Sunday, January 29, 2012

Riverside Lunar Festival 2012 Report

Larissa in her Beautiful Cosplay
The city of Riverside unfortunately gets lots of dissension for being a commuting city that does not really have a vibrant social culture. Some of the most vocal dissenters are the local residents who have lived there for a long time. Thankfully, events like the Riverside Lunar Festival is adding some charm to the city and bringing out the large Asian communities in the Inland Empire. Riverside Lunar Festival is an event that started recently and this year I was the principal organizer to get the anime/cosplay community to come out to the event. Over the course of the day, there were around 70 cosplayers in the event, including 40 participants in the Cosplay Fashion Show. There was also heavy support from the Inland Empire anime community and the Anime Expo staff. For an event that had zero cosplay before to have such a heavy cosplay presence was amazing to say the least.

When I heard that the City of Riverside was starting a Lunar Festival to celebrate the Chinese New Year in 2011 I had to attend. My experience at the time was a great experience, but I felt that I could personally add something to make it a fun experience. I thought about incorporating events in the festival that had some appeal to anime fans. This idea was in the back of my head, but I felt that it would not really be something to work on if the Riverside Lunar Festival organizers did not support my endeavors. There was serendipitous timing on my part when May Davis, the chair of the Lunar Festival, contacted me to add Cosplay events for the Riverside Lunar Festival. With the full support of Lunar Fest, Anime Expo, and a great team of event planners, we have created the first cosplay event at the Riverside Lunar Festival.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Bite Sized Manga Reviews #5 – Import Reviews

Titles Reviewed:
Fudanshifull #2
Dusk Maiden of Amnesia #1

As many of my loyal readers have noticed, my blog articles seem to be arriving in dribs and drabs compared to the regular release that had been the traditional norm in the past couple of months. I have been extremely busy working on graduate school, Anime Expo, and cosplay events for the Riverside Lunar Festival. I am neither omniscient nor omnipotent, my scheduling of the busy world around me came at the cost of writing as regularly as I used to. As I try to get back the regular rhythm that once had dominated my aforementioned life, I am resurrecting a not so popular segment of my blog, which is this section. Without an established following of people who reference my manga reviews, it seems to be one of the more unpopular sections of the blog. Regardless, I feel that I should still continue it since it develops the standard of excellence that this blog prides itself on.

Prepare your hiking boots and your withered topology maps as we explore mysterious outliers. In the subsequent release of Fudanshifull, we find out more about the coming of age storyline centered on the cross-dressing adventures of our protagonist. Slice of Life stories get a shot of intrigue and sexuality focusing on the misadventures of the misanthropic lead and his ghost consort in the Dusk Maiden of Amnesia.

Fudanshifull #2
Published by: SquareEnix
Cost: 552 Yen

I wrote a while ago about one of my favorite manga that was released a while ago, Fudanshism. This manga focused on the development of Amata Miyano as he traversed through the waters of Yaoi doujinshi to immerse himself in the world of the girl he loves. Fudanshifull is the time jump that transpires at the termination point of Fundanshism. Now in High School, the cast of Fudanshifull try to develop a club on their new campus. They are subsequently challenged by a team in a game of dodgeball that tests the mettle of the club members. After the overly long game, the cast of characters explore Akiba (short for Akihabara) and Ota Road.

This volume of Fudanshifull is probably one of the weakest volumes in the franchise. The cast of characters in the rival team are not so well developed and the dodgeball arc is one of the weakest storylines so far in the series. Its pacing is very uneven and there is a sense of disconnect that is hard to rebuild with the reader. The cornerstone of the franchise is the development of the relationship between him and his female interest and his adventures in the world of Yaoi doujinshi. The entire volume is bereft of the character development that had made the story interesting in the first place. The manga still has a great set of main characters, but the dynamic between them are lacking compared to the previous volume. The other cornerstone is the adventures of the lead character in the world of Yaoi and it explored very little in this volume. The next volume should be the terminating point of the franchise, so I am hoping it ends with a bang, not with a whimper.

Positives
  • Great Lead Characters
  • Wonderful art
Negatives
  • Character development grinds to a halt
  • Volleyball Arc drags the volume down
  • There isn’t much focus on Yaoi

    Dusk Maiden of Amnesia #1
    Publisher: SquareEnix
    Cost: 562 Yen

    Dusk Maiden of Amnesia is a ghost story that is very different from any ghost story out there. The story focuses on Niiya Teiichi, a student at Seikyou High School. One day he notices a beautiful girl walking around the campus. After an encounter, he becomes friends with Yuuko a beautiful buxom girl. He can touch her and interact with her, which is why he is shocked to find out that she is a ghost. After finding her skeleton, he forms a paranormal research club to find out the various mysteries regarding Yuuko to determine the cause of her death and why she continues to cling to Teiichi. The interaction between Yuuko and Teiichi are very cute, it is almost a flirtatious interaction between the two. It is saddening to know that ultimately whatever feelings they both have for each other will never be fulfilled because Yuuko is dead.

    The artist behind the story is known for his ubiquitous hentai, so it is no shock to see that he knows how to draw exquisitely beautiful female characters with proportions that would make any man or woman blush. Yuuko and the rest of the cast have a unique design that makes them very appealing. The world of Dusk Maiden of Amnesia is filled with intrigue, so the gorgeous character designs and copious fanservice, but it also has substance. The pacing of the manga is wonderful, focusing from the horror to the comedy and transitioning seamlessly back and forth. When I read this manga many years ago, I knew that it was something special. The recent announcement of an anime iteration was no shock to me since it deserves it. Here is hoping that it leads to a USA license of the franchise.

    Positives
    • Intriguing storyline
    • Awesome characters
    • Wonderful balance of comedy and horror
    Negatives
    • The fanservice is a little blatant
    • I could tell there is no happy ending

    Saturday, January 21, 2012

    Odds and Ends - Jan 21, 2012

    Due to my insanely busy schedule I can't keep this blog up as frequently as I have in the past, so here are some interesting tidbits and news stories that I felt was important that has happened over the past couple of weeks. They span all the major topics that this blog covers, including anime, manga, cosplay, and video games. Enjoy!!
    • Hyperdimension Neptunia Mk2 Dated and Rated
    • Atelier Meruru release month announced
    • Dusk Maiden of Amnesia gets Anime on Spring 2012
    • Riverside Lunar Festival Cosplay Fashion Show Tidbits

    Hyperdimension Neptunia Mk2 Dated and Rated
    Hyperdimension Neptunia got quite a bit of focus because of its cute character designs, funny script, and interesting take on the console wars. The game was popular enough to have a sequel produced and to have this sequel be released in North America. Nippon Ichi Software America has announced that Hyperdimenion Neptunia Mk 2 is getting a European Release Date of February 24, 2012 and a North American release date of February 28th, 2012. It is also official that the game is rated Mature for fantasy violence, sexual themes, and language. The game had strong suggestive themes and costume design that was quite racy, the sequel ratchets up the sexual content compared to the original game.

    The lead character of the sequel is Nepgear, Neptune's little sister. Her name is a reference to the successful Sega Game Gear that was the most successful rival to Nintendo's dominance until the Sony PSP was released. In the story, all the current Goddesses have been kidnapped and Nepgear must rally the candidate goddesses in Gameindustri to save them. The game features graphical upgrades, a racier storyline, and the great sense of humor that endeared many westerners to the franchise.

    Thursday, January 19, 2012

    Harem Anime and Manga 101


    The medium of anime and manga have an eclectic variety of genres that are used to tell the story. Of the variety of genres out there, only a few of them are unique to anime and manga. One of those genres that started and remain mostly exclusive to anime and manga is the harem genre. The harem genre is one of the most criticized and one of the most loved of the anime and manga genres. A harem anime is defined as having a story which has three or more female characters that are in love with the male lead. As controversial as the genre is, it has a rich and unique history and it has quite a large following of male and female fans.

    A harem series is defined as having three or more female characters that are in love with the male lead character. If there are only two female characters it is a love triangle more than a harem series. What makes this genre easy to spot is that it has a couple of telltale signs to distinguish it from a variety of other genres. The first sign is a mostly all-female cast that will likely contain one or more of these character archetypes in the cast or combined in a variety of characters:
    • Tsundere
    • Well-endowed female
    • Childhood friend
    • Token Lolita
    • Rich girl
    • Spacey person
    • Closet nerd
    • Ninja
    The second sign that it is a harem series is that the lead character is most likely an average or below-average guy. This is meant from the creator’s perspective to make it easier to relate to the lead character, or for the person watching the series to project themselves through the character. The third sign of a harem series is that the girls in general can get along, even becoming friendly rivals for the affection for the lead character. The fourth sign is that the male lead character doesn’t fall in love with one of the girls, leaving the possibility open throughout the storyline that he can end up with any girl. The most obvious sign is how the female cast falls in love with the male lead character, in that they fall in love very quickly over the course of a storyline. Now, I understand that love is an emotional thing, but it is quite obvious when a character is developed with the idea of being one of the candidates for love, mostly because there really is no deep character development that is remotely realistic.

    Friday, January 13, 2012

    Anime Los Angeles 8 Attendance


    I have been attending anime conventions for close to ten years, one of my favorite conventions is a medium-sized convention that happens every January, Anime Los Angeles. If you have read my report on the convention this year, I write ebulliently on how well the convention was run and how Anime LA was able to differentiate itself from the  many conventions out there. Thanks to the great leadership of ALA and the staff that ran the convention, my convention experience was a great experience that I will continue to visit. In my report, I noted that the convention got really packed and that later on it became very difficult to move around the pool deck. The reason was simple, because Anime Los Angeles smashed its 2011 attendance records.
    • Anime Los Angeles 2010 - 3,209 unique attendance
    • Anime Los Angeles 2011 - 3,598 unique attendance (12.1% yoy)
    • Anime Los Angeles 2012 - 4,211 unique attendance (17.0% yoy)
    As you can see with the numbers, the attendance for this year's Anime Los Angeles was 4,211 people. That is a an increase of 613 people over last year's convention. That is a lot of growth for the convention and at the rate it is growing the convention will transition from a medium-sized convention to a large anime convention. The growth of Anime Los Angeles can be attributed to strong word of mouth, strong differentiation from other local anime conventions, and a strong focus on customer service. Assuming that ALA grows at a constant 10% rate it can reach the magical 5,000 number in around two years and it can hit the 6,000 number in four years. The problem is the size of the venue and the potential for crowding on Saturdays, since the Institute of Specialized Learning (the nonprofit behind ALA) has just signed a three year contract for the current venue.

    With an impressive attendance increase for 2012, a congratulations is in order to Chaz and his great ALA team. I hope that the organization can find creative ways to deal with potential future increases in attendance.

    Source: Chaz Boston Baden, Chair of ALA

    Sunday, January 8, 2012

    Anime Los Angeles 2012 Convention Report


    As a person who has started attending anime conventions with a massive destination convention like Anime Expo, a smaller con was a foreign concept. I went to my first small convention and was disappointed because I was merely expecting a smaller version of large mega-convention like Anime Expo. My mindset about smaller conventions changed when I attended Anime Los Angeles in 2010. I had such a great experience that I have started to expand the conventions I attend every year to include large and small conventions. Small issues aside, the convention was another memorable experience to remember.

    Can't get enough
    Kingdom Hearts
    My Anime Los Angeles day started when I arrived at the LAX Mariott. This led to the two of the most frustrating issues I had in what was otherwise a great day. I arrived at the convention site at around 9:30am expecting to park in hotel parking. As I arrived I paid my $13 and proceeded to park in the underground parking lot. I drove around the parking lot to realize that every single spot in the first underground floor was filled. The lower levels were coned off and I circled around in frustration until I decided to exit the parking area to give them a piece of my mind. Thankfully the parking attendant was sympathetic to my situation and resolved the issue. I found a parking spot in the end, but it ended up taking 45 minutes and I wasted lots of gas. As I entered the convention, my troubles would eventually double when I headed to the registration line. I headed to registration to pick up a comp badge that multiple people have said I would be able to pick up, after all I am on the Board of Directors for the largest anime convention in North America. I was not in a database and the people in the front refused to give me a comp badge even when I gave them my business card. I walked around the convention center, completely frustrated, trying to get in touch with my contacts to no avail. After wasting an additional 30 minutes I grudgingly gave up and decided to buy a badge. After all, I do love Anime Los Angeles, so supporting the con was a no brainer for me, I was just frustrated that I had been promised a comp badge without a follow through. After the horrible exercise in frustration, I decided to enjoy the rest of the convention.

    Saturday, January 7, 2012

    Bandai Entertainment Closes Down


    The new year has barely started and it is already off to a horrible start. Bandai Entertainment, the American publishing arm of Namco Bandai is closing shop. Started in 1996, the company has published some of the most influential anime in the United States. The decision was made in October and word has only started to get out recently. Thanks to the great reporting of Anime News Network, we have a good idea of why this storied company was shuttered by its Japanese parent company. Using ANN's great report on the situation along with my understanding of the issue, I will break down what led to the situation and analyze the consequences of the situation on the Anime and Manga market in the North America.

    Symptoms: 
    • The North American anime market has shrunk substantially from the past
    • Prices of Anime kept on dropping
    Symptoms are the the result of what the problems create. In this situation, there are two main symptoms that are a result of all the problems that is in the anime market: prices of anime kept on dropping and the entire market has shrunk substantially from a couple of years ago. In the early to mid 1990's it was the norm to pay $20 for two episodes of a dubbed series and $30 for two episodes of a subbed series. Since then the price has decreased to the point where one can buy an entire season of anime for under $50. While the cost to the end user to collect anime has decreased significantly from the past, the market share of anime has not increased to make up for it. At its high point in 2003, the market was estimated to be worth $4.84 billion dollars. Since then it has shrunk to around $2.74 billion in 2009, which is a decrease of $2.1 billion dollars (source). While we don't have the numbers, since then the market has shrunk further from the low in 2009. The shrinking of the North American market and the decreasing price of anime are the surface symptoms of the problem at hand.

    Friday, January 6, 2012

    2012 Anime and Comic Conventions


    One of my favorite experiences of the year is attending an anime or comic book convention. It brings joy to my heart to go to a place where people can go together for the common love of anime, manga, video games, comic books regardless of social status, education, ethnicity, and religion. Starting this weekend is the beginning of my incredibly packed year of attending these conventions. In these conventions I go as an executive representing Anime Expo, but I also go as a general fan to do cosplay photography, hang out with friends, and make new friends. Without further ado, here are the conventions I will be attending for 2012.

    Conventions I will be attending (barring any catastrophic events):
    • Anime Los Angeles (January) - Saturday
    • Wondercon (March) - Friday
    • Anime Conji (March) - Saturday
    • Anime Expo (July) - All Convention
    • Comic Con International (July) - Saturday
    • Comikaze Expo (November) - Saturday
    • Pacific Media Expo (November) - Saturday
    I will be attending these eight conventions as part of my convention circuit for 2012. It starts with Anime Los Angeles in the beginning of the year. After that is a fairly long period of rest, which is helpful since I am working on my Master's Thesis, which isn't coincidentally based on anime conventions. My list of conventions gets very intense on the weekend of March 16th where I do two conventions in one weekend. These two cons are also around 120 miles apart so I will be doing a lot of driving that weekend. The convention block gets very busy in July where I dedicate an entire week to Anime Expo and in a couple of days I will be driving to San Diego for Comic Con. After that period is a long period of rest until Comikaze Expo and Pacific Media Expo for the month of November. While I am doing eight conventions, the conventions are also spaced apart giving me plenty of time to relax so that I do not burn out. The list consists of 3 comic book conventions and 5 anime conventions.

    Conventions I may attend:
    • Fanime (May) - All Convention
    Due to the very long distance of Fanime from where I live combined with the uncertainty of my class schedule in the time period in which the convention is held, Fanime is a big maybe. Even if I can get a hotel room and find people to carpool with to save on costs, my school uncertainty makes it hard.

    While my convention lineup is packed, I would like to point out that there is one convention that I am not going to. It is not because the distance burdens me or that I somehow dislike the venue, the reason I am not attending this convention is because I am banned/blacklisted from this convention due to my executive position running Anime Expo. It is unfortunate that I cannot go to this event, so if you need a cosplay photographer during this event, I will gladly point to someone who is not affected by this issue. On the other hand, if you want a cosplay photographer for all the other cons that is listed, please contact me at kriszphotography@gmail.com.

    This year looks like an amazing year for Anime and Comic Conventions. This incredible lineup of conventions is quite possibly one of the most packed schedules of conventions I have ever done. With that said, I have spaced it out enough that I do not get burned out from attending these events. If you attend these events, don't be afraid to look for me and say hi. Hopefully in the future I can expand to conventions across the United States and Canada.