Anime Synopsis: Shiki

Thursday, 5 August 2010, 8:00 | Author: Ludovico
Category : Newly Released Anime

This one goes out to all the Twilight fans in the audience.  Three corpses are discovered in a remote mountain village and the authorities blame wild animals, but of course the truth isn’t so mundane.  Meanwhile, schoolgirl Megumi is sick of country life, and yearns to move to the city.  She finds herself drawn to the huge European-style manor on the edge of town, home of the odd newcomers, the Kirishiki family.  When Megumi’s family realizes she’s gone missing, they organize a search party and eventually find her collapsed in the woods, weakened and traumatized by what she encountered at the Kirishiki home.

Indeed, vampires are on the loose in a quaint isolated town, and though there may be a general lack of Twilight-style romantic obsession here, there’s certainly a creepy gothic vibe in the air.  The show quickly introduces a huge cast of townspeople, reminiscent of a closed circle murder mystery.  Perhaps this is just to give the vampires a large roster of victims, but maybe there’s something deeper going on here.  (The first deaths are discovered three days before the Kirishiki family arrives in town, so perhaps they’re innocent?)  The first episode focuses almost exclusively on Megumi, even though her specific tale is just a small piece in a larger story – one that’s not quite horror and not quite mystery, but has the potential to incorporate both.

Anime Synopsis: Asobi ni Iku yo!

Tuesday, 3 August 2010, 8:00 | Author: Ludovico
Category : Newly Released Anime

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.  A hot alien girl moves in with a random guy for no clear reason, complicating his life significantly by causing conflict among a number of female companions inexplicably fixated on the guy.  Only in this case, the fixation is less romantic attraction, and more shadowy espionage.  The fun-loving catgirl Eris has come to Earth on a mission of peace and friendliness, moving in with normal earth boy Kio, but the Earth authorities and other groups are intent  on catching her and spoiling her fun.

Asobi no Iku yo is, at heart, a derivative fanservice show – the big breasted, scantily clad Eris makes sure of that.  So why then is it on the recommendations list?  Because it’s fun!  Just like Eris herself, the show has no deeper goal than sheer entertainment.  Whereas other shows would immediately establish some emotional tension between Eris and Kio, in order to establish some romantic comedy hooks, instead this show takes an intriguingly different twist – pretty much every single person that Kio knows is part of some secret conspiracy or heavily armed sinister agency, all of which want to capture the fun-loving Eris, and use her for their own purposes.  The result is a show more about exaggerated adventure and silliness rather than the standard harem tropes.

Anime Synopsis: Occult Academy

Thursday, 29 July 2010, 8:01 | Author: Ludovico
Category : Newly Released Anime

Maya is not amused.  Her estranged father has just passed away, leaving behind his life’s work – a mountaintop academy devoted to the study of the occult and supernatural phenomenon, all of which Maya hates utterly.  At his funeral, a recording of the deceased principal accidentally summons a spirit to possess his corpse, and Maya is forced to rally some students to fight her own resurrected father, all the while stubbornly insisting that there’s no such thing as supernatural forces.  Then just as she vanquishes the spirit, the skies open wide with a pillar of light, and a timetraveler arrives on a mission to prevent calamity.  No indeed, she is not amused at all.

While the premise of the show is entertaining, and the production values are high, the real strength of the show rests on Maya.  Truly a compelling character, she’s not blind to the supernatural forces around her, and secretly accepts them as truth, while loudly decrying it all as rubbish.  She’s the type of character that would be an villain in most shows – unfriendly, cold and condescending, but she also possesses an inner strength that’s compelling.  She’s abrasive without being unlikeable, and heroic without being admirable, and her presence turns an otherwise amusing show into a standout success.

Summer 2010 Anime Recommendations

Thursday, 29 July 2010, 8:00 | Author: Ludovico
Category : Newly Released Anime

So the new anime season is out.  As before, I watched the new anime releases, thought long and hard about the various shows, and carefully selected my three top picks of the season.  Three shows that I could recommend to nearly any anime fan.  Yet once I had made my picks, there was something wrong – I had skipped over perhaps the most important new show this season.

Highschool of the Dead.

This anime is the most likely of all the new shows to catch on and become a hit.  It finally introduces everyone’s favorite groaning, shambling, brain-hungry undead predators to one of the most obvious and horrifying locations possible – a normal anime high school.  Anime student zombies.  Just mull on that for a moment.  Feels good, doesn’t it?

And yet, I cannot recommend Highschool of the Dead.

For all its gory goodness and fanbase appeal, there’s something fundamentally wrong with the show.  Now, don’t get me wrong, zombies are great fun in almost any media, and they’re presented here in classic fashion – slow, relentless, ever-growing in both numbers and threat.  They’re the classic zombies in every sense and the sense of dread they exude is as tangible here as in any other media.

The problem is presented best in a scene midway through the episode, where two girls run down the halls together, declaring their endless friendship.  One girl is, predictably, set upon by zombies, and her friend turns on her instantly, kicking her down the stairs to the carnage below.  Now the camera zooms in on the dying girl, being eaten by a zombie swarm – but it doesn’t focus in on her face.  Instead we get a good long shot of her panties as her legs twitch.

And that’s when you realize that this isn’t a show about zombies, per say.  This is a show about excess and exploitation.  The blood splatters, the jiggling breasts, the murder and mayhem, the mid-battle low-angle panty shots.  This show is meant to assault the senses.  Some people will love that.  To me, it’s all a bit too transparent.  Fanservice in anime is acceptable, and even expected at this point.  But their attempt to get me excited by showing the underwear of a girl who’s currently having her flesh ripped and consumed by zombies is just nauseating.

That said, Highschool of the Dead is the clear top candidate for a potential hit this season, and it’s probably a good indication of the future direction of anime.  (Studios have long been looking for ways to legitimize their over-the-top fanservice shows.)  But it doesn’t make my recommendation list.  If you’re looking for a zombie fix, I’d suggest reading the excellent book ‘World War Z’ instead.

And now, please enjoy my actual recommendations.  I promise there’s some good new shows that aren’t all pandering and exploitation.

Getting Started: Expensive Tools

Thursday, 22 July 2010, 8:00 | Author: Kricket
Category : Learn about Cosplay

As promised, we will now reveal the most luxurious sewing tools for those of you who would would like to take this hobby to the next level.  Through the acquisition of these items, you will transform your sewing area into a professional workspace.  Due to the size of these items, we recommend that you designate a permanent location that will be easily accessible.

Cutting Board
Market Price $75

It is always nice to have a flat surface on which to cut fabric and draw lines.  This portable “workspace” allows you to work on any carpet without cutting into the floor.  I personally own a cutting board that is 32″ X 55″ – the largest size available.

Hand-Held Steamer
Market Price $35

While completely unnecessary (assuming you own an iron and ironing board), this portable steamer allows you to remove wrinkles from garments without having to lay them onto a flat surface.  A cheaper alternative would be to purchase Downy “Wrinkle Releaser”; however, the results will be radically different.

Mannequin
Market Price $140

Back in the day, I used to make Amitie stand for hours while I draped fabric around her shoulders and hand-drew my own patterns.  She was very patient; however, it takes a very dedicated friend to stand still for very long periods of time.  Thankfully, mannequins exist solely to stand and have fabric wrapped around them.  I’d recommend purchasing an adjustable mannequin so that you can create costumes for various-sized people.

Serger
Market Price $230-350

Professional sewing shops usually have at least two sergers on hand.  Although similar to a sewing machine, this machine uses four spools of thread simultaneously to keep your raw edges from fraying (a stitch that is commonly seen in commercial clothing).   If you do not currently have the money to purchase this machine, you can always use pinking sheers (scissors) to greatly reduce the fraying of your fabric.

Getting Started: Intermediate Tools

Thursday, 15 July 2010, 8:00 | Author: Kricket
Category : Learn about Cosplay

Assuming you have gained some familiarity with the basic tools, this second set of recommendations will complete your collection of “essential” sewing tools. Although this comprehensive list is intended to introduce you to new tools, I am not suggesting that every item should be purchased.  Several items are only useful in a single situation and other items are intended to be an upgrade for the items listed in the “Beginner Tools”.

Air Dry Erasable Pen

As the name implies, the purple ink inside the pen will air dry within a few days of application – or it can be removed with a damp cloth.  Test the ink on an inconspicuous area because it is very dark.

Bias Tape Maker

Bias tape is a folded strip of fabric that you can use to trim the raw edges of your costume.  A bias tape maker is a small metal chute that evenly folds in the edges of your fabric as you pull it through the mechanism.  You must iron your fabric as it is pulled through to keep the shape.

Clear Ruler

This transparent ruler has grid lines that allow you to make quick changes to your pattern.  We often refer to it as the “invisible ruler” since it has occasionally disappeared on the carpet while we were working on a costume.  (Different brands have different colored grid lines.  We prefer the Quilt and Sew Ruler by Collins Inc.)

Curved Hand-Sewing Needle

The “U-shaped” curved needle is a specialty item that is particularly useful for hard to reach spots such as shoes and wigs.  For heavy weight fabrics, purchase an Upholstery Needle pack.

Leather Hole Punch

Although this item is intended to punch various size holes into leather, it can also be used to hand-punch holes into your fabric – which is very useful for grommet and eyelet embellishments.  Since this tool is intended to cut through leather (not fabric), we usually back our fabrics with a square of vinyl while “punching”.

Magnetic Pickup Tool

This telescoping magnet is used in garages to pick up bolts and screws.  Fortunately, it is also very useful for finding needles that may be lurking in your carpet.  You can purchase this tool in the hardware section of any department store.

Pinking Sheers

Pinking sheers are scissors that cut a zigzag edge rather than the typical straight-edge; this will help reduce fraying.

Rotary Cutter

A rotary cutter closely resembles a pizza cutter and should be used with a cutting board to slice straight or zigzag lines through your fabric.

Razor Blade

If you purchase a simple razor blade from your local hardware store you will be able to “saw” through your stitches much quicker than if you used a seam ripper.  Remember to use caution as a sharp blade will easily glide through fabric and thread alike.

Tracing Paper

Tracing paper is a very thin piece of film which has been coated with colored lead on one side.  By applying pressure to the paper, you can transfer the lead (and likewise any design) onto your fabric.  The colored marks can often be removed with a damp cloth.

Getting Started: Beginner Tools

Thursday, 8 July 2010, 12:00 | Author: Kricket
Category : Learn about Cosplay

So you’ve inherited your first sewing machine, purchased fabric, and are now ready to start sewing your first cosplay costume – the question is, are you missing anything?

*  *  *  *  *

Fabric stores carry an abundance of sewing tools (commonly referred to as notions) but I have found that only a few items are consistently useful.  My recommendations as to what you should spend your money on will depend upon your skill level and whether or not you truly want to invest in this hobby.  This post is the first of three which will walk you through the most essential (to the most luxurious) sewing tools.

My first set of recommendations are intended for those of you who have never sewn before and don’t know where to start.  So to speak, these are the “bare bones” that you should carry in your sewing box.  Each item will cost about $3 and they are all available in your local fabric store.

Chalk

Honestly, I used to mark my fabric with #2 pencils I had around the house.  I quickly learned, however, that the lead was too dark and difficult to remove.  To temporarily draw lines on your fabric, use fabric chalk which comes in three colors (white, red, blue) If you wish to remove the powder, you should dab it with a wet cloth.

Machine Sewing Needles

Needles come in various sizes (8-19) which correspond to the thickness of the needle.  It is important to buy needles that are most appropriate for the fabric you are sewing: sheer, stretchy, demin, upholstery, leather, or standard (cotton); the back of each package will explain the intended use.  It is generally useful to stock your sewing box with size 9,11,14.

Measuring Tape

Think of measuring tape as a flexible ruler.  Its basic function allows you to assess your proper size (by measuring your hips, waist, and bust) when you purchase patterns.  However, it also comes in handy when calculating  how much to alter a garment in relation to your body.  While they can be purchased in any width, I prefer the tape that is 1/2″ wide, so that I can turn it sideways and quickly add a half inch seam allowance to my homemade patterns.

Pins

These sticks of metal hold your fabric in place prior to sewing.  Dressmaker Pins come in different lengths while Quilting Pins have a bright yellow ball on the end.

Seam Ripper

Seam Rippers tear through the stitches in your costume using a U-shaped piece of metal.  For safety reasons, point the tool away from you while using.

Scissors

Is there a difference between fabric scissors and paper scissors?  Not really – Although, I’m sure we could argue about material components, blade thickness, or degree of sharpness.  The point I’m trying to make is that you don’t have to worry about purchasing the best scissors you can find.  I’ve been told that as long as you only cut fabric with your scissors, they will continue to stay sharp.  Following such advice, I’ve always purchased the “Value Scissors” for $2 and they’ve definitely been worth the money.

Thread

Thread is best bought simultaneously with your fabric so that you can color match the two.  Remember that if you cannot find the exact color, you would be better off going with thread that is darker rather than lighter.

Places You Can’t Cosplay II

Thursday, 24 June 2010, 8:00 | Author: Kricket
Category : Learn about Cosplay

I can imagine that many people will read the title of this post and develop a vendetta to prove me wrong.  I understand that with enough determination and self-esteem, one can cosplay pretty much anywhere.  However, it is important to remember that in some locations individuals must conform to safety regulations and corporate rules.

*  *  *  *  *

Nowadays, banks have heightened security features because terrorists are apparently running rampant.  It is obvious why no one wants a masked person inside a bank.  I get that.  I can even understand how wearing a costume in a bank would seem suspicious.  But when did taking photographs outside a bank become a security issue?

When Amitie and I cosplayed Suikoden V, we decided to take some pictures in front of a low-traffic building which had a sunburst high above the door.  Considering that my character was the bearer of the Sun Rune, I felt this symbol would make a perfect backdrop.  I started posing on the steps of the building and within two minutes a man stood at the door and stared at us.  Being confused by his presence, I took a step towards him.  He simply continued to stare at me and wagged a finger.  We later found out that the building was a bank.

If the bank had been bustling with customers, I could understand how our presence would upset the management.  However, the street was devoid of people and it was clear that my positioning would not block anyone from entering.  So I have to ask myself, why couldn’t we cosplay there?  Did they think we were terrorists?  Did they think we were scaring away business?  Did they not want their beautiful architecture in our absurd photograph?  Whatever the reasons – if you are going to take pictures in front of a bank, you’d better be quick about it.

The Hot Springs

Thursday, 17 June 2010, 8:00 | Author: Kricket
Category : Learn about Cosplay

It has become a tradition for anime series to take a break from the story’s serious plot by sending the main characters to a communal hot spring resort.  Rather than focusing on a plot-driven story, the directors provide extensive fan service for their audiences.  Any water setting (e.g. beaches or swimming pools) would serve the same purpose of allowing you to see your favorite characters in a physically revealing swimsuit.  Although these water episodes are limited to about once per season, it is not difficult to locate pictures and purchase figurines of your favorite characters wearing distinctive bathing suits.  The abundance of such detailed reference material provides cosplayers with the opportunity to start a new, unexplored cosplay trend: Pool Cosplay.

I have often wondered why I have never seen a cosplayer wearing a character-specific swimsuit at a convention.  With an on-site hotel at each convention, there should be some type of cosplay activity around or within a swimming pool.  I don’t want to infringe upon the sanctuary where cosplayers can relax out of costume, but I believe that swimsuit cosplay could be a challenging, rewarding, and recognizable subculture within the anime community.  Anime Oasis is one of the few conventions to schedule a swimsuit competition as an official event, but I’m not sure why the idea hasn’t spread – it just seems so obvious.

Seasonal Photography: Summer

Thursday, 10 June 2010, 8:00 | Author: Kricket
Category : Learn about Cosplay

The element of water is an under-explored environment for cosplayers – probably due to the fact that most people do not believe their costume will survive being immersed in liquid.  However, it provides a natural method for distorting your appearance; in example, this cosplayer’s legs were elongated using a fish eye lens.  The author of this image, Etaru, has taken advantage of contrasting colors to draw attention to the woman’s costume while also allowing the sheen of the water to compliment the texture of the vinyl.

One of the fun characteristics of water is the illusion of weightlessness.  This would be an interesting environment to simulate a “floating” effect in which the character’s hair and clothes are unaffected by gravity and where there is no visible connection to the ground.  Sheeta from Castle in the Sky is an obvious choice.  However, successfully capturing underwater shots requires that the cosplayer is comfortable opening his or her eyes underwater and that the camera is water-proof.

Whereas some characters have brief underwater scenes, including Chihiro (Spirited Away) and Rei Ayunami (Evangelion), I can only think of one anime character who originates from a watery environment: Ponyo.  Nonetheless, you can still capture an interesting shot without being completely submerged in water; Cheza (Wolf’s Rain)  and Yuna (Final Fantasy X) actually dance on top of the water.  And if you are feeling adventurous, you can recreate the underwater make-out scene from Final Fantasy X.

Just remember:  If your costume can survive being washed, then it will be fine underwater.  We recommend machine drying or hang drying your costumes shortly thereafter to prevent troublesome wrinkles.