Hibari-sensei’s best of 2014

My friend Risa shared this graphic on Facebook, and I thought it summed up the year pretty well.
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Joking aside, 2014 has offered a lot of queer representationand not just with boys.  When Marnie Was There and Sailor Moon Crystal both offered female queerplatonic (possibly veering into romantic).   The latest Sailor Moon musical brought that into live-action, and J-rock ADAMS returned with more homoeroticism.  Although Japan has a long way to go in terms of LGBTQIA rights and visibility and the yaoi genre contains a lot of problematic elements, 2014 seemed to be a year of oncoming change, especially when it ended with the news of Shikoin Temple offering gay weddings.

Of course, one theme cannot encompass at the past year’s greatest hits in entertainment so read on for my picks.  Also, don’t forget to check out JRock247‘s and NekoPOP‘s top album covers of 2014.

Single - “FxxK Boyz Get Money” by FEMM
With an in-your-face title like that, how can you not give this song a listen?  It evokes memories of early Lady Gaga and Ke$ha and is the perfect anthem for a party’s girl night out.

MV – “White Caress” by ADAMS

A lot can be said about ADAMS’ use of homosexuality as their central theme (I could probably write an entire essay on it), but it cannot be denied that they make a great team with director Ryota Sakai.  “White Caress” is a perfect example of the raw emotion and beautiful symbolism that makes their videos so hard to tear your eyes away from.

Album – Roclassick2 by BIGMAMA
Hard rock-classical music mash-ups are not a new thing, but rather than insert a classical sampling into an original song, BIGMAMA has done the opposite and created a fresh new take on old favorites.  You’ll never think of “Swan Lake” and “Pomp and Circumstance” the same ever again.

Artist – Wagakki Band
 photo 2014recap2_zps7979ae50.jpg From Rocket News 24
Although they debuted the previous year, Wagakki Band started to really attract attention in 2014.  They truly blend the past, present, and future with their rock-meets-traditional Japanese instruments covers of Vocaloid songs.

Live-action Character – Lynn (Black Butler)
The live-action equivalent of Mey-Rin turned out to be the epitome of moe.  Her clumsiness is more endearing, and she has one of the coolest fight scenes.

Actor – Fuka Koshiba
Fuka Koshiba is a fairly new face, but she’s making a name for herself.  First, she excelled in Kiki’s Delivery Service, carrying the whole movie on her shoulders as the eponymous protagonist.  Then her heart-breaking portrayal of a bullied student in the second season of GTO made her one of the most memorable cast members.

Drama – Boku no Ita Jikan
This show was raising awareness on ALS before the ice bucket challenge.  Not only that, it depicts a common struggle of today’s college grads: the often frustrating search for a job.  Haruma Miura deserves lots of recognition for his portrayal of a young man who discovers that he has ALS, and seeing him share the screen again with Mikako Tabe in a more mature role was really sweet.

Film – Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Inferno
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I haven’t seen The Legend Ends (which was released late 2014) so I can’t comment on that.  While this one leaves the audience hanging at the end, it is still one of the most stunning anime adaptations that does not shy away from the gritty realism of war.

Anime Character – Shogo Senga (Love Stage!!)
How can you not love the idea of Daigo voicing a caricature of himself, created by his sister no less?  Shogo is also the only character who had enough sense to do something about his brother’s rape. While the seriousness is downplayed as part of his outrageous devotion, he is a rare voice of opposition that yaoi needs more of.

Anime – Sailor Moon Crystal
Even with the weird animation (particularly in the transformation sequences), this series deserves accolades for promoting female strength and friendship.  It’s inspiring a new generation of girls to overcome their insecurities and provides a breath of fresh air from all the reverse harems and all-male series.

Series to Cosplay – Attack on Titan
This anime made Kareshi, who doesn’t normally cosplay outside of my dragging him into couples costumes, actually work on a costume on his own.  The design is iconic and so cool that even my friends who don’t watch anime love it so this trend is going to continue past 2014.
DSC_2093 Overbeck as Dot Pixis

Listening to: “Swan Song” by BIGMAMA

Aoki Tsuki Michite review on JRock247

Fashion model and rock vocalist AKIRA is coming to the U.S.!  She’ll be at Tokyo Rebel on November 22-23.  As consolation for not being able to attend and to amp those of you who can go, I decided to review her solo debut, Aoki Tsuki Michite, for JRock247.

JRock247-AKIRA-Aoki Tsuki Michite-review

Matching the piano in “Aoki Tsuki Michite”, AKIRA sings sweetly. Her voice is lower than her contemporaries, giving her a mature sound. This is an epic orchestral piece, but she does not belt. Rather the long notes seem to come naturally for her, and she maintains a tenderness even when the instrumentals crescendo.

Click here to read the rest.

Listening to: “Tsubaki” by DISACODE

AnimeFEST ’14 Cosplay and Panels

I actually don’t have too much material on cosplay and panels from last month’s AnimeFEST (it was so disorienting to not having on Labor Day as usual) because I focused on the FLOW concert and interview.  When I wasn’t doing that, I was catching up with some friends.  A few of them were promoting the Ladies of Power charity calendar project, to which you can still donate during the next three days.

The two panels I went were “Shades of Cosplay” and “Disney Comes to Life”.  Hosted by Samurai Pizza Kitten Cosplay  and Moco Latte Cosplay, two cosplayers of color, “Shades of Cosplay” discussed the problem of racism in the community.  The ladies had some excellent advice for newcomers and frustrated veterans alike on dealing with hate and figuring out what works with your skin tone.  The Disney panel featured a cast of cosplayers acting like their character and conducting sing-a-longs.  Watching Solid Snake sing “Let It Go” with a little girl made my day. While the panel was very entertaining, the lack of microphones and large crowd caused the back of the room get a bit left out.  It was also twice as long as other panels.  However, it was worth staying until the end because the group created a tribute to honor the late Robin Williams.
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As I browsed through the Bizarre Bazaar, my ears were treated to the delightful sounds of Otaku Acoustic.  I thought it was great that the con put them out in the open so that everybody could enjoy their favorite anime tunes and check out this band.  On the other hand, placing FLOW on the second floor was a huge mistake considering how loud the band got.  I heard that panels got canceled because you couldn’t hear anything, and I know the semi-formal ball got evacuated from the fire alarm as well.

That brings me to another issue.  Between pulling the fire alarm and stealing light bulbs in the elevator, the behavior of some irresponsible con-goers is really ruining the experience of all other AnimeFEST attendees.  It also jeopardizes the con’s relationship with its guests (particularly the ones from overseas) and the hotel.  So PLEASE don’t be that person who thinks pranks like that are funny.

Now onto the cosplay.  With Sailor Moon Crystal out, there was a large number of Scouts and I’m sad I missed the giant photoshoot. Attack on Titan is still everywhere. As seen in the panel, Disney was a huge hit.  We even had a hipster Ariel’s equally hipster family.
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There were less comic book characters, but it’s not too surprising since the focus in on anime, which means I can see cosplays I normally don’t encounter like Eureka 7 and Tiger and Bunny.  However, I did see several Game of Thrones cosplays, which is pretty impressive considering the Texas heat.  Winter will come soon enough though.
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Click here for more cosplay photos.

Listening to: “The Real Thing” by FEMM

FLOW AnimeFEST Interview at JRock247

In addition to reporting on FLOW’s concert, I got to do a brief interview with them at AnimeFEST for JRock247.  We talked about anime theme songs, the previous night’s show, and what’s up with the recent baseball theme in their work.

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How do you balance having two vocalists instead of just one?

KOHSHI: Our vocal qualities are different, and we sing in different keys too. We consider how both the technical aspects and our personalities fit the parts. We actually consider this to be our strong point; we like to use it as a weapon.

Click here to read the rest of the interview.

Listening to: “BRAVELUE” by FLOW

FLOW AnimeFest 2014 live report on JRock247

A couple of week ago, I attended AnimeFEST, which had FLOW as their musical guest.  The concert was very exciting and I wrote a live report for JRock247.

Without hesitation, FLOW got the crowd moving with “Sign”. Vocalists KEIGO and KOHSHI darted around the stage, jumping and throwing their fists in the air. Next came the much-loved Eureka 7 opening, “DAYS”. The funky guitar was the perfect companion to the flawlessly delivered rap.

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Click here to read the rest of the report (and see more pics!).

Listening to: “HERO -Kibou no uta-“ by FLOW

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