Tohoku Earthquake – 5 years later

I had trouble writing this post.  It’s been nearly seven years since I left Miyagi-ken.  I haven’t gone back like I had planned, and now I don’t see my students coming to Southlake because they’ve grown up (also the age range changed).  As evident with the decreased frequency of updates, I’ve become distant with the country that is my second home.

Nevertheless, I can’t forget about how five years ago, I spent all night worrying about my friends when the casual status updates about an earthquake became something much scarier.  It’s hard to not think about the Tohoku earthquake when NPR was all over the 5 year anniversary and all of us Miyagi-ken JETs pay tribute on social media.  I think it’s good to be reminded though, as the people in the region are still struggling.  Thus, I’ve decided to make this post about some examples of aid and recovery.  There’s a lot of individuals out there who continue to dedicate some of their time to Tohoku through raising money or lifting spirits.  Let this be inspiration to all of us.

The one project that led to this post was the 113 Project.  It is a series of short films directed by Wesley Julian, one of my fellow Miyagi JETs who also created Tohoku Tomo.  The 113 Project provides glimpses of rebuilding from youth, local business members, and expats to show the power of collaboration.  To view the films, visit the 113 Project website.
 photo Sake-Urakasumi-TourBrewery-IMG_9130_zpsjbsip6gd.jpg From 113 Project

Visual kei band X Japan has always been active with charity work, having raised money for both the Tohoku earthquake and other disasters.  This year drummer/pianist Yoshiki put up a special drum set for auction.  He donated the proceeds to the Japanese Red Cross.
 photo Ydrum1_zpsgo1iphrf.jpg From Resonance Media

The question of where to send money often crops up with disaster relief.  While I don’t doubt the Red Cross’ valiant efforts, they have received some criticism, at least stateside.   One charity I can recommend 100% is the Taylor Anderson Memorial Fund.  Not only does each project provide updates through emails from Global Giving, but the charity is run by the father of Taylor Anderson (who was another Miyagi JET).

Lastly, I wanted to highlight RADWIMPS’ annual tribute as an example of how art heals.  Listening to music that pays tribute to the survivors never fails to bring back emotions I thought I had forgotten.  Seeing images does the same.  With the returning sadness is a message of hope that the artists put into their work.  Tohoku is recovering, and the human spirit will triumph.  Since 2012, RADWIMPS has released a new tribute song on March 11.  Here is a list along with the video of the most recent:
2012 – “Hakujitsu
2013 – “Buriki
2014 – “Kaiko
2015 – “Aitowa
2016 – “Shuntou”

Princess Jellyfish live-action film review on Drama-MAX

Since I talked about the live-action Princess Jellyfish in the my year-end recap, I decided to write a full review for Drama-MAX.

Drama-MAX-Princess-Jellyfish-reviewA

Very rarely do female geeks get the same treatment as their male counterparts. They may be obsessive and awkward, but their quirks are endearing and adaptable to modern society. That’s what makes Princess Jellyfish so appealing. The geeks of this live-action adaptation are full on 40-Year-Old Virgin awkward, and they wouldn’t have it any other way.

Click here to read the rest.

Listening to: Hitohira No Hanabira” by Stereopony

Hibari-sensei’s best of 2015

Ah, gomen nasai.  This post is way overdue, but it’s here now.  I’ve been growing increasingly out of touch with Japanese media.  However, the good news is that 2015 gave more cross-cultural opportunities.  Western rock bands collaborated with idol groups; VAMPS toured U.S.  Katana appeared on TV and will be hitting theatres, giving two Japanese actresses a kickass role.  Our beloved George Takei made his Broadway debut with Allegiance (although sadly, the musical’s run is not very long).

What about Japan?  The trend of music-related anime continued.  Metal could be heard in other genres, and it seemed like feminism was taking off, albeit in an artificial manner.  Nevertheless, it was encouraging to see idol groups that aren’t just full of well-behaved, skinny girls and to have media tackle issues like body shaming and sexual harassment.

As we do every year, JRock247 and NekoPOP writers shared their favorite album covers of 2015.  Click on the links to see what my picks were.  Now onto more bests…

Single – “Rebellion” by DIAWOLF
This new project by Shou and Tora of A9 was a little reminiscent of the band’s old days with “Rebellion”‘s heavy riffs and growling vocals, but the electronic elements showed a different side.  The song’s energy made me excited for more from this duo.

MV – “Yume no Ukiyo ni Saitemina” by Momoiro Clover Z vs. KISS

This was an odd pairing, but the trippy anime style was a good middle ground for these two groups to meet.  It was very amusing to watch the cute Momoiro Clover Z duke it out with rock legends.

Album – Yasou Emaki by Wagakki Band
The question with Wagakki Band was how they would fare with original songs, and this album was an excellent answer.  They already mastered the blend of rock with traditional Japanese instruments, but this time they slowed down to really highlight their musical prowess.

Artist – BABYMETAL
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By Andy Hughes. From NME
BABYMETAL continued to gain momentum in 2015, touring the world and collaborating with members of Dragonforce.  They won several awards, ranging from Vogue Japan‘s Women of the Year to Kerrang!‘s Spirit of Independence Award, and even got their own Funko POP! figures.  Their “kawaii metal” style has inspired new 2015 acts like Ladybaby and BiSH.

Live-action Character – Ren Shimosawa (Heroes Reborn)
After annoying Miko and the audience in the first episode, Ren Shimosawa (played by Toru Uchikado) grew to be charming in his willingness to help others.  His gamer lifestyle was his greatest strength, a refreshing change in a genre where martial arts experts and super-powered individuals are usually the ones winning the fights.

Actor – Rila Fukushima
 photo Volantis-Red_Priestess_zps7hvr4e7v.jpg
From Games of Thrones Wiki
In 2015, Rila Fukushima took roles that counted.  She wrapped up Katana’s heart-breaking storyline on Arrow and then moved onto another hit U.S. TV show, Game of Thrones.  Japan got to see her in Gonin Saga.  Trying to conquer both sides of the ocean isn’t easy, but Fukushima seemed on her way.

Drama –Mondai no Aru Restaurant
A drama that was pitched almost comedically as a battle of the sexes turned out to be a very eye-opening series about the rampant misogyny in Japanese society.  Some of the scenes were gut-wrenchingly difficult, but those moments when paired with the optimism and fortitude that this team of women display made this drama one of the best.

Film – Princess Jellyfish
Technically Princess Jellyfish came out in 2014, but I’m counting it as part of 2015 since the date was December 27.  The film captured the hilarity of the manga/anime’s protagonists without distracting from the story.  Plus it had some honest moments that championed non-conformity and finding confidence.

Anime Character – Saitama (One Punch Man)
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“Disaster Level ‘SAITAMA'” by Woo Chul Lee
Saitama was the hero we didn’t know we needed.  He was an ordinary guy who trained hard to become a fighter so strong that he is now steeped in ennui.  If the premise wasn’t ridiculous enough, his awkward appearance shattered all stereotypes and preconceived notions of what an anime hero should be.

Anime – Cute High Earth Defense Club Love!
A lot of people had been clamoring for a magical boy series, and did this show deliver.  It stayed true to the genre while parodying it, and it had the most menacing-sounding yet cute villain ever.

Series to Cosplay – League of Legends
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From Anime Matsuri 2015
I didn’t always recognize the characters, but League of Legends cosplayers had some of the most well-done outfits in 2015. I’ve actually learned more about the game just from seeing the cosplays.

Listening to: “Akatsuki no Ito” by Wagakki Band

2015 Fashion Adventures

inceAt the end of 2015, I had to confront a hard truth: I’ve lost interest in dressing up.  It’s not a complete abandonment.  I still think J-fashion is really cool, and I do bust out my ensembles for special occasions.  The reality is that I won’t go out of my way to attend meet-ups or to relentlessly pursue sales on brand items.  On the flip side, I won’t stop my yearly recaps or suddenly become very mundane with my fashion.

I also will continue to take a peek at the new style tribes that are covered by Style Arena.  This year had a couple of intriguing ones.  The Shuffler caught my eye because Kareshi learned that dance form but dresses the total opposite of that group.  “Survival game fashion” is something akin to what I’ve done before although I’ve combined it with another style, like visual kei below (this was from when I was in Japan 6 years ago).  I’ve always enjoyed military chic so this is probably the one tribe from this year’s group that fits my aesthetic.

I did buy a new piece this year: a black Baby the Stars Shine Bright blouse.  It was going to be worn to my friends’ wedding in November, but I decided to debut it at a neo-Victorian meet-up at a Sherlock Holmes special exhibit.  Unfortunately I got the meeting times mixed up, and Kareshi did not get a full outfit shot like I had thought.
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I paired the blouse with my pinstripe pants, a cloak in gamekeeper’s tweed (which reminded me of Holmes’ infamous deerstalker), and a magnifying glass necklace. This not-quite-steampunk/not-quite-ouji mash-up is my favorite new outfit of 2015.

My favorite outfit overall is my steampunk ouji number that I covered in 2012.  It’s unassuming enough to be my con ensemble for when I’m working press (I think the newsboy cap helps me feel as thought it fits).  I wore it to Anime Matsuri, where I sat in on the boystyle panel with Akira and Shiva from Atelier Boz.  They stood by the door to shake hands with all of us, and Shiva said I looked really cool.  Although the outfit is one of my all-time faves, I don’t think much of it because it’s not as fancy as other steampunks or oujis.  Shiva’s comments made me feel really good since sometimes I feel like I’m just stumbling along and throwing together clothing.
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Speaking of Anime Matsuri, being at the fashion show did remind me why I was drawn to J-fashion in the first place.  Despite having covered it already, I’m gonna share some more pics because everyone looked fantastic. I also want to go on the record and say that I hope for other cons to take on J-fashion that treats their models and guests more professionally and respectfully.

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Atelier Boz and Angelic Pretty

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Putumayo and Metamophose

Ironically 2015 had me closer to lolita than ever before because I finally had a fluffy petticoat and a proper blouse to go under my Baby JSK. As a result, I wound up putting together a gothic lolita outfit for the library’s annual Edgar Allan Poe Victorian Steampunk Halloween. As a part of the volunteer group, I had brought that there are other fashion subcultures that would fit so I took it upon myself to represent the lolis.

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With the poof, I could barely fit in the coffin.

With that ensemble, I attempted at byojaku make-up, a trend that caught global attention in 2015. A lot of people don’t like the fact that you look sickly, but I’ve kinda been a fan of the dead girl look a la My Chemical Romance’s “Helena” video. I went a little too light on the blush and too heavy on the eyeliner (the latter I always do). Maybe I should have watched one of RinRin Doll’s tutorials:

And here I was afraid that I wouldn’t have anything to write about. My style resolution last year was to just be myself and possibly try more ouji. The former has worked out perfectly. The latter didn’t go as expected, but I have been adopting a more androgynous style. I think this year’s resolution is to just keep doing my thing… and maybe do a better attempt at byojaku make-up.

Listening to: “PoW!” by FEMM

Hibari’s Hi 8: Top cosplay photos of 2015

Akemashite omedetou!  After an unexpected break, I’m back to recap highlights from the past year.  We’re going to start with a Hibari’s Hi 8 Countdown of the most viewed cosplay photos I took in 2015 according to Flickr.  I didn’t count panels since the focus is on the presentation and not the costume.

8. Tharja, Fire Emblem (Novachan) – AnimeFest 2015
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7. Star Lord and Gamora, Guardians of the Galaxy – Dallas Fan Days 2.0
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6. formal Green Ranger and Deadpool plus friends – AnimeFest 2015
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5. Daryl Dixon, The Walking Dead (Kevin Lewis) – All-con XI
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4. Major Motoko Kusanagi and Batou, Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex – Anime Matsuri 2015
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3. Kim Possible and Shego (AnnaMaria Bryant and Kyatto) – All-con XI
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2. Sailor Cosmos (Meg Griffin Cosplay) – AnimeFest 2015
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1. Frankie Stein, Monster High (Kyatto) – All-con XI
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