Archive for the ‘manga’ Category

Flash mini con to benefit ailing anime fan

February 26th, 2015
By



TJ fundraiser bannerWhenever an event pops up for anime/manga fans, it doesn't spring forth fully formed overnight. It takes a number of people -- staff members, volunteers, vendors, individuals/groups within the fan community -- to make something happen. Sometimes, one has the luxury of having many months to prepare for an event. Other times, one has to turn around an event in a matter of days.

This is a post about the latter kind of event. Last Friday, Kawaii Kon senior administrator Roy Bann sent along word to several groups that there was going to be a fundraiser to help a terminally ill anime fan, Tristan "TJ" Fernandez. The date for the event: this Saturday.

TJ, 14, has an inoperable brain stem tumor. From the Fernandez family's GiveForward page for TJ:

In October 2014, after a checkup with his pediatrician, TJ was rushed to Kapiolani Hospital for Children to undergo an immediate CAT scan. Results showed he had a mass at the base of his brain. The next day, he had an MRI done. Tears flowed as it showed the mass was on his brain stem. The word "inoperable" repeated over and over. No biopsy possible, no removing, no stopping, only slowing it down. TJ went through 30 days of radiation and 10 chemotherapy sessions thereafter. Even after suffering many seizures, a tracheostomy, and enduring countless check ups, he is still braving the pain and continuing to fight.

TJ's only wish was to go home to his room. His parents were finally allowed to do so but along with taking their son home, they also needed to take home all the machines he needs to stabilize his body. They now have the worry of not only their son's health but, the hospital bills, a home care nurse, and all the machines needed for him to remain home.

TJ loves anime; his favorite shows include Terra Formars, Naruto and Bleach. Hospice Hawaii approached Kawaii Kon officials with the idea of hosting event similar to the con's annual Windward Mall Anime Day as a way of raising funds for the family, and the deal was sealed rather quickly.

So here we are: The Fundraiser for TJ Fernandez, an impromptu mini-con on the road to Kawaii Kon in about a month, is happening from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at the Pearl City High School Cafeteria. Games, entertainment (including music, a dance troupe and taiko drummers), food and giveaways will be the fare for the day. There's also going to be a silent auction, and artists from Comic Jam Hawaii will be there with drawing activities. Cosplayers, as always, are welcome (family-friendly attire, please); there's a group photo shoot scheduled for 1 p.m.

The school is located at 2100 Hookiekie St. in upper Pearl City; here is a handy campus map I took from the PCHS website, to which I added a few annotations. (Click through for a larger version of the map.)

PCHS map revised

I'll probably stop by for a bit; hope to see at least some of you whom I know there. Can't make it? Please consider donating a few dollars to the GiveForward donation drive, which hit its $10,000 goal earlier today but could always use some extra love. Visit www.giveforward.com/fundraiser/5xk7.

Ota-cool Incoming: Be my guest, be my guest

February 18th, 2015
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One of the first things the powers that be in journalism school tell students is that every story you write should have a compelling first few paragraphs, or lead grafs, that draws readers in to a story. This edition of the Ota-cool Incoming! calendar, quite frankly, doesn't have that compelling lead, because there are only so many different ways one can say, "Wow! It's been really busy here at Otaku Ohana Central! I haven't been able to write as much as I'd like! Oh noes!" before you, dear reader, start thinking, "Yeah, yeah, whatever, blogger boy, enough gabbing about yourself, get to the news already."

So ... umm ... guests! Coming to various local events! There were a few announcements made in recent weeks, and here they are!

Toru Furuya

Best known for: Being a dream guest for old-school anime fans. Consider his resume: Tuxedo Mask in the original Sailor Moon. Amuro Ray in the Gundam franchise. Pegasus Seiya in Saint Seiya. Yamcha in Dragon Ball Z. Kyosuke Kasuga in Kimagure Orange Road. That's an impressive body of work if you loved anime in the '80s and '90s.

Appearing at: Kawaii Kon, March 27-29. Three-day passes are available online for $53 ($44 children ages 5-12) through March 14 at www.showclix.com/event/3817763/listing. And if you have some extra piles of cash around the house, I'd still like some there's still a VIP Package for one person ($750) and a VIP Package for two people ($900) available. As far as hotel rooms are concerned, the cheapest room rate at the Ala Moana Hotel, the $135/night Kona Tower rooms, are already sold out for Friday and Saturday night, so you may want to get on that ASAP as well.

Range Murata

IMG_0126Best known for: If you've ever watched Last Exile; its sequel, Last Exile: Fam, the Silver Wing; and/or Blue Submarine No. 6, you've seen this artist's work. You've also seen his work if you were among the three or four people who bought the Robot series of art books, first from Digital Manga Publishing (DMP), then from Udon, then not at all, since the U.S. release was canceled after the fifth volume out of 10, ostensibly due to low sales. His Like a Balance Life art book is available digitally for $6.99 on the iTunes App Store.

Appearing at: Kawaii Kon, March 27-29.

Kyle Hebert

Kyle HebertBest known for: He's the voice of Kiba in Naruto, Kamina in Gurren Lagann, the older version of Gohan and the narrator in Dragon Ball Z and Ryu in the newer Street Fighter games. He was also supposed to be the guest of honor at last summer's Taku Taku Matsuri before a pair of approaching hurricanes ended up postponing it. And, of course, he's the subject of an interview I did with him aaaaaaaallllll the way back in August that I still haven't gotten around to transcribing. (I blame regular work duties, both Candy Crush games and the Ingress Resistance.)

Appearing at: The newly announced Otaku Summer Festival, 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 23, at Hawaii Kotohira Jinsha-Hawaii Dazaifu Tenmangu, 1239 Olomea St. The festival will also include the return of the AniMaid Cafe, entertainment, carnival games, food and … perhaps … more? Stay tuned. In any case, admission will be free.

Other ota-coolness

Aiea Library Polar Bear Cafe and Friends Anime Club: I've joked with young adult librarian Diane Masaki that she ought to change the name of the Anime Club to the Polar Bear Cafe and 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 action-y," as she puts it. At the library, 99-374 Pohai Place. Have I ever mentioned that there's plenty of parking now? Because there is. For more information or to RSVP, call 483-7333 or email aiealibraryanimeclub@yahoo.com. 3 p.m. Saturday.

Kawaii Kon volunteer staff general meeting: If you were interested in working as a staff member at this year's convention, this is your last chance to fulfill your required meeting quota. First-timers, don't forget to bring $30 cash (or $50 if this is going to be your first and only general meeting) to pay for your badge, refunded once you're reached your hours-worked requirement. Kakaako Waterfront Park, 11 a.m. Saturday. Details on volunteer requirements (as well as the necessary forms) are available at kawaiikon.com/information/staff/faq/.

Naruto the LastThe Last: Naruto the Movie: The moon is getting closer to the Earth, meteorites threaten to rain down on the planet, and Hinata's younger sister, Hanabi, has been kidnapped. Can Naruto and the gang save everything in time? I certainly hope so. At Consolidated's Ward Stadium 16 complex, noon Saturday and 7 p.m. Monday; both screenings will be in Japanese with English subtitles. You'll also be able to nab a free commemorative poster while supplies last. Tickets are $15 each; here's Saturday's screening, and here's Monday's screening.

Anime Swap Meet: Hosted by Kawaii Kon, this opportunity for local otaku to buy and sell assorted preowned collectibles from one another will be part of the 25th Annual Hawaii Collectors Expo at the Blaisdell Exhibition Hall from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. Interested in buying? Admission is $5 or free to those with valid military ID ... or, as Courtney Kubanek at Kawaii Kon noted in the comments on my last post, cosplayers can also get in free.

Sample of Moyoco Anno artworkMoyoco Anno at the Honolulu Museum of Art: The artist behind works including Flowers & Bees (Viz), Happy Mania (Tokyopop), Sugar Sugar Rune (Del Rey), Sakuran, In Clothes Called Fat and Insufficient Direction (all from Vertical Comics), and Memoirs of Amorous Gentlemen, Buffalo 5 Girls and The Diary of Ochibi (available digitally from Crunchyroll Manga) will be appearing at the Honolulu Museum of Art from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday for a talk (starting at 10:45 a.m. in the Doris Duke Theater) and art demonstration (starting at 1 p.m. down the street at the Honolulu Museum of Art School, room 200). Her appearance is in conjunction with the museum's "Modern Love: 20th-Century Japanese Erotic Art" exhibit, on display through March 15, which, God willing, I'll have some kind of post about later this week.

MangaBento: This group of anime- and manga-inspired artists usually meets every second and fourth Sunday of the month at the Honolulu Museum of Art School. Next meeting is from 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday in room 203; note that the first hour of the meeting will overlap with the Anno art demonstration (which members are encouraged to attend). Visit www.manga-bento.com.

The Anime portal keyRandom Ingress Portal of the Post: Speaking of anime-inspired art, meet "The Anime," a portal that caught my eye when I was walking around the neighborhood surrounding Punahou School during Carnival weekend. Judging by its position on the in-game map, it's a piece of art hanging somewhere in the halls of the Kapiolani Medical Center for Women and Children; where exactly it is, I have no idea, seeing as how the last time I was at Kapiolani was when I was way too young to remember anything about my time there. The portal is reachable from Bingham Street, though, so swing by and pick up a key sometime. And keep it green, of course.

Kawaii Kon Karaoke Competition preliminary rounds: So you think you can sing, and you're planning to go to Kawaii Kon this year? Give the annual Karaoke Competition a try. There's one more preliminary round on March 15 at Nocturna Lounge, the video game/karaoke bar just downstairs from our editorial/advertising offices here at Waterfront Plaza/Restaurant Row. Sign-in for that starts at 3:30 p.m., with singing starting at 4 p.m. Full details on what you need to do to prepare are available at bit.ly/Karaoke_Prelims.

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, March 1.

Manga artist Moyoco Anno to visit Honolulu

January 14th, 2015
By



If you're dedicated to attending every otaku-tinged special event this year, you're going to have a very, very busy year ahead.

Consider this: We're only 14 days into 2015. The Ohana Festival at the Japanese Cultural Center already happened on Sunday (and I completely missed talking about that, *sob*). But coming up, there's The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses concert on Jan. 30 and confirmed dates for the Honolulu Festival (March 6-8), Kawaii Kon (March 27-29), HawaiiCon (Sept. 10-13) and Taku Taku Matsuri (Oct. 3). Throw in the two new events that I probably won't talk about too much here unless a more overt anime/manga link emerges — Kawaii Kon's sci-fi spinoff, Hoku Kon (July 24-26) and the Amazing Hawaii Comic Con (Sept. 18-20) — and a handful of events I'm told are in the works but haven't been publicly revealed yet, and it's clear the hardest of the hard-core fans are going to have to start saving up their pennies now.

One of the events carrying over from last year is the "Modern Love: 20th-Century Japanese Erotic Art" exhibit at the Honolulu Museum of Art, on display through March 15. One of the artists whose work appears in the exhibit, josei manga artist Erica Sakurazawa, stopped by the museum in December to talk about her work and lead a master class. Now comes word that another featured manga artist, Moyoco Anno, will be visiting the museum next month.

Sample of Moyoco Anno artworkAnno's works have been translated and released in the United States by a number of publishers over the years, including Flowers & Bees (Viz), Happy Mania (Tokyopop), Sugar Sugar Rune (Del Rey), Sakuran, In Clothes Called Fat and Insufficient Direction (all from Vertical Comics), and Memoirs of Amorous Gentlemen, Buffalo 5 Girls and The Diary of Ochibi (available digitally from Crunchyroll Manga). An Indiegogo campaign aimed at producing an animated short film of Ochibi is in progress. She's married to Hideaki Anno, longtime director of the Evangelion anime franchise and voice of Jiro Horikoshi, central character in The Wind Rises. For pretty much anything you want to know about Moyoco Anno and her work, check out Melinda Beasi's interview with her at New York Comic Con 2012 (posted on comicsbeat.com) and the January 2013 Manga Movable Feast archive.

Anno will be participating in several events that are free and open to the public on Sunday, Feb. 22. Here's the day's schedule:

  • 10:30-10:45 a.m.: Book signing in the Doris Duke Theater (900 S. Beretania St.; there's a direct theater entrance on Pensacola Street). Copies of Sakuran will be available for purchase.
  • 10:45-11:45 a.m.: Artist talk, also in the theater.
  • 11:45 a.m.-noon: More book signing.
  • Noon-1 p.m.: Break in official events. Go grab something quick to eat at that gas station on Ward, or McDonald's or Burger King down Beretania Street. Or you could just wander around and hack/capture/upgrade Ingress portals. Up to you.
  • 1-2 p.m.: Drawing demonstration at the Honolulu Museum of Art School (1111 Victoria St.), room 200.

Seating is limited, so you'll want to get to those somewhat sorta early-ish.

Those of you who are Japanese art aficionados may want to continue your art museum visit after the demonstration ends; in addition to the "Modern Love" exhibit, another exhibit, "Dreams of Mount Fuji: Masterpieces of the Honolulu Museum of Art’s Japanese Print Collection," opened ... well ... today, in fact. The exhibit, which runs through March 22, displays highlights from two centuries' worth of woodblock prints, paintings and sculptures by more than 20 artists, with the main attraction being three pieces from Hokusai's "36 Views of Mount Fuji" series. "The Great Wave Off the Coast of Kanagawa" is first up through Feb. 8, followed by "Red Fuji" from Feb. 10 to March 1 and "Thunderstorm Beneath the Summit" March 3-22.

The Honolulu Museum of Art is open from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays and 1 to 5 p.m. Sundays; admission is $10 general, free for children ages 17 and under (although you probably won't want to take the kids into the "Modern Love" exhibit, just sayin'). Visit honolulumuseum.org.

14 for '14: Otaku Ohana's year of memories

December 31st, 2014
By



It seems there's an unwritten rule in journalism that whenever a writer or blogger reaches the end of a year, he or she suddenly feels compelled to look back on it and remember the high points and the lows. I'm certainly not one to go against the flow, so hi! Welcome to the Otaku Ohana Year in Review!

While I'd be the first to admit that this has been a disappointing year in terms of Otaku Ohana output -- for starters, I still haven't had time to fully transcribe that interview with voice actor Kyle Hebert that I promised back in August, and let's not even think about the last time you've seen a formal anime or manga review in this space -- it certainly hasn't been a disappointing year for the otaku community at large. One measure of just how vibrant we've had it here is the sheer volume of anime features that screened in theaters. Here's what we saw this year:

  • Anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day: The Movie
  • Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods
  • Expelled From Paradise
  • Evangelion 3.0: You Can (Not) Redo
  • K Missing Kings
  • Ghost in the Shell
  • Ghost in the Shell: Arise
  • Madoka Magica: Rebellion
  • My Neighbor Totoro
  • Patema Inverted
  • Road to Ninja: Naruto the Movie
  • The Tale of the Princess Kaguya
  • Tiger and Bunny: The Rising
  • The Wind Rises

Throw in a bunch of live-action movies including the Studio Ghibli documentary The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness, Thermae Romae II, Lupin the Third and Kikaider Reboot -- the last of which proved so popular, the DVD's backordered online.

Granted, there were a few bumps in the road along the way. A pair of hurricanes forced Taku Taku Matsuri to be pushed back from August to November. That's more than can be said for Oni-Con Hawaii, which we can safely consider a lost cause with the lack of any solid communication since early May. And the death of Sharon Sakai, wife of Usagi Yojimbo artist Stan Sakai, was a story that resonated far beyond the usual readership of this blog.

But let's remember all the good that happened in 2014. I went through my photo files and picked out 14 memorable moments from the year. Some of these pictures you might have seen before, whether in this space or on my various social media accounts.

Dorae-mania hits home (April 20)

01-doraemon 4.20.14

Fujiko F. Fujio's mecha-cat creation was all over town this year, whether plastered on Lea Lea trolleys, in statue form at various sites from downtown to Kahala as part of HIS Hawaii's Wakuwaku Stamp Rally, on Kindles and Kindle apps in manga form, or on Disney XD in anime form. The biggest attraction in the first few months of the year, however, was "Meet Doraemon: Japan's Time-Traveling Cat," an exhibition co-presented by Bishop Museum and the Fujiko F. Fujio Museum. Visitors could see pages of Fujio's original artwork for the first time on American soil, watch a 10-minute anime short, read the English-translated Doraemon manga on iPads or the manga in other languages sitting on bookshelves nearby; and buy piles upon piles of Fujio character merchandise that also was appearing for the first time on American soil. Tripinator Doraemon looked a little shifty here in the foreground as visitors browsed through the manga at the iPad station.

Ultra-combo! (April 27)

010-Ultraman C1

Not to be outdone by a cartoon mecha-cat, Ultraman and several of his longtime enemies made peace and came down to cavort around Hawaii as part of a promotion by Hawaii Tourism Japan and Tsuburaya Productions. Four statues showcasing different iterations of Ultraman were placed at locations around Oahu -- Polynesian Cultural Center, Kualoa Ranch, DFS Galleria and the Hilo Hattie flagship store in Iwilei -- and visitors who bought certain tour packages could go around, get their cards stamped and redeem them for cool Ultraman in Hawaii merchandise. As I mentioned in my original post, I love this picture of the Hilo Hattie statue because of the way the lights in the store flared behind it.

Panel de pon! (March 12)

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This is the only picture in this roundup that wasn't shot by me (it was taken by cartoonist Roy Chang), and for good reason: I was kinda sitting on the panel at the time. I have to confess that I'm usually not one to be the center of attention -- it's the reason why I've never done a panel at any event on my own, and why I have an Anonymous Otaku Ohana Director of Forced Social Interaction with whom I attend a number of events these days -- so when I was asked to be part of the "Made in Japan, Loved in Hawaii" panel at the Honolulu Festival, I was worried about how things would go. I needn't have worried -- panel mates Brady Evans, Jon Murakami, Roy Bann and Audra Furuichi all helped turn that panel into a lovely lengthy chat about our various fandoms. If you haven't listened to the panel yet, the audio (which weighs in at 121 MB) remains available for download at ow.ly/uwyBr, while the slides are available at ow.ly/uwyTQ.

Eboshimaro, friend to all children (March 8)

02-honfest mascot 20140308

Ahhhhhhh yes, yuru-chara, the Japanese phenomenon in which mascot characters are called upon to promote certain aspects of their prefecture, company or event. They're also usually awesomely cute, which would explain why Eboshimaro here, the mascot representing Chigasaki, Japan, had a steady stream of people coming up to him at the Honolulu Festival asking for pictures. Apparently he was tweeting regularly from the festival, too; here are his tweets and pictures from that weekend.

And that wasn't the only regional mascot to visit Hawaii this year. At the very beginning of Star-Advertiser photographer Krystle Marcellus' video from the Honolulu Marathon (www.youtube.com/watch?v=ckleJBr--ns), you can catch a good look at Mojaro, the walking monjayaki from Isesaki's annual Monja Festival. (Monjayaki is okonomiyaki's messier-looking, higher-stacked cousin.)

That's right. There exists a pile-of-food mascot. And one that looks like one of the ghosts from Pac-Man had an unfortunate accident, at that.

I'll give you some time to ponder that.

Singing in the lane (April 4)

09-kawaii kon 20140404

What would a year-end roundup be without at least one highlight from what's become the biggest event on the annual otaku calendar, Kawaii Kon? As longtime attendees know, a necessary evil of attending anime cons year after year is waiting in lines to get into the various events. This year, though, this guy made waiting for opening ceremonies more tolerable, going up and down with his guitar singing his original song about Kawaii Kon.

It's all about the details (July 3)

14a-mangabento elevator mural 20140703

MangaBento, the anime/manga-inspired group of young artists, held its annual show on the second floor of the Honolulu Museum of Art School. this year's show, "Showme," featured this mural lining the elevator. A nice mural, to be sure. But upon closer examination, several smaller flourishes really stood out.

That's what I love whenever I look at art: taking in the piece as a whole, then looking close-up at the finer details. It's an experience I hope (and pretty much expect!) to repeat next year.

Sparkle pretty "Ponponpon" party time (July 20)

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Yes, super-omega-popular boy band Arashi performed out at Ko Olina to the delight of thousands of fans both from here and visiting from Japan, and they had the benefit of a pop-up store at Shirokiya and those visitors snapping pictures of pretty much every poster put up around Ala Moana. But their concert tickets were kinda pricey and I didn't have a vacation day to spare, so this was my J-Pop concert experience for the year: Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, the singer who burst onto the scene with eyeball-dotted shorts, pastel-colored human hearts and flying bread slices and has kept up a consistent pace of releasing weirdly wonderfully artsy odd music videos ever since. Her concert was an extension of that, a whirlwind of tightly choreographed sequences on a toybox-themed stage with a nice selection of her hits to date. And a giant neon-colored bear, too. (The afternoon heat was a bit much for her, though; she said during the concert that she hoped to do an arena show next time she's in Hawaii.)

Jan-ken-po, art-to-show (May 17)

17a-berido janken 20140517

In another one of those events that I attended but have yet to write about in this space (*sob*), Patsy Iwasaki and Avery Berido, the Hawaii island-based writer-artist team behind Hamakua Hero: A True Plantation Story, came to Honolulu to talk about the book as part of the revival of the  Crossing Cultures: The Art of Manga in Hawaii exhibit at the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii. Well, okay, so it was Iwasaki doing most of the talking while Berido drew, but it's okay, we love them both.

Berido's drawing was given away at the end of the talk via a series of jankenpo matches among audience members. It came down to these two, and the guy on the left won this original piece. Sweet victory, I must say.

17b-berido janken 20140517

Smiles to go, to go! (May 31)

16-audra and fan 20140531

I said back in June that this was my favorite picture of the year to date, and now, looking back on a year's worth of pictures, it remains a favorite of mine. Taken back at the during the Crossing Cultures artist meet-and-greet, it just captures a certain joy between the boy and his newly purchased Blue plushie, and artist Audra Furuichi. Making a child smile with the fruits of what you do for a living is a heartwarming talent to possess, indeed.

Simply having a wonderful Mini Con time (Sept. 27)

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I've noticed that at pretty much every midsize and larger event with cosplayers that I've attended this year, two people inevitably show up: one guy who cosplays as Deadpool (and who we'll see later in this roundup, by the way) and Furry Red Friend, a cosplaying Elmo with his human handler. So when the Merc With a Mouth and Captain America Elmo showed up at Mini Con at McCully-Moiliili Library, with a nemu*nemu: Blue Hawaii postcard cutout just begging for a photo op? Hijinks ensued. Naturally.

Striking a pose (Oct. 11)

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Kawaii Kon's annual Anime Day event showed up at Windward Mall with a mini Artist Alley, several drawing stations and a variety of cosplay competitions. One of those contests was a "pose-off," where contestants had to come up with choreographed poses within a time limit. Here, two cosplayers prepare to do battle with Street Fighter poses! And then they rushed into battle! Who would reign supreme?!?

08b-WW anime day 20141011

... yeeeeeaaaah, okay, that didn't end well.

We made it happen (Nov. 22)

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The story of Taku Taku Matsuri 2014 was a story of perseverance on the part of organizer Yuka Nagaoka. A Kickstarter campaign succeeded after much 11th-hour nail-biting. Then Hurricanes Iselle and Julio's approach prompted her to postpone the event, a decision that drew some criticism when Iselle hit Hawaii island and fell apart and Julio veered away from the islands. Original guest of honor Kyle Hebert and a number of vendors also couldn't return for the rescheduled event, forcing her to find replacements. And a second crowdfunding campaign on GoFundMe was ... well ... sluggish.

Yet despite all of that, and with a rallying cry of "We will make it happen," the rescheduled Taku Taku Matsuri went out without any apparent hitches (although I must admit, I cringed while a full game of Quidditch took place outside the Manoa Grand Ballroom, praying the quaffle didn't bounce off into one of the glass showcases or over the fifth-floor wall into the courtyard below). Attendees, it seemed, had a good time throughout the event. And Yuka is already proceeding with planning for the 2015 event, so we'll see how that goes.

Cardboard carnage (Nov. 22)

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The concept of the cardboard mega-brawl: Combatants craft armor and shields from cardboard, then go one-on-one in a ring trying to knock strategically placed foam cups off each other using foam bats. But what do you do when your opponent is someone who showed up at Taku Taku Matsuri wearing full-on Danbo cosplay? Simple: Flail like a bat out of hell.

"Modern Love" meets modern mangaka (Dec. 3)

13-erica sakurazawa 20141203

We had a number of famous people in the anime and manga industries come to our fair rock in the middle of Pacific this year, among them Masako Nozawa, the voice of Goku in Dragon Ball Z; Hironobu Kageyama, who sang the Dragon Ball Z theme song "Cha-La Head-Cha-La"; Jim Cummings, the voice of Darkwing Duck and Tigger; and Cristina Vee, Mars/Rei Hino in the new Sailor Moon dub. Heck, Jamie Lynn Lano, former assistant to Takeshi Konomi on The Prince of Tennis, moved to Oahu to fulfill a lifelong dream of hers.

But the person who stands out in my mind at the moment is also the one who most recently visited Honolulu, the one whom (shameless plug) we interviewed and will be the subject of one of our first posts of 2015: josei mangaka Erica Sakurazawa, who wrote several books published by Tokyopop in the mid-2000s including The Aromatic Bitters, Angel and Between the Sheets and whose work Love Vibes is currently on display as part of the Honolulu Museum of Art's "Modern Love" exhibit. Sakurazawa is shown here talking to exhibit curator Stephen Salel during a talk she gave at the museum in early December. Quite a bit of ground was covered in that talk and our interview, and I hope I can get all that out to you, dear readers, sooner rather than later.

So that does it for 2014! On behalf of tag-team partner in fandom Wilma J. and the Anonymous Otaku Ohana Director of Forced Social Interaction, I wish you all the best for the new year. Here's hoping for many more good memories to come.

Aloha 'oe and RIP, Sharon Sakai

November 25th, 2014
By



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.