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Kaidan: Japanese Tales of the Supernatural

2012.09.19

Our Hyakumonogatari Kaidan-kai panel, “Japanese Tales of the Supernatural,” is one of our favorites.  We love sharing spooky and strange stories with others, but a sixty-minute panel barely scratches the surface of Japan’s legacy of Kaidan.  The purpose of this post is to provide those interested with some more information, as well as more stories to read and some Kaidan-inspired series to check out.

Scene from "Kwaidan" - Mimi-nashi Hoichi

What is a Kaidan?

Simply put, a Kaidan (怪談) is a story of the supernatural, similar to an urban legend, that was usually passed down through oral tradition.  The term “Kaidan” was coined during the Edo Period (between 1600 and 1800), and all true Kaidan evoke a sense of that time period.  Many of these stories are based on Buddhist stories and hence carry themes of karma, reincarnation, and vengeful ghosts.  However, the emphasis in Kaidan is not on “scariness,” but rather on the bizarre or supernatural nature of the story.

Kaidan reflected cultural beliefs during the Edo Period about the unexplainable, addressing monsters, ghosts, spirits, gods, possessions, exorcisms, and spiriting away.  These themes continue to be prominent elements in Japanese storytelling and popular culture.

At our panels, we try to capture some of the essence of Kaidan by recounting these stories to the audience in a similar way to how they were originally passed on.

Scene from "Kwaidan"

What is a Hyakumonogatari Kaidai-kai?

Sometimes known in the United States as the Japanese Game of 100 Candles, a Hyakumonogatari Kaidan-kai (百物語怪談会) is actually a gathering to tell 100 strange stories.  Invented during the Edo Period, this parlor game was played by both aristocratic and working classes.  Participants would set up three connected rooms, placing one hundred candles and a mirror (laid flat on a table) in the first room and gathering in the third.  As darkness fell, the participants would take turns telling a Kaidan, then would move to the first room to extinguish a candle and gaze into the mirror before returning to the third room.  It was believed that, if one hundred stories were told, a supernatural event would occur.

East Blue Cosplay’s version of a Kaidan-kai is simpler, mostly because we don’t have the time or the space to run an authentic one at a convention.  We utilize electric candles (for safety), and keep everyone in the same room.

Scene from "Kwaidan"

Where can I find more information, and where can I read more Kaidan?

We will continue to update this section as we find more interesting websites, books, movies, and other kinds of media.  For more information, we recommend the following websites:

Hyakumonogatari.com: Unquestionably the best website on the internet for Edo-era tales of supernatural Japan, this blog is dedicated to translating source material from texts by Hokusai and other influential collectors of strange stories.  This website will keep you busy for hours!

Tales of Ghostly Japan @ Japanzine: A succinct summary of the history of Kaidan-kai, a handful of Kaidan, and a few modern tales with a Kaidan flavor.

To read more Kaidan, we recommend the following books and films:

Kwaidan [Lafcadio Hearn, 1903].  This is the book that first brought the word “Kaidan” to the West.  Lafcadio Hearn’s importance in the preservation and retelling of Kaidan is unparalleled.  This volume chronicles a number of different Kaidan stories (including some of the stories we tell at our panel).  You can buy a paperback copy here on Amazon, download a free version for your Kindle here, or read it free online at Project Gutenberg.

In Ghostly Japan [Lafcadio Hearn, 1899]: More spooky and strange tales from Lafcadio Hearn’s time in Japan.  If you like Kwaidan, chances are you’ll like this too.  Buy it here on Amazon, or download a free version for your Kindle here.

Shadowings [Lafcadio Hearn, 1901]: You’ll have to trust us here; Lafcadio Hearn was the authority for Kaidan during his lifetime, and his writings are still the best ones out there.  Buy it here on Amazon, or download a free version for your Kindle here.

Kwaidan [Kobayashi Masaki, 1964].  This is a film, directed by Kobayashi Masaki, that brings to life four of Lafcadio Hearn’s collected Kaidan: “Kurokami” (from the story “The Premonition”), “Mimi-nashi Hoichi,” “Yuki-onna,” and “In a Cup of Tea.”  Buy it here on Amazon.

Supernatural and Mysterious Japan: Spirits, Hauntings and Paranormal Phenomena [Catrien Ross, 1996].  This book is a little more academic than Hearn’s book, but is still an interesting read.  Recommended for those looking for interpretations of Kaidan in addition to the stories themselves.  Buy it here on Amazon.

Scene from "Kwaidan" - Mimi-nashi Hoichi

Are there anime/manga available that are inspired by Kaidan?

You bet!  Kaidan represent an important part of Japanese culture, and their presence is felt in many different kinds of media.  Below are a few of our favorite examples of Kaidan-inspired stories.

Bakemonogatari: This recent TV series is based on a series of novels by Nisio Isin.  It follows a young man who finds himself involved with several young women, all afflicted with terrible problems due to possession, curses, and other strange phenomena.  Though the format of the episodes is off-putting to some, if you like the urban legend aspect of Kaidan, you might enjoy this.  This 15-episode TV series now has a second season, Nisemonogatari, and an upcoming prequel movie, Kizumonogatari.

Ayakashi ~Japanese Classic Horror~ and Mononoke: These two TV series represent one of the only things on this list that can actually be called “Kaidan,” namely the first arc of Ayakashi, “Tokaido Yotsuya Kaidan” (arguably the most famous Kaidan in Japan).  The first series, Ayakashi, is broken into three parts: Tokaido Yotsuya Kaidan, a tale of revenge from beyond the grave; Tenshuu Monogatari, a supernatural story of star-crossed lovers; and Bakeneko, a family’s struggle against an avenging goblin cat.  The second series, Mononoke, is a spin-off starring the protagonist of the Bakeneko arc of Ayakashi, a mysterious man known only as the Medicine Seller.  Each series is 12 episodes long, and is well worth investigating.

Nurarihyon no Mago: This ongoing manga series, known in the United States as “Nura: Rise of the Youkai Clan,” follows the half-human successor to a powerful clan of monsters who is determined to have a normal life.  Nurarihyon is part school comedy, part monster drama, and lots of fun.  There are now two TV series (Nurarihyon no Mago, and Nurarihyon no Mago: Sennen Makyou) if anime is more your style.

Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi: Known in the United States as “Spirited Away,” this film by Studio Ghibli follows a young girl named Chihiro who, along with her parents, becomes enchanted at a hot spring resort for monsters, ghosts and gods.    This full-length movie is strange and magical, and is highly recommended.

Kousetsu Hyakumonogatari: Released in the United States under the (unfortunate) title, “Requiem from the Darkness,” this under-loved series follows supernatural tales of crime and punishment in Edo Period Japan.  The protagonist, an author named Momosuke, leaves Edo to collect one hundred Kaidan (sound familiar?) but encounters instead the Ongyou, a trio of monsters investigating and punishing people guilty of bizarre and other-worldly crimes.  This short series is only 13 episodes long, and is the show that initially got us interested in Kaidan.

Jigoku Shoujo: Do you have a grudge?  In this series (known as “Hell Girl” in the United States), people with deep grudges can log onto a website, Jigoku Tsuushin (Hell Correspondence), and post their grief there.  The Hell Girl then appears to them, offering to take revenge on their part, in exchange for their soul.  There are three seasons of this series, each unlocking another piece of the Hell Girl’s mysterious and tragic past.  Not recommended for the squeamish.

Natsume Yuujinchou: If you’re looking for something a little more cheerful, this slice-of-life series about a boy and his monster cat may be just your cup of tea.  The story follows Natsume Takashi, whose grandmother Reiko collected a book of names of youkai she defeated, as he returns those names to their owners.  This series (now four seasons long) is a wonderful exploration of the world of youkai and ghosts.

We conduct our Kaidan-kai panels at some of the conventions we attend.  If you’re interested in joining us for some spooky stories, check out our Facebook page; if we have one coming up, the time and location will be posted there.

Images from “Kwaidan” taken from FilmFanatic.org.

Con Report: Otakon 2012

2012.09.08

Otakon is a very important convention for East Blue Cosplay.  It was at this con, one year ago, that we finally decided to join together not only as a group of cosplaying friends, but as an organized cosplay group with bigger dreams and plans.  Though Mei and StolenValkyrie couldn’t join us this year, we still managed to cram a ridiculous amount of fun into the weekend.

Thursday:

If you’ve never attended Otakon before, we strongly recommend you get there on Thursday!  Otakon is one of the few conventions that allows you to pick up your badge on Thursday, allowing you instant access to the convention center right away Friday morning.  Thursday is also a time to catch up with friends, finish off remaining costume bits, get comfortable in your hotel room, and explore the Inner Harbor.

This year, for the first time since it opened, we didn’t stay at the Hilton.  Due to price increases, we opted to try out the Sheraton City Center, just a few blocks up the road from the Baltimore Convention Center.  I was so impressed by the service at this hotel!  For the first time in over a decade of conventions, I encountered cheerful, friendly staff who treated con goers and cosplayers like customers instead of nuisances.  Everyone I spoke to was so polite and so helpful!

Hazard and I settled into the room with our friends Chad, Joe, and met-kun while we waited for repto, placidmage and her boyfriend to arrive so we could go pick up badges.  I changed into Koyori, finishing up just as folks showed up.  We joined up with Brad of Chibodee Cosplay and went to get in line.  Hazard and I also picked up our panelist ribbons, and purchased a bottle of ice cold water from a local celebrity:

If you paid more than one dollar, you got ripped off.

After registration, we headed out with our friend John and his crew to Ra Sushi for a pre-con dinner!  The food was delicious, and the company was unparalleled!

Pre-Otakon dinner at Ra Sushi Nothing like sushi and fancy drinks to whet your pre-con appetite!

Sadly, Hazard and I had to skip out early for a little panel preparation with Brad.  The weather was not on our side, though, and as soon as we left, the skies opened up and it started pouring rain!  A good portion of my Koyori costume is made from dyed fabric, and after a few minutes in the rain, my white undergarments and apron were decidedly purple-tinted.  Luckily, I was able to bleach the dye out back at home, but at the time, it was very upsetting.

After running through our panel prep, Hazard and I went back to the hotel room, dried off, and began the long wait for Otakon 2012 to really kick off.

Friday:

The first day of Otakon is always crazy-busy with cosplay, and since most of us have multiple costume changes during the day, it pays to start early!  While Hazard opted for street clothes for the first part of the day, I debuted my Natsume Masako [Mawaru Penguindrum] cosplay.  I’d made this to match with BlurryEyes and Rootboy, two of my best friends and favorite cosplayers.  We’d agreed to meet for photos that morning, but first, Hazard and I took Esmeralda to breakfast.

Esmeralda at Breakfast

No need for a menu; this is a penguin who knows what she wants.

We met up with BlurryEyes and Rootboy in a side wing of the Hilton’s second floor, near the sky bridge.  With Hazard at the camera, we were able to get some wonderful photos (and have a great time taking them).

Friday Penguins

BlurryEyes as Takakura Kanba, Rootboy as Takakura Shouma, and Emmacchi as Natsume Masako.  Takakura penguin trio by BlurryEyes, Esmeralda by Emmacchi.

Esmeralda the Stalker

Love and Penguins

Penguin Toss

Comfort me with apples (for I am sick of love)

Forbidden Fruit

Masako is one of my new favorite costumes.  It’s comfortable, not too heavy, and that wig!  That fabulous wig!  She’s a marvelous character too, which just added to the fun I had walking around in the costume.  It seems like Mawaru Penguindrum didn’t really catch on in the US, which is too bad.  The series told a beautiful story, and I recommend it.

After Penguindrum fun, I ran for a quick wardrobe change before joining up with placidmage for the CLAMP gathering.  We’d worked hard to finish two costumes so brand-new that the OVA they were from was debuting in Japan that day: Nunnally and Lelouch Lamperouge from the Code Geass: Nunnally in Wonderland OVA!  (It should be noted that Code Geass is not a true CLAMP series, as CLAMP only did character designs and no story or writing for the series.)

CLAMP Saturday Gathering at Otakon 2012

The Saturday CLAMP gathering!

You really have to hand it to CLAMP cosplayers; they are very dedicated to their craft!  It was nice to see some more old-school CLAMP love here, including Angelic Layer (look how cute they are there on the left!), Magic Knight Rayearth, and even a Subaru and Hokuto pair from Tokyo Babylon!

Subaru and Hokuto from Tokyo Babylon

My hat goes off to these two cosplayers for wearing such an iconic pair (and wearing them so well).

Lulu and Nunnally at the meet-up

Emmacchi as Lelouch Lamperouge, placidmage as Nunnally Lamperouge.

Elysiam Entertainment also made a showing during the CLAMP shoot, photographing some of the cosplayers.  Kayhettin is an incredible photographer and is one of the best out there when it comes to capturing the impact and beauty of cosplay.  I was so flattered to be photographed!  Check out Elysiam’s gorgeous shots of me as Lelouch here and here.

We ended up leaving the CLAMP gathering pretty early to make time for the photo booth.  Traditionally, Otakon has been a pair-costume con for me and placidmage, and we always prioritize getting a few nice shots.

Wonderland!

Wonderland!

Our awesome friend Melissa met us at the photo booth, wearing her impeccable Olivier Armstrong [Fullmetal Alchemist] costume.  Have I mentioned how much I love this costume on her?  It’s one of my all-time favorites.  There’s no not loving the Armstrongs:

The Armstrongs

Melissa took a few photos for us at the Sheraton too:

Lamperouges in Wonderland

Skank on, Lulu

Where did the time go after that?  Hazard, placidmage and I ran back to the hotel for yet another wardrobe change.  This time, we were heading to the Friday Umineko no Naku Koro ni meet-up!  This was a nice reprise for our costumes from Taiyou Con 2012, our first con competing together as a group.

It's Witchcraft!

Witches and Furniture and Ushiromiyas!  RivenWings as Beatrice (full gown), Hazard as Ushiromiya Battler (middle), Emmacchi as Eva-Beatrice, and placidmage as Bernkastel (left).

New furniture?

A Magical Chorus Line

Serious Magical Business

It’s important to remember to have fun in your costumes, and to never, ever take yourself too seriously.

We had so much fun at this meet-up!  RivenWings, who did the organizing for the Friday meet-up and photos, was a marvelous Beatrice and a great hostess for our gathering.  I was really impressed by the turnout!  We made one snazzy-looking group.

After parting ways with our new witch friends, Hazard and I detoured for about half an hour to shoot with Mistah Dozo, another well-known presence at East Coast conventions.  He was a pleasure to chat with and shoot with!  At this time, his photos from Otakon 2012 aren’t up yet, but you can be sure I’ll post them once they are.  Photo editing is very time-consuming!

A quick costume change (into my favorite spoilered experiment, Alma Karma from D.Gray-man) was in order (for me, at least), followed by my favorite of all con activities: drinks with Baroque Works!  Hazard and I were joined by C, and met up with Kara, Mel and Josh at the Sheraton’s bar.  I’ve said it so many times before, but these folks are some of my favorite people in the whole world.  After the crazy pace of the con earlier that day, it was so nice to just relax and enjoy the company of some wonderful friends.

Our last stop for Friday was literally the last thing we could do: a D.Gray-man midnight get-together run by my friend Christine.  I met her at Otakon 2010 at the D.Gray-man meet-up, and though she’s grown into a very diverse (and talented!) cosplayer, she’ll always be Lavi to me.  Even though we were only there for a quick hello, it was nice to see her and some of our other D.Gray-man friends.

D.Gray-man, still going strong

After a few photos and a little catching up, Hazard and I headed back to the hotel room to collapse in an exhausted heap.

Saturday:

Every once in a while you come across a cosplayer (or two, in this case) who really know how to take everything up a notch.  MoonNeko and Coral Snake have been rocking the One Piece world for years with awesome cosplays of beloved but under-represented characters, and I was really honored to shoot with them Saturday morning.  These two twins had pulled out all the stops to bring Otakon Bellamy and Sarquiss, and I just /had/ to smile it up with them as Doflamingo.  Our friend Zhanyi agreed to shoot for us a little while in the morning, and provided us with some really awesome shots:

Put a smile on, bitches!

CoralSnake as Sarquiss, Emmacchi as Doflamingo Donquixote, MoonNeko as Bellamy.

Pirate Rock

Why so serious?

Post-shoot we hightailed it over to the outdoor fountains for the big Saturday One Piece gathering.  There, we met up with Hazard (wearing Crocodile), Repto (in Kuma), Brad (debuting Fisher Tiger), and our Baroque Works and Center of the Universe friends.  I’ll let the photos speak for themselves:

One Piece @ Otakon 2012

Alabasta friends and foes

Alabasta friends and foes, featuring Hazard as Crocodile, Kara as Vivi, and Kortni as Lady Croc.

Luffy and Luffy and Luffy and Garp

So many Luffys!  Much love for Alli (top row, second from right) and Kate (top row right, in Time Skip Luffy)!

Do four Brooks make a river?

The Brooks, including the inimitable Kenae as Soul King.

Sanjis and Namis

Sanjis and Namis.  That center pair is one of our favorite cosplaying couples, Sami and Geoff.

Fisher Tiger versus the Marines

Brad as Fisher Tiger takes on the Marines.

Shichibukai

Shichibukai, past and present!  Repto as Kuma, Emmacchi as Doflamingo (about to take a bite out of Gecko Moria), and Kortni as Lady Croc.  If you squint, you can see the white fur of Hazard’s Marineford Crocodile coat!

Service with a smile!

The pirates who smile!  Doflamingo and his minions.  MoonNeko as Bellamy, CoralSnake as Sarquiss, and Emmacchi as Doflamingo (center).  So many pink feathers!

Croc and Doflamingo

Emmacchi and Hazard, representing East Blue Cosplay at this year’s meet-up.

Friends and Frenemies?

Our small contingent: a little Marineford, and a slice of Mermaid Island.

After the One Piece meet-up, I got changed (this time into Alibaba Saluja from Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic) to photograph two pairs of my favorite cosplayers: Mel and Josh of Baroque Works, and Mari and KimiDori.  Mel and Josh were dressed as Groose and Ghirahim from the most recent Legend of Zelda game, Skyward Sword.  I am totally in love with these two in these costumes!  They look phenomenal:

Josh as Ghirahim

SWANK ON, GROOSE

PHOTOBOMBED.

Groose and Ghirahim in the garden

Are you awed?  I was and still am.  Shooting with these two is so much fun!

Speaking of fun shoots, I had a great time with Mari and KimiDori too, who were dressed as Ririchiyou and Karuta from Inu x Boku SS (which is an adorable series).  There have never been two cuter cosplayers!

Lollipop Lollipop

Someday I want to cosplay with both of these pairs.  They’re so much fun!

After shooting, Steve changed into his brand-new Sindbad (Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic) costume, and we headed out to the Magi meet-up.  On the way, we bumped into a Masrur cosplayer who sadly couldn’t join us at the meet-up.

At the time, the Magi fandom was just taking hold in the US, and we were really surprised to see so many dedicated, amazing cosplayers!  Everyone was cheerful and friendly, and running the meet-up was easy and so much fun.  There’s also always something wonderful about a gathering where you make new friends, especially one where everyone looks so gorgeous:

Magi at Otakon 2012

Top row: Emmacchi as Alibaba, Tora-Rin as Judal, Kikkun as Aladdin, Cindy as Morgiana.  Bottom row: Hazard as Sindbad, Rocky as Sindbad, and ChibiFlora as Hakuryuu.

Four Friends

Four Friends and a Spear

Hail to the Kings

Oh Baby

The Whole Gang

BEST. CROSSOVER. EVER

BEST. CROSSOVER. EVER.

Sadly, we had to book it soon after the shoot started; Brad’s panel was starting!  He almost single-handedly created and constructed a really intense game show called “Anime Price is Right.”  Brad, our host, was dressed as Franky from One Piece, and did a great job working the crowd while explaining the different games and leading contestants through each stage.  The room filled up completely, and there was a huge line outside!  It was unreal.

Our host (center) getting chummy with two contestants.

Hazard and I didn’t really do a whole lot with the panel.  He was the prize wrangler, dividing up prizes and helping to hand them out.  I brought contestants up from the audience and helped get them ready.

What prizes?

The most difficult thing we had to do was entertain folks during the intermission, which we did by dancing hideously:

I throw my hands up in the air sometimes---

Dancing fools.

WE CAN'T HEAR YOUUUU
Special thanks to Chad and Joe for taking photos for us during the panel!

Overall, I think the game show was an enormous success.  Brad really knows how to get a crowd going while making contestants feel comfortable in front of so many people.  We’re hoping he’ll bring it back again next year.

Our next stop was the Masquerade, where we met up with the rest of our gang.  I hear that this may have been the last year that Otakon’s Masquerade will be held in the Mariner Arena, as the arena will be undergoing construction in the near future, and I have to say that I’m more than okay with this.  While the seating options are excellent, the arena acoustics are terrible!  Sometimes it’s hard to understand what the folks on stage are saying.

That said, I think the contestants this year really brought their A games.  There were many creative skits with wonderful costumes, and a lot of talented dancing (which I really like).  Highlights for me were the Street Fighter Party Rock skit (which deservedly won Best in Show), the awesome mash-up dance-off of deceased characters, and the Princess Tutu cosplayer who combined moonwalking and ballet for “Smooth Criminal.”  Everything was really enjoyable, though, and we left the Masquerade in very good spirits.

Though we’d made plans to go eat dinner with those classy folks at Center of the Universe, Hazard and I ended up returning to the room to prepare for our upcoming Umineko no Naku Koro ni midnight tea party.  What better way to celebrate this franchise than with tea at the witching hour?  I packed up our iced tea (wild raspberry rose, my favorite!) and got changed into Eva-Beatrice.  Repto joined us and we headed back to the convention center.

Witches at the Witching Hour

Oh desire!

I think this speaks for itself.

After a few photos by the fountains, we headed up to the third floor to enjoy some tea and cookies!

Tea party!

RivenWings made these beautiful frosted butterfly cookies that were so delicious and so appropriate.  No one can ever say that Beatrice doesn’t know how to (tea) party:

Delicious!

And then the moustaches and sunglasses broke out, and everything got even fancier:

GORGEOUS

YES, WAVE LIKE THE QUEENS WE ARE.

After the tea party wrapped up, I went to shoot with Mistah Dozo again for about an hour.  We got back to the hotel room well after 1AM, changed, showered, and collapsed in a heap on our bed.  Saturday was over, and we’d managed to cram so much into the day that we were having trouble believing that it was only 24 hours.

Sunday:

Sunday was another day of Penguindrum for me, while Hazard opted to cosplay as our photographer.  I met up with BlurryEyes and RootBoy (wearing the Takakuras again) for a shoot with two lovely ladies they’d met earlier at the con: Zipchan (cosplaying the Princess of the Crystal) and Jenny (cosplaying Takakura Himari).  We gathered on the patios to shoot against the glass and steel that works so well for Penguindrum:

Zipchan and Jenny were two of my favorite people I met at Otakon this year, and I’m so glad BlurryEyes introduced me to them.  I’m really looking forward to seeing them again at future conventions!

After the shoot, I went back to the hotel to change, finish packing up, and get us checked out.  We had lunch planned at a nearby sushi place with John, Mari, KimiDori, Zhanyi, and a number of other friends, so for us, Otakon was pretty much over.  We bid goodbye to our friends and promised more fun and antics next year, then packed up and headed out.

A part of our Otakon group, from left to right: Chad, Joe, Hazard, Emmacchi, BlurryEyes, and RootBoy.

As always, we try to also photograph other cosplayers that we find really striking.  These folks have shown real creativity, dedication, and carry on the spirit of fun that we love about cosplay, so let’s give them their due:

Napoleon Bonaparte

Angela as Napoleon Bonaparte from Eiyuu*Senki.  Check out her blog for more photos of this incredible costume!

Lia de Beaumont

The most amazing Lia de Beaumont [Le Chevalier d'Eon]!  I wish I could find out who this cosplayer is, because credit is definitely due for this work of art.

Dark Crystal

Talk about kicking it old school!  Dark Crystal cosplay is always noteworthy.

Hannya

Our very own Repto in his fully remade Hannya from Rurouni Kenshin.

Up!

Repto’s Sunday costume: Mr. Fredrickson from the film Up!

Shiva

Cachalot as Shiva from Final Fantasy X.  Beautiful, /beautiful/ work here on everything!  

Center of the Universe Cosplay

Our friends at Center of the Universe, once again pulling out all the stops for an amazing One Piece cosplay!

Lunatic

The Cosplay Mechanic as Lunatic [Tiger and Bunny].  Her costumes are always show-stoppers!

Ponies!

Always lovely and regal, Kara as Princess Celestia and Ria as Zecora [My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic].

And that was Otakon 2012!

Conclusions:

Emmacchi: In a lot of ways, Otakon 2012 was one of the best cons I’ve ever gone to.  I saw a lot of the people whose incredible kindness, cheerfulness and general awesomeness float me through the rest of the year, got to photograph some of my favorite cosplayers, debuted two new costumes (Masako and Alibaba), and met a bunch of amazing new folks.  While there were some definite downers (including the Thursday night rain, some weird re-routing through the Hilton, general overcrowding and some other, unrelated drama), I still get warm feelings when I think about this con.  We definitely made the most of the weekend.

Con Report: SDCC 2012

2012.07.24

Wednesday:

After a six hour drive, the Mighty Mei and the Amazing Allyson picked up their badges and proceeded to get lost in downtown San Diego. That was an adventure.

Thursday:

Celebrity sightings: Stan Lee chillin’ like a villain.

So Elementary looks legitimately awesome. Like, the Mighty Mei has many opinions that she will not voice here, but overall it looks pretty damn amazing. Additionally, Lucy Liu is fierce as hell.

Dexter. DEXTER. DEXTER. That is all.

Can we talk about the hotel room for a minute? We had a stove. A stove. Also a full sized fridge, dishwasher, and stuff. It was awesome. Except for the power going out.

Friday:

The Mighty Mei waited in line for six (?) hours for the Game of Thrones panel and ended up not getting in. But that’s okay, because guess who showed up?

HODOR.

And that was pretty much it. Oh but remember that power outage? Yeah, that happened again. While the Mighty Mei was in the shower.

Saturday:

Friday night, the Mighty Mei found out that Colin Morgan and Katie McGrath were signing autographs on Saturday. Thus, she rushed to the BBC booth to get tickets the next morning. Unfortunately, there were none left… However! One kind soul bestowed upon Mei the ultimate gift: an extra ticket. The Mighty Mei then sought out her faithful companions: Giorgia the Gracious and Alannah the Alphabetical. The Mighty Mei and Alannah the Alphabetical, being dressed as Merlin and Fem!Merlin respectively, took the actors by surprise! So much so, in fact, that Colin Morgan requested a picture, which led to a swarm of photographers, which led to free shirts. Also autographs, but FREE SHIRTS.

Hella awesome shirt that is way too big.

Hella awesome autograph.

Hella awesome people. 

So that kind of made her life. But was the fun over? I think not.

Sunday:

Less exciting part: Saw Lou Ferrigno.

Very exciting part: So the Mighty Mei is kind of obsessed with Merlin, as you may have noticed, unless you were skimming, in which case shame on you. In any case, the Mighty Mei and the Amazing Allyson woke up at 2:30 Sunday morning to get in line for the convention center. Once in, they got in line for the autographs, which would eventually lead to the line for Merlin autographs. However, the Mighty Mei heartlessly abandoned the Amazing Allyson to attend the Merlin panel, because said line was running late. Regardless, the Amazing Allyson, living up to her name, ended up getting the Mighty Mei a ticket because, as previously stated, she is amazing.

So the Merlin panel was fabulous. That’s all to be said, really. The autograph signing even more so. Once the Mighty Mei reached the front of the line, Colin Morgan looked up and started laughing. He then proceeded to compliment my costume (because it’s awesome) and give me a fist bump. She then moved on to Angel Coulby, who agreed that the Mighty Mei’s costume was awesome. Next in line were the writers, Johnny Capps and Julian Murphy, who agreed that the hat was definitely coming back (let’s hope they weren’t joking, because that hat is my favorite character). And the greatest compliment of all, you ask? Katie McGrath telling the Mighty Mei that she looked like she had just stepped out of the wardrobe department.

Said costume.

Conclusion? Awesome.

(Please note: The Mighty Mei has left out a few details due to losing her ability to function after meeting the cast of Merlin.)

Con Report: Anime Expo 2012

2012.07.24

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Also the Mighty Mei debuted Otohime:

Con Report: ConnectiCon 2012

2012.07.15

While our Mighty Miss Mei was away romancing San Diego Comic Con, Hazard and I decided to check out an event a little closer to home: ConnectiCon 2012 in Hartford, Connecticut.  This con welcomes fans of many different persuasions, creating a wonderful mix of attendees of all ages and backgrounds.  We drove up early Saturday morning with our friends Chad and Joe, and while Hazard opted out of cosplaying for the day, I jumped at the chance to wear a new costume.

After securing our badges, we took a quick walk around the Dealers Room and Artist Alley.  Hazard and I both tried on a pair of the hot new item popping up at all the cons: Necomimi Brainwave Cat Ears.  They were surprisingly comfortable!  For those of you who haven’t encountered these yet, Necomimi are motorized ears that move on your head in response to brainwave activity.  They perk up, droop, and even wiggle!  At close to $100 (or more) each, I don’t think Hazard or I will be investing in a pair anytime soon, but trying them on was fun.

Hazard in Necomimi

Hazard dons a pair of Necomimi.

ConnectiCon’s Dealers Room seemed considerably downsized this year, which created some overcrowding problems in the alleys between booths.  The web comic tables were squirreled away inside the Dealers Room area, with the Artist Alley skirting the perimeter; it felt like this arrangement created a lot of problems with people lingering at booths and backing up foot traffic.  Spreading the whole area out just a little bit more might have solved (or at least reduced the impact of) these issues.

Since we had no meet-ups or shoots to go to, Hazard and I were actually able to go to a few panels!  We enjoyed the Lolita 101 panel, run by the charming Christina (Lolita and blogger who maintains and writes the Lolita fashion and research blog Ramble Rori).

Lolita 101 Hosts

Christina (on the right) and her co-host for the Lolita 101 Panel.

I’ve followed and (occasionally) participated in Lolita fashion for about four years now, and I have Christina’s wonderful blog to thank for guiding me through the many ins and outs of the world of frills and bows.  Her panel provided a solid introduction to the history of Lolita fashion, the current major brands, and a few of the most important basics.  In addition to being a knowledgeable and classy Lolita, Christina’s cheerful demeanor makes her a fun panelist and a great asset to all folks interested in Lolita fashion.  She and her co-host did a fantastic job, and we hope to see more of her panels in the future.

The other panel we attended was titled “How Meta Destroyed the Anime Industry,” and was a very thought-provoking look at the past and current states of animation studios and licensing companies (mostly the former).  Panelist Scott Spaziani (the blogger behind Otaku in Review) presented evidence of the rise of self-reference within anime with interesting and entertaining commentary.  If this sounds appealing to you, check out Scott’s blog, where you can find (among many other insightful pieces) a copy of “How Meta Destroyed the Anime Industry” panel at ConnectiCon 2011.

As always, friends were an enormous part of the convention for us.  We met up with Kate and Kenae of Center of the Universe Cosplay, who are fantastic cosplayers and equally fabulous folks.  Kate was debuting her Korra (Legend of Korra) cosplay:

Korra and Bolin

Kate as Korra (left) and Kelsey as Bolin.  Pabu as himself.

We ran into her again at the Avatar: The Last Airbender/Legend of Korra meet-up and photo shoot, where Hazard was able to snap a lovely shot of her representing her water tribe:

Water Tribe

I also had the honor of being photographed by Peeple’s Photography for Dr. Grymm Laboratories’ upcoming book 1000 Incredible Cosplay and Costume Ideas.  Whether or not my costume is selected to be featured, it was very flattering to be photographed.  Check out the book-in-progress; it’s certain to be a fabulously filled with beautiful costumes!

Hazard and I decided that we should probably take a few photos ourselves, so we wandered around outside long enough to take a couple of nice shots.  The weather was beautiful but it was quite hot (especially with so many layers on), but it was worth it!

Lelouch in Wonderland

Lelouch in Wonderland!

Lelouch in Wonderland

It pays to applique!  Check out Mei’s tutorial for an easy how-to for applique beginners.

This costume is Lelouch Lamperouge’s crazy new getup from the new Code Geass OVA, Nunnally in Wonderland, which comes out on July 27th of this year.  I’d intended to debut it at Otakon (in time with the actual release!) but finished it a little early: just in time for ConnectiCon!

After photos, we bumped into some more friends: Kevin and his girlfriend Katlyn, better known as The Cosplay Mechanic.  She had entered the Hall Costume Contest with her remarkable Kingdom Hearts II cosplay; she went on to take the Advanced Craftsmanship trophy home!

The Cosplay Mechanic

The Cosplay Mechanic and her mechanics.

This is a great example of how pictures really can’t capture some costumes.  Both the outfit and the prop light up, and the prop has multiple motorized, moving parts.  She definitely earned that trophy!

Speaking of trophies and exceptional cosplays, Hazard, Chad, Joe and I made sure we got good seats for the Masquerade.  Overall, the Masquerade was pretty good; there were a number of clever and entertaining skits and some lovely costumes.  Additionally, ConnectiCon screens and awards the winning FMVs during its Masquerade (though this was the first year they screened them between skits, instead of during judging), which mix things up well.  Sadly, the emceeing between skits sometimes seemed forced, and the time wasted during the little in-betweens resulted in the Masquerade running over almost half an hour.  If the staff needs something between skits or groups of skits, screening FMVs seems like a better option.

After the Masquerade, we went to grab dinner and drinks with Kate and Kenae!  This was the first time I’d really gotten to sit down and talk with them, and I’m so glad we did.  The drinks were delicious (especially Kate’s “Nuts and Berries cocktail,” which I’ll have to order next time), and the conversation was unparalleled.  I’m so glad this kind of downtime has become a regular part of our conventions.

Ladies in Cosplay

Two fancy ladies in their fancy cosplay.

We had to leave soon after finishing dinner, but drove home chatting about how much fun we’d had, how great the company was, and how we’d all like to return again next year.

Hazard and Emmacchi

Emmacchi and Hazard say goodbye to ConnectiCon 2012.

Since Hazard opted to go cosplay-less, we were able to do something we don’t usually do: document some of the wonderful cosplayers we saw!  Here are a few of the highlights we’d like to showcase:

The Mario Party Group

The Mario Party Group!  Their Masquerade skit earned a lot of laughs.

Xiaolin Showdown!

Chase Young and Jack Spicer from Xiaolin Showdown!  (Trivia Fact: Jack Spicer is secretly on Emmacchi’s Dream Cosplay List.)

Gaston!

That Man Among Men, Gaston!  These four were our favorite Disney cosplayers from the weekend.

Fushigi Yuugi

A blast from the past: Tasuki, Miaka and Nuriko from our beloved Fushigi Yuugi!  These three also performed a cute skit in the Masquerade.

Euphy and Lulu

This lovely Euphemia was (sadly) one of the only other Geass cosplayers that day.  She had all the charm of the actual character, and it was a pleasure meeting her!

Legend of Adorable

Legend of Korra, more like Legend of Adorable!  By far our favorite cosplayers we encountered.

And that was ConnectiCon 2012 for East Blue!

Conclusions:

Emmacchi: As always, friends proved a big part of my convention experience at ConnectiCon this year.  Overall, the convention was really enjoyable.  I loved being able to actually get into the panels I wanted to go to, and the skits at the Masquerade were lots of fun.  I wish there’d been more actual Masquerade at the Masquerade, and less time spent emceeing it.  My only other complaint is how small and crowded the Dealers Room/Artist Alley was; I would have spent a lot more time browsing if it hadn’t been so stuffed with people!  That said, I had a great time and would enjoy returning for Saturday next year.

Hazard: I had a lot of fun at ConnectiCon! It was a nice, medium-sized convention. We had tons of fun at the masquerade and hanging out with friends. The panels that we attended were interesting and well organized. The dealer’s room was a bit small for the size of the convention, but they combined it with the Artist Alley which was convenient. I liked the layout of the lobby of the Connecticut Convention Center. It allowed for a lot of people to move around and made it easy to find all the panel rooms. I enjoyed the masquerade with the exception of the skits the presenters were putting on as filler. I did like how they used the winners of the FMV contest to fill time between skits and for judging. Overall, I thought it was a fun con and would probably go back if I could get registered for a little cheaper.

 

Con Report: Phoenix Comicon 2012

2012.06.09

As you may or may not know, the Mighty Mei had some drama with PCC’s masquerade rules earlier this year. However, by the power of friendship and awful fanfiction, that drama was overcome.

Thursday was spent masquerading as a hipster and waiting for Friday to come:

01
Left to right: The Mighty Mei, super-awesome-artist Shelby RobertsonSpider-Spence, and the Amazing Allyson.

Also Kamen Rider, which was hilariously amazing.

Friday was made of a strangely delicious mixture of stress and rainbows. Translation: panels. The Mighty Mei was signed up for three: A Trivial Introduction to One Piece, Masquerades 101, and Wigs.

02
The Mighty Mei and the Amazing Allyson Friday morning

A Trivial Introduction to One Piece was amazing. Unfortunately, it wasn’t quite as long as it should have been, and I didn’t have quite enough questions, but that was cool, because the audience was more than willing to provide some of their own. For future reference, that was actually awesome, and the Mighty Mei has decided to incorporate that into future trivia panels. In conclusion, this panel was awesome—so awesome, in fact, that the universe simply could not handle it and decided that it needed to throw a table (as well as the Mighty Mei’s laptop—ouch) at the audience. Thankfully, the only thing hurt was Mei’s ego (although not badly). Mei seriously cannot get over how much fun this panel was and is looking forward to doing it again.

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Mei freaking loves One Piece.

The Mighty Mei did not get to do her Masquerade panel, unfortunately, because it was scheduled at the same time as the One Piece panel. Thankfully, the Amazing Allyson was there to save the day.

04
Amazing Allyson > Mighty Mei

The wig panel (with SoringVisions) went pretty well, despite technical difficulties (a note to the universe: next time you decide to throw a table, make sure there are no computers on it) and a lack of planning. Nothing too exciting, but fun nevertheless.

Saturday saw the debut of Mei’s favorite costume:

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That embroidery alone took about 50 hours.

Which she only wore for about an hour because as sexy as that hat is, it’s also not very fun to wear. The Mighty Mei and the Amazing Allyson then teamed up to make the worst/best video in all existence:

Click here for bloopers!

Story time: So the Mighty Mei was dancing like a crazy person/octopus for this video, when suddenly, she hears cheering. “What are they cheering for?” she thought, turning around to see a good thirty people staring and clapping right at her. “Oh god it’s meeeeeeee!” She screamed, running to the opposite side of the room to roll around on the floor in front of a cackling Allyson. But was it worth it? Definitely.

5

And we’re not even going to touch the subject of the masquerade.

Sunday was a lazy day filled with Supernatural and Apples to Apples:

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The Amazing Allyson and the Mighty Mei as Dean and Sam.

The con ended on a quite note not long after that. The Mighty Mei returned home to work on costumes for AX and SDCC, which you should all be looking forward to, because they’re going to be awesome.

All in all, the con was not that great, but the Mighty Mei had a super awesome amazing time because her friends are amazing.

Meanwhile, in the dealer’s room….

Placidmage was helping out with Arrowsmith Studio’s con booth as Princess Tinyfeet from Venture bros, with her very own Sgt. Hatred:

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Random guy!Sean as Henchman 21, Placidmage as Princess Tinyfeet, and Elijah as Sgt. Hatred

Placidmage was quite pleased that she was able to make this cosplay from a size 20 pants suit she found at goodwill for $5. She is very cheap.

Placidmage was especially amazed by the sheer numbers of the strictly comic book cosplay she saw at Phoenix Comic Con, and how few people she knew compared with most of the anime cons in the area. Comic conventions certainly draw a different, but equally awesome crowd. She schmoozed and gained her friend’s studio some publicity in the dealer’s room.

Later, Placidmage went with her awesome cosplayer boyfriend to Geek Prom. And even later, joined the late night 18+ panel, “WTF Japan,” for some laughs. It was nothing we didn’t already know, of course, but the late night panels are sometimes the best ones.

Placidmage is already sewing more costumes for upcoming conventions. Despite trying to keep it a little comic-y for Comic Con, she misses anime cosplay and can’t wait for the next con!

Con Report: Animeland Wasabi 2012

2012.04.23

This March, SV traveled to a forsaken land (aka Aurora, CO) to attend… Animeland Wasabi!

Friday was pretty simple – she could not find her real camera, but nevertheless attempted to take photos at the Persona/Megaten (let’s not kid ourselves, it was just Persona) shoot that night.  P4 happens to be a current personal obsession so she was pretty psyched about it:

Also, you like Persona?  If you haven’t seen these, you haven’t seen anything:


After that, the SlowBro shirt went on, and insanities commenced.  She mainly followed around her friends Jeff and David as they made mischief as Frylock and Shake.  It was ridiculous.

Saturday morning she did exciting things (read: errands) and got bagels for everyone, because bagels = delicious.  She got into her Thriller Bark Robin, and went to the One Piece shoot:

Pretty typical of the CO team. (All OP shoot photos thanks to TofuSnow.com)


The OP peeps in CO are really great.  We always have a good time.

The rest of Saturday was spent talking with old friends, running around, and then watching this happen:


(I can be seen in there, looking totally dead.  The girl in the green/blue border collie fursuit is my good friend Cara xD)

Saturday night… SV WISHES she could say she ran around doing awesome things, but instead she crashed at about 10:30.  Like a boss.

Sunday morning was pretty much just waking up, watching the second half of Jennifer’s Body, and leaving.  Super exciting, but what can she say – she had to save up some energy for working on things for Anime Boston!

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