Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Cosplay @ Riverside Lunar Festival 2012

Lunar Fest shoot with my friend Richard

There is a fairly large Asian population in the Inland Empire, which is why the Riverside Lunar Festival was started. This was an event in the beautiful downtown area of Riverside that was a celebration of Japanese and Chinese culture that culminated in a fireworks show. For its inaugural year it was a great event that had a massive turnout from the Inland Empire. For its second year I have been tasked with getting more representation from the Southern California cosplay community. I will talk about the serendipitous coincidence of events that led to me heading the cosplay aspect of the events, it was a perfect storm on many levels.

My connection with the event first started back in the Riverside Lunar Festival. I went to the event with a couple of friends to the event who were Anime Expo staffers. We were pleased at the huge turnout and the events highlighting both Chinese and Japanese culture was impressive. I expected the Lunar festival to have a strong focus on the Chinese culture, instead it seemed that there was some impressive representation from the Japanese end, with lots of Japanese food, Taiko drum demonstrations, and kimono fashion shows. As I walked around downtown Riverside, it occurred to me as a photographer that the area is filled with amazing shots for photoshoots. Richard Phon, manager of Anime Expo's Manga Lounge volunteered to be my subject in the shoot and we had a blast moving from location to location. The event ended with a great fireworks show that showcased the closing of the festival.

After the event ended, it was at the back of my mind that the area would be a great area for cosplay photoshoots. During the event, there was heavy Japanese representation, except on the cosplay end. I felt that there should be more cosplay representation since it fit perfectly with the event. After Anime Expo 2011, I had the pleasure of attending a Corona cosplay gathering that had a pleasant amount of cosplay representation. During Anime Expo and this Corona cosplay gathering, it occurred to me that there was actually quite a bit of cosplayers in the Inland Empire. Putting two and two together I thought that it would be nice if we had a cosplay gathering at the Riverside Lunar Festival.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Black Friday 2011 Adventures

Shopping, it is an occurrence that happens on a regular basis as people obtain the necessities and the luxuries in life. Once a year, an occasion transforms from a mechanical, almost routine event into something unique, it is called Black Friday. On this day, stores have loss leaders that sell under the retail price with the hopes that they can attract huge crowds of shoppers. This term has been popularized because it is when many retailers would move from the “red” where the lose money to the “black” where revenue finally exceeds cost in financial statements. For the longest time, I have not participated in this annual excursion due to a lack of interest, or because I didn’t feel the need to whether long periods of waiting for little reward. Due to a perfect storm of a family conversation with my cousin, I decided to try my hand at Black Friday to say that I have done it. Here are my thoughts on this day.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Rise of Q1 Releases in the Video Game Market

In Hyperdimension Neptunia Mk2 you get to play
as the human versions of the PSP, DS, and the Game Gear(?)
Today, the day right before Thanksgiving, Nippon Ichi Software America has announced the released date for Hyperdimension Neptunia Mk2. Per the press statement, the game will be released on February 2012 in the first quarter of the month. While it is a sequel to one of my favorite games, it will be in very good company due to an avalanche of releases right after Christmas. I have noticed it for a while, but gaming publishers are slowly transitioning from the heavily holiday-dependent cycle to releasing a steady amount of interesting games over the course of the year.

Highest selling game of 2011
In the past, the January to March period after Christmas was ignored. It was with good reason, the Video Game Industry in the past had a very cyclical cycle. With the cycle, game sales were low and steady from January to around October. From that point the game sales would accelerate to its high point in December thanks to the Christmas shopping season. The gaming industry accommodated for it and released the big games during late fall and early winter. After releasing the biggest games on the holiday season, gaming industry executives started noticing a trend, the big releases get bigger sales, but other games fall by the wayside. Even big budget games don't meet sales expectations and can have devastating effects on a gaming studio.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

15 Cosplay Characters I would like to see in 2012

Cosplay is a hobby for people to express their love of a certain franchise, character or design. I noticed that lots of cosplayers that I am friends with like shooting out ideas for the stuff they are considering cosplaying as for the next year. If you have been reading my blog for some time, you have probably noticed that aside from being a cosplay photographer that I am quite a big fan of many series within the media of anime, manga, and video games. Normally I don't do self-indulgent articles like this, but I do feel that we cosplay photographers don't get to express what we would like to see as often as we would like. Without further ado, here are 15 cosplay characters that I would like to see get some cosplay in the future.

Layla Hamilton - Kaleido Star
Even better: a shoot with Layla and Sora (picture below)

In the beginning of the anime, Layla Hamilton is the Kaliedo Star, the lead performer in the Kaliedo Stage. She is beautiful, charismatic, and very passionate about creating an amazing performance for the people who watch her shows. She is the daughter of a very wealthy hotel owner who wants her to go into acting. At first she is icy and difficult with Sora, since she doesn't believe the starry-eyed Japanese girl has it in her to be an amazing performer. Layla Hamilton slowly turns into one of the most memorable characters in the franchise and easily one of the best characters ever introduced in an anime series.

Kaliedo Star takes place in the United States, in a fictional city in either Hawaii or California. This means that doing a photoshoot with a Layla cosplayer should be very easy since the shoot could easily be Layla in casual clothes walking around Santa Monica or Santa Barbara. On the other hand, doing a shoot in a circus setting would prove to be tougher or even impossible due to a lack of access to grand stage sets. Due to Layla's strong relationship with Sora, the photoshoot would be even better if the shoot can be complimented with a Sora cosplayer.

Neptune (Goddess Form) - Hyperdimension Neptunia
Even Better: Group shoot with Neptune and all the goddesses

Neptune is the human and goddess personification of the company Sega. She is the goddess of the land called Planeptune, which is a modern metropolis with huge skyscrapers and a huge emphasis on technology. In her human form she is known as a happy-go-lucky girl who does and says things with little consideration of the consequences. In her goddess form she has a completely different personality which is more serious, Neptune talks a little slower, is more sullen, and she is more buxom compared to her human form.

Due to her home land being like a metropolis, doing a shoot in downtown Los Angeles may work very well. Over the course of Hyperdimention Neptunia, she goes to a variety of different environments, which means that doing shoots at any location would fit with the character. I would say that Neptune's goddess outfit is rather risque, but I have seen skimpier clothing in Anime Conventions. Regardless, the outfit will attract a lot of attention and it will take some bravery of the person behind the cosplay to wear it during shoots. The shoot would be better if it was done with the three other goddesses, White Heart, Black Heart, and Green Heart.

Nathan Drake - Uncharted
Even Better: A shoot with Drake and Sully

Nathan Drake, the ubiquitous lead of the Uncharted franchise. He goes all over the world in search for treasure and seems to find trouble in the craziest situations. Drake is an extremely intelligent man who has a penchant for luckily surviving an array or incredible situations. He is an ordinary man who always seems to find himself in the midst of extraordinary adventures.

Due to the exotic locales that Drake seems to find himself it, doing a photoshoot in National Parks may help greatly. A shoot in Joshua Tree National Park would be a great help with its huge rocks and huge desert expanses. Doing a shoot in a rain forest would be awesome, but the cost and the logistics of doing it would be impossible. The shoot would be highlighted even more if it was done with a Sully cosplayer since Sully and Drake really go well together.

Charlone Cladius - Growlanser II

Charlone is the beautiful strict noble who is a soldier working under Wein in Growlanser II. Against her father's wishes, she becomes a solider to follow an imperial knight she admires. As you can see from the picture, she is an archer and over the course of the game is probably one of the strongest characters in your party. Over the course of the game, it is possible to have a romantic relationship with her.

Much of Growlanser takes place in old castles, grasslands and mountains. There are many great places in Chino Hills and south Corona to do a photoshoot. Unfortunately, there are not many old castles lying around, so doing a shoot with that background would be impossible.

Akio Ohtori - Revolutionary Girl Utena

Generally when you see Utena cosplay, the characters seen the most are Utena and Anthy. It is unfortunate because one of my favorite characters has been severely underrepresented, which is Akio Ohtori, the villain of Revolutionary Girl Utena. He is the acting chairman of Ohtori Academy, and is the closest thing that Revolutionary Girl Utena has to a villain. He is handsome, charismatic, and very manipulative. He is a playboy who has won over many men and women, which includes most of the cast of Utena.

Akio Ohtori would make one of the most fascinating shoots ever, bar none. He is a character who oozes charisma and sexuality, and it would take a very talented cosplayer to pull off this character perfectly. Due to the urban and fantasy setting of Revolutionary Girl Utena, the shoot work work around a convention venue. There are also many places in downtown Riverside that would make for a great background for this shoot.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Anime/Comic Book Conventions 2011 - A year in review

Anime Expo 2011, look at all the people
I have been attending anime conventions for a long time, since I started attending anime conventions my convention cycle would pretty much start and end with Anime Expo. Ever since I got on the SPJA Board of Directors and delved more heavily into cosplay photography my convention cycle has started to become bigger and bigger each year. It now starts in January with Anime Los Angeles, and it ends in November with Pacific Media Expo. In the year 2011, I have been in more conventions than I have ever been in the past with Anime Los Angeles, Anime Conji, Anime Expo, Comikaze, and Pacific Media Expo. Here is a look back on the year in review for Anime and Comic Book Conventions.

Anime Los Angeles - LAX Mariott (Con Report)
Went: Saturday, January 8th, 2011
Attendance: 3,598 unique attendees

Looking back at Anime Los Angeles 2011, there are a few things that come to mind that I think of when I think of the convention. Anime Los Angeles has cemented itself as one of my favorite conventions in Southern California because of its incredible attendee and staff energy. Like with all my non-Anime Expo cons, I attended this con for one day, but should I ever expand to attending a non-AX convention for multiple days, ALA is one of my first choices. What is great about this con is that cosplayers migrated to one area, so it is easy to take pictures and meet people. ALA is a convention that is known for its strong customer focus and because of that the convention keeps on growing larger and larger. Major props to Chaz for running a great con year after year. Anime Los Angeles overall is a wonderful convention, and my 2011 experience was amazing.

Anime Conji - Town and Country Resort Hotel (Con Report)
Went: Saturday, March 26th, 2011
Attendance: 1,600 unique attendees

The year 2011 marked the second year of Anime Conji, and my first year attending the convention. When I think of Anime Conji, the thing that comes to mind is that the convention area, the Town and Country Resort Hotel is quite possibly one of the best cons to ever do a photoshoot in. Anime Conji marked the first time I started really going out and checking out other cons. Aside from the great backgrounds and amazing settings, I believe that the con ran fairly well for its second year. It takes a while for a convention to start getting its stride, and I look forward to see where Anime Conji goes in the future.

Anime Expo - Los Angeles Convention Center (Day 1)(Day 2)(Day 3)(Day 4)
Went: Thursday - Wednesday, June 30th - July 5th, 2011
Attendance: 47,800 unique attendees

Anime Expo, to me it is the con that started it all, it was because of my amazing Anime Expo experiences that I started attending cons more. It is the con that introduced me to cosplay photography, being a great manager, staffing a convention, making friends with the cosplay community, and becoming a fan of a variety of jpop stars (including virtual diva Hatsune Miku). Anime Expo 2011 marks my eighth year attending Anime Expo and my seventh year working in the organization. This marked my first year going to Anime Expo as a Board Director, and it was a blast. I had to strike a delicate balance of doing my duties as Board Director that includes networking, interviewing people, and helping staff during busy times and my hobby as a cosplay photographer that includes hallway shoots, hanging out with cosplayer friends, and doing extensive photoshoots.

To me Anime Expo 2011 was a banner year because our attendance broke records all over, which was a shock because there was a convention going on the same time at another location. As a Board Director, it was very fun going around and listening to members, staff, guests, press, and industry and taking their feedback to the daily board meetings to tell my fellow directors what we can look into for the future. I attended the concert with Kalafina, which was the concert I was looking to. Thanks to Anime Expo, I also became a fan of Hatsune Miku thanks to the amazing Mikunopolis concert. If you ever see me play a Project Diva game or have a Miku plushie, thank Anime Expo for turning me into a die-hard Miku fan. Anime Expo 2011 also marked the first year I heavily went into doing photoshoots during an anime convention, and it was a blast. I had so much fun just going around the convention center and scouting out locations. Anime Expo also gave me one of my favorite photshoots that I have had the pleasure of doing. Of all the Anime Expo's I have been to, this AX ranks up there as one of my favorite experiences of all time. I had so many amazing memories of this con, and going to this con always inspires me to improve myself as a photographer and as the Board Director behind Anime Expo.

Comikaze - Los Angeles Convention Center (Con Report)
Went: Saturday, November 5th, 2011
Attendance: 30,000 unique attendees

Comikaze is actually my first comic book convention ever, I have been invited to Comic-Con International many times as industry, but I have yet to go because it has been hard trying to get my other friends to come along. I really didn't know what to expect, and I was very pleased with the convention. For their first year I felt that they did an awesome job. The large attendance also put a big grin on my face because I really didn't expect to see so many people. The Los Angeles Convention Center is one of my favorite convention centers in the United States thanks to it housing Anime Expo for the longest time, and going there again felt like going home. I tried meeting up with the CEO of Comikaze, but she was so busy running around. I completely understand how she feels because I pretty much do the same thing during Anime Expo. It is a miracle that people still can manage to get a hold of me during that convention.

Pacific Media Expo - LAX Hilton (Con Report)
Went: Saturday, November 12th, 2011
Attendance: 2,000+ unique attendees

I have attended Pacific Media Expo in 2007 and 2010, so this marks my third year at PMX. I enjoyed this con more than I have in the past, thanks to the familiar location, great staff, and the great attendee turnout this year. Pacific Media Expo 2011 is a con where I made many "firsts." It was the first time I broke 200 shoots, it was the first time I had a photoshoot longer than an hour, it was the first time I did a photoshoot with cosplay from my favorite manga artist of all time, and it was the first time I did 20 photoshoots in a single day of a convention (for reference, I did 30+ shoots in Anime Expo over the course of 5 DAYS). This is the best Pacific Media Expo yet, and it is my personal favorite PMX that I have been to.

In Conclusion...
This year has been a banner year for anime conventions and comic book conventions. This was my first year going to 5 conventions (up from 3 conventions in 2010) and it showed me that I love going to conventions more than ever. It was great going to a convention, taking pictures and handing out business cards. The look on a cosplayer's face whenever I give them my card with the words "I am on the Board of Directors for the convention behind Anime Expo" always elicits a smile. Going to these cons representing Anime Expo while being a cosplay photographer is one of the best parts of the job. 2011 was a great year for cons, and 2012 will be even better.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Atelier Meruru Gets USA/EU release

Today Nippon Ichi Software America has announced a USA release of GUST's Atelier Meruru (Press Release). The game will be out for the PS3 for North America and Europe in spring 2012, around the same time period as Hyperdimension Neptunia Mk2. Atelier Meruru, features Mel Kishida's gorgeous artwork, an incredible cell-shaded game engine, and the incredible musical quality that GUST is known for.It is the last game in the Arland saga for the PS3, following Atelier Rorona and Atelier Totori.

For those of you unfamiliar with the Atelier franchise, it is a unique game that focuses on alchemy. The cast of characters go around the world searching for ingredients in dungeons. They use these ingredients with alchemy to create new items. The exploration and strong focus on alchemy provides the franchise with a unique experience that most other games cannot really compare to. I gave a glowing review of Atelier Rorona and Atelier Totori earlier this year. With its charming cast, great cast of characters, incredible musical score, wonderful characters, and amazing character design, the franchise has endeared itself to me and has become a favorite franchise to me. It is a great franchise that has a positive atmosphere that seems to be missing from many modern games.

Atelier Meruru takes place a couple of years after Atelier Totori, starring Princess Meruru, a young princess from the northern border of Arland. Following the tradition of the Atelier franchise, Meruru is the apprentice achemist of the female lead of Atelier Totori, Tootoria Helmod. The game features a new feature where Meruru is using alchemy to build her kindgom, and the decisions you make will have an effect on the storyline and the eventual ending.

The game is releasing at around the same time period as Compile Heart's Hyperdimension Neptunia Mk2. Hopefully the release of both games means that we will start seeing more cosplay from the Neptunia and Atelier franchise in future anime cons.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Convention Report - Pacific Media Expo 2011

Of the 200 or so cosplay shoots I have done to date,
this Gentleman Alliance Cross shoot is one of the my favorite photoshoots.
I first attended Pacific Media Expo in 2007, I was intrigued by going to a different kind of convention after exclusively going to Anime Expo for many years. After attending PMX in 2007, I didn't attend the convention until 2010. Part of it was because I was intrigued by the location change, part of it was because I delved deeper into cosplay photography and would like to attend more conventions to know the cosplay community better. While Pasadena was a good location, the hotel was too small for PMX. For PMX 2011 they moved back to the hotel that has housed PMX for many years, the LAX Hilton. Here is a convention report on my adventures in Pacific Media Expo 2011.

I left my house early because I held a gender bending panel on Saturday at 10am. Arriving at around 8:55am, it was very difficult to get a parking spot. The parking lot was full, and after circling around the parking lot for a while, I decided to drop the car off in Valet parking. As I walked in the hobby, I remembered the layout of the hotel used for Pacific Media Expo. The LAX Hilton has a nice, elegant layout that actually is quite easy to maneuver from location to location. It was very easy to pick up an industry badge for PMX, it took me about 2 minutes to pick up the badge. I proceeded to walk around a bit to get a feel for the hotel before the crowds arrived.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Arina Tanemura goes Freelance

Arina Tanemura has written on her blog that she is ending her exclusivity contract with Shuiesha's Ribon Magazine. As expected, her twitter and her website has been inundated with emails from her loyal fans all over the world with her decision. Her last series in Ribon Mascon Comics is her current series Sakura Hime: The Legend of Princess Sakura.

Arina Tanemura has quite a following of manga fans within the USA, being one of the rare manga artists to get a huge chunk of her series released in English. Her big debut manga release was the USA release of Full Moon Wo Sagashite, where she had cemented herself as one of the most admired and respected shojo manga artists. Many of her works would eventually be published, including Kamikaze Kaito Jeanne, Time Stranger Kyoko, ION, The Gentleman Alliance Cross, Mistress Fortune.

As many of you know, I am a HUGE fan of Arina Tanemura. I love her gorgeous character designs and her unique storytelling. Of her series, my favorite has got to be The Gentleman Alliance Cross, which is her first and only major franchise that eschews the magical girl storytelling for family drama and romance. Before The Gentleman Alliance Cross, her signature style was to have large eyed buxom girls (with Full Moon's Mitsuki being the exception) with some sort of unique, magical power. Sakura Hime was her first series that takes place in the Heian Era, but it is a return to the old magical girl storyline that made her very popular.

Going freelance is a huge change for Arina Tanemura, I hope that it will give her a change to spread her wings and do more serious fare like The Gentleman Alliance Cross with her gorgeous signature style. In the past, she has expressed interest in doing more serious fare, here is hoping she can find a publisher that can let her do what she always wanted to go. Good luck with going freelance Arina Tanemura.

Source: Anime News Network and Arina Tanemura's Website.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

PMX 2011 - Gender Bending Panel

I am hosting my third panel at Pacific Media Expo on Saturday, November 12th.

Gender Bending
Presenter(s): Bryan Yang, Kris Zoleta
When: Saturday, 11/12/2011
Where: LP3/Video 3, Room Los Angeles B
Time: 10am - 11am

Description: Genderswaps, crossplay and traps, oh my! We cover the niche yet popular topic of gender bending in anime, manga, and more. Whether you're new to gender bending or not, please come by and check out PMX's Gender Bending panel.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Convention Report - Comikaze Expo 2011

Comikaze Expo 2011
Los Angeles Convention Center
November 5-6, 2011

For a very long time, comic conventions were attended mainly with a small audience of dedicated fans. Hollywood's heavy involvement in Comic-Con International moved the comic convention past the small dedicated fans of comic books into a larger, more mainstream audience. Los Angeles is home to the largest anime convention in North America, Anime Expo. What the city of Los Angeles was missing for the longest time was its own dedicated comic convention. A pair of siblings, Regina and Mario Carpinelli saw the need for a convention dedicated for this market, and created Comikaze Expo. In the convention's inaugural year they had a very impressive turnout due to the low daily badge price of $12 and an impressive list of guests. As a person who has been heavily involved in running anime conventions, here is my critique of Comikaze Expo.

I first arrived at Comikaze Expo at around 10am, it felt strange going to the Los Angeles Convention Center for an event other than Anime Expo. The familiarity of the locate made it extremely easy to navigate the corridors. As we entered the South Lobby area, there was an rather lengthy line that wrapped around the hall. I headed down the stairs to pick up an industry wristband. As I reached the front of the line, I had an issue getting inside, which was odd considering I was in contact with industry representatives at Comikaze. Whatever the problem was, they decided to give me a Press wristband instead of the VIP wristband that my fellow Anime Expo executives received. I hope that in the future they will have an updated database so that this will not be an issue in future conventions. I headed back to the line to enter the convention hall over in Kentia Hall. There was some confusion in lines, and lines for ticket purchase mixed in with the line to enter Kentia Hall.