Tag Archives: otakon 2013

12 Days of Christmas: Otakon Cosplay Fail?

Chihayafuru

This anime moment is not exactly a fond one. It was Saturday night at Otakon and I was hanging out with Linda at Jenag’s and Hazu’s hotel room where a who’s who of anibloggers were throwing a party. It was rather amusing because someone had to remind the group to keep our voices down every five minutes so we didn’t get busted.  Unexpectedly, I ran into Yuyu there of all places, which was cool. (We did get busted eventually but that’s not the sad memory for me.)

Mike Toole was there. He had no shortage of those seeking conversation with him. I waited until there was a lull before approaching him. I placed my medical mask on before proceeding to fish out the karuta cards AnimatedInk generously lent me earlier that morning to complete my cosplay. I showed Mike the cards. There was a quick twinkle in his eye before he cheerfully announced to the room that I had karuta cards on me. The room did not care. Still, this did not bother me. We introduced ourselves and I waited for him to comment on my cosplay.

Instead, he stared blankly at me. He had been drinking the entire time so I guess that had an effect. I was still very downtrodden. At a con as enormous as Otakon, it’s already depressing enough that no one cosplays the anime of the year but I can grudgingly accept that. Mike, however, is a big Chihayafuru fan. He tweeted about it regularly when the show was airing. Of all the people, I expected him to recognize my cosplay. Maybe it sucked and he didn’t want to hurt my feelings XD After all, GendoMike didn’t recognize it either ;_;

Anyone who is still wondering about my cosplay should watch the show again!

Otakon 2013: Maid Cafe

maid cafe

Maid Cafe returns for its sophomore year at Otakon. In hindsight, my lack of excitement beforehand foreshadows my conclusions. I feel bad because in some respects, it isn’t exactly fair to make comparisons. After all, Zagat rates restaurants on individual merit and this should be no different. That said, my lukewarm feelings toward Otakon’s Maid Cafe stems from an inherent expectation that I felt went unmet.

The main selling point of a maid cafe lies in creating an illusion of a Master/maid relationship. Otakon fails to deliver this essential on multiple fronts. For one, patrons do not have the pleasure of choosing his/her maid. For another, they are seated together with strangers with eight to a table. The magical illusion cannot materialize without the possibility of an intimate rapport between patron and maid. It also creates a possible, albeit tiny, conflict when choosing a game to play. In short, Otakon’s Maid Cafe is merely a glorified café where wait staff cosplay as maid or butler.

Speaking of which, the service left more to be desired. I didn’t time the duration but for someone who didn’t even order anything, it felt long from the time of order to receipt of one’s drink.

The Maid Cafe suffers from a limited menu. While located in the Hilton, the space is not adjacent to a kitchen. This meant food choices were only of the dessert variety which is clearly publicized beforehand. It’s just that I am sure there are others like me who enjoy having a full meal at a maid cafe and are disappointed that cannot be part of their Otakon experience.

maid cafe

A larger venue could help bring the experience to more Otakon members. The ability to sit more people per session should translate into shorter lines (assuming demand remains flat). Because despite all of its faults, there is plenty to love about Otakon’s Maid Cafe.

The maids and butlers are charmingly cute! This is true in both appearances and personality as demonstrated throughout and at the beginning of each session where they introduce themselves. The contagious cuteness doesn’t stop there. The decadent desserts look so absolutely adorable that one might feel a sad sting in devouring them. Also goth maid <3

Hours of operations is an immense improvement from last year. Not only are there more sessions per day, the Maid Cafe is open on Sunday as well. This, to my knowledge, puts Otakon as the sole convention to achieve this feat that I am confident others will likely emulate.

Shizuka and I didn’t know what to expect when we opted for the surprise session. Turns out it was a birthday song to celebrate Crabby-chan’s 20th complete with cake and candle. Otherwise, patrons are treated to one delightful performance of song and dance.

Including a raffle ticket with the price of admission sets a festitive mood. Prizes range from the appropriately maid headpiece to decorative ornaments. While holding little intrinsic value, they certainly provide a priceless keepsake for three lucky patrons.

Those not as fortuitous will still leave with a framed photo of the lovely maids/butlers that is given to everyone. Patrons will treasure this special souvenir because each maid and butler take turns among all the tables to personally autograph the frame.

Those specifically hoping to magically transform into a Master/Mistress with a maid or butler will find Otakon’s Maid Cafe disappointing. For everyone else, it is a sweet time of fun and games sure to rot your teeth away! See more pictures here.

maid cafe

Otakon 2013: Chiaki Ishikawa Interview

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Anime Diet was privileged to interview singer/songwriter Chiaki Ishikawa at Otakon 2013. Perhaps best known for the OP of Bokurano, “Uninstall,” which she also performed in concert at the convention, Ishikawa has written many anime songs in the course of her career: first with the band See Saw (where Yuki Kajiura was her partner), and later solo. Her most recent work is with the mecha anime Majestic Prince.

The Paper conducted the interview, with Shizuka taking a few pictures. Questions were written by gendomike and The Paper. Translation by Rome.

What music are you listening to right now?

People ask me that a lot. I don’t have anyone in particular–for a US musician, maybe Eddie Vedder, but right now I listen to a lot of samples of new artists that sing anime songs.

How would you compare Anime Expo 2007 vs this year’s Otakon?

Well, Los Angeles had a lot of cosplayers and the hotels were a mess.* Otakon is more otaku oriented.

How was working with young Yuki Kajiura? Did you think she would be as big as she became?

The first time we met? Did I think back then that Kajiura would be this huge? Well, we got successful by doing anime songs. By the standards of the mainstream J-pop industry, we weren’t good at all. The current singers who are around Kajirua practice singing with her because Kajiura is so big, but I’d thought Kajiura was great since I started singing with her. I mean, I simply loved her songs. It’s not surprising to me at all that she’s become so famous. I thought she would from the start.

Do you plan to work with Kajiura again?

Well, we don’t have the opportunity. We never have time to get together and do songs.

Was your musical approach influenced by Kajiura apart from See Saw?

Well, I’d say we both influenced each other. She composed songs based on things I sang too. We were working really hard when we were together.

How do you write lyrics without music for anime?

I think it’s based on the flow of the anime. First you have the anime itself: you have the director’s opinion, and a good-enough scenario…so then I get the synopsis. And I write song based on the synopsis. And while there are people who write music first and then the lyrics, I write lyrics first and then the music. But since I don’t know how the ending is going to be, I imagine the plot myself and then write lyrics. By keeping a certain good artistic distance from the production, I can create a good song.

Your songs tend to sound melancholy, often written in minor keys. Why?

Since I wrote “Uninstall” for the anime Bokurano, where 15 kids die, that image has stuck to me…after that, people only bring me those sad animes where some character always dies, and nobody brings moe anime to me to write songs. So, once it’s known that I am doing the ending song, people say that means the anime is going in a depressing direction. (Laughs)

*This was in reference to reports that at Anime Expo 2007, guest of honor hotel rooms were sometimes not prepared when the guests arrived from Japan. Haruko Momoi in particular complained publicly about it and other problems, spawning controversy.

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Otakon 2013: Matsuri Triumphs Over Rain

matsuri

If it wasn’t for Yoko, the winner of the Otakon concert would have been one of the bands at the matsuri. Except the ultimate winner was really the… rain! Indeed, a good chunk of the matsuri got rained out. The Slants never got to play, their flyer feeling forever forlorn in my pocket. Nevertheless, I enjoyed it and thought it was much improved from last year.

The new location, less than fifteen minutes walking from the BCC, greatly enhanced the matsuri. The West Shore Park is literally a stone’s throw from the water providing a magnificent backdrop to the festivities. It also attracted significant passing attention from office workers to students on school trips, the latter of which felt robbed that the Aquarium/Science Center/Whatever didn’t measure up judging by some of their expressions as the teachers themselves hesitantly ushered the kids along.

Booths formed a horseshoe on the grass facing the stage. Besides tents of the performers, nearby area organizations such as the DC Anime Club and Anime USA made appearances. The Otakon tent had refreshments at very reasonable prices with two bottles of ice cold water for only one dollar.

I was surprised and disappointed that there were no food vendors present until I visited Press Ops during one of the rain delays where I learned that the three food trucks parked on the street were actually hired, not entrepreneurs seizing the opportunity. More food options are only a five minute walk away at the mall. Finally, I counted three booths where kids could amuse themselves with the typical fairground games.

The Chin Hamaya Culture Center and DJ Cutman returned from last year. Both performances were solid but I have nothing to add a year later. The taiko drumming sensation did perform a rendition of “Who Let the Dogs Out” which amused me.

matsuri

Adam WarRock opened his set with a song about Pacific Rim. His rapping is impeccably average against solid booming beats. A woman behind me remarked his good taste for the lack of profanity but I demand much more in my hip hop. While he proclaimed that “it’s really tiresome to rap under the sun”, his energy did not show it. Indeed, it was his personality that endeared us. For someone rooted to the same spot for practically the entire time, his movements carried us in the moment. I found myself nodding along as his arm and head slashed and snapped about. Even as rain started to fall, some remained getting soaked in place to watch him. Entirely revolved around pop culture and all things nerdy, he proudly professed his nerdom and encouraged all of us to do the same. It was a simple message that he delivered wholeheartedly.

There was supposed to be a yukata contest and I think it did occur except I had expected it to do so on stage not on the grass infront. I saw maybe ten women beautifully attired with some holding lovely paper umbrellas gathered around for photographs. I would have taken photos but opted to hide from the drizzle under the tent. My decision proved wise as rain poured shortly after. The matsuri washed away instantly as staff placed covers over equipment. However, before long, the next band would easily cajole us out under the tents for an epic performance.

I was delighted to run into Manga Therapy and Bobbie-chan during soundcheck. He prefaced the band for me, having seen them before in New York which sounded very promising. We got so much more.

There are bands who are really good live. Then there’s Uzuhi. You can watch the video to see what I mean. At one point, he started speaking to us before slowly degenerating into Engrish. Asking us if we understood him, he accused us of being too otaku when we replied in the affirmative. What I didn’t capture in motion picture speaks even louder. He jumped off the stage into the crowd but what happened next was utterly and unpredictably awesome. Pointing and grabbing people, he commanded them to dance together. Boy girl boy girl then boy boy. The two guys did not look thrilled yet voiced no protest then shaked out a move or two that ilicited smiles and laughter all around.

Smile. Happiness. Those are Uzuhi’s mission. And they do not dissapoint. The pictures tell all. Unfortunately, I was supposed to pick up Linda and company from the bus stop and they just had to arrive during the best set of the matsuri. I originally asked her if she could wait then felt bad at my selfishness so after roughly half past five, I departed the matsuri with a heavy heart, not knowing that I wouldn’t get the chance to return, the music of chocolate smile fading behind me.

matsuri

Otakon 2013: Tomokazu Seki Fan Panel

Seki

I was supposed to attend Kit’s panel on Utena and Madoka after my Chiaki interview but Mori was too punk for Otakon so I made my way over to Seki’s panel. I am glad I did.

I knew nothing about the prolific voice actor beforehand and still know very little. I just have an iota of interest in seiyus. Seki is different. He is super cute and even more hilarious. Really, really hilarious. Good humor is incredibly difficult to execute. It requires an extremely sharp wit and even better timing. Seki commands both like a skilled Gundam pilot.

I originally took notes but his contagious personality quickly overwhelmed me. It was far better to live in the moment. So readers please forgive me for I have only two questions below. Suffice to say, one had to be there to fully appreciate it.

I don’t even recall the question, not that it matters. His humor goes beyond context and easily relates to anyone.

“Screaming… it’s a good way to vent,” he says as if he’s just realizing it. Then he pauses before continuing, “I get paid to scream. I have the perfect job!”

Later, someone asks him about Kogami smoking in Psycho Pass. Rumor has it that Kogami smokes because Seki wanted to. Seki replies with little hesitation, “Kogami doesn’t inhale when he smokes so he’s not really smoking.”

The man’s generosity rivals his humor. Practically every fan ended a question with a request for him to repeat a line from their favorite show. He performed each one as if he was recording in the studio. The crowd cheered in thunderous unison each time. It got to the point where I started to feel that the audience was beyond polite. Yet he never showed signs of annoyance. He even took a minute to study several lines prewritten by a fan before singing it.

I am listing Seki down as someone I would love to interview. More pictures here.

Otakon 2013: Vertical Industry Panel

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Vertical, the one Industry panel I was able to attend this year. As people who follow me on twitter, can see.. I did make an attempt to live tweet the panel. Ed Chavez, marketing director from Vertical Inc that day, cosplayed as a general from the Gundam series. The following are notes that are either from presentation slides or my Twitter, many of this is similar to what Ed presented at AnimeNEXT.

  • Chavez stressed the survival of Vertical is dependent on pre-orders made, before seeing Vertical books published.
  • Knights of Sidonia: Vol 4 on sale August, 2013.
  • Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origins Part 3 on sale September, 2013. This is a prized project of Vertical, there’s going to be an anime next year.
  • Flowers of Evil: Vol 7 on sale October, 2013. There’s a completely new style of cover, and that got revealed.
  • Chi’s Sweet Home: Vol 10 on sale August, 2013. Ed reiterated that Chi is a very big seller for Vertical. Konami Kanata, mangaka who was a guest at Toronto Comics Arts Festival in 2012 was quite impressed by fans and decided to extend the series to being concluded in 13 volumes instead of 10 volumes as planned.
  • Insufficient Direction on sale February, 2014. This is Moyoco Anno’s manga on living life with her famous husband, Hideaki Anno who was responsible for directing Evangelion. Moyoco Anno previously published Sakuran in English with Vertical.
  • What Did You Eat Yesterday? By Fumi Yoshinaga, this title was announced at Otakon, and targeted to be released around March, 2014. This is a 10 volume series that speaks about being homosexual and living in modern Tokyo with foodie experiences being mention.

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So after all the Vertical announcements were over and with time remaining. Ed jumped right into educating audience of this panel to the professional side of what it takes as a publisher to license and release manga in America.

There are several steps that includes Research & Development, Budgeting, Bidding, Contracting, Production, and Scheduling.

Research & Development involves a lot of reading. Ed mentions how lucky it is for non Japanese fans to get the best of the best when there is a lot of mediocrity in the manga market. He stresses that Vertical is very accessible to fans over on Tumblr. But he does mention that Vertical would listen to media companies more. Many of their titles like Flowers of Evil, From the New World and Gundam the Origins has anime adaptations and reaches a wider audience, so if there was other interests in it, then they would listen to the bigger group.

Budgeting involves seeing how much money would the publisher have. This also ties into Bidding and Contracting. Scheduling is the agreed upon time, so a publisher must print in a proposed time or they lose out. This happens to many American companies who are no longer in the manga business. The concept for Out of Stock is different from Out of Print. Japanese companies operate on a different scale than American companies. They require all money up front, before American publishers localizes any title. Also apparently there is the current standard for publishing and pricing digital books. It is definitely more cheaper for consumers to purchase digital, but behind the scenes it takes three times the price for publishers to produce such digital copies. It does sound like a strange concept, but it can be said that publishers such as Vertical is selling print book to afford emanga.

Otakon 2013: Official Press Release from Yoko Kanno

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Victor Albisharat (Head of Otakon Press and Publicity) was able to release an official statement and set list regarding about Yoko Kanno around 9am EST on August 15.

Japanese Version:
「私をステージの上で一人にしないでくれてありがとう。
一緒に音楽できてうれしかった。
待っていてくれた方、この機会をくださった方、
piano meを通じて出会えたすべての皆さんに感謝します。」
English translation:
Thank you for not leaving me by myself on the stage. I was very happy we could make music together. To the people who were waiting for me, to the people who gave me this opportunity, to everyone I met through “piano me”, Thank you!- YOKO KANNO

This is the official Set list for what Kanno played during her concert on Sunday.

Tank!
Nomad Soul
Katarina
Innocent Green
Resonance of the earth
Gravity  ~Baltimore special medley

Fanelia
Monochrome
Apollon Blue
Rakuen
Power of the Light

-encore1-
Someday My Prince Will Come
The Real Folk Blues
Wo Qui Non Coin

– encore2-
Star Spangled Banner

– encore3-
Tank! (reprise)