Archive for July, 2010

Duel of ‘Fate’: A trip to Anime Expo (part 2 of 2)

July 30th, 2010

Last July, a group of cosplayers, among them Oahu Anime Explorer president Kell Komatsubara, performed a skit in the Anime Expo Masquerade as members of the Hakaida Squad — an award-winning experience and one for which Komatsubara was kind enough to provide an account for Otaku Ohana readers. (You can find Part 1 here and Part 2 here.) Kell and the gang returned to Anime Expo earlier this month for a return engagement with new costumes and a fresh skit … and we were more than happy to host his account of what took place once more. If you missed it, Part 1 of this year’s account is right here. –Jason Y.

In the beginning of June, I started shipping everything to Los Angeles. This year, unlike last year, everything arrived unscathed. Everything looked really good at this point, but as you know, Murphy’s Law has a way of rearing its ugly head at the last minute.

Ethan suddenly called me and told me that he had just gotten a job promotion. Great! But Ethan then said he wouldn’t be able to come in until the Friday morning of the convention. So I told Ethan to practice his moves in advance as much as possible, and we’d refine it at the Friday night rehearsal.

I was about to leave for L.A. when I got the news that Danielle would have to go back to Hawaii for a family emergency. When I got to L.A., Danielle and I could only practice for one day — we spent almost three hours getting the routine down. She would return to L.A. on Thursday night of the convention and we would continue to practice. Also, due to her family emergency, she could not finish her gloves and boots. So after we finished the Friday night rehearsal, Danielle and I, as well as Mark and Ethan, went to my hotel room, and we stayed up until 5 a.m. finishing the costume.

When we woke up on Saturday morning, we started packing, and used Kevin’s car to take everything down to the Marriott where Flo was staying. As I went down the elevator, I felt a sudden itch on the side of my face. In all of the rush, I forgot to shave! I ran back upstairs to get a razor and decided to shave in Flo’s hotel room. When we got to the hotel, I was about to shave when I realized that I forgot to bring the shaving cream. So I did it “Man vs. Wild” raw style.

We finally got to the Nokia Theatre, and we were led by Anime Expo staffers to the Green Room downstairs. Mark and I helped Danielle into her costume, while the rest of us prepared our costumes. I then prepared my costume. We also practiced our parts.

It was now showtime, and the staffers led us to the stage. This was probably the most intense skit I have ever done, so needless to say, I was VERY nervous. Danielle held up her hand to me and said, “Let’s do it!” I put my hand up to hers and replied, “Let’s go!” Right after I said that, I heard the emcee, Kyle Hebert, call on our skit.

The lights came on and the music started. Danielle and I ran onstage and started the duel. Next to come onstage were Mari (Caster), Mark (Soichiro), Cody (Shinji) and Jaden (Rider).

The time soon came for my character to die onstage. (Someone later asked why I didn’t use Assassin’s “Tsubame Gaeshi” move — the main reason I didn’t use it was because there were no detailed explanations of how the move was completed. The move used in “Fate/Stay Night” could be done only by a highly trained swordsman who has been training for a lifetime, and not a wannabe like me.)

The second battle scene was up next, and Ethan (Archer) and Kie (Rin) ran to link up with Danielle (Saber) at center stage. They all completed their moves perfectly, and Rin and Archer chased Cody (Shinji) offstage while leaving Saber behind.

The next scene featured Saber returning to her original time of King Arthur and Camelot. Her two loyal Knights of the Round Table, Sir Bedivere and Sir Kay, then appear onstage to assist her. Sir Bedivere and Saber trade lines, and both get up to walk off stage. At the end of the skit, Sir Kay told all the dead actors onstage to get up, saying, “All right, you corpses, lying down on the job, eh? Let’s get a move on! Come on!” As the corpses rise and did the zombie shuffle offstage, you could hear Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.”

We returned to the green room, and we began packing our props and waited to see if we won anything. The AX staffers suddenly called our number and told us to go back onstage. I asked one of the staffers, “What did we win?” But no one seemed to know. When I saw one of the Masquerade coordinators, I asked her the question again, and she told me, “I’m not saying! It’s a secret! You’ll find out soon enough.”

When we were called on stage, it was announced that we won second place in the “Best Presentation” category. Danielle and I walked to center stage, crossed our swords, then accepted the award. We all stood on stage until all the awards were given out, and then we went backstage to get the other prizes.

After we left the Nokia Theatre, we went to the Marriott to do our final photo shoot. We did single poses and group photos, and then we went to IHOP for our traditional post-Masquerade dinner. Danielle went still dressed as Saber. I was going to go as Assassin, but I had to go back to my hotel first, and I decided not to wear my costume. We enjoyed our final meal together at IHOP before we said our farewells.

On our way back to the hotel, Flo, Danielle and I began talking about our next skit. We were trying to decide: Do we HEAD TO OUTER SPACE? Or do we HENSHIN into something else?

Duel of ‘Fate’: A trip to Anime Expo (part 1 of 2)

July 27th, 2010

Last July, a group of cosplayers, among them Oahu Anime Explorer president Kell Komatsubara, performed a skit in the Anime Expo Masquerade as members of the Hakaida Squad — an award-winning experience and one for which Komatsubara was kind enough to provide an account for Otaku Ohana readers. (You can find Part 1 here and Part 2 here.) Kell and the gang returned to Anime Expo earlier this month for a return engagement with new costumes and a fresh skit … and we were more than happy to host his account of what took place once more. –Jason Y.

Once again, I found myself joining up with Florencio Lim Jr.and Danielle DeWald at the Masquerade for Anime Expo. So how did I end up onstage again at the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles? Flo and Danielle have always been “Fate/Stay Night” fans, and they asked me if I would consider doing the skit with them after the Hakaider Squad skit was finished. It took all of two seconds to decide, and once we were done with the Hakaider skit, we began making plans for 2010.

“Fate/Stay Night” was based on the visual novel game by Type-Moon. The story centers on the orphan and unwilling Magi, Emiya Shiro. When he was 10 years old, his parents were killed by a huge fire that had engulfed most of the city. Shiro is then adopted by Emiya Kiritsugu, who later tells Shiro he is a Magi Sorcerer and tells him about secret battles of the Magi and their search for the Holy Grail. The last Magi war was 10 years ago and the results of the battle are what caused the fire that had killed his parents. (For more on “Fate/Stay Night,” go to

Danielle has always loved the character Saber — Shiro’s Servant, a summoned spiritual familiar — and Flo asked me if I would do the character of Assassin, a solitary Servant. I had just started watching the series and had yet to get to the part where that character appeared. So I asked Flo, “Who was the character, and what was the character about?” He told me the character is a ronin samurai, based on the historical character of Sasaki Kojiro. After hearing that, I was like, “Me? Samurai? HELL YEAH!!!” So Flo and I started working on some ideas immediately, and I told Danielle that I had some ideas for the prop weapons as well.

In January, I started building the weapon props, and my first project was the sword for Saber. I decided that I wanted to make the sword have a sparkle effect when it collided with Assassin’s blade. So I took apart a disposable camera, removed the flash and fitted it inside the blade. I was almost done with the project when Flo told me that the AX Masquerade coordinator had notified him that we couldn’t use any “electronic flashes” in our props, but that LEDs were okay.

So it was back to the drawing board. I started looking into LEDs, and found a 28,000-millicandela LED. (A normal LED is about 600 to 800 mcd, so that would be BRIGHT!) I tried to find what it would take to create an array of five lights on each side of the blade and had it inserted it into the blade. I then designed a force trigger and put light tape on each side of the blade to make the blade light up.

I actually completed the blade for Assassin in 2009, so I started working on the blades for Archer and Rin. The props were all made from balsa wood, and I made sure that I painted the correct color schemes for each of the blades. After I finished painting, I laid some fish scales on each side of Archer’s blade so it would shine onstage.

Flo and I discussed having a sword duel between Saber and Archer for the skit. To make the fight scene look authentic, I contacted Bruce Chu and Kevin Won of the Ninja Monkey stunt team. I asked them to help design some good onstage fight choreography, but not something so complicated that I couldn’t master it with my current skill level.

When we first started, Bruce told me the balsa in Assassin’s blade would not hold up to the mass of Saber’s blade. Sure enough, the blade broke while practicing with Kevin. I had to make a new blade that could withstand the constant pounding that it would take. I made the second one out of mahogany, using fabrication skills that I had recently mastered, and built it in three days. Danielle returned to Hawaii in April, so Kevin and I demonstrated the fighting routine for her.

Flo then started recruiting the other team members, asking Kie Gruenke, known in the cosplay world as one of the “Neko Twins,” to play the part of fellow Master Rin Tohsaka. The next ones to be recruited were Cody and his girlfriend, Jaden, who took up the roles of Shinji and his Servant, Rider. I brought in my usual suspects, Ethan and Mari, to play Rin’s Servant, Archer, and Caster. Danielle brought in her friend Mark to play Soichiro, while Flo played a knight and I played Assassin. Finally, Flo found one of the 501st Legion Star Wars guys, Kevin N., to play the second knight.

While I made the swords, Danielle started working on the Saber costume. While she made a Saber outfit before, she didn’t like how it turned out, so she redid the costume from scratch. In mid-2009 I researched the designs for the Assassin, Archer and Caster costumes and had my cousin complete the three costumes. I had discussed with Flo about making the two knights’ armor and helmets, so I began building and forming the materials for those.

I started to assemble the audio track for the skit around April this year. Flo gave me the script and I got three of my friends to do the voice-overs. As for the fight choreography, we videotaped the sequences so everyone would know their key positions, what they would be doing and how it should look.

In the beginning of June, I started shipping everything to Los Angeles. This year, unlike last year, everything arrived unscathed. Everything looked really good at this point, but as you know, Murphy’s Law has a way of rearing its ugly head at the last minute.

To be continued …

Drawn to Mayhem

July 20th, 2010

When I first got word that MangaBento was hosting Manga Mayhem, a day featuring fun with manga-inspired art, several friends of Cel Shaded/Otaku Ohana and free admission to the Contemporary Museum, I knew that I had to go and bask in the atmosphere for a few hours.

Sure, I had to start my regular work shift at 2 p.m., but seeing people get excited about drawing is always fun. Plus, as I mentioned in Cel Shaded, the last time I visited the museum was for an extra-credit assignment for an art class back in the mid-’90s, so I was long overdue for a return visit. And so, last Thursday, I did just that. If you missed it, here’s a look at some of what happened through the eyes (and camera) of your friendly neighborhood otaku columnist.

So welcome to the Contemporary Museum, tucked away on a winding road in the heart of Makiki Heights, home base for the day’s festivities. If you haven’t visited there before and you live on Oahu, you ought to visit there at least once. If you’re visiting from out of state, try to tear yourself away from the beach for just one day and go visit — besides, the sun and salt water can wreak havoc on your skin, and you’ll be cleaning sand out from your stuff for days. Go for the art, stay for the atmosphere … I understand it’s a favorite location for the occasional gothic lolita tea party.

What this means is that you have something like this reflecting pool just a short walk away …

… from this garden. Like I said, gorgeous.

Doing the hosting honors for the day was MangaBento, the group of local anime/manga-inspired artists that meets every second and fourth Sunday from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Academy Art Center, 1111 Victoria St., room 200 … sorry, I’ve inserted that item so many times into Cel Shaded over the years, I get stuck on auto-pilot and just start rattling off that information every now and then. One table was set up with artwork — a sample of which you can see in the introductory image on this post — and this display board. Which toppled over. A lot. Suffice it to say, it was a nice day, but man, that breeze.

Several guest pro artists joined MangaBento in the day’s festivities. MidWeek cartoonist Roy Chang was there, busy giving art portfolio critiques and tips to aspiring artists. And there were a lot of aspiring artists … I arrived around 10:15 a.m., a little while after the museum opened, and decided I’d slip in to chat with him whenever there was a lull.

That didn’t happen until a good two hours later.

Star-Advertiser cartoonist, illustrator and Gordon Rider creator Jon J. Murakami was also there, drawing sketches and the occasional platypus. Jon’s half-hour talk offered advice that had me thinking of the local greeting, “Eh, howzit, brah.” More specifically, his four tips made up the acronym “BRAH”: Be original, research your settings, accept criticism and have fun.

Oh, and he also draws some other famous cartoon creations as well. These were some of his favorites growing up.

Last but certainly not least was Audra Furuichi, co-creator and artist of the popular Web comic nemu*nemu, who offered a half-hour behind-the-scenes peek at how she digitally draws her comic. She’s also the first person I’ve ever seen doing a presentation entirely via Apple iPad. I want an iPad now! Well, okay, so I’d probably ignore its potential for presentations in favor of playing the heck out of Espgaluda II on the thing, but still. Bullet-hell 2-D scrolling shooters … mmmmmmm … ummm, back to Manga Mayhem, yes.

Audra also showed the audience a sneak preview of August’s East Oahu Sun strip, a frame of which is shown above. Now be sure to visit sometime next month when they post the strip, and compare and contrast this line art with the finished product.

But lest we forget, the star of the day was drawing.

Lots …

… and lots …

… and lots of drawing, mostly in traditional media …

… but sometimes in digital media as well.

I was impressed to see so many people of all different ages just pick up whatever writing implements were on hand — pens, pencils, markers — and start doodling on scratch paper or coloring in pre-printed designs. There were also two “Art Champ” competitions, one for elementary school-age children, one for the older folk. Here, MangaBento’s Brady Evans explains the rules of the contest to the younger kids — draw a comic based on the theme of “summer.”

Of course, sometimes you didn’t even need separate pieces of paper. Sometimes you just take directly to drawing on the table. (Good thing there was paper covering those tables!)

There were also demonstrations of some neat tools for artists. Here we have the Zen Board, a board where you take a brush, dip it in water and paint calligraphy (or other designs, if you so choose) on it. Over time, the water evaporates and the designs disappear, leaving the board clean and ready for its next use.

There were also a bunch of Deleter Neopiko markers sitting on the MangaBento table, under which someone drew this chibi cutie. When I went into the office later, I looked up the website written under him. It was quite cute as well. Kudos to the artist.

MangaBento’s Devin Oishi demonstrated a few of the pens for me, too. Made me wish that I could draw more than simple stick figures. Then again, if some cartoonists can gain Internet notoriety from drawing stick figures …

Overall, it was a fun, fun day. I’d say there were at least 150 people who went, and one of the museum staffers I talked to said he was impressed with the turnout. (Update 7/20, 8:40 p.m.: MangaBento’s Twitter account places the count around 250+ by 2:30 p.m. Thursday. Even better!) Here’s hoping for an encore sometime in the future … particularly since tag-team partner in fandom Wilma J. told me that the museum cafe’s worth a visit, and I completely forgot to go. Oh, well. Next time.

Want to see more? Audra posted a bunch of pictures and her own blog about the day on the nemu*nemu site, and Jeff Gaskell posted a gallery of pictures that Devin sent to him. (And please take particular note of the presence of a certain anime columnist in the front row of some of those pictures.)