Otakon 2014 – a con in review

Otakon returns to the Baltimore Convention Center and Inner Harbor for another crazy fun weekend from August 8-10. Last year was their 20th year celebration and the schedule reflected that with special guests, events and the like. This year was not to be outdone. With the weekend surrounding the premiere of Kill la Kill and Sailor Moon, Aniplex and Viz took over the anime weekend with their voice actors and industry guests. For Kill la Kill, there is Christine Cabanos, Carrie Keranen, Erica Mendez and David Vincent. For Sailor Moon, we have Robbie Daymond and Stephanie Sheh for the new cast and the legendary voice actors of the original series: Linda Ballantyne, Katie Griffin and John Stocker. There is also the famed Dante Basco, Wendee Lee and Tony Oliver amongst others. From Japan we have producer Kashiwada Shinichiro, director Katabuchi Sunao, mangaka Kozaki Yusuke, seiyuu Hayami Saori, game designer Ishii Jiro and animator Matsubara Hidenori…but that doesn’t end there. Otakon staff honoree Masao Maruyama returns to speak about his new projects with MAPPA, as well as producer and musician Yura Hiroaki in attendence. Musical guests are Altima and Yoshiki of X Japan. Otakon is the last stop on Yoshiki’s classical tour and his piano concert will close the weekend. Throw in two sumo wrestlers, Kelly Gneiting and Yama and we have a weekend that we won’t soon forget! It’s chaos central here on in!
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Otakon 2014 – Yoshiki in Concert

Baltimore was the final leg of Yoshiki’s classical tour, a rare performance apart from X Japan. The concert opened with the Miracle video showcasing moments from X Japan concerts and clips from his classical tour. Truly, the video is a wonderful intro into the depth, the heart and the man that is Yoshiki. Scenes of high energy drumming with the band juxtaposed against melodies on the piano. At first glance, they may seem different, but truly, the music is connected as the same soul composed both. As Yoshiki mentioned in the press conference, the melodies came first and whether or not the lyrics are there, the meaning behind the piece will flow through. That is what everyone is waiting to experience. Yoshiki’s music in it’s purest form.
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Otakon 2014 – Hallcosplay and Masquerade

After a delay, the masquerade event began. We had the usual host and his jokes were alot better than previous years…at least that’s how I feel. The event opened with the Hallcosplay entries which had quite a bit of variety and wonderful detailing.

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Otakon 2014 – Linda Ballantyne, Katie Griffin and John Stocker Q&A

No moderator was needed as John Stocker, Linda Ballantyne and Katie Griffin took over the panel with hilarious anecdotes, experiences of recording and changes in the industry.

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Otakon 2014 – Yoshiki Press Conference

The Press Conference was held in the Hilton on August 9 at 2pm. Yoshiki spoke in English while Pata (guitarist) and Heath (bassist) spoke in a mix of English and mostly Japanese.

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Otakon 2014 – Hayami Saori Q&A panel

The staff got us pumped up by throwing out anime titles that Hayami-san were featured in starting with Oreimo, Sword Art Online and Ano Hana. As if we needed any more encouragement as the cheers were loud as Hayami-san stepped onstage in what I remember to be a light colored kimono.

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Otakon 2014 – Katabuchi Sunao Q&A

The host introduced Katabuchi-san of the fame Mai Mai Miracle which garnered a full English BD/DVD release via support on Kickstarter. (Note, beside the pledges with gifts from wallpapers to collectors editions, there was even a $10,000 prize pledge which included airfare to Japan, 3 days hotel, a day tour of the sites featured in the film with Katabuchi-san and staff. Unfortunately, no one took them up on that special once in a lifetime tour.)

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Book review: The Church of Mercy

Church of MercyThe Church of Mercy
By Pope Francis
Published by Loyola Press, 2014
ISBN: 978-0-8294-4170-3
Review copy provided by publisher

Review by Ida Vega-Landow

This slender philosophical book is a collection of speeches by Pope Francis, dating from April to November 2013. My impression of the former Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergolio, Archbishop of Buenos Aires, is that he is a good, kind man with a genuine faith in God, and a genuine interest in the welfare of the poor, not just in saving their souls, but their bodies as well. He proves this in Part Eight, Chapter 30 of his book, “The Cult of the God of Money”, in which he deplores the wastefulness of this throwaway culture of ours and the rampant consumerism that leads to so much waste: “This culture of waste has also made us insensitive to wasting and throwing out excess foodstuffs, which is especially condemnable when, in every part of the world, unfortunately, many individuals and families suffer hunger and malnutrition…Let us remember well, however, that whenever food is thrown out, it is as if it were stolen from the table of the poor, from the hungry!” Continue reading

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Anime Expo 2014 Day 3 (because I didn’t make it to day 2)

Yeah, didn’t make it to AX yesterday, but here’s the cosplay crop for today:

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Anime Expo 2014 Day 1

I’m not covering the convention, but I am taking lots of pictures there. Here’s the famous voice actress, Karen Kahler I met on the metro on the way to AX.

KarenKahler

And then cosplay:

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AnimeNEXT 2014: a con in review

AnimeNEXT returned to the Garden State Exhibit Center from June 6-8 for a weekend of anime, cosplay, video games, fashion and music. Heavy on the fashion and music. The organizers really outdone themselves this year, inviting Studio Trigger designer Wakabayashi Hiromi and animator Koyama Shigeto to promote their latest series of action awesomeness, Kill la Kill. For the fashion line, we have h.Naoto’s Acryl agitt with designer Ishikawa Daisuke for the latest in Japanese punk and galaxxxy’s Arai Jun for their spin on Harajuku fashion. This year, they have their own celebrity models with Kawaii Ambassador (yes, that is an officiated position) Kimura Yu and MATENROU OPERA bassist, yo. The range of punk and lolita extends to music as well with Friday’s concert with ROOKiEZ is PUNK’D and Sunday closing with Luna Haruna of Sword Art Online and Fate/Zero fame. Stateside guests does not lose in caliber as they include AnimeNEXT favs Bill Rogers, Michelle Knotz as well as new guests Matthew Mercer, Alexis Tipton, producer/director Jonathon Klein and husband/wife VAs Ellen Steryn and the epic Richard Epcar amongst others. The highlight of the weekend besides the concerts, the fashion show and the panels would have to be the North Eastern World Cosplay Summit preliminaries, the winner which would move ahead to the finals at Acen and obtain the chance to represent as Team USA in Japan. For a con in the middle of New Jersey, it is definitely a weekend that would put it on the cosplay map! Let’s get started!
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AnimeNEXT 2014 – Luna Haruna Concert

Luna Haruna stepped out on stage to the chants of her fans. Purely a singer, she danced a bit about the stage in a short white dress that was adorable and classy. When she waved her arms in the air, the crowd followed suit. We were only able to shoot the first three songs.


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AnimeNEXT 2014 – Masquerade/World Cosplay Summit Northeastern Prelims

The new host for the masquerade is Uncle Yo which is hilarious as always. He had an awesome opening that is reminiscent of other masquerades that he hosted back when NYAF still existed. Definitely was super entertaining. You can catch the entire show on the Anime Next youtube channel.
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AnimeNEXT 2014 – Kill la Kill Studio Trigger Panel

Currently working as part of studio TRIGGER’s staff, Hiromi Wakabayashi has been involved in several works with Hiroyuki Imaishi. He began setting production for Gurren Lagann and has also worked on Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt from its beginnings as an original idea to assisting in plot development, and participated in directing. For KILL la KILL Hiromi contributed the plot development for episode 4 and directed the 2nd ending sequence. Most importantly, he assists and oversees the design team of KILL la KILL as creative officer.

Shigeto Koyama is an active designer in Japan’s media industry. He has participated in various popular anime titles such as Aim for the Top! 2 Diebuster, HEROMAN, Eureka Seven, Gurren Lagann, Rebuild of Evangelion, Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt, and Star Driver. Koyama plays a vital role in KILL la KILL as a creative director and also created the storyboard and illustration for the 2nd ending sequence. He is also responsible for conceptual design on Inferno Cop, which is available legally on YouTube. Currently, he is working on production for the anime series Captain Earth, which is available on Crunchyroll.com. ~AnimeNEXT info
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AnimeNEXT 2014 – Fashion Show

The Acryl agitt segment opened with a grungy black and white video showcasing the models with classic jrock designs. Acryl agitt has a flavor that is uniquely it’s own, a flair of the wild yet utilizing subdued colors like gray and white. I love the way the soft fabric move and sway as the models walked.
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AnimeNEXT 2014 – Luna Haruna Panel

Luna Haruna was born on October 11th, 1991. Luna’s original voice and special talent soon attracted great deal of attention after releasing her original song “Binetsu no Tsuki” on the magazine “Lis Ani!”. On May 2012, she made her major debut with the song “Soraha Takaku Kazeha Utau” (Ending theme song for the second season of animation “Fate/Zero”), written and composed by Yuki Kajiura. On the same year in November, she released her second single “Overfly” (Ending theme song for animation “Sword Art Online”). Her latest single, “snowdrop” was featured as the ending theme song for “Koimonogatari”, second season of series). ~AnimeNEXT info
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AnimeNEXT 2014 – ROOKIEZ is PUNK’D concert

ROOKiEZ is PUNK’D is a 4-piece rock band with Mixture style, incorporating various music styles with emphasis on rock, punk, and emo. Since formation, the band has been actively producing heart-touching Japanese lyrics, one & only melody lines with expressive band sound to spread messages to fans to live straight forwardly in this day and age at performances all over Japan from their home ground of Shibuya. ROOKiEZ is PUNK’D does not stay within just music but branches out in other areas as well. In fashion, for example, SHiNNOSUKE models for Japanese street fashion brand, “Subciety” while the band gets endorsement from West Coast apparel brand, “srh” and crossing over with other subcultures such as extreme sports and anime (“Durarara!!”, “BLEACH”, “Blue Exorcist”). Their new single, “Reclimb” released in November 2013 was chosen for the opening theme of a hit bicycle anime, “Yowapeda”. ~AnimeNEXT info
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AnimeNEXT 2014 – Kimura Yu Panel

Creator of the most pink in the world. A multi-talented magazine fashion model turned creator, kimura U has been appointed Japan’s official “Kawaii Ambassador” by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to promote pop culture and represent Harajuku Fashion to the world. Having visited countries all over the world such as France, America, Italy and China, kimura U has been a guest at Japanese pop culture events such as Japan Expo and fashion events like Paris Collection. She is the leading emissary of the Shinjuku “kawaii” aesthetic. In 2013, she worked on the cover illustration for a photo collection by LiSA. Then, in 2014, her talents flowered when her original fashion brand, “KOKOkim,” opened at Shibuya 109, establishing her as a creator unbound by genre. This star of Shinjuku is recognized all over Japan! As the world’s #1 creator of pink, kimura U is unstoppable! ~AnimeNEXT info
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