

Sent from her foster home in the city one summer to a sleepy town by the sea in Hokkaido, Anna dreams her days away among the marshes. She believes she’s outside the invisible magic circle to which most people belong – and shuts herself off from everyone around her, wearing her "ordinary face." Anna never expected to meet a friend like Marnie, who does not judge her for being just what she is. But no sooner has Anna learned the loveliness of friendship than she begins to wonder about her new found friend.

When Marnie Was There screens April 18 at 6 p.m. and April 19 at 4:45 p.m.

unsungAnderson also highlighted another movie that may be of interest to those of you who love seeing the costumed stunt acrobatics in shows like Power Rangers, Kikaida and Kamen Rider: Unsung Hero. The synopsis:

Forty-eight-year-old Wataru Honjo is a big fan of Bruce Lee and works as a suit actor (costume wearing stunt performer). He is also president of "Shimoachiai Hero Action Club.” Even though he doesn't have the typical body for his profession, he has worked in the business for 25 years. When Ryo Ichinose, a cocky rookie actor appears on the scene, they don’t get along at all. However, when Ryo cast in a Hollywood movie and then suddenly quits because its too dangerous, the producers approach Wataru to fill the role...Will he go for it?

Unsung Hero screens Saturday at 1:15 p.m. and Sunday at 3:15 p.m.

If you still need tickets for either of those films' screenings, you'll definitely want to use the discount code SPRING17 at checkout when you buy your tickets online; that will allow you to take $4 off the cost of what's usually a $12 general admission ticket. Quite the deal! For more information or to check out the other films at the Spring Showcase (33 films from 12 countries!), visit hiff.org.

[Kawaii Kon 2015] Dawn of a new con era

March 26th, 2015
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Day 0 program and badgeWell, folks, we made it to the fireworks factory. Again. We're standing here on Kawaii Kon Day 0, preregistration and dealer/Artist Alley load-in night, ready for another three-day weekend packed full of cosplay, entertainment, special guests from the animation industry and music world, panels, games and pretty much what you'd imagine otaku heaven to be like without actually moving to Japan itself. And there's your annual look at the convention guide and your friendly neighborhood anime/manga blogger's press credentials at right.

There's a bit of a different feel to this year, though ... and not just because registration ops has moved to the ground floor, next to the hall with the dealers room and Artist Alley. It's because this year, Kawaii Kon isn't just the big event on the local otaku community calendar, but the first event in a string of big events. As I mentioned in my post introducing Anime Matsuri Hawaii, it's a remarkable time to be a local fan of anime, manga, science fiction and/or comics, with Hoku Kon (July), Amazing Hawaii Comic-Con (September) and Anime Matsuri Hawaii (November) all on deck on Oahu, and HawaiiCon (September) on Hawaii island. I mean, heck, Amazing Hawaii Comic-Con unveiled its first four guests -- living legend Stan Lee and artists George Perez, Mark Kubert and Adam Bagley -- on Wednesday, and the shares pretty much lit up my Facebook feed all day.

But the people still show up at Kawaii Kon. Ohhhhhh, do they ever show up. Here's the sea of otakuness that descended on the convention for preregistration tonight, as seen from the escalators leading to/from the second-floor parking garage.

Day 0 lines

A final number will probably come at closing ceremonies as it has in previous years. By my estimates, though, there are about a bazillion people attending this year. Some of whom are even carting around replica basketball backboards.

Some last-minute notes as we head into this year's event:

  • The policy change that's generated the most social media discussion: For the first time, convention center staff will be checking for con badges on the ground floor, near the escalators to the third floor. That effectively ends the practice of nonpaying attendees lounging around the public areas outside the panel rooms, soaking up the atmosphere and taking pictures of their favorite cosplayers. It also makes complete sense from a security standpoint; as much as we'd like to think that the convention environment is a bubble world that protects us from all the bad things that go on outside, there are trolls out there who just want to come in and disrupt things for their own amusement, Besides, if you really wanted to socialize with your non-con-going friends, there's always Ala Moana Center down the street.
  • The Great Hawaiian Rubber Duckie Race, the annual fundraiser for United Cerebral Palsy of Hawaii that sends a swarm of yellow ducks down the Ala Wai Canal, is happening Saturday. (The ducks launch at 1:28 p.m. from the Kalakaua Avenue bridge, if any of you want to head down from the convention center and watch.) So is the Prince Kuhio Day Parade in Waikiki, traveling down Kalakaua Avenue between Saratoga Road and Kapiolani Park between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Expect heavy traffic congestion if you're aren't already at an area hotel and are going to be driving.
  • Kawaii Kon flyerI'm pleased to note that despite a vehicle plowing into the 7-Eleven at the corner of Atkinson Drive and Kapiolani Boulevard Wednesday evening, the store remains open (albeit a bit boarded up) and ready to sell completely out of all their bentos, nori rolls, musubis, hot dogs and whatever other prepared foods you can think of to hungry, budget-conscious con-goers on all three days. (If you go late, hope you like chewing on breath mints for your dinner!) As a bonus, if you have your badge, go to that store starting at 10 a.m. and are one of the first 200 people to do so on Friday, Saturday or Sunday, you'll get a free limited-edition Kawaii Kon lanyard. Look for the flyer in-store that looks like the one at right -- psst, look above the hot-foods warmer! -- and scan the QR code for a chance to win a trip for two to Las Vegas. Winner will be announced at closing ceremonies on Sunday. (Bonus trivia note: The artwork for this flyer was drawn by none other than Jamie Lano. You might have heard of her.) There is also a large Naruto wallscroll hanging over the ice cream freezer, so you know they're into the mood.
  • Buy all the things in Artist Alley. All. The. Things. To go through and list-link everything I've seen crossing my Facebook news feed over the past few days would probably last me well past midnight, and I'd kinda like to get some sleep before stopping in at Jamie's drawing panel around 10 a.m.-ish Friday. Also of note: nemu*nemu artist Audra Furuichi's limited-edition 10-card set, the "Modern Kitsuke" series (color drawings of girls in kimono) for $25, which 39 of you must go out and buy immediately. Maybe fewer of you, if some of you buy multiples. But the 40th set must be miiiiiiiine.

Time to rest up. See y'all tomorrow for Day 1. Feel free to follow me on Twitter and Instagram, too (both @jsyadao) for all my spur-of-the-moment updates over the weekend ahead. It's gonna be crazy. But fun! But crazy.

Anime Matsuri Hawaii schedules post-Thanksgiving treat

March 16th, 2015
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Anime Matsuri logoIt looks like 2015 will be the year you snarf down your turkey, brave the sea of humanity descending on various retail establishments for the sake of cheap TVs and bath towels ... and then turn around and attend an anime convention.

Anime Matsuri Hawaii -- they of the website countdown -- took a bit of time after that countdown expired to do some internal housekeeping, but they finally launched their website, hawaii.animematsuri.com, this afternoon. With that launch, we now know that the newest player in the local pop-culture convention scene will be operating out of the Hawai'i Convention Center during the first few days of the Christmas shopping season -- Thanksgiving weekend, Nov. 27-29.

Some of the other highlights:

  • Heidi Shimada, who's been part of Yu x Me Maid Cafe & Host Club locally, is listed as Anime Matsuri Hawaii liaison. She's also been serving as Anime Matsuri's guest relations director.
  • Look for the standard anime con accouterments, including a Japanese fashion show, a tea party, a concert, a cosplay contest and a maid cafe. There's also going to be a car show; "AM Idol," a talent showcase equivalent to Kawaii Kon's Karaoke Competition; and "Club AM," a nightly rave running from midnight to 3 a.m. I just hope the car show's in a separate area from the convention proper, because the last time there was a convention/car show hybrid, it didn't really mesh well.
  • The first two guests listed on the website are cosplayers Stella Chuu and Reika.

Pre-registration prices for three-day passes have also been released; the sooner you get your passes, the better, of course. That page I linked to in the last sentence shows a table of increasing rates as the con nears, but here's what you need to know for now: Through April 15, adult passes will cost $40; the rate for groups of 10 or more people start at $35 per person; and the VIP-level Superpass, limited to 150 attendees, is $110. Passes for children ages 6-12 will be $20 through Oct. 15. Would-be vendors and Artist Alley sellers, we're still waiting for registration information for you.

Obviously, there's much more content to dig through, but I have a Kawaii Kon preview article that I need to write. Busy busy busy! A full press release is below. (3/20 note: Press release has been revised to the latest info.)

Houston, TX, March 20, 2015 – Anime Matsuri, the ninth largest anime convention in North America, is proud to announce the debut of its second convention. Anime Matsuri Hawaii (AMHI) will take place on November 27-29, 2015, at the Hawaii Convention Center in Honolulu, Hawaii. Pre-registration will open with the launch of the new convention’s website for individuals interested in purchasing their passes in advance.

Anime Matsuri is excited to bring the production value it offers to attendees of its Houston convention, out to Hawaii. AMHI main events will include a Japanese fashion show, tea party, car show, concert, cosplay contest, and Club AM. Also featured will be a maid cafe, various panels and workshops, vendors, industry guests, voice actors, and cosplay guests from all over the world. With this expansion comes many opportunities to provide unique experiences to individuals who are unfamiliar with the company, as well as the most dedicated fans. Anime Matsuri is fortunate enough to enjoy a fantastic community of attendees that it hopes to extend to AMHI.

“My husband, John Leigh, and I founded Anime Matsuri almost a decade ago. We have been privileged to be among the pioneers promoting anime and Japanese culture over the years, connecting people and companies in the East to the West. During a work trip to Hawaii a few years ago, we were astounded by the hospitality and general care that we received from complete strangers. Our growing friendship with the local communities in Hawaii have helped connect us to networks that have allowed us to expand our event. Thank you for this opportunity to further strengthen anime and Japanese culture in Hawaii. We look forward to working with existing organizations, cultural events, charities, local businesses, and fans to bring a new and unique experience to Hawaii,” said Deneice Leigh, founder and chairman of Anime Matsuri.

Anime Matsuri is an annual anime, Japanese culture and related arts convention based in Houston, Texas. We strive to bring the latest and greatest from Japan’s catwalks, anime studios, and concert stages to our own backyard here in the United States. Anime Matsuri’s inaugural event began in 2007. Since then, the convention has grown to over 19,000 unique attendees. With so many in attendance, we have recently made the George R. Brown Convention Center our permanent home. Here we will host our three-day festival on April 3-5th, 2015.