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Kawaii Kon returns to Waikiki
BY JASON S. YADAO / email@example.com
For nine years now, Kawaii-Kon’s “Artist Alley” has served as a place where local fans of anime (Japanese animation) and manga (Japanese comics) can either show off their artistic creativity or admire and buy others’ works.
Kawaii Kon 2013
» Where: Hawai‘i Convention Center, 1801 Kalakaua Ave.
This weekend’s anime convention, which includes cosplay, gaming, panels, videos, a concert and the “Moonlight Magic Ball,” marks the return of one such project: “Hachi Maru Hachi,” a manga anthology showcasing the talents of local artists and writers. (The anthology’s title is Japanese for the state’s area code, 808.) It’s the brainchild of 23-year-old Jordan Takemoto, who conceived the project in 2009 as a member of the Entrepreneurs Club at the University of Hawaii.
“They encourage their members to work on an idea that they’re passionate about,” Takemoto said. “Story writing was kind of my passion, and anything that was related to it, like manga. Although I could never draw myself, I knew a lot of people who could draw.”
His idea was to create a homegrown publication similar to “Shonen Jump” and other manga anthologies regularly published in Japan. When the first issue of “Hachi Maru Hachi” debuted at Kawaii Kon 2010, it arrived with four manga series and two short stories and the promise more would be coming every month.
Subscriptions were sold at the anime convention. The first few weeks after the convention saw copies making their way to the shelves of Hakubundo and Barnes & Noble, with the latter even hosting a pair of signings with the artists.
But the effort could not be sustained, and copies languished on the shelves and subscription fees were refunded.
“At the end of it all, it was a lot of work, but it actually didn’t make any money because I printed too many books,” Takemoto said. “So it was a lot of burnout, and school kinda crashed in on me, so I didn’t really want to work on it afterward.”
It would take a trio of fellow 23-year-olds — one holdover from the first issue as well as some fresh talent — to revive “Hachi Maru Hachi” in time for this year’s Kawaii Kon. It would also take a more conservative approach, with the second issue being published through CreateSpace, a print-on-demand service offered by Amazon.
While the three stories contained in the new issue reflect the group’s lifelong interest in anime and manga — count “Pokemon,” “Sailor Moon,” “Dragon Ball Z” and “Ranma ½” among their childhood influences — the anthology is also very much a showcase of diverse styles.
Tara Tamayori’s humorous fantasy tale of a legendary sword and a shape-shifting, perverted panda, titled “Eternal Blade,” is the only story to continue in the second issue. Tamayori was the one who kept pushing Takemoto to do another issue.
“This is probably the only motivation I can get to actually starting a manga and sticking with it because I’ve always had stories and characters from old,” Tamayori said. “Way back in school I was thinking, ‘OK, once I’m sure of myself I’ll start a manga.’
“It was always hard to stick with it; I always lost interest or something came up. It always got pushed back.”
Takemoto also recruited two people from Pen & Ink Works, a local group of anime- and manga-inspired artists: Rose Dela Cruz and Brady Evans. Dela Cruz teamed up with Takemoto to bring his short sci-fi story, “When the Music Stops,” to life as a manga.
The story, set in a world where technology reigns supreme over humanity in all areas save for the creative spirit, follows a composer and his discovery of an invention that could shift that balance forever.
Evans’ story, “Sleep,” is about a woman who goes through terrifying experiences that seem to be dreams but turn out to be something more sinister. He draws on a variety of historic influences, with a setting loosely based in Japan’s Heian period of roughly 1,000 years ago and concepts grounded in Buddhist enlightenment.
“I’ve been reading a lot of Japanese literature, like ‘The Tale of the Heike,’ short stories by this early 20th-century author, Akutagawa Ryunousuke, or even Murakami Haruki,” Evans said. “There’s always a sense of darkness or a foreboding nature in all of those stories, and I enjoyed that and I wanted to explore it in my manga.”
With the second issue of “Hachi Maru Hachi” published, the group is already looking ahead to the third issue — likely to be released at Kawaii Kon 2014, filled again with self-contained stories.
“I think a yearly thing would work,” Takemoto said. “We managed to get it out in a year, although it is a lot of work. So it kind of depends on the artists, All I can do is push them and bug them.”
Copies of “Hachi Maru Hachi: Issue 2″ will be available for $10 at the Nippon Addiction booth, tables 71 and 72 in Artist Alley at Kawaii Kon. Copies also are available on Amazon.com.
Kawaii Kon Highlights
» Brady Evans will be selling art prints, his new solo comic “Fight!” and cards. (Artist Alley table 66)
» Friends of the Library of Hawaii will host Aiea young-adult librarian Diane Masaki, who will share information on anime and manga available through the public library system and give away goodies to anyone with a library card. (Artist Alley table 67)
» Audra Furuichi and Scott Yoshinaga, the team behind the plush pup online comic “nemu*nemu” and the Star-Advertiser spinoff strip “nemu*nemu: Blue Hawaii,” will have a new screen-printed notebook and 10 new pin designs and original artwork complementing the usual array of plushies, books, T-shirts and prints in the Dealers Room. Furu ichi will also host a panel, “Break the Box and Get Online — Talking Webcomics,” from 1 to 2 p.m. Sunday in Lanai Room 314.
» Terri Dux, Karl Miyashiro and the idkwhat2wear gang will be introducing new T-shirt designs for men and racer-back tank-top designs for women, some featuring wordplay on Japa nese phrases. Also debuting will be “upcycled” bucket bags and tee bags made from discarded upholstery samples and misprinted shirts. (Artist Alley tables 1 and 2)
» Pen & Ink Works, a group of anime- and manga-inspired artists, will be selling copies of the 2013-14 Kawaii Kon Charity Calendar for $5. This year’s theme: mecha, or those giant robots often seen in anime. Contributing artists include Karina Bailey, Rose Dela Cruz, Brady Evans, Katie, and Siena Kubo. Proceeds will benefit the Shriners Hospital for Children in Honolulu. (Artist Alley table 66)
» Jon Murakami, Star-Advertiser “Calabash” cartoonist, will be debuting a new comic series, “Senbei Sentai: The Ara-Rangers,” his parody of costumed superhero series. Small bags of arare, courtesy of Samurai Snacks in Aiea, will be given away with a comic purchase. (Artist Alley table 55)