AnimeNEXT 2012

Almost two weeks ago, I had the privilege and joy of going to an anime convention with close friends from New York and Philadelphia. I don’t think I have really posted here before on anime cons, but a brief description of them is a place were anime fans come together, go to panels targeted to topics based on favorite series, anime screenings to view, buy fan based items and food, listen to Asian music, —- and my favorite — dress up.

Here is this year’s con booklet!

I hadn’t been to a con in about 6 years now, last being in 2006 in Maryland for Otakon. AnimeNEXT is a much younger and smaller con, but it’s was loads of fun. It’s grown a lot from when I first saw it in 2004, so I can’t really complain.

To be honest, I was a little bit skeptical that I would really enjoy the con since it’s been some time since I attended one and my once undying love for anime withered away throughout college. However, John, Scott, Kirsten, and Megan really made this a con for me. If it wasn’t for them , I would have forgotten how much I enjoyed attending these things.While I didn’t really attend the events, hanging out with my friends and watching anime and cosplaying for a weekend was a great get away from life.

Here’s Scott & Kirsten as a great Holo & Lawrence pair from Spice and Wolf.

Ref art:

Friday, I dressed up as Mayuri Shiina (who affectionately refers to herself as Mayushii) from Steins Gate. While Mayuri is not my usual pick for a cosplay outfit criteria (and definitely a rather air-headed character), Mayuri is the childhood friend of Okarin aka Hououin Kyouma the main character mad scientist. Of course I had to match John’s Okarin. Megan decided to jump in and made it a group cosplay with her Feyris Nyan Nyan maid costume.

Reference art! From right to left: Mayuri, Feyris, Okarin.

Me as Mayuri.

Megs as Feyris Nyan Nyan.

John as Okarin.

Saturday, I dressed up as a character from Haibane Renmei per Megan’s request. In the reference art, I made Rakka’s outfit (middle/right) and Megan made Rekei’s outfit (far left).

Me as Rakka.

Megs as Rekei.

Really happy we had a “comfy time” costume. It was soooo hot!

I also came out with a lot of great souveniors! I got something for my sister and bro-in-law, but won’t post in fear they will see this pics haha. I’ll probs post later >:)

First up are two great teeshirts Megan bought for me at her favorite vendor, Modondi. They are absolutely adorable!!!!

The sumo one suits me best, I think!

Next up, I actually bought prints from Artist Alley, contrary to what I thought I was going to do. I have collected a lot of posters and wall decor over the years, but I couldn’t help myself! This was the first time I attended a big Artist Alley 🙂 I was so happy to see a Final Fantasy VI artwork with Terra Branford (top) and The World Ends with You group shot (bottom), since artwork for these games are pretty hard to find. Juri was the name of the artist herself 🙂 She not only did fan art, but some great fantasy based stuff.

I had bought Aniket a souvenir also of his favorite anime character, Luffy from One Piece. Don’t get me started on how many times I circled the Dealers Room to figure out what to get him and from what show. However, at the end of the day, he loved the shirt I got so much that he grabbed it and wore it before I could take a pic of it. It basically looks exactly like the image below, but minus those awkward black dashes/stitches. It’s a bit artsy and doesn’t scream obnoxiously “I’m an anime geek.” Great.

Here are the business cards of the places I bought from. Very happy with what I got 🙂 Please click for full size to figure out how to go to vendor websites!

And to end the entry, what better way than a display of true fan devotion. Triforce car decal? Holla!

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Philly Cherry Blossom Festival 2012

We attended the Subaru Cherry Blossom Festival of Greater Philadelphia (aka Sakura Fest) this past Sunday again this year!

The link for more info: http://sakura.japanphilly.org/

Per tradition, Megan made her beautiful bento boxes and yummy Japanese inspired food. This time I was an assistant to an Iron Chef! We woke up at the crack of dawn (aka 6am) to make the food as fresh as possible and allowing for cooling time.

One of the tasks I was given was to make flower-shaped cucumbers. Megan, who is also a Japanese minor, is writing her final Senior project for her language minor requirements about the “Science of Bento.” She told me that they often use cookie-cutters to make cute shapes with food. There is also a particular meat to veggie ratio and emphasis of color & display in a good bento.

Step 1: First I washed, peeled, and sliced the cucumbers.

Step 2: Center a cookie cutter on top of a slice of cucumber. Push down & pull off excess.

Step 3: Viola! An adorable flower shape!

Here is the bento all tied up, along side some extra food and fried plantains!

After meeting up with some more friends, we took the earliest shuttle down to the Horicultural Center by Fairmount Park. With ticket and transportation, it was only $20 plus a SEPTA token! When we arrived at the festival, the first thing we did was take a tour of the Japanese house.

Our tour guide was fantastic. First of all the rules were “shoes on rock, socks on wood,” therefore we were asked to removed our shoes when we entered the house. Our guide explained how Japanese houses were built to admire & revere nature. The house and garden were not meant to be separate units, as thought of in Western culture, but rather one integrative unit.

The pathway to the tea ceremony area was built purposely rocky so that people would walking carefully and cautiously on the stone slabs. It was really amazing to see how colorful and rich in texture each of the gardens of the Japanese house were.

A unique feature of the house we saw was that it had a tea house and bath house right next to each other. According to our tour guide, this was not a typical house layout, however, for purposes of the exhibit it was built that way.

On the way out of the tour, we saw one of the few cherry blossom trees in full bloom at the park. Sadly, because of the weird weather fluctuations of extreme warm weather followed by a freeze shock, most of the trees had lost their pretty flowers. Last year, we were graced with rows upon rows of pink & white flowered trees. Unfortunately, that was no the case this year. Thanks a lot global warming.

Afterwards, we had a lot of fun looking through the shop booths and getting free stuff!

We also watched many of the events during the festival, such as the kids martial arts demo and the prettiest pet in pink competition.

Of course we also participated in the events they hosted! Some of use made fish kites while others did some calligraphy! Sadly I stained my dress with ink (and it’s stuck there permanently), but nothing horribly noticeable, I think.

Some finished products!

Most importantly, we found a flowering cherry blossom tree (one of the few!) to sit under and have a picnic lunch! We tied our fishes to the tree to claim our territory!

Megan was the main preparer of the food, I helped as an assistant chef, while Kim brought some delish strawberries 🙂

We were so full afterwards! Look at those happy faces 🙂

Eventually, it actually got too hot & sunny to stay in the park (which was the total opposite of the doom and gloom rainy cloudy forecast for the day). We eventually retreated home and decided to end the entire night at a hibachi restaurant (discounted for the festival!). John’s parents and Aniket decided to join along 🙂

‘Twas an excellent Sunday, dubbed MegaDAYUM for the rest of the ages (aka Megan’s Damn Awesome Day).

Calming Music [Nujabes & DJ Okawari]

So the ever hectic hunt for apartments and for an internship is really stressing me out to no end. However, I find that there are two Japanese music artists who can always help me calm down without fail. Whether it be studying, writing papers, or a time for a quick meditation in the middle of a crazy schedule, the legendary Nujabes and DJ Okawari have the beats that resound with me and what I feel.

Nujabes is a hip-hop artist and DJ from Japan. I first heard of his music in the anime “Samurai Champloo.” The story and artwork of this anime series are both very intriguing and unique, however, the soundtrack is what makes “Samurai Champloo” one of my favorite animes. Nujabes sets a modern yet peaceful undertone to a rather violent and quirky adventure of samurais in Edo era Japan.

My all time favorites by Nujabes are below. Some that have lyrics are more rap-based, though the classical instrumentals somehow work to make unified pieces. Other songs are strictly a mix  of beautiful instrumentals. Wiki calls Nujabes a mix of hip-hop, trip-hop, and jazz. It’s really a tragedy that Nujabes has already passed away due to a car crash. I don’t know if anyone will ever produce exactly the same music that he did.

 

 

 

Although Nujabes has a very distinct sound to his music, I know there are quite a few artists who have a similar style. One of these artists is named DJ Okawari. I do not know much about him other than that he is another Japanese DJ with styles very similar to Nujabes. Aniket is actually the one to have introduced his songs to me. I’ve had this song below called “Luv Letter” on repeat since last month. It has this great beat that keeps the song lively, yet has this beautiful piano and epic strings instrumental.

Hopefully you guys will check them out 🙂

Monster Makeup, Whale Revenge, Demonic Vanity, & Mermaid Tragedies

Whenever my sister and I reunite briefly, we always seem to have this inkling to stay awake late up into the night in desperate hopes to find a good movie to watch together. What usually ends up happening is that we skim through a couple bad movies, I make sarcastic commentary, and my sister cackles with me all night long while everyone else in the house is sound asleep. It’s like we become the coach potatoes we secretely always wanted to be if we didn’t have such busy lives.

This time, we tried to catch up on my new reality TV addiction. For the longest time, “Project Runway” was my favorite show to watch. I loved seeing amateur fashion designers create beautiful pieces of clothing under very unique and quirky challenges, while still dealing with high amounts of stress and a ridiculous time constraint. Unfortunately, the past couple of seasons of “Project Runway” have been rather disappointing for me.

This season’s “All Star” edition was hands down probably the worst I have seen thus far, to the point I stopped watching it completely (not even taking a peak at the winning designer’s final runway show pieces!). Fortunately, I was able to at least grab some great recaps (and funny commentary) from the blog “La Vida Laura” on WordPress (http://lauragrai.wordpress.com/2012/01/06/project-runway-all-stars-episode-1/)

Seeking to fulfill my creative-theme-reality-tv cravings, my roomie Megs had turned my attention to this new show called “Face-off.” The show is about aspiring special affects artists competing for money, makeup, and prizes! You can read more about it here: http://www.syfy.com/faceoff/about

The show is hosted by McKenzie Westmore, an actress whose father is known for his make-up and effects work in “Star Trek.” Judged by celebrity make-up artists, it is a really entertaining show to watch the artists transform their models from human to crazy characters, monsters, and creatures (really anything you can think of). This feat not only encompasses the makeup design, but also any mask prosthetics, props, and costumes to complete the character looks. Like “Project Runway,” the artists’ works are judged on their craftsmanship, originality, innovation, and if they had completed what the challenge asked for.

Here are two of my favorite looks from the Tim Burton inspired challenged which asked the designers to create characters based on ordinary jobs. The first character is a cello player who loves playing music so much that she appears to be turning into a cello and has a romantic relationship with her actual instrument. The second character is a kooky bellhop who has transformed into a chest of drawers and keeps women customers’ lingerie.

I have personally only seen the last 5 episodes of “Face-off” season 2, available on Hulu for free after 30 days of initial airing on the SyFy channel. My sister is also a huge fan of the show, and after Megan found us a link to watch the finale, we went on a crazy search for season 1 episodes. Supposedly the designs and challengers were more impressive in the first season, so we were eager to watch them together. However, after an hour of searching, we tried to see if the show was available on Netflix. The search result yielded instead this:

“Orca” is essentially a “Jaws” horror film rip off. It is about a killer whale that seeks revenge from a man who accidentally killed his killer whale wife and unborn whale baby. It’s what the Academy of Natural Science would consider for showing at their “Big Bad Movie Nights.” Never mind that my sister and I could barely sit through 10 minutes of this movie, but just reading the Wiki summary just exemplifies how absurd the plot story is. Not to mention it is rather graphic on the animal cruelty side. It prompted this long-winded Facebook status:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orca_%28film%29

This just really adds fuel to those inside jokes involving whale noises that my friends have.  Here are the joyous responses they had for me.

Now my sister has this saying “We must continue…we are pot committed!” This refers to playing Poker when you contribute money to the “pot” and must continuing playing until you either win or lose. Whenever we watch a bad movie, we end up watching the entire thing. Because of the time we had invested in it already, my sister dubs us “pot committed” and we finish the movie until the (usually) bitter end.

An urban dictionary link for reference to “pot committed”: http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=pot%20committed

And as if all of this wasn’t enough, our Netflix adventure does not end there! My sister and I spot “Dorian Gray.” We both knew it was a novel, but had never read it. Since it was written by Oscar Wilde (his only full length novel), we figure it must be very good and had a “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” type of vibe to the plot. It is about a young man who becomes obsessed with his own beauty after having his portrait. He sells his soul to the devil in order to keep his vanity, and instead of him becoming old or injured, his portrait painting becomes warped instead. He slowly goes insane and commits debaucheries and crimes, increasing in severity as the movie progresses.

It is very reminiscent of our other sibling movie night feature “The Countess”. While an interesting concept and featuring the actor who played Prince Caspian from the new “Chronicles of Narnia” movies, it contained way more overtly sexual scenes and homoerotic undertones than my sister and I could handle. This is what happens when you ignorantly don’t read classics. You don’t know what stories should never be turned into movies.

Then for whatever reason, this reminded me of a movie clip I saw on film preview show. I guess it was reminiscent of the disfigured devil thing going on. While coping with the loss of his wife, a man explores sewers that were once where a river used to flow. There he finds a mermaid, takes her home, and paints her. As the painting progresses, the mermaid succumbs to decay and disfigurement because of the diseases she developed while living in the sewers. Although sick and progressively developing worse boils, sores, and infection, the mermaid insists the artist continue his painting, requesting he use her blood and puss in his work.

*SPOILERS* The twist ending (assuming you will not watch this flick/cannot find it/want to stay happy)  is when the artist chops up the body of the dead mermaid, he finds a fetus inside her. Viewers of this film speculate that the artist actually went insane after finding out his wife, who was pregnant, was terminally ill. *SPOILERS END*

After doing a Google and Wiki search, we found the movie was called “Mermaid in a Manhole.” It was a part of a very controversial set of films entitled the “Guinea Pig” series in Japan. All these films are extremely gorey for no good reason and absolutely revolting. I haven’t seen any of them myself, and really don’t plan to. Here is the Wikipage on it, which contains summaries of all the films and their respective IMDB links.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guinea_Pig_%28film_series%29

Below is the first part of the short film “Mermaid in a Manhole” before it gets all gross.

This prompted my sister to tell me about a Japanese graphic novel called “School Mermaid.” It is about girl students who hunt for mermaids at night at their school. According to a myth, if you catch a mermaid your crush will fall in love with you, but you must consume the mermaid’s flesh. The catch is that if the girl is unsuccessful, she will become a mermaid herself. It’s a very short read, about 3 chapters long and below is a link to the complete series.

http://mangafox.me/manga/school_ningyo/c001/1.html

I love how random my sister and I are 🙂

Sakura Sunday – A Philadelphia Cherry Blossom Festival

I’m so behind on my blogging! But it’s nice that I have a huge surplus of topics to write about lately.This past Sunday, my dear friend and former roomie (but now current apartment mate) Megan had volunteered at the Subaru Cherry Blossom Festival of Greater Philadelphia as a Crafts Assistant.
It’s actually been running from March 4 to April 15. However two of their main events, the 5K Run and Sakura Sunday occurred on April 9-10. The event is hosted at the Horicultural Center, a 20-25 minute bus ride away from University City. Just $10 for entrance and your transportation fare.

http://jasgp.org/cherryblossomfestival/

Quite honestly when Megs asked me and John to arrive in the morning at the opening at 10:30 am, we were skeptical. What were we going to do for almost 6 hours in a small outdoor area?

The answer was a pleasant surprise.

First of all, just looking at all the different varieties of cherry blossoms took up a huge chuck of time & was ever so enjoyable. Some science behind the beautiful flower bearing trees:  The ones referred to as “sakura” trees are from the genus Prunus. According to the site there were over 10 different species of cherry blossoms there.

Besides gazing & photo taking fun, there were a ton of vendors selling Asian and Japanese merchandise or themed items. I came out with a slightly aching wallet, but a lot of loot. I’ve posted a few below, and the rest you will see in a month or so after a certain someone’s birthday  ;D

John got a plant and a practice sword we couldn’t stop playing with haha.

Also, there were many donation sites for Relief in Japan from the earthquakes. In one of charity booths, there was a really cool display of giant origami.

John was also able to participate in his very own origami as well. Meet Dilbert aka Dilly the crane.

Of course we went over to visit the crafting goddess, Megan. She was at the calligraphy table. Me and John tried our hand at the ancient art of brush strokes.

John’s says Samurai, Hope, & Japan I think. My paper says Samurai & Ninja. Hopefully our blotchy characters don’t translate to something offensive.

My favorite craft of all was the fish paper kites we got do. Hosted by the Philadelphia Art Museum, their booth was a huge hit. I waited like a creep til the last minute to do a fishy because A) I was slightly embarassed and more importantly B) I wanted as many kids to make theirs before supplies ran out. Lucky for the three of us, there were plenty of templates left!

Meet my darling Tuna Can, who I revamped after the Sakura Sunday to look like an Olympics mascot (by accident). And here is Megan’s swirly Miss Salmon! Finally, John & Bob, the flower-filled eye hole fish!

There were also a lot of events I couldn’t take photos of because I was too short and it was crowded: like drums & dance presentations, martial art expositions, a Harujuku inspired fashion show I sadly missed. I was able to see some cosplayers and  a few really well dressed sweet lolitas, however. I sadly didn’t catch my favorite group on  film because I didn’t want to disturb their lunch time XD

But the main event was one from home!

Megan’s homemade bentos! Not only did this girl go and give her time to volunteer on a Sunday morning, but she woke up at 6am to cook these up.

Absolutely delicious, made from love, and tots free! I’ll let the beautiful pics do the talking! Fruits, veggies, onigiri, shrimp, egg and sweet egg (tamago) and dinosaur shaped chicken and a rabbit shaped apple!

A wonderful display that was great to consume & look at. Love this girl.

So all in all, a superb Sakura Sunday!

Human Arcade Machine Sounding Beatbox

In greats attempts to make me feel better, my loving roomie sent me this YouTube video to watch:

It’s a Japanese (or so we infer) beat boxer with the account name Hikakin. I remember seeing him a few months ago on the Yahoo frontpage for either his Super Mario Bros remix. Very cool stuff, and a few of his other videos are video game related. Enjoy, I know I got a kick out of him haha.