All posts by ElectricV01

Daniel is a writer, part time artist in training, avid game player, and pop culture analyst... nice guy too. He has been an anime fan since 1999 and currently resides in Los Angeles, California. You can follow him on twitter at http://twitter.com/electricv01.

Anime Expo 2013 – Interview: Yaya Han

In a follow up to our 2012 interview, we were lucky enough to talk to the amazing Yaya Han again this year at Anime Expo 2013!

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Wearing her strikingly beautiful Chun-Li costume, Yaya discussed with us not only some fun tidbits about her history with costuming, but also her thoughts on some of the recent cosplay controversies that have popped up over the past couple years, including harassment, appropriate boundaries, and respect for women.

So what are you waiting for?  You can check out our exclusive Anime Diet interview right here!

 

Wanna learn more about Yaya and her awesome costumes?  You can find out more here at her website, Twitter, Facebook, and DeviantArt page!

I got those post-convention blues…

If you are of the geek/otaku persuasion, July is a busy month here in Southern California.  The beginning of the month brings along Anime Expo, the biggest anime convention this side of the pacific, and it is quickly followed by the granddaddy of all cons, San Diego Comic Con.  Each event has their own individual perks and problems, the least of which are the logistics of actually attending.

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Let’s begin with Anime Expo.  As the biggest Anime Con in the US, it easily takes up nearly all the Los Angeles convention center.  From the sales floor, to the (cosplay-filled) lobby, to the jam-packed panels and events, to the gaming area, you would be hard-pressed not to find something to like about the convention.  Even people who’s only anime experience is watching an episode of Sailor Moon 15 years ago, can attend and enjoy a tutorial on origami, take pictures of outrageous costumes, or learn about new video games.  The main issues stem from actually trying to do those things.  If you don’t line up more than an hour before your My Little Pony: Origami is Magic panel, chances are you won’t get in.  And it doesn’t help that the panel is in a room that fits 200 people, while there are nearly 400 people in pony ears waiting in line.  That’s a lot of pissed off Bronies.

However, in a way, that’s a good thing for the growth  of the con.  When different fandoms can share the same space and all attending are able to find something to enjoy, it opens up new experiences and cultures to learn about.  If the big cheeses then say, “Hey, we put the Skullgirls panel in this teeny tiny theater that holds 150, but the turnout was 500… next year we need to put them in one of the bigger spaces,” then that is a win of sorts.  Maybe it will also help them think and examine what the current hot commodity is before room assignments are dished out.  Research, then assign, people.  Also, letting their staffers know when to cut off a line could help too.  It’s a thankless job for those poor red vest workers, having angry fans in blue hair giving them the stink eye, but you would feel the same way after waiting in line 30 minutes, just to find out you can’t get into the panel.

For San Diego, it truly gives you a unique experience like no other, where you can bump elbows with your favorite movie star, get a sketch from your favorite artist, or even catch a sneak peek of the next big thing before it becomes the current big thing.  That is, of course, if you can get in the front door.  Due to its astounding popularity, which grows exponentially each year, it gets more difficult just to enter the hallowed halls of geek Mecca.  Registration for your badge has become such a chore in itself, soon the show runners will need to resort to a Hunger Games style lottery system to determine who can attend. Picture a dystopian future where every fandom must send two representatives into a death battle royale, and the winner’s group will have first privilege to buy badges to that year’s Comic Con.  Just imagine Trekkies versus Bronies, Marvel Zombies versus Johnny DCs, and Anime Otaku versus Twihards all duking it out for the right to stand in a line, to stand in another line, to wait 5 hours for a free t-shirt and then shake Seth Green’s hand.

Once you are inside, you can stare in awe at the elaborate setup of the convention floor.  Many companies spare no expense just so that they can have the biggest and best booth that is able to be seen anywhere from Hall A to Hall H.  Each is planned down to the smallest detail, so to be 100% accurate to whatever pop culture phenomenon they happen to be peddling. Of course, you can’t help but notice all these details and gaze at the decorative arrangements, since you won’t be able to move.  People pack into the San Diego so tightly, it might just be some titan’s plot to create the perfect can of human sardines.  If you wanted to eliminate 90% of the nerd population on earth, this would be good place to start.

Despite all this, once both conventions are over and done with, the realization sets in that you are going to have to wait another year for July to pop back around.  You begin to forget all the bad things and focus on the good stuff.  You think about that great limited edition toy you have been searching for, the one you just happened to find at a corner booth at the end of the show floor, and for a reasonable price.  Or that time you shared an elevator with Neil Gaiman, but you were too terrified to talk to him and tell him what an inspiration he has been to you.  And when you asked  the art director for Stand Alone Complex to sketch a picture of Major Kusanagi for you, and he wrote Happy Birthday over the top just because you mentioned it was your birthday.  These are all experiences that could only happen at a convention, and once it’s over you suddenly feel like something is missing from your life.  Something you had for the briefest of moments, but you didn’t appreciate it at the time, then it was gone.  So you sit and you wait for the next year roll around, wondering who you will meet or what rare trinket you will find.  This waiting, my friends, is what we call the post-convention blues.  And I got it bad right now.

Anime Expo 2013 – Cosplay Round-Up

One of the best parts of going to any anime convention is seeing all the great cosplay, and this year’s Anime Expo was no different.  I can only imagine all the hours of hard work and dedication that went into making many of these amazing costumes.

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One thing of note, it seemed that there was much more non-anime inspired cosplay this year.  Disney, Portal, and American Comic Book inspired costumes were aplenty, more so than I can recall seeing in previous years.

That said, here are just a few of the characters that were on parade this past weekend.

 

Also, for your viewing enjoyment: An Eva trying to fit through a door.

Sony Entertainment rocks E3, declared the winner by the Internet

Editorial

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After Microsoft’s spectacular blunder of a press conference last month, people were already saying that the PlayStation 4 was going to blow away the Xbox One.  And even after Microsoft tried to claw its way back from the hole they dug themselves into, with a decent showing of new games earlier today, Sony took full advantage of their competition’s previous stumble and blasted even further ahead, leaving Microsoft to eat their dust… Gran Turismo style.

And all with just three simple announcements.

1)      PlayStation 4 will play used games with no restrictions.

2)      PlayStation 4 does not have to be online.  Ever.

3)      PlayStation 4 will be $399.99.

It was the first two of these announcements where Microsoft epically opened their mouth and inserted their foot last month.  At today’s conference, they tiptoed around these issues and (smartly) focused on games to try not to raise the ire of the blogosphere.  Sony, on the other hand, while not giving a perfect conference, unveiled the PS4 and ended it with a three punch TKO sending Xbox One to the mat.

The conference started slow, with CEO Jack Tretton pushing the PSVita and PS3. While I appreciate that the PS3 is not being flatlined right away, I found it odd there was no announced price cut for the Vita.  Sony’s handheld is really suffering in sales at the moment, and a price cut would be a push in the right direction.  Also, for a system that has no killer app, the new games announced for it just didn’t excite me, or anyone else in the audience from what I could tell.  Instead, we are told how great Skype looks on Vita.  I don’t want to buy a handheld game system to use Skype.  My phone, laptop, PC, and toaster oven all have Skype on it.  I want killer games. I loved my PSP. I want to love Vita too. Give me a reason to love it, Sony.

After Vita, we were treated to a few fun announcements for PS3.  Puppeteer looks great.  Rain’s design has me intrigued.  And Gran Turismo 6? It’s for PS3, not PS4? Ok. Looks pretty, I suppose.

On to the meat and potatoes of the conference, where we finally got to meet the new Sony Parallelogram… er PS4.  First impressions (other than the parallelogram gag) were it looks kind of like the Xbox One.  It’s a black box.  Maybe the designers of both systems went to the same screening of 2001: A Space Odyssey before they went to the drawing board?  Also did you know the PS4 will play movies, does networking apps, and will do other movie things and blah, blah, blah, blah… SHOW ME GAMES!

Then the clouds parted and a beam of light shined through.  Someone was listening to me.  First out of the gate was what appeared to be a Steampunk infused Zombie/Monster game called The Order 1886.  Just the trailer was shown, not gameplay, but I definitely got a “Left 4 Dead in a Steampunk Victorian Era” vibe from it.  Also, airships.  Airships are cool.  The Order 1886 is part of a reported 20 new Sony IPs to be released within the first year of the PS4’s lifespan.  Some others include Killzone, Driveclub, Infamous, and Knack.

Moving on to the independent scene, Sony smartly announced that indie developers will be able to self-publish their games on PSN. They then proceeded to knock it out of the park showcasing a ton of these smaller titles, each with its own individual quirks and eye catching gimmicks. I will definitely be keeping my eyes on these, in particular Transistor and Mercenary Kings.

Now for third parties, where better to start off than with the current kings of disappointment, Square-Enix.  Director Tetsuya Nomura appears on screen to talk about Final Fantasy Versus 13, yet again.  How many years has it been since they announced this?  I mean seriously, Square.  Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.  Fool me three times… wow, that game looks amazing.  Is that actual game play footage?  Holy shit, is that Leviathan!?  No, no, no, there is no way it’s going to be this good.  It’s too good to be true.  Wait, what?! It’s not Final Fantasy Versus 13 anymore?  It’s Final Fantasy 15?!

Ahem.  Sorry about that.  Slight geek-out.  I promise it won’t happen again– Holy shit, Kingdom Hearts 3?!

And that’s when I blacked out for a few minutes.  I have been a die-hard Final Fantasy fan since I began gaming as a wee little Daniel, but it’s no secret Square’s recent endeavors have left me cold.  These trailers awakened my sleeping inner Square fan and made me feel all tingly and strange, as I’m sure it did to many of my fellow disenchanted FF franchise lovers.

After this, things were kind of a euphoric blur.  There was something about Assassin’s Creed, Watch Dog, and Mad Max I think.   All very exciting, especially Watch Dog.  Then Jack Tretton returned to the stage with his “Eat it, Microsoft” speech.  PS4 will have no DRM and fully supports used and rent/lent games.  The PS4 does not have to be online at all in order to work properly.  There was one minor hiccup, where it was implied that you would have to subscribe to PlayStation Plus to play multi-player games online, but I think we can forgive that.  Besides, Microsoft has done that from day one on the Xbox360, but still, it’s a small step backwards for Sony.

The speech was followed by a long-ish demo detour through Bungie’s new game, Destiny, and then they announced the PS4 price. $399.99. And internet exploded. It was the final KO punch of E3, with Sony knocking Microsoft (who had earlier announced an Xbox One price of $499.99) down for the count.

And that was it.  The execs dropped the mic and left the stage.  Sony was declared the winner of E3 by… pretty much everyone.

But wait… hey guys come back. You didn’t say when the system was coming out?  Later this year, but when exactly?  Guys?  Hey guys?

Oh well, I’m sure we will find that out soon enough.

So, fellow otaku and gamers, what do you think?  Decisive win for Sony?  Or is it still up in the air?  Let us know.  Anime Diet wants to hear your impressions so far.

 

Daniel is also very excited about the announced sequel to Mirror’s Edge, but since it wasn’t part of the Sony Press conference there was nowhere to mention it.

Anime Expo 2012: Yaya Han Interview

We talked to professional costume designer and cosplayer Yaya Han at the Exhibit Hall of Anime Expo 2012! Dressed as Psylocke for the day, she was generous enough to speak to us for a few minutes about her early career, her favorite costumes, why she likes cat girls so much, and what the differences are between cosplaying at an anime vs a comic convention.

You can find out more about Yaya at her website, Twitter, Facebook, and DeviantArt page. Give her some love!

The Fujiko Telegrams: Lupin III Fujiko Mine 8

Continuing ElectricV01 & Wintermuted’s discussions regarding the new Lupin III television series event (Lupin III: Fujiko Mine), The Fujiko Telegrams is an in-the-moment blog/chatfest that’ll hopefully grant new and fun perspectives on the splashy return of one of anime/manga’s most enduring creations. Reaching the second half, it looks like things are ready to be brought to a full boil. How did it fare this time?

Wintermuted: Hoo boy. Where to start with this one? What begins as a suspiciously Fujiko-free episode becomes a crucial one, when Lupin enlists the help of Jigen to track down a fortune teller who has a knack of accurately calling the death days of many of the master thief’s previous hits. And now with the source of his power in Fujiko’s hands, and the cops closer to the trio than ever, things gel into an intriguing mix of character shadowplay, unexpected alliances, and one really cool finale. I truly love when mythologies like this straddle the absurdity of the source material, and add a big dose of plot suspension to make it work. As much as I would rather have far more Fujiko in this series, this is a fairly well constructed alternative at the midpoint.

ElectricV01: And it seems we are getting to the main, overarching plot of this series. Obviously, we have the introduction of the “big bad” as he has made his first (blatant) move on Fujiko and Lupin. I liked how we also started getting more inklings of how this group is finally gonna come together later in the series, most likely united against this common foe.

That said though, I’m still not enjoying this series as much as I should be. The inconsistency is bugging me. Also, I’m still not sold that a Lupin series needs to have this much darkness and death. Lots of dead cops in this episode, all done by some of our favorite characters.

In a plot not too far off from the crazier Lupin works (ala Mamo—think about it. A lot of that film is certifiably insane, not to mention morbid), this one is still very much in line with the era in which it was made, which leaves me feeling like this is precisely where the crew wants to be. With “fortune teller” Shitoto, we have a lucky loser who has rubbed elbows with some truly dangerous people. And now with his one claim to fame in the hands of our title character, the myth of knowing when one is to die comes into question. (Again, a conceit that is deeply entrenched in manga of the seventies—death is never far in this era, as Go Nagai continued to break taboos, and Takao Saito made death practically a character in his works.) One of the most inviting elements in this episode for me, was the sheer intimacy of location, and the same said about how closely this binds our leads. Leave it up so something this sinister to keep them from busting out of Dodge, and making a break for it.

Well, it sure looked like Shitoto stole Mamo’s wig and glued it to his own head. It’s interesting that the character designers for this show seem to be lifting quite a few older designs or pieces of designs for new characters. I’ve noticed this a few times throughout the series so far, not just with Shitoto/Mamo. Another example was the set designer/phantom character for episode four, who look exactly like the villain in episode 5 (Gold Smuggling 101 if you have the English DVDs) of the red jacket series. Yes, I’m that much of a Lupin otaku that I noticed that…

I’ll have to take your word for it on the whole death thing though. You are much more knowledgeable in such things than I am. I’m not not sure I felt this episode was as claustrophobic as you imply though. It seemed all over the place to me. Sometimes we are with Jigen, then Lupin, then Oscar, then Lupin and Jigen, then Fujiko…and so on.

I guess what I mean by intimacy is that for the first time in the series, all the events affect the main characters in a far more direct fashion. Keeping it all within city limits was also interesting. By keeping all the action within cars & buildings, there was a bit of a fresh action film feeling that had been largely absent throughout the whole series. It was really nice to see how the story made sure there was little way out for anyone, especially with Oscar and cops so blazing hot on their trail.

And yes, those visual callbacks were a lot of fun. And yeah, the tone here has largely been that of more recent dramatic television. It has largely been about taking a period piece and giving it the teeth that earlier works simply were not capable of. And in the case of “Dying Day,” it’s largely about living up to the danger of such possessions. So when we have the old switcheroo at the finale, what follows is a very eye-opening reveal of what has been haunting the edges of the series thus far. Showing one’s teeth for sure!

I was wondering if this series was going to have an over-arching plot, as that is atypical of previous Lupin series. Also the visuals of the villain and how it ties to the opening credits is an interesting touch.

I think I have figured out (finally) why I am having a hard time with this show. I don’t like Fujiko in this. They seem to be all over the place with her and I can’t grasp onto to something to like about her. I’ve not had that problem before, I’ve always dug her, even when I didn’t agree with what the writers did with her. And especially because she is the “main” character this time around, there should be something likeable about her… right?

Oh, and we finally get Lupin’s reaction to Fujiko and Zenigata having sex, even though he found that out two episodes ago… Inconsistency strikes again.

I guess I can see some of these issues, but a part of me is enjoying what this seems most aimed at being – which is a nasty melange/tribute to anime of its era, and elder fans. The intent to psycholanalyze Fujiko may seem out of character to what has come before, but that’s exactly why it is interesting to me. It’s much less meant to be a solid narrative, and much more a treasure trove of nods and ideas. More a knowing pastiche, and not any attempt at being an olive branch of a series. It expects us to be familiar, and to be open to dramatic shifts. Very much a closed-circle series with a little there for those looking for a little edge with their throwback.

Meh, they can try and tribute and analyze and wink and nod all they want, but without a good grasp of story and character it falls flat. Also to me “different” does not equal “interesting.” Change is fine, but change should feel organic, it should have a reason. Change for the sake of change or shaking things up is one of my biggest pet peeves. Jarring me with, for example, a drastic unexplained change to Zenigata, doesn’t make me want to watch more because it is different. Rather, it has the opposite effect. If you had told me a year ago that there would be a new Lupin anime that looked this good but I would be so indifferent to it that it would take a me week to make time to watch a new episode rather than being glued to my computer the moment it was released, I would have called you a damn liar.

I guess for me, I find that such a storied and celebrated franchise deserves a bold new angle. It’s definitely not interested in being safe. And while not a narrative juggernaut, it is very much in line with anime of decades past which were often packed with inconsistencies and a hellbent spirit. In the 1970s, anime was so much more about the emotional essence than anything remotely sensible, which is a large part of its attraction to me. It was often like an anarchic punk show, where it was anyone’s guess as to where we could wind up next. We were at the mercy of artists, which was exciting. So crossing this with a hint of contemporary self-dissection is inviting for me.

As an episode, I found myself more involved than I had been previously, so perhaps that speaks to the jaded part of me that enjoys a cracked, wired kaleidoscope vision of a classic. Seriously, I’d love some art from this wild child on my wall. Definitely curious as to how it plays to other old school fans.

The Fujiko Telegrams: Lupin III Fujiko Mine 7

Continuing ElectricV01 & Wintermuted’s discussions regarding the new Lupin III television series event (Lupin III: Fujiko Mine), The Fujiko Telegrams is an in-the-moment blog/chatfest that’ll hopefully grant new and fun perspectives on the splashy return of one of anime/manga’s most enduring creations.

Wintermuted: No sooner do we follow one of the more symbolically ambitious episodes of this series, with one of the more narratively ambitious ones. Taking a wild page from the history books, Fujiko and Goemon are contacted to zero in on, and eventually assassinate, a celebrated Castro-esque leader after his island country’s liberation which has ruffled the feathers of many surrounding nations. We are flung back and forth between time periods before and after the dicey mission, offering us some interesting historical context for the series. And to top it off, the show’s thesis regarding Fujiko, and her motivations continues into some unexpected territory. Just curious as to your impressions this time..

ElectricV01: I enjoyed this episode a bit more than the previous one. I liked the alternate history take on the Cuban Missile Crisis, and it’s always a welcome addition when Goemon is around. Are Fujiko and Goemon out to start World War III or prevent it? Common sense tells you of course they are gonna save the day and probably miss out on their payday, but it was still a fun romp. Though honestly, what was with the weird names for the countries involved? Why couldn’t it just be America and the Soviet Union? Much oddness.

I immediately found the nation name-warping to be quite charming. Much like the way anime began avoiding product placement as money dwindled in the 1990s, it made more sense to turn this into something of a parody planet. And that’s just a smidge of what I dug about this episode, even if the more silly action we come to expect didn’t come into play until late in the game. In fact, a part of me really liked the constant darting back and forth between times before and closer to action day. It offered up a refreshingly believable story pace and sense of place.

Also worth making noise about was the score, specifically the Latin sounds of the mid-1960s, as well as the cultured mind of the would-be revolutionary Philadel, who is also quite charming and is actually capable of perhaps even inspiring Fujiko to act a little out of her usual bounds.

Faux News would say that obviously the director, writers, and animators are all communists for portraying an obvious Castro analog in such a positive light. Lucky for us, I’m fairly certain they aren’t even aware anime exists.

The name thing was weird to me, but I can see your point. I also liked the pacing in this episode. Great tension with the back and forth between the two countries’ war rooms, the fighter jets itching to shoot down the plane with Fujiko and Philadel inside, and the doomsday clock that almost felt like a character in its own right. And you are right, again we see a different side of Fujiko. It just serves as a reminder of how many different roles she really plays throughout the history of the Lupin franchise: lover, thief, antagonist, betrayer, babysitter… I’m not sure you can really pin one moniker on her. Maybe Femme Fatale, and she was the original in the world of anime and manga.

It was just exciting to see her almost flirt with something resembling noble this time. And like you say, it’s fascinating to see Yamamoto and company examine her many faces. I liked the brave approach toward Philadel as this almost suave, rockstar entity with a soul. It offered such a respite from the, dare I say it, selfish, obvious lot she tends to hang around. The little moments before and during the whole affair with the ousted government cronies offered an amount of gravitas that has been lacking throughout much of the series thus far.

But what of Goemon’s role here? Still not completely sure how he fit here.

The problem with Goemon traditionally is he is always used as a deus ex machina, which to be fair, comes with the territory of having a highly trained samurai with a sword that can cut through anything on your team. He’s there for when you get into a tough spot.

But the problem is that this gets boring. He usually doesn’t have anything to do until something needs to be cut. And while this episode sort of falls into that trap, the previous episode (#3) with Goemon wasn’t like that at all…which I think is one of the reasons I liked it so much. I like that Goemon in this series doesn’t know where he belongs yet. He knows he has this awesome sword and he has trained to use it to the pinnacle of his ability, but he is conflicted. He doesn’t know where he fits into the scheme of the world, or what to do with the power he has been given. In episode 3, he tries to be an assassin. That didn’t work and we know he knows that didn’t work from this episode as he doesn’t think killing is his forté. Hopefully when he finally finds his place in this reimagined Lupin world, it won’t be as Mr. Deus Ex Machina.

It’s just funny, imagining him as Fujiko’s “boyfriend”. They never figure out a way to make him work here, which I guess is counterbalanced by everything else. Now if only the episode had enough time to breathe, and drink in the tension as to whether Fujiko and Goemon could actually go through with the plan. As it works out, it feels slight, where one could easily see this being a much larger quandary.

But for what it presented in terms of time period, politics, and ultimately place, this had enough promise to get a pass from me. Now here’s hoping they take a cue from this, and add on more of this mature spin on the JFK era into the proceedings. I’d be excited for an irreverent Mad Men-esque bent to the world. The possibilities!

The style certainly fits. I just want an episode with the entire gang together working as a team. I don’t think I’m going to get that until (best guess) episode 13 though…