Less-Than-God Voice

The other day I had the opportunity to karaoke again, and I took full advantage of it, singing anime songs from all decades and genres (but mostly giant robots). It had been, what, over a year? since I was last able to belt out some tunes and it felt pretty good.

Ever since the last time, I’d developed another favorite song to karaoke: “Tatakae! Reideen” from the 70s robot show Reideen, if only because there’s a part where you just start shouting aggressive words of encouragement.




And so on and so forth. Try it some time, it’s good for blood flow and for relieving stress.

Sadly I’m unable to provide a proper link for it at this moment, but at the very least you can see listen to its singer, Shimon Masato, and his most famous song ever, about a piece of Taiyaki which escapes into the ocean.

Trekked to Sliedrecht, Did the Anime Thing: Tsunacon 2011

It’s been quite a few years since I was able to attend any sort of anime-related event outside of the United States, so when I found out that right here in the Netherlands are not one, not two, but three anime cons, why I had to check at least some of them out. This report is about the first of them, Tsunacon, located in the town of Sliedrecht. I’m not sure why it’s called Tsunacon, though I suspect it’s a play off of “Tsunami.”

Held in De Lockhorst, a complex devoted to athletic activities and just having spaces and rooms available for just this very kind of thing, Tsunacon is a one-day event. I’ve attended one-day events before, namely the PAS Spring Fest in New York City and Tekkoshocon‘s Tekko 1/2 held at the Carnegie Library, and if I had to compare Tsunacon to those two mini-cons, I’d say that Tsunacon feels the most like an actual anime convention. This might have to do with the fact that Tsunacon is not a free event (although the ticket price is more than fair) whereas the other two are, but it’s more the atmosphere of it.

Before I go into the con itself though, I have to point out the train to Sliedrecht. Moving between the cities of Dordrecht (not to be confused with Dordray) and Geldermalsen and about 4 cars long, I think it’s kind of adorable and also anime-related if you stretch your logic a bit. You can do it, Spurt-tan!

De Lockhorst is only a short walk from the Sliedrecht train station. On my way there, I saw two couples holding hands and possibly cosplaying as well. Ah, nerd love.

When you get inside the first thing you’ll notice is the concession area. While the collection of Japanese snacks (Yan Yan, Ramune) are likely a familiar sight to the American con attendee, there are a number of uniquely Dutch snacks, such as poffertjes, tiny pancakes in powdered sugar, and frikandel, a kind of minced meat sausage. They also had a cotton candy machine, which I’ve never seen at any US anime con.

The big culinary hit here was Cup Noodles, at €3 a cup. Now you might be asking, “3 Euros?! Isn’t that a bit overpriced?” It most certainly is, but the attendees could not get enough off Momofuku Ando’s glorious creation. I couldn’t tell you why it was so popular, but I wonder if the more traditionally Dutch foods don’t carry the same novelty. Maybe it’s just the sheer joy of eating noodles from a cup alongside your friends.

When I think about it though, the Broodje Kroket (croquet breads) ares kind of like the Croquet Pan you’d find in Japanese bakeries. Even when you’re eating “normal foods,” you’re not too far off, Dutch anime fans!

The real kicker though would probably be that they sell beer alongside everything else. And not just any beer…

That’s right, Japanese beer for the Japanese anime fans.

Given that the average age at Tsunacon was decidedly “teenager,” this might set off some alarms, but I must point out that the drinking age here is actually 16, excluding hard liquors. In fact, despite the relatively low median age of the attendees here, everyone seemed quite well-behaved. Even the “hug me” signs seemed more subdued compared to their US peers.

Tsunacon obviously isn’t devoted solely to food though, and close by were the manga library, a game room, a workshop room, and the dealer’s room.

The Manga Library had a fairly sizable collection of titles in both English and Dutch, as well as a few in Japanese. It grew more and more popular throughout the day, and as if to anticipate the creative spark that reading manga would inspire, they left pencil and paper around so that people could draw. I myself decided to revisit an old friend and read the Sai vs Touya Meijin chapters of Hikaru no Go.

The Game Room, which meant specifically video games (sorry card and board game fans, though I did see a number of Yu-Gi-Oh! players dueling it out), had systems ranging from the classic NES to the X-Box 360 and Wii, as well as popular convention games like Dance Dance Revolution. I have no idea what version it might have been.

One thing that stood out to me was the European SNES, pictured above, which resembles the Japanese Super Famicom a lot more than it does its American counterpart. If you’re wondering what game that is, it’s Battletoads vs. Double Dragon. It is a terrible game, but the thought is appreciated. And yes, 4chan memes are popular here too.

I originally planned on participating in a Super Smash Bros. Brawl tournament, but the slots filled up extremely quickly, and by the time I got there it was too late. However, it turned out that the Super Street Fighter IV tournament was short on competitors, so I decided to throw my hat into the ring. I picked Sagat, my favorite character from the Street Fighter series, and defeated my first opponent only to lose to the very next one 1:2. You might not think that to be terribly impressive, but I was quite proud of myself given that-

  1. I’ve never played Super Street Fighter IV
  2. I’ve only played vanilla Street Fighter IV once

But Sagat is Sagat, and I just threw fireballs and delivered uppercuts on my way to victory, at least for a short while.

The workshop room had workshops on cosplay and drawing manga, all in Dutch so even if I felt particularly motivated to start cosplaying I wouldn’t be able to reap its benefits.

The Dealer’s Room also doubled as the bag check room, and was mandatory if you were planning on doing any shopping, or even playing  in the game room. The main activities of the Dealer’s Room, aside from shopping of course, were the “Manga School” workshop and the goldfish-catching game straight out of your favorite festival episode. The winner who caught the most “goldfish” (they had to use rubber balls here) would win some Haruhi pins and a poster of a J-Pop singer whose name I’ve unfortunately forgotten. My goldfish endeavors came out to a big fat zero, but that’s okay.

Another interesting element of the Dealer’s Room at Tsunacon was that, perhaps due to space limitations, the Dealer’s Room also doubled somewhat as an Artist’s Alley. But while American cons’ Artist Alleys seem primarily focused with individual images, Tsunacon’s anime fan artists were big on self-publishing, often times with their very own original characters, though publications based on existing series were also present. In this regard, one table in particular caught my eye.

A Genshiken-themed doujinshi of all things! Of course I had to get it. It’s not 18+, in case you were wondering.

You know what I like? Ogiue. And you know what else I like? Pokemon. This book manages to combine both, and that is quite all right with me. I was also flattered to find out that they actually knew about Ogiue Maniax, and I was proud to have them do the doujin event thing and get some sketches. Thanks a lot to all of you! I wish you had a website URL in the book so I could direct people.

A short walk from the entrance where the concessions and around the corner landed me in the anime karaoke lounge. Now I’ve done karaoke at dedicated locations, and I’ve done convention karaoke, but what was nice about this place was that it was more or less a small bar/restaurant. In addition to the snacks you could get from before, helpful staffers worked as waiters, taking orders for food and drink while everyone sat around enjoying the fan-powered renditions of God Knows, Hatsune Miku, various Final Fantasy themes, the Chobits opening, and more. They actually had it set up so that the lyrics would pop up in romaji which the singer could follow, much like a real karaoke place. This is quite different from Otakon where they hand you the lyrics on a sheet and you have to do your best given the circumstances. Not knocking Otakon or anything, but this system was way more useful for people who felt like they kind of knew their songs but still needed some help.

I partook of a macaroon from a helpful staffer/waiter before exercising my own lungs. My song of choice: the Mazinger Z opening, which I performed a little better than I thought I would. (Fortunately) I do not have any record of the event, as while I love to karaoke, I am not what you might be calling “talented.” It might be better to say that I can display a degree of courage when it comes to on-stage performances. Despite the relative youthfulness of the crowd, they actually got quite into my performance, and by the time I was done I received a full applause from the room. Thank you all.

If you weren’t paying attention to the singing though, you might have noticed the interesting decorative choice in the form of various Disney statues placed throughout the bar/lounge.

The two “main events” of Tsunacon would have to be the competitions, both AMV and cosplay. Unfortunately, despite knowing this beforehand it somehow slipped my mind while there, and I didn’t go to either. My apologies! While I’m normally not much of an AMV or cosplay sort of person, I still wish that I’d managed to check them out. According to the schedule, the same room also housed video showings and some quiz-based panels, so it was ostensibly the video and competition/events room. Next year!

While I did not attend any actual cosplay events, I did see quite a few excellent cosplayers, which you can see below. There was a really good Crocodile from One Piece cosplayer, but I wasn’t able to catch him.

Overall, Tsunacon was a fun little one-day excursion where there the focus was primarily on letting the attendees do their thing. Rather than going from event to event or even spending the entire day in one location, the con seemed more conducive to just hanging out with your otaku comrades. In that regard, I do wish I had brought others with me, because as cool as it was a one-man trip to a con can only get you so much. It’d also be cool if they had more informational panels in addition to their workshops and games, not for me as my Dutch is abysmal, but to foster learning that doesn’t necessarily have direct utility. The space was also a tad crowded, but nowhere near as insane as some of the bigger cons I’ve attended, and if anything this is a good sign that Tsunacon is getting increasingly popular.

I’ll leave off with these collaborative drawing boards. I drew a couple of things myself. See if you can spot them!

Machinations of the Lyrical Fujoshi

A while ago when I was at Duet 35 Karaoke with cool dudes OGT and Hisui, I was perusing the catalog of anime songs, when the Lucky Star section caught my eye. Aside from the songs in Lucky Star that are not from Lucky Star, i.e. those initial ending themes, I noticed that there were only about three or four songs. And out of those handful of songs, one of them was “Mo, Mousou Machine,” one of the character songs of Lucky Star’s resident fujoshi, Tamura Hiyori.

Now I know that this is just one karaoke place, and so is not necessarily indicative of any greater trends, but isn’t it odd that of all the songs to be available, one of them would be a song that’s from 1) a minor character (which means her song is available over an image song from a main character) and 2) a fujoshi?

The first thing to understand about Duet Karaoke is that people can make requests to get songs into the system. It could be that Hiyori’s voice actor, Shimizu Kaori, is popular enough among whoever frequents Duet 35, but rarely do I see that happen, and when it does it’s usually because their voice actor is also known as a singer, which Shimizu is not. Then there’s the idea that this is anime karaoke and obscure songs get in all the time, but that’s not necessarily true either. A lot of obscure openings and endings are available, but not so much character or image songs, and in the case of “Mo, Mousou Machine,” the lack of other characters’ songs is suspicious. And in order for people to request such a song, they’d have to know about it, and the only way they’d know about it is if they’re aware of the Lucky Star Character Albums. In other words, they would have to be hardcore otaku. Another possibility is that it’s just a holdover from Japan and when the system was updated that was one of the songs included, but then I ask again, what about the other Lucky Star songs?

While I can’t say that this is some sort of fujoshi conspiracy (as a real fujoshi conspiracy would probably involve a greater increase in the number of songs from yaoi anime), I posit that whether it’s in NYC or in Japan, Hiyori enjoys a degree of popularity over most of the minor characters, and that it has to do with Hiyori’s status as a fujoshi. This is especially evident when the theme of her song “Mo, Mousou Machine” is taken into account, as the title of the song and the lyrics all point to the idea of a female anime fan who can’t help fantasizing. Of course that would require fans to know what the song is saying, but lyric translations are freely available on the internet anyway. The real culprit might even be male fans of Hiyori.

So if you’re a Hiyori fan, speak up! I want to know just how popular she is among the Lucky Star and greater anime fanbase.

While I can’t say that this is some sort of fujoshi conspiracy (as a real fujoshi conspiracy would probably involve a greater increase in the number of songs from yaoi anime),

It’d Be Like That Episode of the Simpsons

While I am a staunch advocate of the “Robots Hell Yeah” school of karaoke singing, I do lament the fact that attempting to do so with English songs is a much more daunting task. I mean, surely the fact that Japanese karaoke songs outnumber English ones about 10 to 1 doesn’t help, but why is it that someone can sing a somewhat obscure song from a Japanese commercial, but not, say, Chicken Tonight or Folgers Coffee?

If I had my way, I would be able to sing Stan Bush songs followed by Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I know that karaoke is a much bigger part of Japanese (and Korean) culture so it makes sense for more obscure songs to be there, but I just wish we lived in a better world. An OK world.

Otakon 2009: When Guests Are the Real Deal

Otakon 2009 was punctuated by a number of personal differences and changes in my life, not least of which were a new method of travel, as well as a variety of new travel buddies. It was also my first year at Otakon as a member of the Press (thanks to the existence of this blog), and while I can’t say that it was as rockin’ as last year’s Otakon, I can tell you that it was a fine experience where I never felt like there was too little to do.

My trip began Thursday afternoon, where while on the bus to Baltimore and then on the city bus to Downtown Baltimore we argued about moe in all of its forms, seeking to wrestle the elusive beast to the ground with mixed results. Baltimore that day was a breezy 93 degrees Fahrenheit, the kind of weather perfect for strolling through the city carrying luggage. Dropping off our belongings at the hotel, we went off to dinner at the Cheesecake Factory and met up with esteemed guests such as Patz, Ed Sizemore, and Clarissa from Anime World Order. A variety of fine topics were discussed, such as the joys of showing little kids the Real Power Rangers and the deliciousness of beef (conclusion: it is very delicious).

Upon returning to the convention center to get our badges, we realized that there was a line still snaked around the building that normally would not be based on past experience. I luckily had my badge waiting for me at Press Ops, but many were not so lucky. It was yet another sign that this year’s Otakon was Different. The lines would continue throughout the weekend.

The Pre-Registration Line for Otakon 2009

I also had dinner with people on Friday and to a lesser extent on Saturday, meeting the rest of the AWO crew, Erin from Ninja Consultant and others who I can’t quite remember because the table was quite long. If you’re willing to sit down and relax, the downtown Baltimore area is good for food, and if you’re able to travel further out there are also some excellent restaurants. If you want fast food, that’s also available, and if you want to save money on food I recommend Grape Nuts and Parmalat. Grape Nuts is a dense cereal in a small box and is very filling and nourishing. It has the Ogiue Maniax seal of approval.

Food aside, there were so many events each day that they’ve started to blur in my head, and instead of discussing what happened chronologically I’m going to talk about things more categorically.

Industry and Otakon-related panels I attended were the Funimation panel and the Opening Ceremony panel. Funimation, as you might know already, announced some big-deal shows, namely Casshern Sins (which I reviewed here), Eden of the East (one of the best shows of last season), and the “Dragon Box” master edition remastering of Dragon Ball Z just like the one the Japanese have.

The opening ceremony also marked the second year that Madhouse animated a special opening for Otakon, akin to the Daicon IV opening of legend. This year’s animation incorporated the entire Otakon staff and had numerous references both eastern and western. If you wanted to see the Enterprise duke it out with the Yamato, this was your chance. Unfortunately, we were given the news that the director of the Otakon 2009 Opening Animation, Endou Takuji, had died the week prior, and our condolences go out to a man who reached out to American fandom so readily. Endou was also the director of Record of Lodoss War, a show which many fans in America consider vital to their beginnings as otaku.

As you might guess from the title of this post, guests this year were remarkably good in their decision to not constantly dodge questions and defer to others, though it still happened occasionally when it had to.

Yamamoto Yutaka, aka Yamakan, dropped down answers to questions which clearly showed him putting in some genuine thought and not just defaulting to stock answers. One person asked him how he got to be a director, and his response was that he wanted to be an animator but then couldn’t draw so he had to pick something else that would let him work in anime without drawing talent. To follow up, I asked what he thought of Takahata Isao, director of Grave of the Fireflies, because Takahata is also a director who cannot draw. Yamamoto answered that Takahata is one of the two directors who inspired him to get into anime, and that he considers the Anne of Green Gables anime directed by Takahata to be pretty much THE finest example of an anime TV series and how to tell a story in that format. Sadly, he would not reveal the second despite prompting.

I also asked him about Tonari no 801-chan’s anime debut, and he said that the original author asked him personally to do it, and that he felt destined to do it. Other highlights from Yamakan include his belief that what’s most important in animation is having characters stay “in-character” (and anyone who’s seen Tsugumi in Kannagi can attest to him putting his money where his mouth is), his desire for fellow anime creators to be capable of being creative with each other so that they may grow and improve, and his belief that today’s anime creators lack strong enough personalities akin to Miyazaki, Tomino, and Anno. As you can tell, he was not a “normal” Japanese guest and I am grateful for that.

Oh, and as for his definition of moe: If you like it, it’s moe for you.

Frederik L. Schodt

Frederik L. Schodt (apparently pronounced “Shot”) meanwhile revealed very good knowledge of the scanlation scene and an understanding of its appeal, as well as being good at handling the audience at his Astro Boy panel. At his Q&A panel, I asked him about instances where either American culture values in Japanese comics made them unapproachable by an American audience and vice versa. For the manga example, he pointed out how works are still censored to an extent, and that some companies are forced to claim the girls in their media are 18+ when they clearly are not given the context of the story, and that most of the genres of manga in Japan never come to the US, such as mahjong manga. His answer for American comics that were deemed not appropriate for a Japanese audience was even more interesting.

Schodt had accompanied the great Wil Eisner of all people to Japan, as Eisner was interested in publishing his works there and and there was a Japanese publishing company which published non-Japanese artists. However, when shown the work of Eisner, the company said that he had to rework it to flow more like a Japanese comic and have it read right to left. Eisner, who was over 80 years old at the time, naturally did not want to entirely redo one of his comics which had sold successfully internationally for decades and so the deal was off. He also talked about how much he likes The Four Immigrants Manga by Japanese immigrant Henry Yoshitaka Kiyama, a comic from California in 1927 which is written in a sort of simultaneous Japanese and English (thus requiring knowledge of both to read properly), and is arguably the first existence of a comic book in America, as well as predating Tezuka’s debut by a number of years. After the panel, I got Schodt to autograph my copy of Dreamland Japan.

While I did not manage to score any one-on-one interviews, I did attend some very informative press conferences. There was a sudden press conference with Maruyama Masao (head of Madhouse), Ishiguro Noboru (director of Macross and Legend of the Galactic Heroes), Kikukawa Yukio (producer of Legend of the Galactic Heroes), and Matsubara Hidenori (character designer for the Ah! My Goddess anime), which started off with Ishiguro and Maruyama deciding to just sit in the audience and act like they were members of the press. At this point we had some fun interviewing the translator in the room, asking him throwaway questions such as, “Who are your translating influences?” and “What made you decide to become a translator?” When the press conference actually began, as it were, it turned out to be one of the most informative hours of my life. This press conference will most likely appear online in its entirety at some point so you don’t have to worry on that front, but there are a few highlights I’d like to mention.

From left to right: Kikukawa, Maruyama, translator, Ishiguro, Matsubara

One interesting set of answers was everyone’s response to the anime they would love to make if they could. Matsubara said he would love to adapt the Tezuka manga Dororo into an anime, and even has the support of Maruyama. Maruyama meanwhile said that there were so many he’d like to have made and that’s why he makes them. Ishiguro wants to make a story set in Tokyo in 1948 that he’s been wanting to make for 30 years and even has the entire story plotted in his head. Kikukawa’s dream anime is to adapt the Darkover series of science fiction novels by Marion Zimmer Bradley.

Another interesting answer was one to my own question, where I asked Ishiguro to talk about his experiences with the deceased Nagahama Tadao, creator of Combattler V, Voltes V, and Daimos, as well as one of the directors of Rose of Versailles. Nagahama, as it turns out, was actually in puppet theater of all things before he became an anime director. Also, when working as a director he would act out every part, male and female, in the script to give a better idea to his staff as to how the story should go. Finally, because he had no talent for drawing, whenever he wanted to make corrections to a key animation (and he inspected every single one), he would write a detailed description on the back as to what needed changing. Nagahama is not terribly popular in the US even among old school fans so this was an amazing bit of information to find out. I personally cannot wait to ask Tomino this question at New York Anime Festival.

While the other press conference I attended with MELL was not nearly as informative, what I found was that MELL opened up to us much more than I would expect from a musical guest. We found out that, despite the heavy use of English in her songs she was never good at it in school, she had her first band at around the age of 15 or 16 where she sang for a college band, and that she mistook a guy for a girl due to his elaborate cosplay of a Victorian era character.

MELL was also one of the concerts I attended at Otakon, the other being the Tamura Naomi concert, and both were beyond my expectations. I am no music expert and my music vocabulary is entirely lacking, but I will say that MELL and her band knew very much how to perform and keep the audience in the mood. She sang songs from Black Lagoon and Rideback, and showed off why she’s well regarded among fans.

Sunday’s concert with Tamura Naomi showed how incredibly powerful her voice can be, as she demonstrated that the notes she hits in those opening themes she sings are notes she can hit in a live performance. Highlights of the concert include her own rendition of the Jackson 5’s I’ll Be There, and her Rayearth songs, namely Yuzurenai Negai (1st series opening), with which she ended her concert.

I also held my own concert on Sunday where I sang the theme song to the Golgo 13 NES games. In case you didn’t know, the song actually has lyrics!

My dealer’s room experience was also a most pleasant one as I managed to get everything I was looking for, specifically Ogiue-related…merchandise… as well as the recently released Revoltech Souther from Hokuto no Ken, or, as he’s known on the box, “Thouzer.”

On the fandom side of things, while I did not pay much attention to cosplay I was glad to see a good variety of costumes. While you had your endless Sora from Kingdom Hearts and the general love for Naruto and Bleach you usually expect, I also got some pleasant surprises, such as a cosplay of Kitarou and Nekomusume from Gegege no Kitarou.

Something I did not approve of was the near-total lack of Tainaka Ritsu when it came to K-On! cosplay. I like Mio too and all, but the ratio of Mio to Ritsu was unacceptable. I’m just saying.

The fan panels I attended were all well-run and had people who at least to some extent knew what they were talking about. The Neo-Shounen panel run by Daryl Surat succeeded in its goal of showing how Shounen as a concept changed over the years, mainly in its desire to appeal to both male and female readers, and the Lost in Translation panel was a good beginner’s panel for those interested in seeing some of the difficulties of translating from Japanese to English. The Mecha Appreciation Panel had knowledgeable panelists, but the format was a little haphazard and could have used some focus. If you ran this panel, I was the one who said “King J-Der” for coolest Gaogaigar robot.

I also went to the Anime Recruitment panel by the Reverse Thieves, which provided very good advice for how to get people into anime without scaring them off, offering tips such as, “If your first attempt fails, don’t press the issue. Instead, give them time to cool off, like three weeks or however long it takes.” I’ve spoken before on how difficult I find recommending anime to be, so I will take this advice to heart.

I had a personally vested interest in attending the Otaku TV and Genshiken panels, both run by Viga the Otagal, and was curious as to how these panels would go. Overall, they did a good job of showing the audience what these shows are all about, though I think Viga was a little too spoiler-friendly and it could scare off people who would want to see these series otherwise. Still, I was very glad to see such significant attendance for Genshiken-related panels. After the Genshiken panel, someone in the audience actually greeted me as a reader of Ogiue Maniax and asked to take my picture. Whoever you are, that made my day and I thank you.

Viga said in her Genshiken panel that she believes “The Psychology of Ogiue” would provide enough material for an entire panel, and I am inclined to agree. Keep on the lookout for that.

Overall, I have no serious complaints about Otakon this year, as I feel that the events I would have complained about I simply did not attend, such as the apparently misleading title of the “Sailor Moon’s Influence on Hentai” panel. The fact that Daryl Surat’s Anime’s Craziest Deaths got shut down because no one actually knew what Apocalypse Zero was disappointing, but I’m sure both sides will know how to better handle it next year. As a member of the Otakon press, I also would have felt better if I was told in advance that I would not be getting any interviews, rather than being left dangling. However, because this year’s Otakon was so packed with activities and intriguing and intelligent guests, I can say that this was one of my finest convention experiences, and everyone I traveled to Otakon and back with agreed wholeheartedly.

Further True Karaoke Tips

Actually, it’s just one tip but it’s a big one.

By “True Karaoke” I am referring to the singing of anime songs, preferrably the manlier the better, but keep in mind a lot of shoujo-esque songs can be pretty manly.

No matter your level of Japanese fluency, no matter if you have the songs memorized or you read them off the screen or if you have to print out a sheet with the romaji, the following tip is going to be very important to your karaoke endeavors.


The reason I am pointing this out is that I and others I know have had trouble with this, looking for a song without remembering what the full title is and thus having a very hard time pinpointing it.

It’s not “Evangelion” under E, it’s “Shinseiki Evangelion” under “Shi.”

It’s not “Voltes V” under “Bo,” it’s “Choudenji Machine Voltes V” under “Chi.”

Akagi Mahjong Densetsu Akagi, Votoms Soukou Kihei Votoms, Utena Shoujo Kakumei Utena.

It’s something easy to forget, even if you’ve watched every episode of a series and you’re a really huge fan, so keep this in mind next time you’re with friends and feel like tearing the roof down with your impassioned version of the Otokojuku opening.

And remember, that’s “Sakigake! Otokojuku.”

Sakura-con (was) Live on Nico Nico

Sakura-con this year decided to broadcast a stream LIVE directly to Nico Nico Douga, giving Japanese viewers perhaps their first REAL glimpse at American otaku. I jumped on the stream, eager to see not only what the con itself had in store for us, but also what everyone REALLY goes on Nicovideo for: the comments.

The camera was at the con karaoke bar, and it’s amazing just how much the song selection was indicative of the American fanbase. I jumped on a little late, but highlights include the first Naruto ending theme, the first Inuyasha ending theme (TWICE!), BOTH “Simple and Clean” and “Hikari” (English and Japanese versions of the Kingdom Hearts opening respectively), the Sakura Taisen opening and the dub Pokemon 1st opening sung by almost everybody. The show stealer though was a 10 year old girl who sang the entire 1st Japanese Pokemon opening, Mezase Pokemon Master. Showing more showmanship and honest love of anime than any of the other singers, the Japanese crowd cheered her on, knowing that this was truly a fan, a fan of anime.

Of course, not all of the comments were nice, as they referred to an overweight girl as “Totoro” and “Pizza.” But they were also enamored by some of the more attractive cosplayers. And there was also a bit of a clash between Japanese viewers and non-Japanese ones such as myself, as the latter tended to send comments in English and the Japanese did not appreciate this. Still, things managed to cool down and karaoke continued.

After karaoke was over, the camera hovered over some people organizing their figure collection, which was an unusual mishmash of Warhammer, moe PVC figures and shounen action. At this point I had to stop watching, but I began to wonder if the Japanese people would want a convention like this in Japan. I asked on Nico, and at least one person said he would definitely want to see something like this. The American fanbase’s lack of shame is both its greatest weakness and its greatest strength.

Karaoke is the Thinking Man’s Sport

Did some serious hardcore karaoke yesterday with some compatriots, among them the Ninja Consultants, Sub, and Dave (but not Joel). It was a totally smashing (without being smashed) good time, and I’ve learned and relearned quite a few lessons on karaoke combined with my joining them briefly on Saturday at New York Comic Con.

-Alcohol while Karaoke-ing is fine but it does nothing to help you soothe your throat. After an intense, manly song, water or coke with lemon are good bets.

-I cannot sing Japanese rap without knowing the lyrics well in advance. Sorry, m.o.v.e., but I won’t be shouting THE DOG FIGHT any time soon.

-It’s all about the pacing. Can’t have every song be an intense giant robot super song or else you’ll wear yourself out early. I personally threw in a bunch of girly songs like the Cosmic Baton Girl Comet-san opening and the Attack No. 1 opening.

-It is very possible to do an all-Lucky Star karaoke ending themes extravaganza.

-While knowing the song is important, you don’t have to KNOW the song. There were times when I thought I wouldn’t know a song went but as it was going I was able to find my place.

-Crystal King and JAM Project make everything a lot better. Or a lot worse, depending. See the part above about preserving your throat.

-Japanese karaoke is excellent for testing reading comprehension.

-For those who want to sing anime songs but can’t sing in Japanese, keep in mind there are plenty of mostly English anime openings.

-Sing whatever the hell you want but also be kind to those around you. Karaoke in a group is a team effort.

King Kirby Over: New York Comic Con 2009

New York Comic Con 2009 came and went, and all I have to show for it is some good memories, some good friends, and an autographed copy of Crisis On Infinite Earths. Good times.

I got to the Jacob Javits Center Friday afternoon, and with the benefit of a professional pass was able to enter the con without too much waiting. It was in this early period that I managed to get an autograph from Marv Wolfman, one half of the creative duo for the first Crisis series. I also got a chance to meet Peter Laird, co-creator of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I then looked for the panel rooms, but could not find them in time and missed one of the panels I wanted to see. Instead, I got to sit in on a panel devoted to building manga collections for libraries. Apparently the answer is “Kazuo Koike.” Sage advice that I will not argue against. I also got an autographed sketch from Mike Krahulik (Gabe) of Penny Arcade. He drew a Witchalok.

At some point I met up with Sub and other friends, and Sub and I tried to get tickets for the Friday showing of the new Yatterman live-action movie, but a deadly wall of raving fangirls prevented us from getting tickets. Apparently the lead actor playing Yatter-1 was one Sho Sakurai, a super popular j-pop boy band singer, and the fangirls were willing to do anything to get close to him. The Yatterman booth attendants had planned on bringing Sho Sakurai down, but when they saw the fangirl mob they told them that Sho Sakurai cannot come down in that current situation, and if they all left the area he would arrive. Naturally, this caused them draw in closer to the booth, and ultimately led to Sho Sakurai canceling his appearance.

Sigh, fangirls.  And I bet they didn’t even appreciate the Yatterman movie they diligently lined up for, and then squealed whenever Sho Sakurai was on-screen. Please do not tell me if what I said was actually true, because I’m really afraid.

We then saw the new Futurama movie (funny, not really good as a movie), and then ate at a nearby diner and talked about a variety of topics, as we all ranged from super American Comics fans to Anime fans and Sci-fi and everything in between despite being a relatively small group. Good fun for all.

Saturday’s crowd was, as expected, much larger than the Friday one. The first Saturday highlight for me was the Penny Arcade panel, as I have never been to PAX and thus had never seen them in person prior to getting that sketch on Friday. It was really a hilarious panel, and I recommend that anyone who gets the opportunity to go see them, even if you’re not much of a fan of Penny Arcade, as they know how to make a panel enjoyable.

The real high-point of NYCC Saturday though was a blogger dinner with many fine individuals, though the way we ended up sitting at the Tick Tock Diner, I spent most of my time with Sub, Evan of Ani-Gamers and the Reverse Thieves, Narutaki and Hisui and also Kohaku. Missing the Rodeo Burger of Burger King, I decided to construct my own. Also, the fact that you can order just plain cereal at a diner never ceases to amaze me. The topics of conversation ranged from Godfrey Ho Ninja Movies, Segata Sanshiro, Gold Lightan, and uh…teachers from our youth who turned out to be pedophiles…

Anyway, it was really great.

After dinner, some of us joined another group consisting of the Ninja Consultants, Dave (minus Joel), the paranormal Ed Chavez, among others, and we sang most excellent karaoke. Sub joined with me on a number of anime songs that began with Yuushaoh Tanjou! and included Ai o Torimodose! and Chala Head-Chala, finally concluding with KING GAINER OVER. We’ve done it before, but I think every time we try (key word being try) to sing King Gainer Over, it leaves us with a newfound appreciation for the song.

Sunday was relatively uneventful con-wise, though I attended the Penny Arcade How to Make Comics panel which was intended for elementary school students and ended up being populated by mostly adults. Funny how that works. The best part was that the PA guys did not change their lesson in any way.

Jerry: How long have you been drawing?”

Mike: (speaking to audience) Why, I’ve been drawing since I was YOUR age!”

Sunday’s con ended pretty much with me getting the last autograph given out by George Pérez, the other half of the creative duo responsible for Crisis On Infinite Earths, making my copy now Perfect. I actually had been looking for him all weekend, but some misinformation on the part of the con made it so that I had to rely on a friend to tell me exactly where he was located.

This is probably a good time to talk about some of the issues I had with the con, some legitimate, some simply personal preference. First was that there was NO schedule chart for the con on the website or with the con guide, and it made scheduling for anything impossible. At some point I just decided to abandon the notion of having a well-constructed plan for the day and just did whatever, as you may have noticed. Also the con guide itself was horribly out of date, which just compounded the problems.

New York Comic Con is a professionally-run for-profit convention, and it shows in many ways, not least of which is the fact that the Dealer’s Room is the centerpiece of the whole thing. Being located in NYC, home of Marvel and DC Comics, it allows them to get a lot of professionals and to really play that part of it up. This is good in that it gives you access to a lot of pros you wouldn’t meet otherwise, but the overall result is that a lot of the panels have a pure PR-type of feel to it, and only guys such as the Penny Arcade dudes can bridge this gap. Compare this with the also-professionally-run New York Anime Fest, which had its share of problems too but also had a greater fan aspect to it, with panels run by non-professionals.

NYCC is also, at least for me, a commuter con, and commuter cons feel very different from cons for which you stay at a very nearby hotel. I prefer the latter. I also have this strange feeling that the con floor is not good for walking as my soles were aching all day.

But I criticize because I love. Or something.

The con was over, but the day was still young, so a group of us consisting of some common friends, the Reverse Thieves, and Sub traveled to Kinokuniya and Book-Off, where we claimed many wonderful prizes. The highlight for me was another volume of La Sommelière and a copy of the Matsumoto Leiji manga Big Metal III. Sub purchased many excellent things, and I’m expecting him to review them all. YOU’D BETTER, MAN.

Riding the train home, saying my farewells (until next time), it was overall an enjoyable con, though murder on my feet.

I leave you then with this realistic rendition of Sho Sakurai fangirls at NYCC.

English Karaoke Simply Isn’t Dork Enough

As mentioned in the NYAF review, I spent friday night having a most excellent time with karaoke. It was karaoke as it should be, full of passion and hilarity and no holding back. Towards the back of the Japanese song-list catalog is a section titled “Anime and Hero Songs” followed by “Game Songs.” I consider this to be the pinnacle of karaoke.

There’s one problem: not everyone can do it.

Sub is a badass manly individual and occasional critic, and I have a relatively extensive knowledge of the sort of anime fitting for karaoke while also being literate in Japanese so I can fudge my way through parts I don’t know. Not everyone has these luxuries, and thus they are denied the full experience.  How does one solve this issue? Do we provide a list of sufficiently awesome songs in English that would be common enough for people to know such as Eye of the Tiger?

What I’d really like is if English karaoke had cartoon theme songs beyond, say, Disney. Get some Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors or King Arthur and the Knights of Justice in there. Sadly, people assume that no one wants these songs and so they end up unavailable.

Some weeks back I searched for information on the singer to one of the most famous cartoon themes, the opening to the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon. I looked on the official site of all places, and even it fails to list the actual people responsible for their famed intro.

What to do?

Actually, I know the solution.