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The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society
Miscellanea and Ephemeron

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09/08/2005 Archived Entry: "Kumoricon 2005"

Kumoricon 2005

Report by Tom Good
An anime convention blurs the line between show and audience. Costumed fans become part of the attraction, and they know it. "This could be an empty stage, you don't even need me up here," one speaker joked, as comments shouted from the crowd started to turn the opening ceremonies into a Rocky Horror style comedy event. The fans were so fired up and ready to take part, I kept checking my watch to make sure it was really 10 a.m. on a Saturday. It was, and Kumoricon '05 was already off to a good start.

Kumoricon's name (literally, "cloudy-con") suits its Portland location, but September sunshine appeared, allowing for plenty of nice outdoor photos, and even tempting some fans to venture into the hotel's swimming pool. And the mood here was anything but gloomy. Convention staff, guests, and fans were very friendly and nice; one fan from Washington who went to get some cosplay tickets came back with an extra one for me, even though we had never met, and I soon found myself talking with him and his friends. The hallways felt like fashion runways at times, and with three anime screening rooms and a video gaming room, there was always something to do.

Upstart Artists

The "Upstart Artists" panel turned out to be one of my favorite events of the convention. The creators of three online manga talked to fans and answered questions. These articulate panelists seemed at ease addressing the room, almost as if they had been doing these panels for many years. Though I had not seen any of their manga before, after the panel I got online and started reading.

Emi, author of The Way To Your Heart, has created a long-running online manga about a Japanese rock band. The art in the beginning of the series struck me as bland, but over the course of four chapters it evolved into a bolder, more confident style that works very well. Compare this early page from chapter one to this later page from chapter four, and the difference is striking. The Way To Your Heart is currently the most popular manga out of the thousands available at onlinecomics.net, and a well-deserved success.

Chosen, by J. Andrews, S. Daniels, and W. Holcomb, opens with some striking visuals. Mysterious glowing white symbols on a black background accompany a legend of angels, demons, Elves and humans. I instantly liked the style of the prologue, so I hope this type of art gets used again later. On the other hand, I am less fond of the translucent word balloons in the main story. Rather than blending in, they pull my attention to the part of the picture under the word balloon, which feels distracting.

Finally, high school student Natalie Nourigat is the author of Out of Place, a fun online manga that shows a lot of potential. She has an efficient style of storytelling that gets a lot out of each page, and keeps the story moving forward without much "filler." The elevator scene in chapter three stayed with me; I thought of it while looking at the hotel elevators the next day. Out of Place has a good sense of humor, too. Natalie says on her site that this will be a 16 stage manga, and I am looking forward to the reading the rest of the story.


Breaking Into Anime


Joshua Seth, who has done voice-over work for many different anime including Wolf's Rain and Akira, gave a talk about breaking into anime as a voice actor. He played a demo recording in which he did dozens of very different voices, but said it had not been effective in getting him work. "Don't have too much variety," he said, because producers may appreciate the versatility but not know where or how to use it. He then played a shorter demo with a narrower range that had been much more successful.

Seth also advised would-be anime voice actors to transcribe dialogue from their favorite anime, then practice reading along with the sound turned off, to learn the skill of synchronizing with the lip movements on screen. Local radio, he said, can offer an opportunity to get valuable "mic time" and experience.

Translation and Adaptation


Janet Gilbert, who has written English adaptations of manga for VIZ, gave a presentation about the process of translation and English adaptation. She explained that the translator first writes a 100 word English synopsis of a manga, from which the editor will compose the back cover blurb. This means that the back cover blurb may be written by someone who has not yet read the book. A full literal translation comes next, and the English adaptation follows.

The writer of the adaptation improves areas where the literal translation may sound awkward in English. Sound effects can be especially hard to translate: Gilbert gave the example of having to find words for the sound of "falling Tupperware." And the Japanese sound effect shin, which represents silence, does not have a good equivalent word in English.

Gilbert said she does not censor any content while writing the adaptation, but this may be done later by the publisher depending on the target rating of the book. I asked whether the translator indicates which Japanese dialects the characters are using. She said she had not seen that, but that it may not have been an issue for her series Happy Hustle High, where the characters are from the same town.

Budo Taijutsu


Peter Kramer and some students from his dojo put on a demonstration of Budo Taijutsu, a martial art which includes traditional ninja techniques. They began with simple stances and ukemi and progressed to exotic weapons such as the naginata and hand claws, defense against multiple attackers, and unconventional tactics such as the use of powders to blind an enemy.

Unlike most Hollywood fight scenes, real martial arts demonstrations can be difficult for viewers to interpret. The action can be so quick and subtle that viewers see someone fall down, but do not understand what happened. To avoid this confusion, Kramer repeated techniques slowly while explaining how they worked, so the audience could learn as well as being entertained. He took questions before, during, and after the demonstrations, and customized his presentation based on what the audience asked to see.

Inuyasha


Toshifumi Yoshida, producer of English version of Inuyasha, screened an Inuyasha TV special from Japan that will appear as 2 episodes (147-148) in the U.S. about a year from now. This special contains the back story of how Kikyo and Inuyasha first met. Yoshida also showed the third Inuyasha movie, and answered questions from the crowd.

Cowboys and Samurai

Dr. Antonia Levi, a professor at Portland State University, Ph.D. in Japanese History, and author of the book Samurai from Outer Space: Understanding Japanese Animation, gave a presentation about cowboys and samurai. She related nostalgia for the Japanese Meiji Era to the nostalgia for the American old West, and outlined some plot similarities between Westerns and samurai stories. The audience participated in the discussion, and shared their ideas about Japanese and American history.

Dr. Levi noted that some Americans formed an initial impression of samurai as noble, honorable warriors, only to be surprised by some negative "leftist" depictions in later anime. These stories, such as Princess Mononoke, took the point of view of peasants who saw the samurai as a sinister, corrupt upper class. Similarly, many early Western movies concentrated on virtuous "white hat" cowboys who fought "savage" Native Americans. But over time the emphasis shifted to acknowledge corruption and decadence.

Dr. Levi will contribute to Mechademia, a new academic journal for anime, manga and fan arts.

Cosplay.com Q&A


Cosplay.com started in 2002 with an initial goal of signing up 500 members in the first year. They actually got 10,000 in that period, with the total close to 40,000 members today. Adella and Kyle held a Q&A session focused on tips for cosplayers.

Adella advised cosplayers to look better in pictures by wearing wigs, hosiery, and plenty of makeup. Even fans whose own hair resembles that of the character will probably be better off with a wig, because real hair is too thin to look like "anime hair." A test photo shoot before the convention will reveal how the costume will look in photos and which poses will work best.


The panel also explained that cosplayers who want to go all out to win a craftsmanship award can improve their chances by creating a portfolio that explains the costume. This can include reference pictures for what the costume is supposed to look like, together with pictures of the costume's details and descriptions of how it was constructed. And fans without skill or interest in making their own costumes can still find something to wear by commissioning work from other cosplayers.

What makes a costume difficult to construct? According to Adella, tricky factors include characters with unnatural proportions, costumes with strange shoulders, complicated accessories, and elements such as antlers. Adella and Kyle were very gracious, helpful, and willing to share their knowledge with fans. They both also got up early on Monday morning to go to a panel and explain the judging decisions from Sunday's cosplay event.

Cosplay Competition

It was obvious from the long line snaking all around the building that the cosplay competition generated a lot of excitement. People started lining up more than an hour in advance.

One cosplay group came out in anime costumes, then took the audience by surprise by stripping down to fig-leafed shorts to do an imitation of the Yatta! video. For those who had seen the video this was hilarious, while other fans wondered aloud why the skit made no sense.

Later a group dressed as the crew from One Piece performed a musical number based on the tune "Go Greased Lightning" from Grease. "Luffy" sang the song and the whole crew danced. This skit won the award for performance.

Pikmin Link's costume "Link of Toaru Village" won the craftsmanship award. One judge said later that the detail on the costume was amazing, and that it looked like professional-quality work. Unfortunately, this may not have been as obvious to the audience, especially those in the back of the hall. The lighting on stage washed out the understated colors of the costume, so from a distance it may not have looked as great, but some good pictures are available on the creator's site.

Many people who walked across the stage to show their costumes moved too quickly, and did not hold poses long enough to create an opportunity for good photos. Maybe this was because of nervousness, or maybe they had been told not to take too long, but cosplayers on stage would be wise to stop and hold one favorite pose for a minimum of 3-4 seconds (which probably feels like 3-4 minutes on stage in front of a large crowd). That gives the photographers time to see the pose, realize it looks good, focus, and shoot.


Other highlights included a funny "year in cosplay" routine, with a sequence of short skits based on true stories of the difficulties of costuming, and a "dark secrets" skit in which Mario took off his overalls and shirt to reveal a schoolgirl uniform underneath. Some audience members jokingly claimed to have been "scarred" by seeing this side of Mario.

The comedy group Bakazoku performed for this occasion, as well as at several other events during the convention, and they kept the audience laughing while the judges deliberated. Two groups were disqualified for technical rules violations, one for failing to remain in the Green Room during the required time, and the other for having "projectiles" in their skit.

Fangs


Have you ever been just about to talk to someone, then suddenly noticed that they have vampire fangs? I forgot all about what I was going to ask and reached for a stake, but all I had was a camera, so I asked to take a picture. Thanks to one booth in the vendor area, custom realistic fangs were readily available. They looked very convincing, and brought out the dramatic side of the women in this picture. I have another great vampire picture of a different person who asked me not to publish it, so like the crate in the final scene of Raiders of the Lost Ark, it will have to disappear into storage.


Closing Thoughts


A father looking for his daughter scanned the crowd outside the hotel and said, "I see a Sailor Jupiter, but not mine." This quote stuck in my head, not for the words but the way they were spoken. The voice was not one of an exasperated parent, thinking "oh, the kids are into this weird anime stuff, and it's driving me crazy." Instead, he sounded happy and amused, as if to say "it's great that so many people share an interest in this." That sort of feeling summed up the convention for me.

As can be expected with a relatively new convention, there were a few rough edges. The printed schedules were difficult to interpret, causing some confusion about when events started, and the cosplay competition failed to introduce the judges. But these are minor problems that can easily be fixed next year. In general, the convention was a fantastic event, and seemed to end too soon.


Kumoricon 2005 took place at the Doubletree Hotel in Portland, and attendance was estimated at 1,750 people.

Replies: 6 comments

Ok so I live in Portland and am a pretty big fan of making costumes my self...so why the hell am I always like amonth to late on these damn conventions. I missed ADELLA and the guy in the Katamari outfit and EVERYONE!!!! Damn it, Alright well i guess i better just keep the cosplay in the closet until I find people or places that dont mind me rolling around my apartment in a Solid Snake outfit...O well my day will come...soon,

Posted by MajorTom021 @ 10/06/2005 01:50 AM PST

Sorry for, like, posting of topic and stuff, but I'm interested in Japanese symbols and wondering if anyone knows where I can find a table or chart or something of Japanese Onomatapia? (Like bang, pow, scratch, etc.) Thanks

Posted by Kman @ 10/26/2005 07:04 PM PST

oooh~

Posted by ai @ 12/06/2005 07:51 PM PST

You need to find room to put InuYahsa on every day and like earlyer and get better pix of him for google. (Because most of theirs SUCK)

Posted by April @ 12/31/2005 10:29 AM PST

What the............Is she riding a chocobo or a chicken?

Posted by Renaa @ 01/10/2006 06:07 PM PST

its a chocobo^^ shes a moogle riding a chocobo...i was sad when i had to miss kumoricon 2004...;_; im happy i got to go to 2003 and 05 ...i cant wait for next year..^^...i caused a bit of ruccus when i fell a sleep in a friends room without telling my gaurdian..i dont need to worry about that next year...tanks goodness..anyways...nice job describing the con!^^

Posted by smidgetchan @ 01/28/2006 12:14 AM PST

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