The further adventures of the Hakaida Squad

September 12th, 2009

Back in July, a group from Hawaii entered Anime Expo’s Masquerade and performed a little skit as members of the Hakaida Squad — a performance that ultimately earned them the convention’s Master Craftsmanship award. Among the participants was Oahu Anime Explorer president Kell Komatsubara; I’m pleased to present part 2 of his essay about the experience here. Part 1, of course, is just a click away.

Somehow, our armor had gotten lost by the postal service, and Hakaidas without chest armor were really not an option. After all we went through and had overcome so far, being stopped by this setback was NOT going to happen.

On the Thursday before I was to leave for Los Angeles, I ordered a sheet of aluminum and began cutting out the pieces for the chest armor. By Friday (and a few blisters on my hand later), I had all the armor cut and dressed it all up. I knew, however, that I was not going to have time to paint it here in Hawaii and ship it.

That Sunday, I boxed up all the armor and prepared to take it on the plane with me. On Monday afternoon, I began the final fitting of the armor for everyone. Since I was now in Los Angeles, I didn’t have access to the same race car shop as in Hawaii, so to make the bends in the armor I used a light pole to form it.

On Tuesday night, I went to my friend’s place in nearby Torrance to paint the armor. When we left there, it was almost 10:30 at night and I didn’t want to come back to pick up the panels, so I put them in the car, spread them out as much I could and turned the car heater to full blast.

The Hakaida chest armor in its unpainted state.

By Friday afternoon, I had the full armor assembled for craftsmanship judging, and Flo, Danielle and I went to our scheduled judging time. The judges were amazed with all of the weapons, masks, and costumes we presented and asked a LOT of questions.

We began our rehearsal sometime around 1 a.m. Saturday. This year, I brought along my external speakers and iPod so we could practice. This was much easier than the Eva skit, but it was just a matter of timing when to march off the stage, with our vision with our masks on limited. We worked at it for about an hour and a half, making minor changes to the entry and exit and some of the timing as well. We then decided to go to sleep and make final preparations for the big show later.

Later Saturday morning I went over the weapons and masks to make sure everything was in order. I then boxed everything up and took a quick inventory so we wouldn’t forget anything. It was then time to leave, and we loaded up Ethan’s car with all the boxes. He and I would drive down to the Los Angeles Convention Center while the rest of our group caught the shuttle. When Ethan and I arrived, we unloaded the boxes. He went back to drop off the car while I waited for everyone else to get there to help haul everything into the back of the main events arena.

A look at the inner joints of the Hakaida chest armor.

The staging area for all of the skits was behind the stage at the main events hall, LA Convention Center Hall A, in a large holding area. It had a lot more room than the Nokia Theater last year, but that was the only advantage this venue had. I kept thinking of how I missed the Nokia theater. The stage was now reduced to about a quarter of the stage we had in 2008, and the seating and audio was nowhere near as awesome as the other venue. But we all understood why we couldn’t get the Nokia, as the price to rent it out probably would have driven Anime Expo bankrupt.

We began to get everything out of the boxes, and then laid everything out. Next we put on the jumpsuits and boots and started last-minute adjustments to the masks. The one thing we did not anticipate was that with the mask on and the baklava under it, we had a hard time hearing what was going on. It was also difficult to see out of the masks, but I had discovered earlier that I had a much easier time if I closed one eye and looked through the hole with the other. It was a good thing we had Angela and Sara as stage ninjas to help us get on stage; if it weren’t for them, we probably would have ended up crashing into something. While we were waiting to go up on stage, Flo overheard one AX staffer saying, “I heard about their stuff lighting up. I can’t wait to see these guys on stage.”

The Hakaida chest armor in its final painted form. (photo courtesy Kell Komatsubara)

Finally, we got our chance. We did stumble a bit on some small things, but it was pretty cool to actually be a part of this six-year dream come true for Flo! In the end, we left the stage marching to “Colonel Bogie’s March” from Bridge Over the River Kwai, and the audience went nuts. We were told afterward, that our skit was the first time, either in the U.S. or Japan, that all four Hakaidas had ever been depicted in one place at once. I’m grateful to have been given this opportunity to do this skit and work with great cosplayers.

After we took our photos backstage, we went back to the holding area and began to get out of the jumpsuits and packed up all the weapons again. Remember when I wrote that I doubted we’d win anything? We were kicking back afterward when one of the AX staffers came up to us and said, “You’re entry 43, right?”

Flo and I were in utter disbelief that this was happening. Danielle confirmed to the staffer that we were entry 43, and we discovered we had won the AX Masquerade Master Craftsmanship award, given to those who are of the highest levels of their art. Danielle won the individual award for 2009.

Once again we take what we learned from this skit and will be applying it toward 2010’s skit. I am, to this day, forever grateful that Flo, Danielle and the rest of the squad allows me to be a part of their programs. I hope to continue to build these weapons and props, with the eventual goal of joining Flo and Danielle as AX award winners.

As for next year? We’ll hope fate will allow us to stay the night at Anime Expo.

2 Responses to “The further adventures of the Hakaida Squad”

  1. AniMatsuri:

    You should bring this skit to Hawai’i. It’d a massive hit for sure!

  2. Hawaii News -

    [...] 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 [...]

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