Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Want to help Japan cheap? Buy the Cosplay Calendar

Online HERE

Our Mission

Cosplay for a Cause 2012 Cosplay Calendar is a must have for any fan of cosplay. Rarely has something been done before with such a wide assortment of cosplayers, and who knows when you will see all these beautiful cosplayers together again. This calendar is full of high quality, never before seen photos, specifically done for this project. Each month will also come with a small illustration done by one of the 4 professional comic book artists involved in the project.
At full size the calendar will open to 11x22, allowing each beautiful image to be displayed at 11x17. The staples in the middle can be easily removed when the year is done so you can save your favorite photo!
So, here is your chance to help raise money and awareness for disaster relief in Japan while supporting your love of Cosplay! Do your part and help get the word out! And get your calendar while supplies last.
Thank you to everyone who has donated their time and energy to aiding the country that has brought us so much joy and inspiration over the years. Domo arigatou gozaimasu!



Calendar 2012

Tokyo's back--says New York mag

The Urbanist’s Tokyo

A city that has turned itself back on again.

Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden. 

This spring, the Tokyo Sky Tree, the world’s tallest broadcast tower (with restaurant, of course; this is Tokyo), is set to open: an apt symbol of the capital getting back on its feet after the gravity-altering March earthquake. But following two decades of economic malaise and a revolving door of prime ministers—six in the past five years—it’ll take a lot more than a 2,000-foot tower to set things right. Still, economic growth is up for the first time since the quake (alas, for visiting Americans, the yen is high too; at press time it was at 77 to the dollar), and there is a sense that things are finally starting to get back to normal—even as, notes one salaryman, TV network “NHK has been broadcasting a radiation map of Tokyo every day.” (There are, according to monitors, no dangerous levels of airborne radiation.) Meanwhile, one of the most noticeable changes in daily life is a heightened awareness of energy use, which some Tokyoites feel was long overdue anyway. You can see this in more use of natural light, real-time display readings of power consumption, and spirited anti-nuke marches, unheard of in the pre-Fukushima era. Besides that, the mood in the city is a bit more subdued, which may not be such a bad thing, says Roland Kelts, author ofJapanamerica: How Japanese Pop Culture Has Invaded the U.S. “To some extent, a slightly calmer Tokyo is more pleasant.”

Monday, November 28, 2011

Occupy Wall Street?

Kalle Lasn spends most nights shuffling clippings into a binder of plastic sleeves, each of which represents one page of an issue of Adbusters, a bimonthly magazine that he founded and edits. It is a tactile process, like making a collage, and occasionally Lasn will run a page with his own looped cursive scrawl on it. From this absorbing work, Lasn acquired the habit of avoiding the news after dark. So it was not until the morning of Tuesday, November 15th, that he learned that hundreds of police officers had massed in lower Manhattan at 1 A.M. and cleared the camp at Zuccotti Park. If anyone could claim responsibility for the Zuccotti situation, it was Lasn: Adbusters had come up with the idea of an encampment, the date the initial occupation would start, and the name of the protest—Occupy Wall Street. Now the epicenter of the movement had been raided. Lasn began thinking of reasons that this might be a good thing.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Crunchyroll, Funico and streaming anime - latest @ Yomiuri

SOFT POWER HARD TRUTHS / Overseas anime market online only

The paradox at the heart of the North American anime market is common knowledge to industry insiders: Plummeting DVD sales and shrinking TV exposure coincide with record-breaking attendance figures at anime events across the continent and surging activity online.

At least the knowledge is common to insiders who are actually in North America. Here in Japan, it's still being treated like news--often unwelcome news.

Anime fans outside of Japan turned to the Internet long ago to feed and fuel their habit, and the prospect of them returning to overpriced, hard-to-find and long-delayed DVD releases is not in anyone's rational vision of anime's future. But try telling that to the folks who make the content.

"Our biggest challenge has always been educating Japanese companies," concedes Kun Gao, cofounder and chief executive officer of, the largest and longest-running online portal for anime and related content outside of Japan. "The biggest hurdle is convincing the licensors to give us the rights to their content. Not every company [here] is progressive."

I sat down with the diplomatic Gao in Crunchyroll's Tokyo office last week during his brief trip from company headquarters in San Francisco.

Gao knows his hurdles. Five years ago, he founded Crunchyroll as a fansite with four American friends, all of whom were driven by their passion to moonlight as Internet anime pirates. As the site's popularity skyrocketed, he quit his day job to manage it full-time.

Other fansites proliferated, while anime producers in Japan saw DVD profits dwindle. Crunchyroll and its founders, operating the most popular pirate portal, realized they were choking off the very roots of their own growth. As I wrote three years ago in this column, they bit the bullet in 2008, officially going legitimate (i.e. legal) on New Year's Eve 2009--but not until they'd spent a full year trekking across Tokyo obtaining licenses to Holy Grail titles like Naruto and Bleach.

"It's always about the risk," Gao says. "The conventional way of watching anime in Japan is still on TV. There's no platform like ours in Japan.

"The producers and licensors are not thinking, 'Can I do something that's a little risky and get benefit?' It's more like: 'If this thing has a little bit of risk, it will only hurt my business. It can't help.' And I think that's the environment in Japan. It's easier not to take a risk than to do so."

Running any business risk-free is impossible, of course, and changes within the Japanese market are fast rendering it unaffordable, too.

Gao points to the diminishing domestic youth audience for anime in Japan as a key pressure point in Crunchyroll's efforts to motivate licensors who are hesitant to leap online. There's no way you'll have growth at home, he tells them, so you better go global now.

"As entrepreneurs, our goal is to minimize risk and maximize opportunity. One of their fears is that a title will be leaked online before its domestic TV broadcast. That has never happened with us, and we're the only company who can say that. We try to get [licensors] to understand," Gao says.

The past couple of years have been tumultuous for North American purveyors of Japanese pop culture. Bankruptcies and fire sales have become routine.

Earlier this year, TokyoPop--a pioneer in the overseas manga and anime markets that introduced millions to the seminal Sailor Moon series--closed its remaining office in Los Angeles.

The abrupt liquidation of Borders, one of the largest bookstore chains in the United States, was "the last straw," according to TokyoPop founder and CEO Stu Levy. "They owed us close to a million dollars," he says, "and represented about one-third of our total sales."

The industry response has been equally swift, focused on streaming video and online simulcasts of Japanese TV programming. Last month at the New York Anime festival, DVD distributor Funimation announced a tie-up with Japan's NicoNico, the video file sharing site whose global portal,, launched in April with a party at Seattle's Sakura-Con.

Christopher Macdonald, CEO of, the largest online anime news Web site outside Japan, wrote that the partnership, called Funico, was "more important than many people may realize," adding that he hoped more joint ventures between distributors and streaming sites would follow.

"The thing about anime is that it has to focus on online," he says now. "It can't wait for TV. The quantity [of anime programs] on TV has diminished. Young networks that carried anime in the past, like Cartoon Network, have realized that it's more profitable to own a franchise than to license it.

"In North America, the industry forced people for years to buy anime they hadn't actually seen," he says.

With piracy and streaming options, he adds, that's a luxury no longer available. But here's the hitch: Both Gao and Macdonald worry about the quality of anime currently being produced in Japan. In a tight market, content producers cling to the "tried and true," says Gao.

This often means so-called moe narratives, featuring cute--and sometimes eroticized--young-looking female characters. The genre has a dedicated following in Japan, but is unlikely to find an export market.

"Moe [and other niche genres] are a safe bet for making money over one season," says Macdonald, "but the problem is that they don't grow the audience."

"Quality is actually more important to us than quantity," adds Gao. "In Japan, this is not the golden age of anime."

Kelts is a visiting scholar at the University of Tokyo who divides his time between Tokyo and New York. He is the author of Japanamerica: How Japanese Pop Culture has Invaded the U.S. and the forthcoming novel, Access.
[more @YOMIURI]

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Idols and Celebrity in Japan--Dec. 10

Pal Patrick Galbraith, author of The Otaku Encyclopedia, tells me of this upcoming Todai conference on 'idoru' culture and its relationship to celebrity:

Idols are first among equals in the Japanese entertainment industry. They organize the market into fan communities that allow for predictable patterns of viewership and consumption. The purpose of focusing on idols specifically, and celebrity more generally, is to understand the Japanese mass media by focusing on its most prominent characteristic. By situating the study of idols within the framework of media and cultural studies, this conference aims to bring the Japanese mass media into productive dialogue with scholarship and theoretical debates beyond Japan. Each presenter will illuminate a different dimension of the phenomenon of idols and celebrity in Japanese media culture.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Halfu--or 'newhalf?'

Photo shoot for the Halfu project. 
(Lifestyle not recommended.) 

Monday, November 14, 2011

the TPP and doujin / cosplay culture

Will TPP copyright kill dounjin and cosplay culture in Japan?



latest Cool Japan mission

The Asahi Shimbun reports on the latest attempt to forge into foreign markets here -- and translator, author and writer Dan Kanemitsu critiques it here.

'Uphill' is an understatement.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

JAPANAMERICA (the book) is 'Deal of the Day' @Crunchyroll

The fine folks at are offering freshly pubbed copies of Japanamerica, the book, as their "Daily Deal" for November 8, 2011.  Drop by and pick it up for pennies, yen or euro, while supplies and hours last. Violence-free looting op here.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Gigging in Tokyo, 2011

Live @ Akasaka Crawfish.  Photo courtesy of Eriko Takano.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Cosplay in the USA--Yomiuri column

SOFT POWER HARD TRUTHS / American anime fans show that cosplay is the sincerest form of flattery 

Roland Kelts / Special to The Daily Yomiuri

An estimated 105,000 fans attended last month's combined New York Anime Festival and Comic Con--and you couldn't walk a meter on the convention floor without seeing or literally bumping into someone in costume.

The larger North American anime conventions feature artists and voice actors from Japan and the United States as celebrity guests, screenings, panels and live performances alongside booths offering merchandise and promotional paraphernalia.

But cosplay, an import from Japan that involves wearing, and often posing provocatively in, a homemade costume of your favorite character, may be the biggest draw.

"It's like total escape," a teenager from Philadelphia said as he adjusted the collar of his costume, based on a character from Hetalia: Axis Powers, a notably popular title this year. "You can't do this every day. And it's really addictive."

The appeal of cosplay outside Japan is a perfect example of the transcultural boomerangs that characterize much of contemporary popular culture. As Japanese otaku of an older generation will tell you, cosplay, and the devotional fandom behind it, came from the United States: Photos of costumed fans at North American sci-fi conventions, such as those revolving around Star Trek, appeared in magazines imported to Japan in the 1960s and '70s.

Japanese readers adopted the practice, using characters from their homegrown anime and manga series. As the popularity of manga and anime spiked outside Japan, fast-evolving Internet access provided overseas fans first with a peephole and then a massive window onto what looked like an enticing made-in-Japan phenomenon. The word itself, cosplay, is a giddy transcultural mashup of the English "costume" and "play."

"Cosplay [is now] a more accepted hobby in North America than in Japan," noted Riddle Lee, an Atlanta-based costume designer and model who has been cosplaying for 12 years. Lee cited the variety of genres beyond anime and manga--comics, movies and the sci-fi subgenre steampunk--that have become a part of the cosplay scene in the United States.

"It allows more ethnicities and age ranges to be involved. But those who are cosplaying from anime and Japan-based videogames really do have a sincere interest in Japan."

Photographer Ejen Chuang agrees. In 2009, Chuang crisscrossed the United States, attending six anime conventions to shoot over 1,650 cosplayers, 250 of whom appear in his colorful and hefty coffee-table tome, "Cosplay in America," published last year.

 "Many cosplayers I've talked to and photographed have since moved to Japan, either for studies or jobs," he said. "They wouldn't put so much effort into their outfits if they did not respect the original source."

For some, cosplay has become serious stuff. "The skills involved--sculpting, styling, sewing, makeup--could help get you a career in fashion or film," Lee said.

She has turned her own skill set toward charity. In the wake of the March 11 tsunami and earthquake, Lee launched "Cosplay for a Cause," a nonprofit organization whose mission is to raise money for disaster relief. She contacted artists and fellow cosplayers worldwide to create a glossy 2012 calendar, with all proceeds going directly to the Japanese Red Cross Society.

"Japan has been such an influence on my life," she explains, "from video games to anime characters to food and even its rich history, which fascinates me."

A New Jersey-based cosplayer known by the moniker Yuffiebunny told me that her passion has led to her own business, Head Kandi, creating hand- and custom-made costume headpieces, wigs and other hair enhancements. She also judges cosplay contests, models for Web sites and magazines, sometimes gets hired as a cosplayer for events--and, of course, attends anime conventions regularly.

While cosplaying is not a career for her, she says, "It's definitely not a sideline or part-time gig. I work very hard at it."

Yaya Han, also from Atlanta, and Chicago-based Barbara Staples both tell me that cosplaying and its related activities (designing costumes and accessories on commission, modeling, public speaking and attending conventions) have taken over their lives full-time.

Han said American cosplayers are not only diverse in age, gender and ethnicity, but also in levels of devotion. She divides participants into three groups: The super amateurs, who "know nothing about proper sewing techniques, props, wigs, et cetera"; the Halloween types, out for "occasional fun"; and the true devotees, members of the "cosplay community [who] make cosplay a lifestyle."

Staples, 29, attended her first anime convention 14 years ago, and like many women of her generation, was lured by the watershed shojo anime series Sailor Moon. She now runs her own costume design business, Lemonbrat, employing six staffers and two interns.

"I feel like I'm working two full-time jobs," she said, "because it takes up so much time."

Americans who cosplay have skewed both younger and older in recent years, with teens now sporting anime and manga costumes alongside cosplayers going gray or even fluffy white. They are drawn to the spirit of interactivity, role-playing participation and community, plus a dose of sincere passion--all emanating from a pop culture universe thousands of miles away.

Staples didn't cosplay at her first convention. "I didn't realize people dressed up," she told me. "Then I noticed and thought, 'I can make better costumes than that.' Cosplay was right on the cusp of becoming really popular."
Kelts is a visiting scholar at the University of Tokyo who divides his time between Tokyo and New York. He is the author of "Japanamerica: How Japanese Pop Culture has Invaded the U.S.", and the forthcoming novel, "Access."
[@Yomiuri here]