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
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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

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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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AnimeFest 2015 cosplay and panels

I debated whether I should write up a report since I only attended late Friday afternoon and Saturday.  That time was mostly spent reporting on their concert and helping the Ladies of Power and thus didn’t really have much time to experience the cosplays and panels.  I had planned on going Sunday but was too physically exhausted.  Trying to work normally at your day job and do a con was not the greatest plan.

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Maybe next time I’ll join the party…

Friday was mostly to get registered and see if I could catch Arina Tanemura, one of the guests of honor.  The former happened very quickly while the latter was a no-go.  There was a ticketing system for the animation guests of honor, which makes sense considering anime’s and the convention’s steady rise of popularity, but it was not communicated well at all.  I did get to attend Stephanie Young’s panel, “The Vixen’s Guide to Voice Acting and Life”.  She did a great job of tying in her body of work to female archetypes in order to dish out a bit of life advice. As I said, Saturday was devoted to work, but first I had photoshoots.  The Metal Gear Solid photoshoot was a lot of fun.  Many of my peers comment on how old they feel at AnimeFest.  While that may be true, the Metal Gear Solid crowd definitely had a higher median age.

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This shot was dubbed “Evolution of Snake”.

If you missed the Ladies of Power panel, then you missed the opportunity to score some free prints.  You can purchase some at ladiesofpower.storenvy.com , and all proceeds with go to charity.  It was great to see people support female empowerment and to advise the younger ladies on how to deal with difficult situations that they may face.

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Lady of Power Meghan as Sailor Cosmos

The con made me realize how out of touch with anime I’ve been since I could not recognize many of the cosplays.  At the same time, there are always classics, like Sailor Moon and Pokemon.  Speaking of which, I’ve noticed a steady increase in the number of Eevolution cosplayers and art.  It’s really interesting to see people’s interpretation of the Pokemon.

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Umbreon, Sylveon, and Eevee by Emily Page

AnimeFest is experiencing some growing pains, which can be extremely frustrating.  However I do appreciate that they are taking the time to ask for feedback and that they have expanded their panels to encompass more than just anime (my friend Kyatto did a panel on whales that was very popular).  I also am very glad for the volunteers who are stationed to help out with the A/V equipment and give five minute warnings.  I don’t think I ever thank con staff a lot so here’s to those who keep AFest and other conventions together.

Click here to see the rest of my pics.

Listening to: “left to cry there” by DAZZLE VISION

Anime Matsuri 2015 Fashion and Cosplay

Apologies for leaving you hanging for a month.  I had to take a break from blogging to concentrate on real life endeavors and catch up on editing the massive number of photos I took from various events, including Anime Matsuri.   I did do a feature on DISACODE vocalist AKIRA’s appearance in the Anime Matsuri fashion show for JRock247.  However, there were lots more images that I wanted to share.

The show, titled “Monster”, featured designs by Atelier Boz, Angelic Pretty, Putumayo, and Metamophose.  AKIRA played the hero whose complicated relationship with Queen Lilith, portrayed by Midori Fukusawa, is explored in the plot.  In addition to this dramatic storyline, the show also contained contained contortionism, pyrotechnics, and guest appearances by shironuri artist Minori, cosplayer Reika, and several other lolita models.
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AKIRA in Atelier Boz and Midori in Angelic Pretty

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Putumayo, featuring Yui Minataka as the Atomic Queen

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Metamorphose, featuring Chokelate

The fashion guests also hosted panels.  I attended the boystyle one by AKIRA and Shiva, the designer behind Atelier Boz.  They provided advice as well as personal details in the Q&A session.  Many attendees were in elaborate ouji coordinates that would make Oscar Wilde jealous, but Shiva seemed to like my “working” boystyle outfit.  It seemed like OTT (over-the-top) has been trending among both boystyle and lolita.  I also noticed some dolly kei influences in some of the lolita outfits.

On the cosplay side, I learned about make-up from Reika and embellishments from Stella Chuu and Chubear Cosplay.  Since Reika did a live demo on a lucky attendee, it was hard to see the finer details.  She gave a lot of great tips though.
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Chubear and Stella had some interesting tips about how to make your costumes really stand out in photos, which often require sacrifice in the form of compromising on accuracy or realism.  Seeing their cosplays broken down helped make the process less intimidating.  Stella also did a panel on nerdlesque, which provided an informative prelude to the show later that evening.

Because I covered three concerts plus a fashion show and wanted to catch some panels in between, I didn’t really get to take too many cosplay photos. It was a shame since there was an area with different backdrops for photoshoots.  It was a great way to get pictures without worrying about blocking traffic, photobombs, or ugly hotel carpeting.  Popular costumes included variations of the Sailor Scouts, Puella Magi Madoka Magica, and a bunch of things I didn’t recognize.
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I have no idea what these guys are cosplaying, but they look so kawaii and fabulous.

Overall Anime Matsuri 2015 was an interesting experience.  Although I liked the spaciousness of the George R. Brown Convention Center, it might have been a little too big.  Getting lost and dealing with sore feet were inevitable, and the Houston construction outside didn’t help.  I don’t do many anime cons and very rarely do I travel outside of Dallas for a convention so I enjoyed seeing what another city had to offer in terms of J-fashion and cosplay.

Click here to see all my photos.

Listening to: Kirie Toroimen No Shirabe” by AKIRA

#28DaysofBlackCosplay

“28 Day of Black Cosplay” is a really cool hashtag started by Chaka Cumberbatch of Princess Mentality Cosplay for Black History Month.  Black cosplayers have faced a lot of racism, as well as a lack of representation in the media that they love, so this gives them a chance to find solidarity and proudly show off their hard work.  I’ve decided to use this opportunity to show off the cool black cosplayers I’ve met because they don’t always get the recognition that they deserve and maybe all the photos everyone is sharing will encourage others to not be afraid to take up cosplay.

I’m going to start off with a photo of Miss Cumberbatch herself as the lovely Princess Tiana from A-kon 23.
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Next is Samurai Pizza Kitten Cosplay as Zoe Washburn of Firefly. This past year, she participated in a race-based cosplay discussion panel at AnimeFEST called “Shades of Cosplay”.
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Now both Tiana and Zoe are black characters, but cosplayers shouldn’t feel like they have to stick to their own race. Some people assume that the default race for anthropomorphized forms of non-humans like the TARDIS and My Little Ponies is white, which has led to hateful comments directed at artists and cosplayers who choose a different race. It’s an absolutely ridiculous notion, and Ashley here shows that a human form of the TARDIS can be any race of one’s choosing (even if one episode of Doctor Who made the box a white woman).
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Not to leave out the male cosplayers, here is Rick Strife as… you guess it, Cloud Strife from Final Fantasy VII.
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A few years back, I interviewed Mika, who is a black cosplayer currently living Japan. At one of the Sendai Comiket events, she dressed up as Multi from To Heart.
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Even though most steampunks don’t consider their outfits to be “cosplay”, I wanted to include at least one black steampunk because the community has experienced the same issues as cosplay. This is Lucian Menkent of The Celestial Rogues.
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Lastly we have Choco Marzipan Cosplay in an original outfit she put together a photoshoot I organized with our friends.
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This is just a small sampler of the black cosplayers I’ve come across. I wish I knew the names of all the others because I’ve seen a lot of wonderful costumes that deserve to be featured with the proper credit. If you want more though, check out the “28daysofblackcosplay” hashtag on Twitter and Tumblr!

Listening to: “Rule Your World” by Crystal Kay