Chihayafuru 2 Episode 7: They all exchange hellos and goodbyes at the famous gates of Afusaka

I like to thank Monsieur LaMoe for filling in last week while I was away at Katsucon.

Chihaya
Parents can be the worst influence for their children. We spend the overwhelming majority of our adolescence living out our parent’s expectations. We were forced into thoughts, beliefs and values that do not always coincide with our own. At some point, thankfully, we learn to think for ourselves but we’ve already assimilated some of the aspects of our parent’s lives. Unlearning is an arduous task.

And that’s a good scenario. We’ve all heard of stories of parents disowning their kid due to his/her/their sexual preferences. Then there are those who disguise their gender identity. The incredulous fact is that parents perform such acts out of love for us.

Really?

Ayase-san is buying a hakama for her daughter. She seems like the textbook loving mother. And I truly believe she is. However, we are given a fleeting glance into her motivation when she imagines a mob of photographers snapping photos of her daughter at a match. I don’t want to go into much detail but the scene reminded me of my childhood and my relationship with my parents.

My prediction of recruitment playing a role in plot development may hold some water after all. Chihaya’s response to the issue reminds me of myself. It’s yet one more reason why I should pen another love letter to her. Unfortunately, the courage it takes for me to dip into the beating vessel within my chest for ink would prove completely futile. Chihaya doesn’t wonder what I do when I awake up. In her heart, Arata fills every corner.

It hurts.

But I have devised a solution. Since no one cosplayed Chihayafuru during Katsucon, I will personally bring justice to this world and cosplay it myself at Otakon. I shall become Arata and gain the love of Chihaya!

Arata

Love is cruel. Is there a sentence in the English language that holds more meaning? More pain? I should enlighten you on what happens in your absence. Nothing holds significance. I will always share with you, a few good memories because I am love blind. And I’ll wonder what you’re doing but i won’t call. There’s a monkey if I need company. Love is the feeling that I need Chihaya.

Ahem.

I am ok.

Maybe.

Katsucon 2013: World Cosplay Summit

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It’s rather fitting that my first time using a DSLR camera coincided with the World Cosplay Summit US Preliminary at Katsucon 19. This round determines the Eastern Qualifier that will fly to Anime Matsuri in Houston to compete in the WCS US Finals of which the winner will represent US on the world stage in Japan.

If that’s not intimidating enough, the lengthy rules and application process read like a formula. It certainly weeds out the amateurs which include me so I had no idea what to expect walking into the Main Hall. I did drop by the craftsmanship judging the day before but it was apparently closed to the public. In hindsight, I somewhat wish I had exercised my press privileges to observe the proceedings but it’s always better to err on the side of caution and not intrude.

Please forgive me for taking three paragraphs to introduce the host, Yaya Han, not that she needs any. She was lovely and engaging as Mistress of Ceremonies. Of course, her cosplay, like all her other ones over the weekend, begs for photos in its sublime magnificence.

TheYaya Summit proceeded at an efficient pace. Length between setups provided just enough time to make and send a tweet. Prefaced with a bio from each team, some of which were rather humorous, the MC would announce the body of work the performance is taken from. While I was unfamiliar with most of the sources, the skits remain entertaining for the most part.

Photos can speak to the craftsmanship of each costume so I won’t dwell on that. More notable are some of the props which rival or exceed the intricacies of cosplay. Every performance unfolded to music with well rehearsed timing. The timing of the curtain drop to dramatically reveal Saber in an reenactment of the summoning elicited a chorus of approval.

saberAt some point, I felt that the act of appearing from behind a prop became overused. That said, it’s fairly natural that distinct teams arrived at the same method given the alternatives. Unlike the Masquerade, points are awarded for faithfulness to the source so that places limits on the skit.

I have always wondered about the degree of creativity presented via art or mathematics. Art, without inherent rules, offers no boundaries for one to create. Mathematical laws force certain realities that one cannot escape. Is something more creative due to the restraints placed upon it? In other words, does it take more creativity to give birth out of nothing or to do so under strict structure.

Take a painting or a building for instance. Which is more creative? A van Gogh that blossomed from a blank canvas or Fallingwater that materialized within the confines of physics? In a related tangent, would the skit be easier if less or more time were allotted? All the teams deserve solid recognition for the hard work poured into the creativity demonstrated lavishly here.

Only one brief moment soured my experience. While a time limit is placed upon the staging of props, one of the teams gestured agitatedly with an impatient expression to a stage hand that made me frown. Perhaps there was miscommunication but it would have been more presentable to address the issue off stage.

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At the conclusion of performances, the judges retired backstage for deliberations. They took considerable time so all of the teams must have made great impressions. Meanwhile, WCS US performances in Japan from previous years were broadcasted on both screens to entertain the audience.

All the teams shared hugs after the announcement of the winners. And without further ado, the results are below.

1st Place: Karmaluna
2nd Place: Fox Gloves
3rd Place: Kiwi Teacup Studios
Organizer/Best Résumé Award: Fox Gloves

winner

The teams are:

1. Karmaluna (chrono cross): lunadyoflight and karmada
2. Fox Gloves (fate/zero): Ali and Ashe
3. Kiwi Teacup Studios (RG Veda): Envel and Dustbunny
4. Lady Ava and Oshi (Castlevania)
5. Scarlet Mafia (Fushigi Yuugi: Genbu Kaiden): Erisaka Blu and Vicious Cosplay
6. Last Minute Cosplay (Tsubasa Resevoir Chronicle): Tohma and Shey
7. Saturday Cerebus (Monster Hunter): Ian of Saturday Morning Cosplay and Sharbuncle of Cerebus Productions
8. Make it Work Cosplay (Tales of Grace): Evenstar1 and Utai Mitsumo
9. Cosplay Awkward (Are You Alice): JavaChai and Smashley

Katsucon 2013: A Tale of A Gazebo

Katsucon

To quote a line from Air, it’s not enough to make memories; make happy ones. My first Katsucon and visit to the Gaylord left me with more happy memories than the entire loot of the Merchant Hall. Before the good and bad, let’s start with the ugly. I am referring to the double booking of the convention center made by the Gaylord to both BBYO and Katsucon on the same weekend.

It was not ugly.

Katsucon first announced a possible conflict Thursday night on Twitter. Apparently, BBYO had reserved the Cherry Blossom Foyer which includes the coveted gazebo for photoshoots.

Going into the wee hours of Friday morning, another tweet foreshadowed a gloomy sunrise.

Then on the morning of opening day, it became official.

I personally did not think or feel this caused a detriment to my experience. In fact, I wasn’t even aware of the situation until sometime Friday night as I scrolled back through my Twitter feeds while resting my feet. The weather Friday bestowed a late Valentine’s kiss to Katsucon with sunny and relatively warm temperatures that provided limitless photo opportunity outside. Of course, those who had planned photoshoots at the gazebo Friday may feel otherwise but that’s a small percentage of the attendees.

I keep saying Friday because Katsucon got the gazebo back. When reached for an official statement, Katsucon stated:

While we had some unexpected overlap in common use areas on Friday that led to some tensions, by Saturday we had been able to work out an amicable solution. Katsucon appreciates the help the Gaylord was able to give us in order to ensure that both events were able to run alongside one another smoothly.

In other words, the foyer that makes up the walkway was divided in half. BBYO retained the side giving them entry to the Cherry Blossom Hall and Katsucon received the side where the gazebo sits. Taking photos there later in the weekend, I realized why it’s such a coveted spot.

gazebo
gazebo

 

It’s an universal fact that elevators are the most scarce commodity in a convention. This led to my only dismay at the double booking. Because I was lucky to have a room on the fourth floor, the stairs offered a viable option. However, on two occasions, hotel, BBYO and/or Katsucon staff prevented me from entering a BBYO reserved space in order to take the stairs even though the doors leading to it are mere yards away.

It proved extremely frustrating. With those two exceptions, the other BBYO or hotel staff, after stopping me briefly, allowed me to enter said reserved space and take the dozen steps or so. It did amuse me that they watched to make sure it was the stairs I was taking.

Riding an elevator late Saturday night with another attendee, I concluded that the segregation was unfortunate and wasted a good opportunity. The gentleman lamented the space restrictions BBYO placed on us and I reminded him that the reverse is also true. Why does it matter if one group enters another’s reserved space as long as it’s public? Staff is positioned outside each room so there’s no issue of people “sneaking” into events they did not pay for. Does it matter who photobombs? Does it matter who one has to fight through congested traffic bottlenecks?

Upon exiting the stairs on a particular occasion, I landed into a huge mob of BBYO attendees who were waiting outside an event. Embarrassed at my intrusion, I rapidly made my way out when a lovely lady complimented on my cosplay as I hurried past. I could only reply with a quick thanks. I believe Katsucon members would all appreciate the gesture and BBYO attendees would have welcomed the chance to do so.

My colleague Shizuka had a different experience however. She will elaborate in a future post.

Katsucon
Best Ciel ever!

It’s easy to see why Katsucon is the premier choice for cosplay. Even at night, I was drawn to the atrium and fountain flaunting their beauty with splendid lighting and seductive music. The void I always feel at Otakon as night falls dissipated through the glass enclosure and into the sky as I strolled through, surrounded by the sound of laughter and memories in the making. I do wish Katsucon would consider moving the dates to a warmer season to take full advantage of the breathtaking views outdoors.

I think Katsucon deserves a deep bow for having non stop programming from Friday to Sunday. The staff necessary to accomplish such a feat demonstrates immense passion and dedication to maximize attendees’ entertainment. Speaking of which, the staff in Live Programming that I spoke with Sunday afternoon were promptly helpful.

In short, Katsucon 2013 was the best of times, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the spring of hope, and I had everything before me. It’s an auspicious start to my con season.

AMNESIA, cover your eyes with shades!

amnesia

AMNESIA is a terrible anime, it’s based on the game created by Otomate, renowned for the success of Hakuouki. Reading the simuli-comments written by female otakus, their expressions aren’t direct. Why don’t they say, “I want to fuck him!” instead of “I want to be hugged!“? Even in 2D, girls are always running away from taking sexual responsibility, which makes them nothing but hypocrite. Continue reading AMNESIA, cover your eyes with shades!

Chihayafuru 2 Episode 6: Arata makes Chihaya cry!!!

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Carnival, Mardi Gras, Ash Wednesday is over, and Lent have started. And following the distasteful Vaneltine’s Day, but wow, this is also an awesome episode of Chihayafuru 2. Hokuou high school and Mizusawa high school match, the final of the Tokyo high school tournament, blew away all the hard feelings towards Valentine in this particular period of this year! Continue reading Chihayafuru 2 Episode 6: Arata makes Chihaya cry!!!

Round the Sphere

MikeToole_restrain
Amusing Valentine found. Credits to Mike Toole.

Happy Single Awareness  Overpriced Commercial Holiday!

Be aware that this week, I was pretty link happy, alongside Paper’s link contribution. I wish him, who is heading off to Katsukon with Shizuka, a great time. ^_^

A recent response to punishment vs. disciple. Is this bullying?

I believe that I may have seen an example of this in New York City, but how about in Japan?

Just a quick  Madoka Flash Movie.

Do you believe that long anime series are worth watching?

A Danny Choo survey on Top 20 Reasons to be born in Japan.

Did I share this long and winding post about Sailor Moon?

Telling Asian apart…. or is that racist?

To give or not give up faxing technology?

Video: “Kokoro no Senritsu” (Tari Tari ED 6), by Momotama—feat. gendomike


Source

Every once in a while, I team up with the musical duo Momotama to play an anisong or two live. Here’s Momotama singing the wonderful insert/ED from Tari Tari, “Kokoro no Senritsu (Melody of the Heart),” featuring yours truly on piano, at Anime LA 2013. Sorry this video is so late in coming. I’ve also included a downloadable audio file for your listening pleasure too. Enjoy! (NOTE: you may need to turn off your adblocker on this page to see the video.)

And if my less-than-perfect playing doesn’t quite satisfy, here is a gif to make you happy.

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Chihayafuru 2 Episode 5: Be As Dear Now, Those Were the Good Old Days

Chihaya

No Arata this week but Chihaya is just as good. Actually, she’s still the best. Partly because she strives to be the best of the best. Whereas the rest of the Mizusawa team were put off by her declaration to be ichiban, she demonstrates the necessary ambition of a champion.

I was just lamenting last week that I ran out of space but Chihayafuru delivers in building upon the theme from the previous episode thereby allowing me to continue my discourse. In fact, I will refer back to something Tsubouchi-san said, “Karuta isn’t fun. It’s the act of trying your hardest that is fun.” This statement captures the entire essence in the drive to become the best.

Chihaya shocked everyone when it became obvious that she is imitating the dominating weapons of the Queen and Master. It’s unthinkable but so was Federer excelling on all court surfaces on his way to winning seventeen Grand Slams. The astounding discipline to win again and again only to get back to work after each celebration certainly differentiates the best.

However, it was Retro-kun who stole the episode here with his laudable polemic on what it means to be number one. Defying his President’s orders, he matched the players by ability instead of taking advantage of the discrepancy to cinch three wins for first place.

Retro

This is in stark contrast to the false champions of our day such as Lance Armstrong. While I don’t consider Hokuo’s strategy as cheating, Retro-kun embodies the sportsmanship of a pure champion. Once again, this gesture is largely unseen today as displayed by Belichick’s actions. The head coach of the winningest football team in recent history have been known to walk off the field before clock expires, to make physical contact with game officials and to refuse post game interview this past season.

I remember my brother and friends hiding written formulas on their forearms with shirt sleeves for exams. I refrained. They all received better grades. In a milieu full of cheating, the price of honesty becomes ever steeper. It’s almost to the point where one has to cheat in order to remain competitive. It’s almost the reality that success is accompanied by a footnote.

Then there’s Chihayafuru and this.

Chihayafuru 2 Episode 4: To Tell the People in the Capitals That I Make for the Islands

Chihaya

I got really excited when the episode opened with Arata, completely forgetting that we’re in the midst of the high school tournament so basically just another big tease. That said, Taichi carried the episode brilliantly and this may be my favorite yet.

If it wasn’t abundantly clear previously, the fifteen minutes of the semi finals match here prove that karuta is as much a sport as any other. The sport involves scouting of opponents and developing strategies. Players have to be both physically and mentally strong. I am surprised the writers haven’t taken advantage of Porky’s tennis background as a plot device in this fashion.

All of which leads me to declare karuta as my favorite sport to play and spectate. I used to play team chess competitively so every nuance depicted via Taichi here brought back many memories. I wasn’t captain of the team so I can’t speak much from said angle but I did notice my captain observe each team member’s game during matches. The pressure Taichi faces demonstrates why my captain was very vocal about stepping down whenever any member expresses an interest in running the team. It’s a lot of work!

The most intense and palpable point of the episode revolves around psychology. For all intents and purposes, I was a dilettante because I only bought a handful of books and read only half of them at best. I also never owned a clock. Yet I knew even if I spent hours or years studying, I would never remotely reach the 2200+ USCF of my friend who won enough trophies by age eighteen to cover the entire living room wall of his parent’s house from floor to ceiling.

It was very despairing.

My friend had an innate talent playing chess that no amount of practice could match in the same way that I will never win a single point against Federer even if I work at it my entire life and then some. (Maybe if he’s only allowed chopstick against my racket. Maybe.)

Taichi experiences the same anguishes as the match slowly slips away from him. Fortunately, he had one thing that I lacked. Harada sensei offered him an invaluable tip before the match which blossomed beautifully when he asked for a towel.

towels

I like to take a moment to put it on record that that scene is Chihayafuru‘s version of having panties thrown by women at a male rock star (read: MLM in twenty years). Also, the cinematography of Chihaya offering a towel with those wide, splendid eyes and outstretched hand… where was I?

It’s cliche but the power of teamwork makes it so. And a huge component of that is trust in your team mates. The shouting and encouragements make another reason why karuta lends itself better for spectators.

I am running out of space so I won’t touch upon underhanded tactics but while luck is certainly a factor in sports or anything else in life, for some of us, as Macross Plus explains, it’s a skill.