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.

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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
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


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

7. Star Lord and Gamora, Guardians of the Galaxy – Dallas Fan Days 2.0
Fan Days 2.0-9

6. formal Green Ranger and Deadpool plus friends – AnimeFest 2015

5. Daryl Dixon, The Walking Dead (Kevin Lewis) – All-con XI
All-con XI cosplay12

4. Major Motoko Kusanagi and Batou, Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex – Anime Matsuri 2015

3. Kim Possible and Shego (AnnaMaria Bryant and Kyatto) – All-con XI
All-con XI cosplay06

2. Sailor Cosmos (Meg Griffin Cosplay) – AnimeFest 2015

1. Frankie Stein, Monster High (Kyatto) – All-con XI
All-con XI cosplay11

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.

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.

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.

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

Ladies of Power needs you!

ladies of power

Ladies of Power is a cosplay calendar project organized by Callie Calypso that celebrates female empowerment and women of all sorts.  Featured are women of all races, sizes, ages, and sexualities.  There are artists and scientists, mothers (and mothers to be) and daughters, cosplay newbies and veteran models, alt girls, shy girls,  and more.  They have all come together to express their love of all things geeky and raise money for the Genesis Women’s Shelter.  Photos have been taken by HendrixXHunter Photography and now the project needs your help to raise money for printing!

To donate, please visit the Ladies of Power Indiegogo: click here.  Every little bit counts and all proceeds from calendar sales will go towards the shelter.  Fundraising concludes at the end of this month.

Also, be sure to follow the Ladies of Power Tumblr and facebook for more updates.  You may just see a familiar face.

Listening to: “4STEPS TO BE” live by GANGLION

Anime Matsuri 2012 Cosplay and Panels

I wasn’t going to write this post originally since I covered the main events of Anime Matsuri for Purple SKY.  There, you can read my interview with Tomomi Nakamura and Masumi Kano, the designers of Alice and the Pirates and Baby, the Stars Shine Bright respectively, and live report of FLOW’s concert and an interview with the band.  I did attend several panels and watched the cosplay contest.  While my observations may not representative of The Woodlands/Houston cosplay crowd, it’s interesting to compare them to what I’ve seen in Dallas anime cons.
AM12 cosplay2 AM12 cosplay5

Despite the plethora of Marvel superheroes and Homestuck trolls, Anime Matsuri cosplay is still very anime- and video game-centric.  The ones who attracted the most attention also caught the cosplay contest judges’ eyes.  Saint Seiya, Alice: Madness Returns, and Final Fantasy were this year’s favorites though there were many amazing entries.

Best of Show winner Twinzik took cosplay to a new level with their Alice: Madness Returns skit.  With multiple “sets”, stage hands operating puppets, and lighting cues, it was a full-on theatrical production!  They definitely deserved their win.  You can check out the skit below and read about how they came up with it on Anime Matsuri’s website.

With Baby, the Stars Shine Bright and Alice and the Pirates present, it was no surprise that lolita dominated the fashion at Anime Matsuri.  I saw everything from goth, sweet, country, pirate, and original creations that didn’t fit into your typical lolita subtypes.  I didn’t see many steampunks, which was a bit odd considering that Airship Isabella originated in Galveston and Celestial Rogues are based in Houston.  However, the interest was obviously there, as Airship Isabella’s rack of goggles was completely empty by Sunday morning.
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I joke that I spent my most of free time at Anime Matsuri “stalking” my steampunk friends.  The con kept the Isabella and sister ship Neo Dulcimer crews busy with multiple panels each day.  Half of the panels centered on steampunk characters and world-building.  The others ranged from dieselpunk to ghost hunting.  Even if you’ve been to Isabella’s panels before, they always have new stories to share.  When they sharing information, the crews were manning their two tables in artists’ alley, as well as helping out Fallout Houston.

I also got to check out a demonstration of traditional Japanese music and swordsmanship.  The musicians, koto player Hiroki Matsumoto and “shamisen sensei” Kumiya Fujimoto, gave brief lessons to some audience members.  Finally, I learned a bit about the Takarazuka Revue, an all-female theatre troupe (the “Zuka Club” in Ouran is based on it).  It was quite interesting to learn about how Takarazuka blurs the lines of gender and mixes Western and Eastern theatre.  I even won a couple of flyers from the panel’s raffle.

Other things that the con had included a video game tournament, a special 18+ panel on Japanese bondage by Shinichi “Nabeshin” Watanabe (I was intrigued but too tired to stay around), two nights of dances with guest DJs, and a car show that included the Tumbler from Batman Begins (which I unfortunately missed).  The Woodlands may not seem like the most obvious place for an anime con, but aside from not many restaurants being open late, it’s a nice place for fans to take over.  I’m definitely thinking about making the trip again next year.

For more photos, click here.

Listening to: “1/3 no Junjou na Kanjou” by FLOW