Archive for the ‘manga’ Category

Introducing Otaku Ohana, version 2.0!

February 27th, 2012

Ever since tag-team partner in fandom Wilma J. and I were handed the keys to our own little corner of the Star-Bulletin blogging kingdom in June 2009, we’ve had one mission in mind: to provide as much exposure as we could to anime, manga, and the local and national fan communities that power those industries. Otaku Ohana, as I explained back then, was meant to be an extension of my print column, Cel Shaded:

What I’ve discovered over the years, though, is that one column a week is hardly enough to contain all the anime and manga news that comes down the pipeline. For every one topic that I’ve covered in print, there have been at least two or three others I’ve passed up. And then there’s the poor, often neglected “Random Plugging” section. In theory, it was supposed to ease the backlog of anime and manga that we have yet to review. In practice, columns kept filling up without the help of “Random Plugging,” and now we have a backlog of several hundred series, partial and complete, that we have yet to comment on in any form. (I wish I was exaggerating with that number.) So it’s time for the next evolution.

Fast forward several years to the present. Some things have changed: Cel Shaded now exists only as an online extension to Otaku Ohana; the Star-Bulletin merged with the Honolulu Advertiser and became the Star-Advertiser; and it seems like our coverage is leaning more toward coverage of the local fan community. Other things haven’t: That review backlog still remains at several hundred series, mostly as the free time that Wilma and I have has evaporated before our very eyes. (We’re really trying to do more reviews this year, though! Really!) And, of course, Otaku Ohana’s been housed on the last regularly updated outpost of the domain,

Until today.

Following the lead of fellow blogger Nadine Kam and her Fashion Tribe — and after kicking the tires and making sure everything is in working order — I’m pleased to announce that all updates for Otaku Ohana going forward will be made on our shiny new site (which actually looks exactly like our old site, but ehh, details, details), All our old content won’t be going anywhere; it’ll still be archived at for the foreseeable future.

I wanted to write a post about all the possible name changes we could’ve given the blog in its new phase, including:

  • Otaku Ohana 2: Electric Boogaloo
  • Otaku Ohana: Now With Bears (a nod to the Xbox 360 sequel to Kinectimals)
  • Super Otaku Ohana Turbo Hyper Championship Edition

Wilma groaned and put the kibosh on the idea immediately.

So I’ll just say this: Don’t forget to point your browsers and update your bookmarks and RSS feeds to reflect our new home on the web. Regular programming will begin shortly. We thank you for your continued patronage. And since the first-ever post in Otaku Ohana ended, for some weird reason that rests with 2009-era me, with a random link to a music video about some plants and some zombies, I’ll end this post with an equally random link to a journalist interviewing a wrestler in the Nintendo Wii game Rhythm Heaven Fever.

Yes, that new tune’s firmly wedged itself in my brain, too.

Kawaii Kountdown: 41 days

February 4th, 2012

A few new tidbits of info emerged from the February edition of the Kawaii Kon newsletter, released into the wild on Thursday; here are most of the highlights. (I’m holding off on discussing a few of them until later this month; those of you who, like me, have trouble remembering some things more than a week ahead of time will thank me for it.)

  • Rounding out the 2012 guest roster at an even 10 guests is a man who’s probably as close to being a lifetime guest as you can get: anime dub producer and Sentai Filmworks representative David Williams. I’d expect he’ll be doing a panel on what’s going on at Sentai — you’ll recall that that’s how news of Kobato being licensed debuted in the world — as well as the traditional “state of the industry” panel that’s typically one of the last panels of the convention.
  • The second of three preliminary rounds for the Karaoke Kompetition will be held at 1 p.m. Sunday at Orvis Auditorium on the University of Hawaii at Manoa campus. In case you missed the first round, this time around is the same as it was on Jan. 22: Contestants are asked to bring a CD with the instrumental track of their desired song (or just go acapella). Pick any song, as long as there’s no excessive swearing. Three more contestants will be chosen as semifinalists. More information, as well as a link to an entry form, is available at
  • The last day to preregister for the convention is still Feb. 29, but now there’s an additional perk: If you use the discount code “valentine,” you can save 10% on the cost of a three-day pass. That makes it $36 (plus a $1.89 processing fee) for a general membership (ages 12 and up) and $27 (plus a $1.67 processing fee) for a children’s membership (ages 5-11). Considering two-day memberships were also posted to the site for $36 (+$1.89) general, $26 (+$1.67) children, it’s like you’re getting an extra day for virtually free. Plus, with the savings, you’ll have an extra $3 to $4 to spend on a few pins! (I recommend these, these or these for starters.) Visit
  • But let’s say you have supremely good luck — we’re talking Galaxy Angel’s Milfeulle Sakuraba-level luck here — and want to try to score a pass for free. For that, you’re going to want to answer the questions of the month. On the Kawaii Kon forums (, it’s “What anime series would you recommend to another fan and why?” Over on Facebook (, it’s “Who was the first guest at Kawaii Kon you went all fanboy/girl over and why?” You have until the end of the month to ponder your answer; limit one entry per site, please.

Kawaii Kon is March 16-18 at the Hawai’i Convention Center, and yes, it will be here before you know it. Visit

From the Pile: “Genkaku Picasso” vols. 1-3

February 1st, 2012

Last week featured the monthly virtual gathering of the manga bloggerati for the Manga Movable Feast, that wondrous time when most of us discuss a particular series or artist’s work. I say “most of us” here because last week ended up being yet another in a long line of busy, exhausting ones at Otaku Ohana Central. Which meant that by the time I was able to really spend some quality time working on an essay related to January’s main course — the works of Usamaru Furuya, hosted by Ash Brown over at Experiments in Manga — the Feast participants came and left after engaging in much worthwhile conversation, the dishes prepared were devoured, the leftovers were wrapped up and taken home, and the only thing remaining was a lovely embossed menu with the words “MANGA MOVABLE FEAST / FEBRUARY 19-25, 2012 / CHEF: Osamu Tezuka / HOST: Katherine Dacey,” printed on the cover.

Yet it would be terrible to let what I’ve already written go to waste, and Furuya’s an artist whose work is certainly worth talking about. So consider this a between-MMF snack, featuring one of Furuya’s most accessible series. This also gives me the opportunity to resurrect some chatter that I haven’t used in this space for far too long, considering the backlog of anime and manga titles that we have available to review:

From the Pile is a semi-regular feature in which we profile something at random from our large pile of yet-to-be-reviewed anime and manga. Believe us, we’ve been in this game for several years now and have had only limited space in the print edition to share all our thoughts, so there’s quite a bit of catch-up work to do on our backlog. So without further ado …

Today’s profile: Genkaku Picasso (3 volumes, complete)
Publisher: Viz
Suggested age rating: Teen+ for older teens (some nudity and violence)

The Picasso of Genkaku Picasso is an aspiring young artist, Hikari Hamura. He actually admires the work of Leonardo da Vinci more, but everyone just ignores his wishes and calls him “Picasso.” While the nickname bothers him, peer perception ultimately doesn’t matter to him; his trusty sketchbook and his 2B pencil are the only things he says he regards as his friends, and he’s perfectly content to ignore everyone and draw in his corner of the classroom. There is, however, one person he tolerates: Chiaki Yamamoto, the only person willing to join his Riverside Club for drawing pictures of water on the riverbank. Granted, she never draws anything — she just reads her psychology books about Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud — but they still seem to get along.

And then a helicopter falls from the sky during one of their club meetings, killing her.

Given how Chiaki’s death happens within the first 25 pages, the potential’s there for the story to take a dark, twisted turn. Furuya’s certainly taken stories in that direction in the past; Lychee Light Club and No Longer Human come to mind, in the ways those series’ outcast characters were thrown into increasingly depraved and depressing cycles of life. But those two series weren’t part of the manga anthology Jump SQ in Japan. And Jump SQ is home to a number of fantasy manga, Blue Exorcist, Claymore, Gate 7, Rosario + Vampire and Tegami Bachi among them. A more lighthearted approach is certainly called for here.

So while Chiaki-as-Hikari’s-human-classmate checks out, another version promptly checks in: Chiaki-as-Hikari’s-guardian-angel, a small sprite who reminds me a bit of Seraphim, the whip-smart, sensibly dressed guiding light of Piro in Megatokyo. As Chiaki explains to Hikari, she prayed to the gods and Buddha that he would be saved, and he was, on one condition: He has to emerge from his comfortable bubble of solitude and help others, lest he rot away into nothingness. He also gains the ability to see the dark shadows around people’s hearts, draw whatever it is that’s troubling them, then jump into those pictures and act as a conscience to other people, healing them of their psychological ills in the process. One classmate holds a hidden resentment toward his father; another, a hidden crush on the class representative. There are issues of gender identity and self-worth also lurking beneath the surface that must be resolved, with the help of our lead duo.

It’s evident that Furuya had fun creating this series. “The editor said he wanted me to do something totally my style rather than something that suited Jump or would sell a lot,” he explains in the afterword in the final volume. “When I heard that, I wanted to pack in all my favorite elements and the result was Genkaku Picasso.” The artist becomes a virtual superhero in the world Furuya creates, where reclusive Hikari can transform into Picasso the Savior of Troubled Youths with his cry of “SKETCHBOOK! 2B!” The sketches Hikari draws of the scenes he sees within people’s hearts are the perfect canvas for Furuya’s imagination to run wild, whether it’s something as simple as a mecha standing over a crystal, as complex as a giant rabbit keeping watch over a melancholy baby, or as mind-numbingly surreal as a giant rose hovering over Tokyo Tower in the rain with a rapidly rising sea. Much of the fun in reading this series comes from how Hikari and Chiaki interpret these sketches and change people’s lives for the better.

As further proof of the fun, there’s even a surprise cameo by the Lychee Light Club. For those of you who actually read Lychee Light Club, with its scenes of a female teacher getting stripped naked and dissected and young men performing sexual acts on one another, rest assure: their appearance here is much cleaner.

It’s Furuya’s playground, and we’re incredibly fortunate to be allowed inside it to take a look around.