Monthly Archives:November 2012

NTP Exclusive: Interview with Kenji Kamiyama

19 Nov , 2012,
Edric
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We caught up with Kenji Kamiyama on the second day of AFA12 and we got a chance to plumb the mind of the man who’s wowed anime lovers around the world with seminal titles like Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex and Eden of the East.

Kamiyama-san at the 009 RE: CYBORG booth at AFA12.

The acclaimed director was in town to promote his latest works – 009 RE: CYBORG, a fully 3D re-imagining of  the 1960s classic, and Ghost in the Shell: S.A.C. Solid State Society in 3D. The animated movies will air in Singapore later in the year, and fans can be sure they’ll be in for a visual treat paired with a compelling storyline – both Kamiyama-san’s trademarks.

In this interview, we talk to Kamiyama-san about his thoughts on the anime industry. He also has some advice for aspiring anime scriptwriters and directors.


Edric: Kamiyama-san, storytelling has always been one of your strongest points. How do you feel about creating complex stories?

Kamiyama-san: First of all, there is a main story and there are sub stories. The sub stories are constructed around the main story. This leads to the audiences getting various interpretations from the movie.

Edric: How do you feel about the anime industry today? The viewers are usually fed with the same narrative.

Kamiyama-san: The anime industry will always try to satisfy the majority of the fans. The industry itself tries follows the fashion. That is why there will always be a replication of the same trend. On the other hand, there are some good works coming in amongst those works. I believe that there is still a variety of animations.

Edric: Will there still be a market for complex stories?

Kamiyama-san: I believe there is a mainstream and there are some like myself. Anime fans are getting older. Especially for those who watch Ghost in the Shell. People who follow Ghost in the Shell demand higher quality animation. At the same time, there are mature and senior viewers who want to watch such animations. I think there is still a market for such animations.

Edric: After 009 RE:Cyborg, will there be another Ghost in the Shell sequel?

Kamiyama-san: I have realized that there are so many people from around the world who are fans of Ghost in the Shell. Many people are asking me to make a 3rd season. Currently, the contents and production is about timing. If there is a good time, for me, there might be a possibility of a 3rd season for Ghost in the Shell. I will like to work on another sequel.

Edric: Are there any advice you will give to people who are inspired to create their own stories after watching Ghost in the Shell?

Kamiyama-san: I hope that people should make their own films as directors and creators. This way, they can put their own originality into their films. To make a film is quite tough as many people are involved in a single project. It is tough for the director to put his or her own personal message and/or originality. Still, I hope that someone can come up with their own original script and direct it himself. I am rooting for them.

Edric: Will you be creating another one?

Kamiyama-san: In the future, I would like to create another animation where I am both the storyteller and director. Eden of the East is the only work that I have worked on both the story and direction. In the future, I would want to produce more of such films.

We're going to Hyper Japan!

18 Nov , 2012,
Crimson
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Hyper Japan – Logo art. Used with permission.

With Hyper Japan being just a week away, we’re all super excited! I mean who wouldn’t be, considering it’s the UK’s biggest Japan-oriented pop-culture event.

Our UK correspondents Arvin and Levin will be bringing us some awesome coverage of the con again, that’s for sure.

Of course, Hyper Japan’s also playing host to the selection rounds for European Cosplay Gathering (ECG) and World Cosplay Summit (WCS) for the UK, so expect loads of fantastic cosplay performances and stellar costumes on stage.

European Cosplay Gathering. Image source: Hyper Japan website.

There will also be a showcase from the 15th Japan Media Arts Festival (we took part in the 8th before, so we know this will be awesome), live stage choreography demonstrations by  Japanese Samurai Sword Artists KAMUI, so yes, fun stuff!

Stunt choreographers Kamui, who will be at Hyper Japan next week! Picture used with permission.

In the mean, how ’bout checking out the official Hyper Japan page and stage itinerary?

Garena Premier League Playoffs

Nov , 2012,
Crimson
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GPL – A most awesome experience.

Thanks to nuffnang, we were given a rare opportunity to witness e-sports history in the making at Garena‘s swanky new flagship store, when it played host to some of the best League of Legends teams in Asia at the Garena Premier League play-offs yesterday.

The event saw top teams on the Season 2 ladder – Taipei Assassins (TPA), Saigon Jokers (SAJ), and the home team, our very own Singapore Sentinels (SGS) (you can check out info about them here) battling it out for the Champion title and theChampionship Ring.

True enough, we were riveted to our seats throughout.

SGS cruised into the finals with two decisive victories against SAJ early on, riding on early game advantage, kills, and some exceptional teamwork.

One of the awesome plays in the SGS vs SAJ game.

TPA, the current world champions, demonstrated that they were no pushovers, dominating the first two games against SGS. We also learnt a thing or two about some of our favorite champions (including Elise, Rengar and Kha’zix), which both teams used with great skill and precision. 😮

Match 3 of TPA vs. SGS was probably one of the most exciting. 😮

In the third game, SGS came back from behind, securing a much-needed victory, propelled by crowd favorite Chawy’s use of Karma and some hot Jarvan action.

TPA pulled it off in the fourth match however, securing the margin needed in the best of five games to take home the GPL cup.

TPA takes the coveted Champion title and prize.

Check out the Garena GPL Playoffs on Live Stream (it’s more than 9 hours long) if you want a taste of the action.

Also, if you’re a fan of League of Legends and Garena’s other games, be sure to head down to Bugis+ on 24 and 25 November, because they’ll be holding the Garena Carnival over the weekend.

Even if you’re not big on League of Legends (you just might end up loving it though. After all, Garena’s fairly certain 1-in-4 Singaporean youths are into the game, and that’s gotta count for something, right?) and just love cosplay, there’s a competition (check out the Garena Carnival page for more details), and a chance for fans to catch a glimpse of cosplay celebrity Eki Holic, who has been invited as a guest judge for the activity.

Cosplay friends might wanna take note of the competition.

Of course, our very own part-time warrior Angelus is participating in the competition too as Syndra, the Dark Sovereign from League of Legends, so if you spotted her at Anime Festival Asia (AFA) 2012 last weekend, you might again if you pop on by!

Garena Carnival

Date: 24/25 November (2 day event)

Time: 11 a.m. onwards

Venue: Garena Stadium @ Bugis+

Event Page: http://carnival.garena.com/

Introducing the Otaku Camera!

16 Nov , 2012,
Crimson
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Remember our friends from Tokyo Otaku Mode who did some really amazing coverage at International Cosplay Day Singapore? They’ve recently released a mobile app called Otaku Camera on the iOS.

Otaku Camera functions like most other camera apps out there, but instead of giving it a pretty LOMO feel or a range of filters, you get to play with a selection of manga panels,  frames and effects (so yes, you can mess around with captions and action lines and stuff like that). It’s actually pretty fun for cons, if you want to camwhore with your cosplay friends, and just want a bit of a twist.

Otaku Camera can be downloaded free from the iPhone app store. Additional effects may also be downloadable at a later time.

Check out some screen grabs from the app right here:

Main screen turn on!

Check out the range of panels available!

It’s pretty easy to just snap, snap away.

Don’t forget to also follow Tokyo Otaku Mode on Facebook for more updates! 

AFA12: Day 2

10 Nov , 2012,
Edric

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As we prepare for Day 3, here are some highlights from Day 2.

Check out our convention coverage by our on-the-ground spy Edric!

Stay tuned, we might have something special coming your way for AFA day 3, when we focus on more cosplay coverage and celebrities on the show floor.

AFA12: The Preview

Nov , 2012,
Edric
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On Friday night, we were given a rare opportunity – coverage of the set-up at Anime Festival Asia (AFA) 2012 just hours before it went live.

Set at Singapore Expo this year, the event spanned more than 7,500 square meters, with some 100 exhibitors showcasing a wide variety of exclusive Japanese pop-culture products and merchandise.

What’s more, cosplay’s a hot topic this AFA, and ’12 will play host to a multitude of celebrity cosplayers from Japan, Taiwan and Indonesia, and joining them will be this year’s World Cosplay Summit Championship winners, Team Shikon.

Saturday will see cosplayers picked by these celebrities from the con floor participating in the Regional Cosplay Championship (RCC) Cosplay Singles competition, while Sunday will see teams from around the region duking it out on stage to clinch the team title.

Toy Toyota will be screening an animation film from 10 am onwards when titled PES-Peace Eco Smile. The original animation film is a collaboration between TOYOTA and STUDIO4C, and many stores will begin selling their products when doors officially open.

Don’t forget to also check out the stage activities in Hall 8! (You can take a look at the program schedule here).

Here are some photos from our preview.

MCM Expo London Comic Con – Cosplay

2 Nov , 2012,
Arvin
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What’s a pop-culture con without cosplay? Our correspondents Arvin (reporter) and Levin (photographer) report. 

The early morning temperature of 6 degrees sure didn’t stop cosplayers  from wearing their best, even if they were feeling a little chilly.

We were greeted by Yokos (from Gurren Lagann) and Black Rock Shooters aplenty who braved the cold in dedication to their craft, as well as many stunning cosplayers clad in gowns with ornate trains. It was probably thanks to the weather that these cosplayers could go for hours on end in their costumes, because they surely would have melted in Singapore’s tropical heat!

Cosplayers gathered outside the event venue.

One thing we noticed about the con was that it had a dedicated cosplayers’ corner that allowed cosplayers to store their bags, as well as changing rooms that were segregated by gender. However one of the most awesome things we encountered was a workshop corner, which had wig stands for cosplayers to style their wigs, and for them to repair their costumes.

Outside of the con, there were many “Fringe Festivals”, meetups and photoshoots done by fans of specific series and titles. The organizers published a list of these fringe events, allowing fans to easily figure out the time and location of each meet up. It was definitely a good way to help fans who came from all over Europe to gather.

Just like in the movies!

Space was an issue within the halls, as the aisles between stalls were rather narrow, especially when people started browsing. It was difficult to take pictures in hall because of that. It was just as challenging outside, because of the sheer number of people streaming past, and different lighting conditions.

Surprisingly, there weren’t as many dedicated cosplay photographers at the event, at least not the type we’re used to in Singapore. Many convention goers used either cellphones, compact cameras, or prosumer gear.

Western cosplay was generally more prevalent, with a plethora of DC & Marvel cosplayers and characters from trending titles such as Team Fortress 2, My Little Pony, Adventure Time and Left 4 Dead.

If you find a Batman, there’s a chance you’ll find a Joker too.

There were plenty of Lokis (except for the version in his classic comic book costume) at the con, as well as several Batman, Joker and Captain America clones. There were also quite a few Deadpool cosplayers, doing versions including Ladypool and even an Adventure Time and Deadpool crossover.

Furries were actually quite prevalent at MCM Expo. Likely, this was due to the ready availability of materials and fans of this genre in the West. There were, however, a lack of Kigurumi cosplayers, and mecha cosplay, such as Gundam cosplay, was noticeably lacking even though there were a great many armor cosplays.

The Eastern front was dominated by the Big 3 – Bleach, Naruto and One Piece. Goku from Dragonball was relatively common, and so were the numerous Pokemon cosplayers (with Ash and Pikachu being the most common). Final Fantasy and Kingdom Hearts cosplayers were a regular sight too.

Those FFVIII cosplayers were pretty amazing. Just check out the level of detail.

Personally, I was surprised at the dearth of Touhou and Reborn characters, which were relatively mainstream in Singapore.

Another interesting observation made by Levin was that the characters cosplayed were less recent compared to Singapore, with the only character from an anime that was fresh this season being Rikka from Chuunibyou.

One difference we’ve also noticed at MCM Expo was the strict rule on props. There was a noticeable lack of humongous props, and competitors had to use a stage friendly version of their weapons. Interestingly stilts were worn by a number of con-goers though there were fewer cosplayers on stilts this year.

Not unexpectedly, Gangnam Style had invaded MCM Expo as well, and we spotted a PSY-cosplayer leading a train into the convention hall. The Swedish competitor for the EuroCosplay competition, who did Alice from American McGee’s Alice, also used Gangnam style in her performance.

Gangnam Style hits MCM Expo!

We discovered that another marked difference between East and West was that coscards weren’t common in Europe. We only received two coscards over the entire weekend. We received a card from Anathiell, an Irish cosplayer who portrayed an amazing Lightning in Aya Brea’s costume from Parasite Eve. She demonstrated her versatility by cosplaying as an Elementor from Flyff: Fly for Fun in the EuroCosplay competition.

Anathiell’s Flyff cosplay.

We also had some interesting conversations with cosplayers about their approach to costuming, including Tabitha Lyons, who was cosplaying an original character called Kyra.

She explained that her outfit was created through foam carving, and each piece was cut from a special type of foam that’s somewhat different from the EVA foam we’re so used to.

Tabitha Lyons as Kyra.

A Noctis cosplayer we encountered also told us that he used plenty of cardboard to achieve the finished and polished look on his prop, which I thought was initially built out of foam at first. Another cosplayer wielded a beautiful two sided lance, and I was amazed by how it managed to retain its shape. I soon discovered that it was made with a special type of cardboard.  The availability of such special materials and tools in the UK sure is enviable!

Perhaps due to it being the Halloween weekend, we were greeted by myriad zombie cosplayers. Notably, there was this big guy who had a pole stuck through his body, and this pair of zombie cosplayers who not only had very excellent makeup, but also communicated via grunts and never spoke to anyone. They stayed in character for a very long time and were walking in the typical zombie lumber.

There were zombies at MCM Expo too!

One of the most impressive things about the more dedicated cosplayers at MCM Expo was their ability to remain in character throughout. They rarely broke character and could get quite a number of mannerisms and gestures pretty well. However my main gripe was that while the cosplayers had excellent costumes and were good at what they did, they didn’t vary their poses enough.

EuroCosplay Championship was an interesting affair with 42 representatives from 25 countries taking part. The format was a 2-minute singles performance with an emphasis on costume i.e. 40%- Accuracy, 40% – Construction, 20% Performance.

For the sake of neutrality the judges were from non-European countries, and these included Rufflebutt from USA, 2008 WCS Champion Gabriel from Brazil and Tatsumi Inui, President of Cure and WorldCosplay. Being media gave us a front row seat, and the show started with Italy’s first representative as a Chanter from Aion: Tower of Eternity.  Other notable mentions include Belgium’s rep doing Constance Blaize from Warmachine and Castlevania’s Dracula, by a cosplayer from the Netherlands.

EuroCosplay winners take center stage.

UK’s Toothless (from How to train your Dragon) won third place. Second place went to Poland’s Onion Knight (Final Fantasy Dissidia), who did an elaborate routine utilizing several stage props and sets. Netherland’s Skull Kid (Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask) took the grand prize through a combination of costume detail, a stunning Majora’s Mask prop, and a compelling performance.

We definitely had a lot of fun attending the con.

Don’t forget to check out our cosplay photo album and EuroCosplay coverage on Facebook!

MCM Expo London Comic Con – Impressions

1 Nov , 2012,
Arvin
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While Cosplay Zombie Walk was going on, I was away in the land of Kuroshitsuji, Steam Punk and Sherlock Holmes – the United Kingdom.

Look at the crowd!

The queues were insane!

Another year, another London Comic Con MCMExpo. This year, however, we managed to get media accreditation (and that’s a first for a local cosplay blog!).

Again it was held at EXCEL, the home of many of the 2012 London Olympics events. After a convoluted tube journey due to subway works, we finally arrived.

I managed to avoid the queues by being Media, however I was reading my issue of Jump (can you guess which character) whilst waiting for my photographer friend Levin, who had to convert his early pass ticket into a paper wrist band (we only had one press pass between the two of us, which was a pity).

The early entry pass ticket allowed entry 2 hours earlier at 9am for a price of 16 GBP (as opposed to 10 GBP).

The large convention hall (approximately 2 Expo halls) dedicated to queues had a replica of a Tardis to sate the appetites of the fans before they even entered the convention. Even then the queues were monstrously long with swarms of people from all over the country and even Europe coming to one of the biggest cons in UK and Europe (The site of the 3rd Euro Cosplay Championships)

We were welcomed by 4 long rows of merchandise stores stretching the entire length of the convention.

Plushies

Yaoi!

Figurines

There was a variety of merchandise being sold. For the eastern crowd, typical anime fare such as merchandise, figurines, tapestry, dakimakura, Gunpla, t-shirts, English translated manga, plushies, posters were sold.

Non-standard merchandise such as collections of doujins imported from Japan (including hentai, yaoi and yuri doujins which were being advertised openly), anime classics VCDs, woodle paddles that said Yaoi, Uke and Seme sating the desires of a crowd many of whom are probably incapable of going to Japan.

Price wise goods were sold at easily double the retail price in Japan.

Examples include Madoka figurines going at 25 Pounds, Gunpla at the prices in Singapore but in pounds, Lightning FFXIII-2 Figurine at 35 Pounds or FF7 Reunion Music Cd at a whooping 50 Pounds.

This was no doubt due to the high import prices but merchandise were still going off the shelf pretty fast for some of the more popular items.

It was quite apparent that the merchandise was pretty mainstream and not as updated as for example there was a dearth of (surprisingly) Sword Art Online merchandise.

On the western front, there was the usual fare of comic books, figurines, Lego, T-shirts, posters, Warhammer 40,000 figures and such.

These were obviously cheaper than in Singapore.

Weapon replicas of Eastern and Western pop culture were selling at approximately half the price that was sold in Singapore no doubt due to lower production costs and a larger market.

Generally compared to STGCC, I felt there was a lesser variety of figurines to buy and it was apparent that the storekeepers were going for mass market mainstream figurines as opposed to pandering to “obscure” stuff like Super Robot figurines such as Mazinger or non-mainstream anime.

Crowds inside!

It was interesting to note there were more Eastern merchandise on sale. I suspect it was due to the general availability of Western merchandise in the UK which was the cause of this.

However either ways it was mainly mainstream products.

What is a multi-genre convention without games?

The big publishers came in full force. XCOM Enemy Unknown and Borderlands 2 from 2K Games, Metal Gear Rising from Konami, Halo 4 and Forza Horizon from Microsoft, Assassin’s Creed 3 and Farcry 3 from Ubisoft, DBZ Kinect, Tales of Graces, Ni no Kuni, Tekken Tag Tournament from Namco Bandai were some of the many titles that came to the show.

The availability of brand new games and even unreleased games was definitely a nice touch to the convention. There were also classic NES games for people to play.

As the arcade culture has waned in the West, this convention was a great opportunity for fans to play the latest and classic arcade games which we take for granted back home.

There were many machines to choose from however one of the most popular games was DDR. Many tried their hands (or feet) at the games which were a dime a dozen in London (or I dare say UK).

In the non-video game segment, there was an area on YuGiOh by Konami and a board games area which featured board games such as Settlers of Catan and X-Wing Miniatures games for the crowd to try. The gamer fans amongst the crowd definitely had a lot of fun.

X-Wing Miniatures

Fancy eating a Pokeball or Domo? 😮

There was the customary artists’ area filled with the usual doujins, posters, art done by the various talented artists.

There seemed to be less of a slant of Eastern art compared to Singapore. However I apologize that neither Levin or I was able to make a more detailed comparison of the artists’ booths. There was also a manga school where students sat in a Tatami classroom learning how to draw manga. Other general stores included a cupcake store that made cupcakes dedicated to pop culture-themed cupcakes.

A dedicated signing area where stars such as Warwick Davis, the Wrestler Edge and Sci-fi author Peter F. Hamilton were autographing and interacting with the fans.

If you are a fan of western pop culture, it was definitely a place to attend.

Even amongst the booths the artist and creator of the webcomic Cyanide and Happiness was there doing sketches and autographs.

There were also many interviews with stars such as Matt Smith (The eleventh Doctor), Ali Hillis (the voice of Lightning) and Once Upon a Time.

The convention had 3 theatres and a stage of varying sizes to handle the multitude of such events. As with all conventions, one must definitely plan in advance to see what you want to see.

Edge

Brian Muir

As this is the West, the 501st Division was in full force.

It was a nice touch to see Stormtroopers “patrolling” the queuing area.

Of course all of the common types of troopers and Imperial guardsmen were there in addition to Lord Vader.

Interesting additions included a full-sized Landspeeder.

However what made my 2nd day special was the section dedicated to Brian Muir, the British sculptor of many movie works such as the set of Harry Potter (e.g. The intricate fireplace), Indiana Jones‘ Ark of Covenant prop and most importantly Star Wars.

He was the sculptor of Vader’s iconic helmet, Stormtrooper armor, CZ-3’s helmet, and the finishing work on the C3PO suit.

Still in shock, I decided to go ahead and “interview” the man about sculpting whilst lamenting the fact that I did not bring my Darth Vader helmet for him to sign. He mentioned that the design of the helmet was meant to be a cross between a samurai helmet and a 2nd World War German helmet. It was illuminating to hear how a professional sculptor built a costume using clay to form a mask and then sent it to a plaster shop to be moulded and recast in plaster, before finally being remoulded and casted in fiberglass.

He also taught us how he used the classic method of grey paint with another coat silver followed by the polished gold finish to get the now famous C3PO sheen, a technique that experienced modellers are no doubt familiar with.

501st Legion

He was definitely very dedicated to his work and his wife showed pictures of his garden filled with trinkets to give it a nice space-y look. He then showed us a photo of his time in a convention in the United States with the First Imperial Stormtrooper Detachment who all took off their helmets in respect to the man who brought us Star Wars.

Not wanting to leave empty handed, I bought a book called In The Shadow of Vader which I promptly asked him to sign and had a photo taken.

It was a great read filled with his experience about his various projects and plenty of photographs.

It was a real honor to meet this down-to-earth and friendly man.

Taiko Demonstration

There was an area in the Comic Con called JapanEX, which allowed con-goers to experience Japanese Culture.

Origami classes, Ceramics were some of the many retailers. There was a stage that had many showcases such as a Harajuku fashion show, Martial arts Demonstrations and a Taiko exhibition.

The greatest lure was however the food stalls. Traditional Japanese Dorayaki, Japanese influenced flavours such as, Yakisoba, Sushi and Kakigori (Shaved Ice) were all sold. The prices were obviously more expensive compared to back home as a small plate of Yakisoba was at 5 Pounds, and Kakigori was at 2 Pounds but it gave the con-goers a chance to experience the more uncommon Japanese food that they probably only saw in anime and in one central location.

Levin and I also bought quite a number of stuff at the Japan Centre booth which sold a variety of goods such as JUMP imported from Japan but sold at more reasonable prices (compared to Singapore) and walked home happily with the lovely September issue of Newtype, a Clamp works in Code Geass and a Dissidia postcard booklet for me and a September issue of Nyantype for him The Japan Centre stall was manned by Japanese wearing a variety of traditional costumes and a female Coser who was cos-ing an awesome Waver Velvet with Rider cloak on Saturday which we sadly did not take a photo of.

Spoils of War

As one of the biggest Cons in UK and probably Europe, it did not dissapoint in the variety of stuff to buy or see.

This sums up our general Con coverage of the London MCM Comic Con Expo.

Hopefully this is a good enough salve for missing AFA on my final year. Please also read our article on the lovely sub-genre of Steampunk and Cosplay and EuroCosplay Championships.

Con Coverage by: Arvin Lim (reporter) & Levin Tan  (photographer)

Check out more photos from the MCM Expo London Comic Con showfloor on our Facebook page!