All posts by Shizuka

Photographer, cosplayer, and secret Japanese culture fanatic. Shizuka does too many things. Follow her on Twitter at @Sh1zuka
Maid Cafe

Katsucon 2014: Cherry Tea Maid Cafe

Maid Cafe

Bamboo is really, really intelligent. There’s a thoughtful demeanor about him that conjures some mystery. He spent practically the entire time listening to my colleague Mori, rarely speaking unless a question was posed towards him. He was perfunctory.

That’s not to say he was a bad butler. In fact, just the opposite. He immediately sensed Mori’s gregarious nature and proceeded accordingly, serving the role of an engaged audience making succinct comments when suitable.

All proceeds from the Katsucon Cherry Tea Maid Cafe go to Relay For Life and the American Cancer Society. Even if it did not, I was perplexed by Mori’s reluctance to pay $1 per game. The maid cafe is the place where one visits to indulge. It’s silly to have money as an objection.

I played four games of Connect Four with Bamboo thanks to the generous funding from Mori.* Bamboo showed no pretense of letting me win. He won twice and we stalemated once. That was the highlight for me. The one raffle ticket from my sole win was just an added bonus.

Maid Cafe

The food proved better in appearance than taste but that’s never the focus at the maid cafe. The exorbitant prices mean the charity of choice benefit handsomely.

Katsucon changed venue from the bar restaurant upstairs to the Pienza located in the atrium of the Gaylord. The notable change in lighting may hold the most impact. Warmer and darker, it provided a more intimate ambience compared to the upbeat brightness of last year.

Unfortunately, the space seems to have shrunk. Located in the rear section of Pienza, it comprises roughly a quarter of all available tables. No doubt the parent establishment wanted to ensure it will not have to turn away regular customers. The section occupied by the Maid Cafe is fairly well hidden. Shrubbery blocks sight of the busy walkway infront while architecture elements does same from the rest of the venue.

The Katsucon Maid Cafe continues to exercise good judgement in requiring an advanced reservation. This allows the maid or butler to provide undivided service to the patron. It’s magical to have your very own servant all to yourself for an hour. And I am grateful that they honored our reservation, even when we were fifteen minutes late. That said, I was disappointed that we were not offered a choice of servant like last year. I really preferred a maid. Bamboo is still great though!

It’s a shame I only visited on Friday. Katsucon Cherry Tea Maid Cafe remains a mandatory stop for any attendee.

More pictures here.

Maid Cafe

 

 

 

* I had no cash on me.

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Katsucon 2014 – Lolita Dark Concert

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Lolita Dark gave a tight performance to an unimpressed audience Saturday night at Katsucon.

Guitar work was solid and unremarkable. Vocals were indistinct, taking on an almost shoegazer-like quality. The bass and drums worked together well on some of their older songs, interweaving their notes to create a driving beat. The meter of songs was instantly recognizable, even classic, though the chord progressions were anything but. In many ways, that exemplified Lolita Dark – a technologically and culturally hip reworking of a rock formula as old as the Rolling Stones.

Media-savvy and brisk-paced, the band paused for the briefest of explanations of their songs and reminders to like their Facebook page or visit their website before launching into more. Lead singer Ray’s harmonies were operatic, even shrill at times. Where her gestures were sharp, imperative, forceful, keyboardist May’s movements were bubbly and effusive. Bassist Rain played his part to the hilt, contributing no vocals but strutting along the stage. Drummer Joey and rhythm guitarist Patrick, while technically flawless, were also flavorless.

In many bands, the effect would seem overly prissy, even sophomoric, but Lolita Dark delivered the occasional apology without giving away their hard-edged passion. Alas, the audience’s lack of familiarity worked against the band. Though visually flawless, bearing costumes inspired by cyberpunk and – what else – gothic Lolita, Lolita Dark struggled to engage the con-weary audience. Cosplayers leaned on props, texting, and only seemed to muster up the energy to engage in fist-pumping or baton-waving when prodded by the band, or for the final song, a cover of Rage Against the Machine’s ‘Killing in the Name.’ When the set was over, over 80% of the fans filed out, not even waiting for an encore.

Lolita Dark has the potential, and they are developing the connections. They lack only the audience. Time will tell if there is truly support for US-based J-rock.

Anime USA 2013: Club Ikemen Paradise Host Club

Stanley

“Well, I have to do what you tell me to.”

The top buttons of Mr. Stanley’s crisp white shirt were undone. His suspenders framed the stylish sight with titillating precision. Picture such a deliciously dressed butler delivering the above phrase in a thick, obedient voice and with his enchanting eyes slightly downcast. In that instant, I transformed into Ciel with my very own Sebastian!

We were discussing dinner and I debated sharing my food. The Club Ikemen Paradise, like My Cup of Tea, forbids staff from eating food on the clock. However, there is no denying the wishes of a Master.

My butler restrained himself to one piece of sushi. He exercised far more liberty in a lively conversation. I can’t explain how it happened. We chatted the time away like old friends running into each other. We covered Watamote, competition between Host Club and Maid Cafe, eating habits as it pertains to condiments, wardrobe choices in conveying one’s confidence, his three week long busted lip*, the circular logic of bad pirates** and Pantheon.

I believe we spent close to an hour on Pantheon alone. He’s Mr. Stanley’s favorite champion from League of Legends. Another butler stopped by and they launched into the mechanics and tactics of gameplay in exceedingly high detail. It was absolutely adorable and enlighteningly entertaining listening to my butler excitedly explain the specific steps to counter Darius.

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It’s fascinating to note that the usual awkwardness of eating alone while another watches doesn’t materialize here. A servant naturally does not dine with his Master, after all. It speaks volumes of the efforts the hosts summon to bring the magic to life.

And there’s plenty of magic. The night crowd proved more rowdy than their morning counterparts and the hosts were ready to meet the challenge. A large table next to us had a grand time ordering hosts to perform certain acts. They started with purposely dropping items and enjoying the view. It quickly escalated to hosts passing flowers among themselves. Using their teeth. If that wasn’t enough, you also know it’s a party when DJ SiSen reserved his own table.

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Assistance from the hotel restaurant’s wait staff in handling service and checks provided a vast improvement from last year. As noted by my butler, it allowed each host to spend more time with the patrons which directly and significantly adds to the experience. Undivided intimate interaction allow hosts to blur reality with fantasy. One truly feels like a Master.

I have one single complaint. Mr. Stanley had wanted to show me a card trick but there were no playing cards on hand.

Friday night was slow so I was able to overstay the hour mark. I wanted to stay forever, no longer caring about the Formal Ball or any of the other panels I had scheduled. I was in paradise. Of the Club Ikemen variety. And I didn’t even play any games, having run out of cash at the Maid Cafe earlier. Even if I had stayed an hour or ten more, it would still have felt far too short. Time flies with Mr. Stanley at your service.

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More pictures here.

* An avid airsoft gun enthusist who sports a suit in action complete with shoes, Mr. Stanley once turned a corner and got shot right in the lip. My poor butler :/

** Shizuka cosplayed Bodacious Pirates. She was getting tipsy from just a handful of sips from her martini which makes her a bad pirate. Mr. Stanely remarked as much then we realized that pirates are supposed to be bad. Yea.

Anime USA 2013: My Cup of Tea Maid Cafe

Shiori

I am in love.

With the Maid Cafe. And with my maid. You will fall in love too.

My Cup of Tea was the ichiban event I looked forward to at Anime USA since my magical visit last year. Like last time, I declined to choose my maid. There’s something about picking a person like a chattel that disagrees with me. It’s ironic really because I am completely enamored of the fantasy of My Cup of Tea. I take advantage of my hour as Master to its fullest. It’s just the one initial hurdle that irks me.

With the memory of yesteryear fresh, I was disappointed that my maid did not offer to take my bag. Can you tell I was spoiled? Then I realized that Shiori is love personified.

I could spend a lifetime attempting to capture the euphoria of having a maid address me as Goushiji-sama and probably fail. To attempt the same for my very own Shiori is certain failure. It’s simply something one has to experience. I can only say that each time her lips uttered that one word, my heart would skip a beat or ten because she wields the sole arrow to my heart. All the maids at My Cup of Tea are talented in her own special way, but…

Shiori plays the violin.

For those who are unaware, I don’t live for music. I breathe it. And violin was the one instrument I played before I realized I had the talent of a brick*. It took every atom of my willpower not to leap over the table and crush her in a hug. I didn’t even get to fall in love. I drowned instantly. Watch the video at your own peril.

The love continued. Shiori made her way around the cafe, proffering her lovely services and seducing everyone at each table that she stopped at. While I can imagine the courage it takes to do that, I do not want to. She wasn’t familiar with the “Moonlight Sonata” that I requested and inquired how it goes. I could only offer that it was three beats to a measure.

Did you see what she did there? Reminds me of my middle school violin teacher who penned “Happy Birthday” on the spot by humming it so that I could play it from the sheet. I must admit some jealousy. I would kill to be able to play something simply by hearing it.

Not skipping a note, Shiori immediately improvised with another piece that I regret not recording. Not that I could given that the only muscle capable of moving at the point was the thumping of my stolen heart.

The rehearsed turn of her wrist on each stroke and the rich agility of her fingers would’ve fooled anyone except I could sense a slight tremble behind the beautiful smile. Her display of courage only endeared me further. I won’t even bother depicting the sound because to call it love would still be a gross understatement.

The love deepened. She solicited for another request and we were at a loss when she revealed that she could play any Disney song. Mere notes into “A Whole New World”, time stopped. The clatter of the cafe faded. For those achingly precious few minutes, as I sat a kiss away, the only thing that existed in the universe was…

<3

 

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Upon reflection, part of my reluctance to choose a maid may stem from my wanting to be a kind Master. I don’t want her to be my maid by force. I would rather she serve of her volition. It’s in this vein that I wish maids may dine with patrons should they choose to (or ordered to). I will gladly pay for it. It will also be really, really awesome to have Maid Cafe run all three days.

I need to say something negative. Er, let me think. My colleague Shizuka thought the food was mediocre before quickly adding that no one visits for the food. Um, Shiori’s hair is too perfect. Well, that applies to all the maids! Uh, she didn’t tell me they had Battleship to play -_-

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Actually, the same complaint applies from last year. A wall separates the performance place from the vast majority of the cafe which means most patrons are late to notice when dance breaks out. The logistics of the venue make this unlikely to change however. It’s ok. I will just order my maid to inform me of performances beforehand next year!

Speaking of which, why isn’t it next year yet???!!!

More pictures here.

Maid Cafe

 

 

 

 

 

*Albert (I like to pretend I know Einstein personally) is my second idol and I wanted to imitate him by learning to play the violin then dropping it to become a nuclear physicist and change history. Instead, all I got to be was a Master. Which is better^^ Oooohh My Cup of Tea, how I heart thee~

Porno Graffitti, Live at Anime Expo 2013

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Prominent J-Rock band Porno Graffitti performed their many anime songs and others live at Anime Expo 2013 this year. Both Monsieur LaMoe and Shizuka were on hand to cover it, with Shizuka taking photos along the way. These are their joint impressions of the show.

LaMoe: So when the concert started–yes, that’s right, I’ve heard this song before, their debut piece, “Apollo.” That completely blew me away. I heard this song more than a decade ago, but it still sounds so vivid and fresh! It made me nostalgic, that speedy and powerful that I still remember so well. It’s amazing how Akihito projects his voice! I’d never heard him sing live until now, and it was incredible. He’s close to 40 years old, but still jumping and running around during the entire show. Such admirable stamina! Listening to the live performance is so much better than listening via iTunes with earbuds on.

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Later they played “Saudade,” which is a song that has a Latin feel to it. The word “saudade” is the fundamental feeling behind bossa nova music, the music pioneered by Antonio Carlos Jobim. But “Saudade” did not sound like bossa nova at all, but more like Santana-like Latin music with a very J-pop sound. They told us during their press conference that the word fit their song, so the mood was still recognizable.

And then there were the recognizable anime songs, especially from Great Teacher Onizuka and Bleach, that made the crowd go wild. Yes, when I first heard “Hitori no Yoru” (the GTO opening song), instead of “Lonely, lonely,” I heard, “loli, loli.” So, I thought it was about a lolicon song, just like The Police’s “Don’t Stand So Close to Me.” Yup, Mr. Onizuka is a lolicon! “Loli loli, I want to see you~♪” Darn! But turned out that was only my soramimi (“mishearing” literally “empty ears (空耳)”). But seeing the crowd dancing to a lolicon song would’ve been so hilarious.

And that Fullmetal Alchemist opening, “Melissa,” oh, such nostalgia. Yup, this anime was from a decade ago! Reminds me… Ah, so good. Yeah, listening to the anime songs live felt so great after all.

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Shizuka: Porno Graffitti delivered an incredible performance for their fans, keeping the energy high within the crowd, as they got the audience to sing along in “Century Lovers” and swing towels (which had been thrown into to the crowd) like cowboys swinging lassos during “Mugen.” But I wasn’t just impressed by Porno Graffitti’s ability to keep the crowd excited – I was equally impressed by their dedication to the music, as the lead singer of Porno Graffitti took out and played a real harmonica during “Winding Road!”

And then, “Melissa” played. My (and probably most fans’) most anticipated song, it was so much better performed live that all I could do was bask in the music. The audience’s response to this song after it was over was so strong that Porno Graffitti played this as their last song in an unexpected triple encore!

It was a give and take relationship between Porno Graffitti and the audience. With Porno Graffitti giving such an energizing performance, the audience gave an incredible show of support through their towel-swinging, “porno-porno” cheering, and frenzied hand-waving back to Porno Graffitti. I’m sure they weren’t ready for rabid American fans, as Porno Graffitti had to tell the audience to quiet down so their voices could be heard at the end of the concert… so they could announce that they would be back!

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LaMoe: Between the encores everyone was screaming, “Porno, porno, porno!” That sounded really weird, but refreshing. It’s something just lost in translation in Japanese. The word porneia (πορνεία) originally meant “fornication” or “sexual immorality” in Greek. Yes, as a rock band, that’s the name it should be. The term”rock’n roll” also meant “fornication.” So, it’s a music for fornication. They provide the kind of music that gets everyone horny. Yes, sexual burst, an outlet for the daily repression of capitalism!

Set List

  1. Apollo (Debut song)
  2. Koyoi, Tsuki ga Miezutomo (Bleach 3rd movie ending song)
  3. Matataku Hoshi no Shita de (Magi 2nd opening song)
  4. Hitori no Yoru (Great Teacher Onizuka 2nd opening song)
  5. Anima Rossa (Bleach 11th opening song)
  6. Saudade
  7. Winding Road (Ayakashi Ayashi ending song)
  8. Ai ga Yobu Hou e
  9. Century Lovers
  10. Mugen
  11. Melissa (Fullmetal Alchemist opening song)
  12. Haneuma Rider
  13. Music Hour

Encore:

  1. Agehachou
  2. Dilemma
  3. Melissa

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Porno Graffitti at AX 2013: Photo Gallery

Anime Diet was privileged to attend and take photos of J-rock band Porno Graffitti at this year’s Anime Expo! Pornograffitti is best known for anime OPs and EDs for Great Teacher OnizukaFullmetal AlchemistBleach, and most recently Magi. They named themselves after the album by Extreme (see their remarks in our liveblog of their press conference about that and more), and currently consists of Akihito Okano on vocals and guitar, and Haruichi Shindo on background vocal and guitar.

Here we present to you our best photos of the concert, taken by Shizuka. Our full review of the concert, as well as a full translated transcript of the press conference, is coming very soon as well! Stay tuned.