Anime Synopsis: Angel Beats

Tuesday, 4 May 2010, 12:00 | Author: Ludovico
Category : Newly Released Anime

Otonashi is having a hard time accepting that he’s dead.  After all, he’s at a seemingly normal high school, filled with seemingly normal students, other than the girl aiming a rifle at a quiet silver haired “angel.”  One quick demise later, he learns that he’s stuck in a strange limbo with other deceased students fighting against a being that seeks to erase their existence.  They recruit him into their makeshift militia and he finds himself engaged in an intense mission against the strange angelic threat.

Angel Beats is a thrill of a show.  It takes a number of familiar themes and wraps them together in a fairly unconventional way.  The scenario strains belief significantly – apparently these students can obtain heavy assault weapons and ammunition easier than food – but the presentation is flashy and compelling.  Otonashi has an interesting outlook on his situation – since he tends to empathize more with the angel than with his fellow classmates.  The leader of their group, Yuri, is notably influenced by Haruhi Suzumiya, but the real star is the mysterious angel, who provides an understated and potentially misunderstood threat.  She is passive by nature, and is more commonly seen as the target of violence than the source of it, yet her power is so absolute that she provides a very legitimate antagonist to the characters.  So long as the unfolding storyline handles her in an interesting manner, it should result in a compelling show.

Anime Synopsis: House of Five Leaves

Thursday, 29 April 2010, 12:00 | Author: Ludovico
Category : Newly Released Anime

Akitsu and Yaichi are two men who have run into some difficulties with their jobs.  Akitsu is a wandering samurai who is too timid for the bodyguard work he’s trying to get, and Yaichi is a kidnapper in need of some extra muscle.  When Akitsu learns of his potential employer’s specialty, he tries to get out, but Yaichi sees promise in the awkward ronin and won’t let him go so easily.  As Yaichi continues working to recruit him, Akitsu comes to realize there’s more to this roguish character than first meets the eye.

Let’s just get this out of the way first: the art style in this show can take some getting used to.  The oversized mouths, jutting noses and pupil-dominated eyes stray far from normal anime stylings.  And yet it works quite well in portraying a world in which the people are more awkward than idealized.  In a way, it makes the characters feel more like real people – a vital accomplishment in what is likely to be a laidback character-focused show.  Akitsu and Yaichi are both interesting and believable characters, and while the pacing is a bit slow, the premise is set for some interesting stories with this band of thieves.

Anime Synopsis: Arakawa Under the Bridge

Tuesday, 27 April 2010, 12:15 | Author: Ludovico
Category : Newly Released Anime

As a promising corporate heir, Ichiyamina Kou has never taken any help from anyone his entire life.  His parents taught him from infancy to never accept a debt, and he lives strictly according to that principle.  So when a young homeless woman saves him from drowning in a freak accident, he resolves to pay her back immediately in any manner she desires.  Too bad for him that she turns down all his offers of wealth, with a simple request – “Fall in love with me.”  She doesn’t help matters by claiming to be a Venusian alien either.  Now he is stuck living with this bizarre, forgetful, possibly insane woman until he can manage to fulfill his debt to her.

Arakawa Under the Bridge is a show about exactly one thing – absurdist humor.  From Kou’s bizarre childhood to the strange kappa ruling over the river, everything is played for laughs.  There’s not a lot of complexity or logic to the characters, but the laughs are consistent enough that you probably won’t care.  On the other hand, the artwork doesn’t ever impress.  The camera tends to be set far away, leaving the characters as tiny undetailed figures against the pastel backdrop, and the animation quality is inconsistent.  Regardless, if you enjoy zany humor, this show is absolutely worth your time.

Spring 2010 Anime Recommendations

Tuesday, 27 April 2010, 12:00 | Author: Ludovico
Category : Newly Released Anime

A new season is currently airing on Japanese television, and we have sampled all the new shows to bring you another set of recommendations!  In an ideal world, this would be an exciting and enjoyable job, sampling all the new shows to bring you the best of the best, but unfortunately we don’t live in such a world.  It turns out that the actual world is full of poorly written and sloppily executed dreck, doing its best to crowd out the few interesting shows.  Nonetheless, we persevere, with three new animes worth watching!

The selection process was more difficult this season than last, but provides a good opportunity to explain the system.  There are three main criteria we use to evaluate shows, all equally important: Narrative, Presentation and Originality.  Narrative is good writing, an interesting plot and compelling characters (Cowboy Bebop, Full Metal Alchemist, and Neon Genesis Evangelion). Presentation is the most subjective of these criteria, as the sum of all the visual elements, the art design and how well the look of the world supports the story (Soul Eater is the best modern example of a show with excellent presentation). Finally, Originality rewards the shows that bring a unique premise or a different perspective than the majority of animes available.  Call me biased if you want, but after previewing over 250 series, I have a lot of gratitude to any show that doesn’t take place anywhere near a high school (Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei is exempted for being a brilliantly original show).

Additionally, there is an attempt made to ensure that all three recommendations represent separate genres.  Even if it’s a boon year for mecha shows (it’s not), we’re going to try to highlight a demon-hunting show and a romantic comedy rather than flood you with only giant robots. Finally, my apologies to anyone who adores any of the shows we didn’t highlight this season.  Unless you’re a fan of Kiss x Sis, in which case I hate you.

Why Should You Wear a Wig?

Thursday, 22 April 2010, 11:00 | Author: Kricket
Category : Learn about Cosplay

There are many reasons for a cosplayer to use their natural hair instead of a wig.  Some cosplayers might enjoy styling and coloring their hair.  Others might worry about their budget and consider wigs too expensive. But even with these considerations, there is still a significant drawback to using natural human hair; it is rarely thick enough to resemble the voluminous and extreme styles of most anime characters. I can assure you that it is much easier to style gravity-defying hair when you have the option of maintaining those styles with permanent glue.

When deciding which method is best for your needs, you must take into consideration the fact that wigs cut back on  your preparation time during the convention. My friends and I have spent hours in the hotel bathroom trying to style everybody’s hair and it often resulted in wasted time and effort.  The last time I attempted to style my natural hair was during Fanime 2007 when I cosplayed Rukia (Bleach). Even with curling irons weaving through my hair, I could not recreate Rukia’s smooth and rounded hairstyle.  To spectators it just looked like I halfheartedly tried to style my hair rather than having spent hours on it.

If you purchase a wig, it will be well worth the money.  However, I understand that for many cosplayers it is not a justifiable expenditure, leaving them with no alternatives other than dying their own hair.  For many years, I lacked the finances or the knowledge to style an anime wig, so I often bleached, dyed, and styled my own hair.  If you are in a similar situation, we would like to offer you some tips we’ve learned through personal experience.

  • Carefully consider the hair style of your character; weighted ponytails and straight-hanging hairstyles are simple enough to cosplay with natural hair.  I have seen cosplayers successfully use their own hair to cosplay Robyn (Witch Hunter Robyn), Maka (Soul Eater), Misa (Death Note), Makoto (Kanon), and Edward (Full Metal Alchemist).  Likewise, I must caution you to rethink your costume if you intend to use your natural hair for complicated hair styles such as Sora (Kingdom Hearts) or Sasuke (Naruto).
  • For characters with thicker ponytails, consider buying a clip-on hair extension to maximize the use of your natural hair.  This would be ideal for characters such as Elizabeth (Kuroshitsuji), Sexy no Jutsu (Naruto), Himawari (XXXHolic), and Rin (Fate Stay Night).
  • If your parents don’t want you to “change” your hair color, I recommend using Punky temporary hair dye.  When used on natural hair, this product will easily wash out within a few days (or sooner if you take excessive showers).  For more vibrant and longer lasting colors, use Punky on bleached hair.
  • Bleaching is best done professionally – especially if you are trying to change your hair from black to blonde, or blonde to platinum.  When I cosplayed Tsukasa, I attempted to achieve his light gray hair by bleaching at home and coloring my hair with temporary platinum dye. When this didn’t work, I used permanent platinum dye.  Despite all of my efforts, my hair failed to change color (I’m fortunate that none of it fell out) and I had to cosplay Tsukasa with dirty-blonde hair.

You can check out our cosplay advice page for tips on where to purchase wig supplies; how to dye or straighten your wig; and fitting your hair into a wig cap.

Taking it Serious

Tuesday, 20 April 2010, 10:00 | Author: Kricket
Category : Learn about Cosplay

As a costume fanatic, I enjoy forcing my friends to wear costumes they would never imagine themselves wearing.  As such, I took on the challenge of convincing my husband, Brian, to cosplay an extremely effeminate male (aka bishonen) from Mahou Tsukai Tai.  The plan was that Brian would cosplay an openly gay male character, Aburatsubo, and I would cosplay the girl who had a secret crush on him, Nanaka.  Although he initially resisted the idea, he succumbed to his fate rather quickly.

I can proudly say Brian took his cosplay assignment quite seriously, even though he has no desire to solicit attention from his male peers.  He made a point to shave his face and legs each morning, in addition to wearing thigh-high hooker boots.  The whole production was rather amusing to me, and even more so once I realized how many guys were acknowledging his costume.  I think many people were surprised to even see such an accurate and energetic male crossplayer.

Unfortunately for Brian, this is only the beginning.  I hope to complete more bishonen costumes in the future, since those characters are exceedingly popular.  Quite possibly, my next bishonen project will be Nuriko from Fushigi Yuugi.  It seems like such an obvious choice from a crossplay perspective!

WonderCon 2010

Tuesday, 6 April 2010, 10:00 | Author: Kricket
Category : Convention Reports

I’ve come to the dim realization that I’m not going to attend Comic-Con this year.  Six months before the convention, registration was sold-out and I’m guessing the hotels are sold out by now as well.  Only with prior planning and conscious effort can I attend the ever-so-popular San Diego convention.  Due to my anticipated lack of participation, I jumped at the opportunity to attend WonderCon, the smaller brother to Comic-Con, located in Northern California.

The air was stuffy from the swarms of comic book fans wading through the dealer’s room, which appeared to be the main attraction.  This room was a hunting ground for treasure seekers; it contained fantasy artwork, anime figurines, childhood memorabilia, and signatures from famous actors/actresses.  Although the convention atmosphere has become familiar to me, I still feel a little disoriented when I attend a convention without a costume.  It came as a relief to see anime characters roaming the halls, celebrating the union of Japanese manga and American comics. Although this convention is dedicated to comic book enthusiasts, any form of costume is welcomed, including the genres of fantasy, science fiction, and Japanese animation. There were various types of costumes including Superheroes, Steampunk, and Star Wars. I was surprised to discover that WonderCon provided a venue for judging costumes through a scheduled Masquerade. However, I feel inclined to ask who is likely to win such a competition? I fear that this competition is less about amateur costumes and more about professional replicas. Only the extreme costumer who has mastered armor creation (a skill which needs to be made accessible within the cosplay community) could win such a competition.

WonderCon offers its attendees a glimpse into the activities of the entertainment industry.  Rather than scheduling amateur music videos, WonderCon has made a tradition of featuring a “Trailer Park,” which is a private viewing of trailers for upcoming movies. In addition, WonderCon offers multiple panels for those attendees interested specifically in the comic-book industry: spotlights on famous artists, portfolio reviews, the evolution of animation, screenings of television shows, and insider tips from industry specialists.  Some panels explored the technical aspects of film production, such as costume and make-up – topics that are extremely relevant for the cosplay community.  This year’s panels included Masquerade 101, Costuming for Conventions with Shawna Trpcic, Body Casting 101, and Special Effects Makeup with Ed Martinez.

Having attended Wondercon, I feel I’ve gained insight into the appeal of Comic-Con.  I can only imagine the level of excitement and hype which accompanies such a large convention.  Comic-Con is hosted in San Diego, California, which inevitably draws both national and international celebrities.  As such, it is the place to meet your favorite stars.  Some of the best costumes will be there – and even the actors who made such costumes iconic.  Nonetheless, I do not intend to be ignored during my Comic-Con debut and I’ve got the feeling now is the time to start working on my costume for Comic-Con 2011.

Attracting Attention

Thursday, 1 April 2010, 10:00 | Author: Janet
Category : Learn about Cosplay

One of the most horrific cosplay costumes I have ever witnessed was worn by an overweight man dressed in a leotard and a cheap blonde wig.  Despite his lack of sex appeal, I would watch him with gross fascination as he strode through the crowds.  He was attempting to cosplay the famous character Serena from Sailor Moon.  Unfortunately, his scratchy beard and unshaven legs left much to be desired.  Although I have not seen him for a couple of years, this man used to be a legend at FanimeCon.

A handful of men view crossplay as an opportunity to flaunt the differences between men and women.  Their crossplay calls attention to feminine sex appeal by grossly distorting the appearance of female characters.  I have grown accustomed to seeing a flat-chested Tifa (Final Fantasy VII) and a Man-Faye (Cowboy Bebop) wearing bright red lipstick.  Truthfully, I can’t blame their rebellious acts of crossplay – few female characters have masculine characteristics, so it is difficult for men to take this form of cosplay seriously.

Nevertheless, I would like to give some tips to adventurous male crossplayers: shave your legs and face; wear high heels; lengthen your body with long outfits; and enhance your chest with water-filled bras.  This will at least provide you with the illusion of authenticity.

Masculine Appearances

Thursday, 25 March 2010, 8:00 | Author: Kricket
Category : Learn about Cosplay

I remember the first time Amitie told me about the term “crossplay”, meaning male-to-female or female-to-male cosplay.  I thought it was odd that the cosplay community needed to distinguish when a cosplayer chose to wear a costume outside their gender.  Considering that many male anime characters have feminine characteristics, it has been easy for me to cosplay both male and female characters.

Oftentimes, women cosplay as male characters in response to a physical and emotional attraction to a specific character.  Through the process of embodying their characters, female crossplayers will go as far as to bind their chest and pencil thick eyebrows.  If the crossplay is successful, the public should be unable to ascertain the cosplayer’s biological sex.

At Penny Arcade Expo, my friends warned me that I might be the only cosplayer in attendance.  Adhering to the video game theme, I crossplayed Testament from Guilty Gear X2 (there was a GGX2 tournament scheduled that weekend).  From the time I arrived, I could sense people becoming aware of my costume, asking each other whether they thought I was a guy or a girl.  I could hardly conceal my mirth at their whispered inquiries.  Sometimes it’s just fun to play within the boundaries of normality; to become something that you are not and convince the world that it is truth.

The Selection Process

Thursday, 18 March 2010, 10:00 | Author: Kricket
Category : Learn about Cosplay

Every year, it seems that we encounter the same dilemma.  We must decide whether we will cosplay individually or with a group.  If we decide upon a group cosplay, then we still have to discuss which series we will cosplay and bestow the privilege of cosplaying the main character.  In considering alternative methods for this process, I have decided that we should start holding cosplay auditions (essentially a cosplay photo shoot) before we start working on our costumes.

I propose that during these “auditions,” group members would assume the poses and facial expression of various characters.  These pictures would be compared with a reference picture to determine which character most closely resembles each group member.  Unfortunately, this process does not take into account the emotional attachment we may have to specific characters, but I would be happy if it provided us with an opportunity to assess our physical characteristics and provide for a more authentic cosplay experience.

As the years progress, I’m beginning to better understand my physical characteristics.  I often struggle to smile authentically, which means I can appropriately cosplay young, brooding, and stoic male characters.  In contrast, Amitie most accurately portrays young, carefree male and female characters.  Each of these traits can be utilized, as long as each cosplayer is aware of how their physical characteristics affects his or her cosplay performance.