Category Archives: Moments of Genius

Cosplay: When it makes cents

27 Jun , 2012,
Crimson
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We’re talking about dollars and cents here.

Recently, our friend Kaika made a compelling case against cosplayer exploitation on her blog, ‘The Cosplay Chronicles‘, and it echoes many of our sentiments about the sordid state of affairs on this little red dot.

All too often, commercial entities attempt to inveigle cosplayers, especially novices fresh to the scene, into working gigs that have little or no relation to cosplay,  minimal publicity (in fact, cosplayers are the publicity), and generally no community value.

Kaika’s already discussed why you, as a cosplayer, should be paid, so we’re not going to delve into that. We’re going to delve instead into how much you should be paid, and why you, as a cosplayer, have the right to negotiate.

Let’s face it. The value of cosplay as a marketing tool has grown exponentially over the years.

With the sudden explosion of pop-culture into the public consciousness in the past 5 years, it’s become increasingly apparent to corporations that there’s money in cosplay.

There are a multitude of road shows, trade fairs and retail events out there that tap on the pop-culture demographic. If you want to sell geeks your goods, you’ve got to give them what they want, so to speak. It’s also no secret that Singaporeans are drawn to spectacle, and cosplay is spectacle, no?

Parade an EVA, Gundam, or hell, a guy in a full suit of armor down Orchard Road, and you’re bound to turn heads, that’s for sure.

So what does this mean? It means that cosplayers have value.

Whether you’re distributing flyers, generating what marketers call ‘eyeballs’, or even making up the numbers for a street parade, you’re generating income and publicity for corporations worth thousands (sometimes more).

The thrust here, cosplay friends, is to understand that.

It’s easy for a company to use honeyed words like “promoting Japanese culture”, “expanding your portfolio”, or even “showcasing your talent” to reel you in, but is it really?

Are you gaining any tangible benefits from sweating it out in the hot sun, indulging the public and doing your part for days on end, and all for a measly shopping voucher that can be used only at a selected mall and a certificate of participation? I think not.

Sure, cosplayers aren’t paid models, but the concept of remuneration, of reimbursement for your time, travel and laundry expenses shouldn’t be alien to you.

If pop-culture’s being commercialized, then it’s only natural that you, as cosplayers, should learn to monetize your hobby, no?

So yeah. We’ve been rambling a little bit, but the bottom-line is, all companies have money. They would have folded otherwise.

It’s just a matter of you pushing the right buttons and getting past their “No budget” spiel to ensure that you’re given a fair deal when they tap on your unique qualities and talents.

Here’s an example. One of our friends was recently offered $90 to make an appearance in a robot suit at an upcoming event, when the going rate for everyone else is $20 (several others were offered $60 for armor appearances).

Said friend turned down the offer as a matter of principle, but that goes to show how some stakeholders can and will pay, if they need you desperately enough.

And one way to get them to pay is to standardize rates across the board. Consider a minimum sum per appearance, say maybe $30 per hour if you’re wearing a less elaborate costume, and maybe $50 per hour if you’re in armor or clad in a robot suit.

If every cosplayer’s making the same demands, then sooner or later, corporations are going to have to wise up, or hire models who masquerade as cosplayers  (as if that’s not already happening), put them in tacky costumes, and pay an even bigger premium.

It might sound idealistic, but hey, it’s one way to ensure that you’re not being gypped, and that you’re not being worked to the bone for scraps, right?

Think about it, and if you agree with us, tell your cosplay friends, spread the word.

It’s time us cosplayers stood together and made a stand.


Vote for us in Singapore Blog Awards 2012!

If you liked this post, and you think we can make a difference in the Singapore cosplay scene, please do vote for us in the Singapore Blog Awards!

Your continued support will go a long way towards helping us realize this and our win would provide us with a platform to push for more ethical treatment of cosplayers.

You can do so simply by clicking on the ‘Vote For Me’ button, or on this link now.

We're in the running for Singapore Blog Awards 2012!

28 May , 2012,
Crimson
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Imagine waking up one day, checking your e-mail, and discovering that hey, you’re in the running for Omy.sg’s Singapore Blog Awards 2012.

That’s kinda what happened here at The Neo Tokyo Project, when I received my nomination for the Sold.sg Best What-the-hell blog category.

I’m really, really grateful for this awesome vote of confidence. It’s neat how we managed to make the cut, and I owe it to you – my cosplay friends, geeky fans, and readers – for making this possible.

We’re cosplay warriors, and proud of it! ^^

So today, we’re gonna play a game of 20 (well, really just 4) questions that will hopefully answer everyone’s queries about my nomination for this award, and what The Neo Tokyo Project’s gonna do moving forward!

Are you ready? Here we go!


1.    How do you feel about being one of finalists in Singapore Blog Awards 2012?

Elated! The team’s been in a tizzy since I told them about the email last week!

It’s The Neo Tokyo Project’s first nomination ever, and being a part of the Singapore Blog Awards means we’re doing something right. (It’s a group effort!)

It’s great validation, and affirms our commitment not just for geeky coverage, but in documenting the transformative and empowering effects of cosplay.

We’re motivated to do even better, both for our readers in the cosplay community, and for everybody out there who’s curious about just how amazing and positive this hobby can be!

2.    When did you start blogging and what drew you to it? Where do you get inspiration for your blog content?

I’ve always had a taste for the geeky things in life.

Yeah, being a warlock (World of Warcraft) irl was pretty geeky. ^_^;;

As a comic collector, cosplayer, gamer, and unabashed Japanophile, I’ve had no lack of inspiration, so all it took was a little push in the right direction to get me started. That push came in the way of Kaika (another kickass cosplay blogger, and she’s a finalist in the vlog category!).

I met her on a sponsored trip to Hong Kong as Singapore’s Cosplay Ambassador for a promo by Animax and Hong Kong Tourism Board, and our conversations got me thinking.

When I first started cosplaying in 2001, the hobby was an arcane thing, but cosplay’s gained ground, increasing social acceptance, and a way, way, way bigger following in the past decade.

So ‘Hey’, I told myself on New Year’s Day in 2011. ‘It’s a hobby that’s turned my life around. It’s broadened my horizons, helped me develop practical problem solving skills, and taught me how to put my best foot forward. Why the hell am I not blogging about it?’

After all, I’d picked up a trick or two as a cosplayer and costume maker,  amassed some modicum of stage experience, and loads of geeky know-how; the only cool thing to do was to share.

Blogging about cosplay’s my way of giving back to the community. I delight in helping novice cosplayers along, and it’s always a pleasure to know that I’m contributing in my own small way.

That’s why we’ve got a regular tutorials column, and editorials about cosplay and stage performances on The Neo Tokyo Project. I’m also interested in highlighting (by way of journalistic exploration, interviews and convention coverage) just how exactly cosplay’s changed the lives of people in the scene, and that’s the focus of our Spotlight On column.

ConJurer CJ’s just one of the many cosplayers we’ve featured in our interview column. XD

So yeah. That’s kinda how The Neo Tokyo Project started, and as they say (as cliched as this sounds), the rest is history.

3.    How do you feel about the other Finalists in your category this year? How do you think you will fare compared to them?

I think they’ve all got their strengths. They’ve got some really quirky content, so I think it’s gonna be a tough fight all round.

It’s already a great honor for a niche blog about cosplay to make it to the finals, so win or lose, it’s still a triumph for Cosplay, yeah? XD

4.    Give a reason why readers should visit your blog and vote for you?

The Neo Tokyo Project’s an all-inclusive blog dedicated to cosplay, pop-culture, and all things geek. Cosplay’s our passion and it doesn’t matter whether it’s comic books, computer games and fantasy novels, or anime and manga.

We’re all about cosplay. We feature cosplayers, we cover the latest cosplay and pop-culture happenings in Singapore, and if we’re gonna create a brand new cosplay costume, you can bet your life we’ll eventually put out a tutorial and show you just how you can make one too.

When you vote for us, you’re voting Cosplay. So if you’re a fan, if you love the hobby and love pop-culture as much as we do, do support us!

I’ve also made a little video about our nomination, and here it is!


If you’d like to vote for The Neo Tokyo Project, here’s what you need to do.

Click on the image below, and click Vote For Me! It’s as simple as that (Clicking on the link will open a new window, and you might need to register for an omy.sg account if you haven’t yet).

Just click on the “Vote For Me” button, and you’re done! ^_^

You can cast your vote once per day, so it’s kinda like a ‘Daily Quest’ (like in an MMORPG, or something).

So if you like what you’ve read so far, and want to support Crimson, Angelus, and the rest of the Neo Tokyo Project team, please, please, please, cast your vote every day!

What’s more, we’ll be releasing new and exclusive content ‘Achievement’ style each time we hit a new campaign milestone. Each time we hit 100 or more likes and daily votes in the tally, we’ll be putting out a brand new tutorial or cosplay related tidbit!

How cool is that?

So remember, guys, you’re voting Cosplay each time you vote for us (and don’t forget to vote for Kaika too!)

Cosplay’s awesome, so let’s help our hobby take the blogosphere by storm!

Cosplay Performances: Stage Combat

29 Sep , 2011,
Crimson
,
No Comments

Cosplaying a character with a weapon prop’s easy, but putting on an actual performance where you’re swinging that prop around instead of standing in a corner looking pretty’s gonna really tax you unless you’re already proficient in its use.

Swishing Black Gold Saw’s sword about without a whit of finesse, or if you’re attempting, and failing at stabbing with a rapier, it’s going to look really, really awkward on stage.

What’s worse, if you’re in a group competition, and you’ve decided to stage a fight without any prior knowledge or training (just look at some of this year’s entries), it’s definitely gonna show if your fellow contestants possess kickass kung-fu and have you totally outclassed.

But fret not. In this week’s cosplay tutorial, we’re gonna touch on Stage Combat basics.

1. Strike Zones

Meet Bob. Bob’s a target dummy from World of Warcraft, and he’ll help us explain the concept of strike zones.

Say 'Hi!' to Bob, our target dummy.

If you’ve ever played fighting games before, you’d have heard of something called a ‘hit box’. Strike zones in stage combat are kinda like that.

The body can be divided into 6 areas (just check out those colored circles), and these correspond to 1) the head, 2) the right torso, 3) the left torso, 4) the right flank, 5) the left flank, and 6) the midriff.

By coordinating and defending against attacks to these regions, it’s possible to create actual sequences suitable for the stage.

2. Strike Patterns

A strike pattern’s kinda like a combo. It’s a series of attacks focusing on different strike zones that are executed in tandem.

Several common patterns in stage combat include:

a. The Square – A series of four attacks to 2, 3, 4, 5.

b. The Triangle – Three hits to 2, then either 4 or 5, then 3. There’s also a Reversed Triangle, striking at 1, then 4, then 5.

c. The Diamond – A solid blow to 1, then 3, 2 and either 4 or 5.

d. The Cross – Consecutive cuts to 2, 4, 3, 5.

The 'Square' Strike Pattern - It sure looks like one when you think about it. XD

These strike patterns are named loosely after the shapes they form when you join the targeted strike zones with imaginary lines, but there’s no reason why you can’t give them funky names like Caligula’s Advance or The Fourfold Petals of Anubis either.

It sounds way cooler when you’re improvising on stage, and map a character’s signature moves to a particular strike pattern together with the requisite anime-esque yelling of special move names.

Just make sure you’ve plotted out the strike zones you’re targeting first, so your performance partner doesn’t get flustered and forget their moves!

3. Stunts & Flourishes

If your weapon prop is light (or hell, even if it’s heavy), consider introducing physical weapon spins and twirls into your performance. These flourishes are flashy, and look great on stage.

Also, if your costumes permit, you can also incorporate simple stunts such as dodges, rolls and jumps into your performance. Such actions serve to add a level of flair and sophistication to your performance, greatly heightening its dramatic appeal.

4. Stage Combat Exercise

Now that you know the basics of stage combat, here’s a little exercise to get you warmed up.

1. Grab a 6-sided die (d6), and roll it 12 times. Note down the results on a piece of paper.

2. Each number corresponds to a targeted strike zone. For example, if the first four numbers you rolled were 5, 6, 6, 1, then they represent strike zones 5, 6, 6, and 1.

3. Using the results of your die rolls as a guide, create a short combat sequence of 12 moves.

4. Act it out.

Try this exercise out. Once you get the hang of it, preparing a stage combat sequence should be a breeze. Unless you’re a target dummy like Bob, that is. XD

Until next time, cosplay friends.

Cheerio!

 

Cosplay Performances: Knowing your Role

14 Sep , 2011,
Crimson
,
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Now that you’ve got a killer script and an audio capsule prepped for your cosplay performance, we’re gonna talk a little bit about role-playing.

Before you can strut your stuff and dazzle the stage, you’ve got to overcome the first hurdle – that nasty Q&A component that’s gonna test your ability to think on your feet – to portray your character without fumbling or looking like a complete goof.

After all, even if you’re looking fly in your cosplay togs and you’ve got a horde of adoring fans waiting to vote you to victory, messing up with the RP monster’s gonna ruin your competition chances, especially if it’s a major scoring component.

Keeping in-character is integral to cosplay. The minute you take to the stage, you’re no longer Johnny Milquetoast, cosplayer extraordinaire, but <INSERT NAME HERE>, the character you’re kitted out to be.

You adopt <INSERT NAME HERE>’s gait, mannerisms and personality traits, heightening the illusion and creating suspension of disbelief. You’re even expected to answer questions IN CHARACTER.

1. It’s a trap! 

It’s the task of the emcee to poke chinks in your carefully constructed veneer, and one of the first traps they tend to lay before you goes something like “What character are you cosplaying?”

It’s a trick question, and it’s foiled even cosplay veterans, as recent competition vids [1] [2] from TGX would attest. It’s a great way to catch you off guard, especially if your mind’s drawing a complete blank and you’re freezing in front of the audience due to stage fright.

Be cheeky, be coy, but never, ever answer this question with “I’m cosplaying <INSERT NAME HERE>”. Instead, poke fun at the emcee, play with the judges, and demonstrate your 1337 acting skills by behaving just as the character would if he were in your predicament.

Remember to ham it up, because you’re racking up points when you do.

2. Is that a big sword you’ve got there, or are you just happy to see me?

What are some other potential pitfalls to watch out for?

For one, if you’re asked about a particular prop, or why you like a costume, be sure to give it a bit of thought before you answer.

Saying “Oh, I really love the character” or “I like the character’s outfit very much” is a big no-no because you ARE the character, and that dress or the prop you’re toting is something indispensable in <INSERT NAME HERE>’s arsenal.

If the emcee’s on the ball, he’ll play right along.

3. Role playing. It makes all the difference.

It’s not all that difficult to get in character. It’s a simple matter of practice, practice and practice.

An easy exercise goes something like this:

a. Start by making a list of <INSERT NAME HERE>’s base traits. Is he craven or brash? Is he confident to the point of arrogance, or is he shy and bashful?

b. Next, try acting the same way for an extended period of time. Keep at it for an hour each day, or if you’re really confident about it, do it for an entire day at a go.

c. Pick one attribute at a time. When you feel like you’ve mastered it, move on to another.

Gradually, you’ll find that channeling the character’s not all that hard, and that you can fall into the role pretty easily. When that happens, you’ll be able to make the connection almost instantaneously, and you’ll never be caught flat footed on stage again.

So get to practicing, guys, and don’t forget to let us know if this helps at all.

Until next time, cosplay friends. Cheerio!

Cosplay Performances: Scripting it

17 Aug , 2011,
Crimson
,
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In my previous entry, I described some easy ways to prepare for a cosplay competition, and if you’ve done your research, got a good handle on the judges, and think your costume’s stage ready, it’s time to take next step – scripting and producing your routine.

1. Writing the script 

Unless you’re doing a song and dance routine on stage, a cosplay skit is very much like a theatrical play or a scene out of a movie. There’s characters, there’s a semblance of plot, there’s conflict, and there’s a payoff.

Coming up with an original performance can be tricky for first timers, so it’s no foul if you rehash a scene from anime or manga. However, if you’d like to take a stab at coming up with something original, here are a couple tips.

a. The Setup:

It’s important to set the scene, and this can be accomplished with a simple voice-over (VO). The VO introduces your character, establishes the context of your performance, and provides an important lead-in to the action.

Keep it short, but keep it engaging. The VO’s supposed to drum up excitement and get the audience prepped for when you take the stage after all.

Here are some examples:

Sample VO #1:  “Having braved the dangers of Dracula’s Castle, Simon Belmont, bearer of the Vampire Killer must now confront his worst enemy – himself.”

Sample VO #2: “To save Academy City from plunging into war, Kamijyou Touma challenges golem summoner Sherry Cromwell to battle. When Science and Magic clash, who will prevail?”

You could also work your introduction into the performance through the use of dialogue, though this requires greater deliberation in your writing.

A generic enemy could shout out your character’s name, or you could introduce yourself by addressing the audience (and breaking the fourth wall in the process).

Sample, Enemy Introduction: “You’ve got nowhere left to run. Come quietly, Goemon!”

Sample, Self Introduction: “Where monsters rampage, I’m there to take them down! Where treasure glitters, I’m there to claim it! Where an enemy rises to face me, victory will be mine! I am Lina Inverse, and if you (points at the audience) say otherwise, I’ve got a fireball right here with your name on it!” 

b. The Performance Proper:

Let’s plunge into the meat of your performance. This is the part that either makes or breaks the competition, so it’s important to plan this right. It’s got to have buzz, it’s got to be dynamic, and it’s got to be entertaining. It might seem daunting at first, but it’s really not that tough.

In most cases, a cosplay performance could be as simple as a fight between two characters – the protagonist (that’s you) and an antagonist (typically a stage hand or your competition partner), or your character ‘shadow boxing’ with phantasmal assailants on stage.

If you’re a fan of the character you’re cosplaying (why the hell wouldn’t you be?), then you’d already have a context for the scene.

If you’re Ichigo from Bleach, you’d probably want to vanquish a hollow on stage. If you’re Tomoharu from Asura Cryin, then maybe you could summon Kurogane. If you’re Dante from Devil May Cry, how ’bout demonstrating your gun-fu?

Come up with a framework for the entire segment. Plan out the actions, then add in the character’s favorite lines, gestures and mannerisms to spice up your performance. If the character’s got a unique victory pose or opening stance, be sure to emulate it. If the character’s got a famous catchphrase, deliver it with panache! Part of the fun of cosplaying is in roleplaying and acting the part. If you can do it well, it will definitely score points with the judges!

Also, you’re usually allowed to rope in helpers for your performance so long as they’re not other cosplay contestants. This is especially helpful, if you’re doing a solo act. Stage hands make great sword fodder, and they can help to manipulate essential props into position, so think about how you can integrate them into your sequence.

2. What next? 

Well, rehearse, rehearse and rehearse. Practice your performance in front of your friends (or if you’re shy, in front of a mirror). Tweak your performance and tailor it to suit the audience. Sometimes you might think you’ve got a great line, but your audience might think otherwise. Or if you’ve come up with an awesome move, but it looks really wonky on stage, it’s probably a good idea to take it out of your rotation.

Keep working at it, and be sure to accept feedback from your friends!

3. Creating a Performance Clip:

And finally, if you’d like to beef up your performance, then you’d want to incorporate sound and music into your performance.

You can use a USB microphone to pre-record your dialogue, and free software like Audacity to put your audio clip together.

Also check out Freesound, which has a large library of sound effects you can introduce into your recording, such as sword swings and clashes.

That’s it for this tutorial, folks. Next time, we’ll look into choreographing a stage fight using common theatrical techniques, and methods for enhancing your performance with live sounds!

Until then, cheerio!

Cosplay Performances: Dazzling the Stage!

16 May , 2011,
Crimson
,
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So you’ve got a great costume, you’ve got your poses down pat, and you can even remember a pet phrases or two. You’d think that’s enough for you to strut your stuff on stage, and to dazzle the audience with a stellar cosplay performance right?

The reality is, whether you’re just starting out in the competition circuit, or a regular face at cosplay events, performances aren’t just about looking good, preening, and posing for the cameras. Cosplayers are constantly upping the ante by playing up the WOW factor, creating spectacle through the use of elaborate props and complex technology, or hell, just by relying on good old fashioned showmanship.

While epic props and expensive theatrical effects might be out of reach for most of us, there’s one thing that’s invariably free, and that’s you, the star of the show. In this new, bi-monthly column, I’ll be discussing various ways we can level up our performances through the use of basic acting techniques and tools.

And in our inaugural Cosplay Performances column, we’ll be talking about performance preparation and planning.

Preparing for a Cosplay Performance in 4 Easy Steps

1. Understand The Event

Before you sign up for any cosplay contest, it’s important to figure out if your favorite outfit’s right for the event, and whether it’s going to win big props from the audience. This is especially pertinent if audience appeal is a significant aspect that impacts your final score.

You wouldn’t want to dress up as a character from some obscure anime when you’re doing something at E3, for example, and hamming it up in front of a bunch of videogame nerds.

2. Suss out the Judging Criteria

The quality of your cosplay performance is a defining factor for any competition, but some competitions place greater emphasis on other components, such as online votes through Facebook, Audience polls, and the like.

The World Cosplay Summit, for example, devotes 100 points (fully a third) of its criteria to the performance (it’s further broken down into additional criterion), while License 2 Play’s Cosgames attributes only 20% to the performance (with an additional 20% for character portrayal).

Knowing just how much of your final tally is attributed to the performance component can help you prioritize the amount of effort you should put into executing it. It also helps to find out the expected duration of your performance, as this will impact your script.

3. Wise Up to Your Competition

Every cosplayer brings something unique to the stage. The question is what? It’s important to know who you’re up against, which outfits they’re wearing, and what they’re capable of. Know what they can do, and what you can do different, or better.

Identify your own strengths in relation to the competition, and play it up during your performance. If you’re agile and acrobatic, and can actually handle a sword, pick a character from an action anime and stage a sword fight. If you’re a Vocaloid who can actually croon a tune without going off-key, please do so.

Or hey, if you’ve got a talent for carving a live-sized animal sculpture outta ice  in under a minute, why the hell not?

4. Know the Set

Even if you’ve got a great cosplay sequence planned, replete with flashing strobe lights, smoke effects, and fantasy monsters projected onto a backdrop, you’ll never know if the event organizers can deliver. Or the stage could be simply too small, and swinging your seven meter long buster sword around would just play hell with the backdrop.

It’s always a good idea to call ahead to find out the size of the stage and the facilities available, or hell, just do a bit of research. Typically though, you should have no troubles getting access to a sound system (and sometimes a video screen), so plan your performance with that in mind.

Once you’ve got these four items taken care of, you should be well on your way towards putting on a kickass cosplay performance.

In our next installment, we’ll talk about scripting, and how telling a good story endears you to the audience.

Cheerio!

A Semblance of Order

11 Mar , 2011,
Crimson
,
No Comments

It’s been more than two months, and close to 40 blog posts, and The Neo Tokyo Project’s been chugging along nicely.

I’ve received some very encouraging comments and email messages, and most of these were requests – for more Asian movie reviews, for more cosplay tips and guides, and more writing know-how in general.

So from next week onwards, I’m going to aim for regular columns and features, interspersed with everything else.

Monday is gonna be movie day, Tuesday is gonna be all about games, while Wednesday/Thursday’s gonna be about Cosplay and Propmaking. I’ll devote the weekends to writing tips, my academic writings about pop culture, and any other interesting things I might have come across during the week.

So yes. New direction. XD

Until my next article, cheerio!

 

A mostly witty beginning, or at least a stab at it XD

1 Jan , 2011,
Crimson
No Comments

For all my hubris, I suck at writing perfect beginnings. Little wonder, then, after agonizing for hours over something witty to state in this post, after scratching out lines of fluff and verbiage, I’ve elected to keep this first post simple.

Simple, afterall, is the oldest trick in the book, and it sure beats spending the better part of the day struggling with telling a story that’s muddled, dredging up the detritus of the past, the proverbial water under the bridge, and all that. So in the spirit of simplicity, we’ll get back to the basics – the whos, whats, wheres, whens, whys, and wherefores.

Simply put, the Neo Tokyo Project was originally conceived in 2002 as an incubator for story ideas; an online collaboration with several creative talents to create an alternate history setting, a believable supernatural premise, and a plethora of characters with the express intent of producing a commercially viable web comic as the end result.

When things eventually panned out, this domain lay dormant for close to a decade, gathering dust until I was convinced, after my Hong Kong trip last year as one of Singapore’s cosplay ambassadors to resurrect it in its present incarnation – as an aggregate of my forays into the local pop culture scene.

It’s taken several months to kick start, and it’s still a work in progress, but allow me to present the new Neo Tokyo Project, repositioned as the weblog encapsulating elements of Japanese animation and manga, comic books, cosplay, movies, games and geek chic in the local context.

Expect intelligent reviews, costuming know-how, hopefully wittier banter, and other cool things in time to come. XD

Cheerio!