things i watched at otakon #7

sailor moon cosplayAh, Otakon.  Don’t ever change. Well, maybe change the lines so there aren’t so many of them and they aren’t so long.  Whatever, we’re good.

It was a good con this year.  The weather was unusually pleasant for Baltimore in August.  The cosplay was topnotch, the panels and screenings I attended were fab, and I managed not to max out my credit card in the dealer’s room.   That Thorctopus, however, most definitely came home with me.   I didn’t attend many screenings or panels this year, mostly because of schedule conflicts and a bit because there were fewer things I was dying to see.  But everything I saw was worth the time and I hope you’ll think so too.

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weeping angelAnime for Older Fans (panel):  I was glad to see this panel on the schedule again this year.   Last time I attended I got several great ideas for anime to watch and this time was no different.  Highlighted this year was Psycho-Pass, a sort of “Minority Report”-ish anime about a future where it is possible to scan people and determine the likelihood they will commit crimes.  The story follows the police unit assigned with capturing and/or executing these future-criminals and their attempts to catch a man who can fool the scan and get away with any crime he wants.  It looks interesting and I will keep an eye out for it on Netflix.   Next up was Uta Koi, a romantic (read, josei) story based loosely on the Ogura Hyakunin Isshu, a thousand-year old series of one hundred poems by one hundred poets.  This particular anime had an adult theme of a different nature and seems to be both romantic and humorous.  It’s probably not going to have any explosions.  But it does take place during the Heian period so it should be worth watching for the clothes and the poetry and the court drama.  Who doesn’t  love a little ancient Japanese court drama?  The Eccentric Family is about a family of tanuki and there’s not really much more to say about that.  They are of course always drinking.  JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure is discussed below.  Space Brothers chronicles the adventures of two brothers, one of whom is an astronaut and the other an earth-bound engineer who once dreamed of going to Mars.   Penguindrum involves penguins, a drum, a mysterious girl, and the quest to save her.  Last, but not least, is Arakawa Under the Bridge, a story about an upper middle class young man who falls in with a bizarre community of people that live under a bridge in Tokyo.  When Kou almost drowns in the river and is saved by a young girl, she tells him he owes her his life but he can repay her by being her boyfriend.   She claims to be from Venus, the mayor wears a kappa costume, the local priest is a habit-wearing gun-toting ex-soldier, and Kou’s rival for Nino’s affections pretends to be a starfish.  I admit to being interested in seeing where all this goes.

iron alchemistJoJo’s Bizarre Adventure:  Now this is an anime.  It is loud, blustery, ridiculous, over the top at every opportunity, and completely hilarious.  We start with a mysterious box found in the sea, encrusted with barnacles and bearing the name DIO.  The boat is later found mysteriously abandoned, with the box lying open on its deck.  We segue to a young man, JoJo, refusing to leave a jail cell because he’s been taken over by an evil spirit.  His mother, grandfather, and his grandfather’s Egyptian associate arrive to spring him.  As the Egyptian and JoJo do epic battle via their “evil spirits” in the jail, Grandfather tells JoJo that the spirit is not evil.   It’s called a Stand (don’t ask) and all members of the Jonestar family have one.   It’s basically an energy field that is invisible to anyone that doesn’t also possess a Stand and which can be harnessed and controlled to perform certain feats.  Oh, and it’s based on a deck of cards.  JoJo learns that an enemy from their past has taken over his great-grandfather’s body and is now attacking the family.  Both JoJo’s and his grandfather’s (and later his mother’s) Stands activated when Dio was released from his box.  Dio and the Jonestars have a long history and when JoJo’s mother is attacked, JoJo sets out with his grandfather to hunt Dio down and stop him.   Does any of this make sense?  No?  Good.  I don’t think it’s supposed to.

Everything about this series is funny.  All the men look seven feet tall and totally ripped.   Although he looks to be at least in his twenties, JoJo attends high school and all the girls dote on him.  The women all giggle a lot.  JoJo’s mother Holly is the sweetest thing and  JoJo is absolutely horrible to her in a loving son kind of way.  All the fights are dramatic, with bright visuals and full-on testosterone posturing.   Grandfather never says anything without shouting.  JoJo cops an attitude with everyone.   Various characters and organizations are named after rock stars or bands (Speedwagon, Dio).  The Stands have silly names and even sillier powers.

The animation is fabulous and the voice acting is great as well.  I don’t know if this is a new dub but JoJo sounds suspiciously  like Crispin Freeman (I don’t see this listed in his IMDB voice credits though).  Crunchyroll is streaming it right now and I highly recommend it.  I hate to use words like “a rollicking good time”, but there you have it.  At this point the whole thing is just a blur of yelling, bizarre pronouncements, demon fighting, and 12-pack abs.  So, you know, what are you waiting for?

Score:  W00t!

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howlMai Mai Miracle:  This is a sweet little Ghibli-esque film about three young girls who lived in a rural village in Japan.  Shinko, the main character, lives with her mother and grandparents.  Her grandfather tells her stories of the time a thousand years ago when their town was the capital of the province.  Although all the buildings are gone there are still traces of that time (odd angles in the stream and the like) and in Shinko’s imagination the old days come alive around her.  She befriends the shy Kiiko, a newcomer in the area, and the two of them play among the wheat fields and the shadows of the old capital.   They gradually become convinced that there is another girl, one who lived in the old city and who was isolated and lonely.   This child, Nagiko, was the daughter of the mayor of the province and she was promised a playmate when she arrived at her new home but that girl died unexpectedly and due to Nagiko’s rank there are no other suitable children to play with her.   Although very different from each other, these three girls share something:  all are missing a parent.   Shinko’s father works in the city and is never around and both Kiiko’s and Nagiko’s mothers are dead.  The two girls play together and with three boys from their school, all outcasts in some way, and make a marvelous special place where they take care of a goldfish they’ve named after their teacher.

The past in this film is never far away from the present.   It is not very hard for Shinko to breathe life into her fantasies of the old capital.  The buildings and people are real to her and she moves among them as she moves in her own time.  The lonely Nagiko tears up the paper she brought to make dolls with and the torn pieces of paper float past Shinko and Kiiko as they play in the stream.  A team of archaeologists excavates an old mansion in the old town and tell Shinko and Kiiko that it was probably the mayor’s residence and that a little girl lived there.  They ask about dolls and the archaeologists say they found none.  Later, Kiiko and Nagiko give all of Nagiko’s dolls to the sisters of a serving girl in Nagiko’s mansion.  As the modern girls walk the ancient roads they are passed by ox carts and workmen from the old days.  In Kiiko, Nagiko finally finds a playmate and through her reaches out to her young servant.

There is a general air of magic about all this, of imagination coming alive, of the sort of natural acceptance children have that all is not as it seems in the world, and of the power of friendship.   The film is not entirely idyllic and goes to some dark places toward the end.  Still, there is the undercurrent of hope and promise and looking forward that I see a lot in Japanese films.  It is really charming and you should watch it.

Score:  Meh.

yoshiki at otakonYoshiki Classical (Sunday concert):  I admit, I am a dilettante.  Occasionally.  I never go to the Sunday concerts because usually by the time Sunday rolls around I’m so tired all I want to do is sleep all day and contemplate photo editing.  But this year the Sunday concert was Yoshiki, band leader and drummer of X Japan.  Why should I care about this?  I’m not, like, a huge fan of X Japan.  I don’t hate them, I like some of their stuff, but in general metal is not my thing, even when I can understand what they are on about.   However, it’s pretty hard not to know about Yoshiki if you spend any time at all in the company of contemporary Japanese culture and he’s a pretty interesting guy.  He’s sort of a musical polymath: a classically trained pianist who took up the drums at an early age and who both bangs his head most avidly in one of Japan’s biggest rock bands and composes classical pieces for the Emperor of Japan’s anniversary.   Plus, he’s sort of hot.

So, long story short, I put my name in for tickets to his concert and won, which never happens.  To top that off, when I went to pick up my concert tickets, Otakon staff told me they had some photo op slots open if I was interested and I was.  Ten minutes later I found myself mere inches from the man himself having my picture taken.  Exiting the photo op room I found myself next to the entrance to the dealer’s room, which had no line.  That has to be a sign right?  In I went and a few minutes later I wandered by the X Japan merch booth and guess what?  Yoshiki and a couple of members of X Japan were right behind me, come to do a raffle and talk about their Madison Square Garden concert.   Yoshiki I think would have raffled off the entire merch table if his staff would have let him.  I really never surf the luck plane quite this expertly and I got some decent photos out of it.

Anyways, what were we talking about?  Oh yes, the concert.  It was beautiful and I am totally serious about that.  As the show began we were treated to a short and lovely film about Yoshiki’s different musical genres.  It contrasted his rabid drumming with his ethereal classical piano in a way that was both humorous and strangely sad, given his personal history.  I am only familiar with a couple of X Japan songs, one of which (Endless Rain) he performed as the last song of the show.   He performed with a quartet for most of the show, and a vocalist for two of the songs.  For a brief few minutes,  fellow X Japan members Heath and Pata came out and they rocked the house for a bit.   But I think my favorite part of the evening was “Without You“, a song he dedicated to his father and two band mates.  Prior to the song he spoke to us about his father’s and his friends’ deaths and the loss he still feels and honestly it might have been stage drama but I just don’t care.  It was gorgeous and the song was lovely.   Behind him on the screens images shimmered past, blurred and blown out the way old videos are:  Yoshiki as a boy, his band mates when they were young and alive and on top of the world, in gorgeous clothes and wild hair, concerts past, sweaty bodies crowd diving, all the memories, all the feels.  Shit this awesome, it doesn’t matter that I don’t speak the language.  You don’t really need to.

It was a remarkably personal performance and I am very grateful I had the opportunity to be part of it.  I might have squee’d like a fangirl, just a little bit.

Score:  W00t!

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And that, sadly, is it for Otakon this year.    I’m always just a bit depressed after the con but in short order I will be psyched for next year.  Always end on a high note they say, so…see y’all in Baltimore next July!

flower titan

 

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~ by gun street girl on August 12, 2014.

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