Category Archives: Conventions

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.

An example of Terada's "rakugaki" doodling style, taken from his sketch Tumblr.

Katsuya Terada Interview (SDCC 2013)

An example of Terada's "rakugaki" doodling style, taken from his sketch Tumblr.

An example of Terada’s “rakugaki” doodling style, taken from his sketch Tumblr.

Katsuya Terada is a Japanese illustrator and character designer, perhaps best known as the character designer behind Blood: The Last Vampire and also an illustrator for Nintendo Power‘s early issues. He spoke to me at San Diego Comic Con 2013, as he was nominated for the Eisner Award for Best Painter and Multimedia Artist that year and also had a 10 year retrospective of his work .

The interview was done courtesy of Dark Horse Comics, and was conducted at their booth at SDCC.

How does it feel to be nominated for the “Best Painter and Multimedia Artist” Eisner award this year?

Frankly, I’m surprised…just the mere fact that I got nominated for it is an honor. If I don’t win, it doesn’t matter, but the mere fact that I was nominated is enough. [ED note: the winner for that category that year was Juanjo Guarnido, another Dark Horse artist.]

What inspired you to do a darker version of the Monkey King/Journey to the West (Saiyuki) story, and what do bring to it that’s special or different?

Everyone grew up with the tale of Saiyuki; even Osamu Tezuka did his version. When Son Goku is put in a cave…someone who’s been crammed up for years in a mountain is naturally going to tend you towards violence—a natural reaction to that situation. I don’t think that’s really been depicted before.

You have a philosophy of illustration called rakugaki (short illustrations or doodlings wherever you go). How have you developed that philosophy over the years?

It’s an impulsive thing…I’ll take a pencil and think, “that’s a cool thing,” and especially being able to depict things to exist or don’t exist that are or would be three dimensions in a two dimensional way. That excites me, being able to go around and say “I can depict that, I can depict that.”

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Recently a 10 year retrospective of your work was released. How have your thoughts about art changed over the past decade?

I haven’t changed that much…maybe I couldn’t draw as much 10 years ago, perhaps, not because I was a worse artist, but there were things I couldn’t depict then that I can now. I do feel more satisfied with my art now, personally. I want to be able to look at things 10 years from now, 20 years from now, and be able to say to myself, “I’m impressed.” A lot of what I do, especially the rakugaki work, is for my personal entertainment, but I want to be able to draw things that I can show to other as well.

You are perhaps best known in the US as the character designer behind Blood: The Last Vampire. Have you been approached by other anime studios to do other designs, and is that something you’d like to pursue further if given the chance?

I did character designs before and after Blood: The Last Vampire, for games and anime. I don’t think I would gravitate toward doing just character design…ultimately character design is just drawing pictures, and that’s always just part of my work. There’s some work that perhaps you may not have heard about, like for Korean games that you might not be able to access in the US…but it’s just a part of drawing pictures for me.

A Legend of Zelda illustration from Nintendo Power by Terada.

A Legend of Zelda illustration from Nintendo Power by Terada.

You’re also well known for doing illustrations for the older Nintendo Power issues, and they were very impressionistic. What do you see the role of a game illustrator being in a time when video game graphics have become so sophisticated?

It’s still very necessary. Back in the day, due to the limited graphics, you were kind of projecting the characters from the art onto the game…now, the process is just more direct, but it’s the exact same thing in many ways. It’s like in the movies where the graphics are so good that you can’t tell the difference anymore. It’s like the importance of having a movie poster.

What would you give as advice for aspiring artists and illustrators?

When you are young, you have all this ambition, you can’t think you can fail. But when you get older, sometimes all you can see is where you’re lacking, which is kind of unsatisfying. So when you’re young, find out what’s out there, find out what needs to be done, and pursue that.

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Katsucon 2014: Tom Stidman

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Tom Stidman is the first ever Fan Guest at Katsucon. A staple in fandom for over a decade and highly involved with local conventions, he had four panels this year covering various materials. He did an excellent interview with Otaku Journalist before Katsucon XX so I just wanted to catch up briefly with him.

The Paper: Tell me about your Katsucon as a fan guest.

Tom Stidman: It’s my best Katsucon. Absolutely fun. I only had to do panels so [it was] very relaxing. It also served as a testbed for me in making better panels. It’s a great place to learn to make panels for bigger cons.

TP: In your interview with Lauren (Otaku Journalist), you set out to provide “high quality programming” and being “a good representative to fandom”. How did you think you did?

TS: I did well on programming. I didn’t just want to do a Q and A, I wanted to bring more…I should do more. I promoted the con beforehand by reaching out [to the media]. I donated items to the charity auction. There’s always room to improve. It’s a learning experience.

TP: If you could do it again, what would you change if anything?

TS: [Exhales and ponders a bit] I may not change anything. I learned stuff that can translate into conrunning. Definitely won’t change the experience.

TP: What specifically did you learn that can translate over to running a con?

TS: I am sorry I cannot disclose details.

TP: No problem. Last question. What was the best part or moment of Katsucon for you?

TS: It’s hard to pick a best moment. There’s so many…. best to interact with folks, meet people, the other guests. Freedom is also great. Besides panels, I could do other things. Time is not on your side as a conrunner. It was much easier… I got to relax with friends.

Readers can find out where else fandom takes Tom via Twitter.

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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.

Interview: Man With a Mission

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Official photo by Nobuyuki Kobayashi

The Japanese band Man With a Mission, best known for their work on the OP of Log Horizon, “Database,” answered a few questions I posed to them by email. Here are their replies!

This isn’t your first time in LA. What do you like best about the city?
Everything is great. The atmosphere, the people, the view, the weather. I love it.

What’s your favorite Jimi Hendrix guitar solo?
The one he did it in Atlanta Pop Fes. The solo sounded like he was actually talking and screaming out something.

Was “Database” written especially for Log Horizon? The lyrics fit so well.
We did think about the message and the concept of the animation but it wasn’t really totally made just for the story. But we’re really glad that it fits and matches.

Do you play MMORPGs like Log Horizon depicts? Which ones are your faves?
I don’t know much about MMORPGs but if you’re talking about what’s my favorite RPGs the Final Fantasy series rule.

If you were stuck in the world of Log Horizon, would you still want to be wolves? Would you start a wolf guild?
We’re ready to get stuck in that world anytime. Wolf it should be.

Many of your songs, like “Database” and “Emotions,” are sung predominantly in English. Did you plan on having an international/English-speaking audience right away?
We’ve always wanted to spread our music throughout the world and English is the most common language. Singing in English was a natural thing for us to do. But we both like Japanese and English. I guess it only depends on what kind of message we want the song to have.

Finally–you mention in your story* that the Principality of Zeon was behind some of the evil int he world. Does that mean one day you are going to fight against them? In a Gundam?
Woah. Do I have a chance to become a pilot? I’ll definitely do that. But I think we’re done with fighting. We’ll stick around and play music to see how much people can assemble and share the feelings we have in music.

*Their official bio notes the following:

In the year 19XX the earth was engulfed in war. Nation pitted against nation, human against human. Every living thing on the planet was locked in a chaotic battle to acquire each other’s wealth and power. In the meantime, in the farthest away land of “Ladyland” there lived a genius biologist named Dr. Jimi (hobby: guitar) who was about to conclude a mad science experiment for a pack of superior creatures that would be called MAN WITH A MISSION (MWAM).

Are they human? Are they wolves?

Their looks may be deceiving and even comical at first glance, but they have incredible brain power and a superhuman physique. Such superb abilities enabled them to carry out the planet’s most challenging top secret missions, and made them untouchable by the world’s fearsome and powerful leaders including Genghis Khan, Attila the Hun, and Ivan the Terrible. The Principality of Zeon had them work in the dark shadows of history in various locations around the world.

Dr. Jimi was plagued by guilt and regret that his creations had contributed to some of the most evil deeds in history and decided to put an end to it. He wanted to ensure that they wouldn’t fall under the spell of evil again and so he froze them into eternal sleep in a far edge of the world. Determined not to let his creativity potentially bring more evil into the world the Doctor burned his guitar. He managed to escape the hands of evil and cheat death three times, but he couldn’t avoid his destiny.  Retribution for his death was to keep MWAM frozen under the glaciers in the South Pole. Jimi’s last words were, “I’ll try getting a straight perm in my next life.”

Time passed by and it was now the year of 2010. The planet had gone through worldwide economic crisis, numerous political and social tensions across borders, and was slowly being destroyed by pollution induced global warming.  The warming and deterioration of the planet then melted the icy caskets that Dr. Jimi had jeopardized his life for. MWAM awoke from eternal sleep!

Are they working for justice for this world, or are they nothing else but evil?

Either way “MAN WITH A MISSION” is now back on the mission around the world!

Otakon Vegas 2014: Funimation Panel Liveblog

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This is a live record of the Funimation industry panel held at Otakon Vegas 2014. Funimation is helping to premiere Shinichiro Watanabe’s newest anime, Space Dandy, tomorrow afternoon simultaneously around the world. Will they have any other surprises? Let’s find out…

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Closing up with their Geek Week tribute video. That’s it for this liveblog!

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Also new streaming announcement: D-Frag! Air date TBD

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New streaming simulcasts for winter: Noragami, Inari, Konkon, Koi Iroha, and Maken-Ki! S2. The first one is Sunday at 8 AM.

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Tomorrow’s Space Dandy premiere will have the dub ADR Director and Ian Sinclair, the English voice of Dandy. Looks like it will be the dub.

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Space Dandy promo. I think we are hearing the OP here in this trailer….

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Funi is doing the Evangelion 3.33 showings…it’s playing next weekend in LA. Might go.

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“Ever get to the end of an anime and feel really sad? Don’t have to worry about it…” –MC on One Piece

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Next: One Piece S5. Even the MC seems a little bit tired of One Piece…or at least announcing yet another release.

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Looking at the remaster, what seems to have happened is that it looks a little bit cleaner (and blown up to 16;9). It doesn’t really change anything though. The Evangelion remaster though really did seem to make a difference…

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Apparently DBZ is being re-released on BD as well. A remaster of a remaster?

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The MC promises us “I Love Boobies” (Space Dandy) stickers tomorrow at the Funi booth…

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Next: Aesthetica of a Rogue Hero. “From the studio behind Queen’s Blade.” of course.

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Fairy Tail movie Phoenix Princess is next. Question: is this the series that’s going to pick up the slack from Naruto and Bleach when they are played out?

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“Feel the Urge to Merge” LOL #AquarionEVOL #Funimation #otakonvegas

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Aquarion EVOL is next. For some reason I never finished this either, even though I thought it was hilarious.

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Next: Wolf Children. Been meaning to see this. Missed the theater screening of this… #Funimation #OtakonVegas

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Next: One Piece Strong World. Apparently one of the few things they can even release on BD… #Funimation #OtakonVegas

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Next: Binbogami ga! (Good Luck Girl) (Note none of these are new licenses.) #Funimation #OtakonVegas

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Upcoming new release: Akira re-release on BD. Trailer. #Funimation #OtakonVegas

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Preview of the #Funimation show. (Are these being echoed on Twitter?) #Funimation

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They’re talking about the Elite Video Subscription. I was a former subscriber, and since the site has improved a lot… #Funimation

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Came in a bit late, but it looks like there hasn’t been any major announcements yet. #OtakonVegas #Funimation

12 Days of Christmas: No Katsucon Cosplay Photograph

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My first memorable anime related moment from this year would have to be Katsucon. I already wrote about it here so I won’t repeat myself. Instead I am taking this chance to mention something that occured at said con that was overshadowed previously.

It’s actually a miniscule moment. It lasted maybe ten seconds at most yet, needless to say, it held a lot of significance for me.

It was the first time someone declined my request for a photograph.

I don’t even know what she was cosplaying but the effort was obvious and I wanted to recognize it. She felt apologetic which she shouldn’t have to be. Similar to the cosplay != consent campaign, cosplaying does not automatically obligate one to allow photos. This is why I am really annoyed by those tourists staying at hotels during a con and taking photos from afar. To be fair, they don’t know better but it’s really common courtesy to always ask before taking anyone’s photo. I digress.

I simply said ok, hopefully accompanied with a smile. I didn’t think much of it at the time at all. It wasn’t until sometime afterwards that I realized that it was the first refusal I got and that definitely brought on a smile. I consider it one of the rites of passage as a con attendee. I would wear the moment as a badge.