You’ve seen pictures of “the Tron guy”. You may have even seen the trend of Gundam cardboard boxes. There’s a lot of baaaad cosplay out there. Even if the costume is crafted in precise detail, the person inside often lacks the physique to ever be mistaken for their alter ego.
Praise the heavens for the other side to this coin, for there exists a branch of our ilk–talented and beautiful–to generously feed us with eye candy at just about any geek convention. They are the fortunate few that have been able to merge their hobbies into lucrative careers. In this article, I’d like to spotlight some of the heavy-hitters in the cosplay community. They are ones that I find to be the most popular and virally circulated around the web. Your tastes may differ, but I also consider these to be my own personal favorites.
The Legend of Black Heaven is the electrifying story of Oji Tanaka, a Japanese salary man facing mid-life crisis. The glory of his early years as a rock star has since fallen into the doldrums of the married 9-to-5 daily grind. Crying into his sake one night, Oji is propelled from office space to outer space when he learns of an intergalactic war…a war where the safety of the Earth can only be won by the power of rock. As it turns out, the spiritual energy released by his music powers a super-weapon that the good aliens use to annihilate the bad aliens.
Oji’s liaison to the alien fleet defending our section of the galaxy is the buxom Layla Yuki, who disguises herself as an office coworker in order to get close to our hero. This disguise tends to backfire, as their secret relationship is often (and humorously so) misinterpreted as an extra-marital affair. None are more suspicious than Oji’s wife, Yoshiko, a former groupie that Oji met in his rocker days and now mother of his son, Gen. In order to maintain cover, Layla enlists her trio of ultra-cute and ultra-ditzy assistants Kotoko, Eriko, and Rinko.
As conflict in the stars escalates, the ultimate weapon soon requires more rock than Oji alone can provide. On his knees, Oji must convince his former band-mates–all of whom have also moved on to become blue collar family men themselves–to reunite and turn the tide of battle while rekindling the stage-lit fires of their prime. By the end of the climactic battle involving a shadowy figure from the band’s past, Oji saves the universe, his marriage, and his dreams with the strum of his guitar pick.
As the show’s tag line suggests, The Legend Of Black Heaven follows in the spirit of Macross 7, weaving action-packed space battles with the power of rock music. What makes this series unique is its take on the theme, framing it around the journey of Oji on his path to resolve the disillusion of adulthood and rediscovering meaning in his life. While there is the fair share of wacky hijinks (Ã la the ditzy trio), the series’s humorous forte is in the exaggerated glorification in all that is awesome. They just don’t make enough anime like this anymore…
A 21-year-old Japanese man was arrested today after posting a message on an online message board where he threatened to kill voice actress and singer Nana Mizuki and her fans at a planned concert. This might have not gotten him in as much trouble had he not described how he was going to kill everyone–by using the same weapons used in a recent massacre in Akihabara. Way to go, sport.
Now, I’m hardly versed in Japanese freedoms of speech, but even if this had taken place in the USA, none of this would surprise me. We have the right to express anything we want in America, but that doesn’t exempt us from any backlash that expression may incur. You can’t call a Hell’s Angel a queer and not expect to get punched.
Funnier still, the dude claimed that he merely posted the message just to see what kind of reaction it would create. I hope that satisfies your curiosity, jackass. The thing about the authorities in Japan: They don’t less of a sense of humor than we do. They do not fuck around with that. Especially when the Akihabara massacre was preceded by a similar threat on another message board.
Recently I picked up the DVD set for The Legend Of Black Heaven and I plan on writing up a review on it soon. It’s the story of a man who used to be a rock star when he was young, but grew into working-class family life. Then aliens call upon him to play his music in order to power their super-weapon that’s the only hope of defending the universe.
One thing that struck me as funny as I watched the first episode is that as it starts out, the lead character finds that his wife has thrown away his beloved guitar from his rocker days. He calls her from work and she insists that it was an accident. When he returns home, his wife confesses that she did it on purpose and has thrown it away again. The dude runs out to rescue it, but alas, the trash has been picked up…his guitar lost, buried beneath tons of garbage. When he drowns his sorrows in tears, he’s approached by the alien woman who tells him how much his music means to her and that she wants to take him to heaven. She means that she wants to take him into space so that he can fight evil, but he believes that she wants to sleep with him. Drunk and missing fan adoration, he agrees to go with her…
Now, here I am watching this show where this guy is supposed to be our hero, but within the first episode he’s totally cheating on his wife. But then I remembered: Bitch threw away his guitar…twice. And lied about it. I’m not saying he was right in cheating on her, but I understand.
It’s like me and my Dreamcast. I love that console. I don’t care how many years go by and how many inches of dust blanket it, I’m taking that thing to the grave. I doubt I’ll be buried with it, since I intend to be cremated. But I plan on requesting that my ashes be contained in the Dreamcast as an urn and then buried in that. If my girlfriend were to throw that away, I don’t think I’d cheat on her, but it would certainly put a strain on our relationship.
Hokuto no Ken (aka Fist of the North Star): Those who know it and hate it still appreciate it for what it is. That being one of the most action-packed classic anime series of all time, still imitated and parodied to this day. When I was first introduced to the franchise in high school via the 1986 animated movie, I honestly didn’t think much of it. It wasn’t until someone recently put the TV series in my hands that I now understand its level of awesome.
For those unfamiliar with the series, it takes place in a post-apocalyptic future, where most of the planet has been transformed into a giant desert. Humanity is struggling to survive and of course there are those who prey upon the weak to amass resources and power. However, there is one man–Kenshiro, the lone successor of the Hokuto Shinken school of martial arts–that is out to bring an end to such tyranny.
What makes Fist of the North Star so great isn’t the animation or even the plot…it’s the ridiculous violence. Mind you, this isn’t gratuitous violence (bloodshed for the sake of bloodshed), but rather there is a kind of imaginative style in how the violent scenes are constructed. You see, Kenshiro doesn’t just beat you to death, he activates certain pressure points in your body that cause it to destroy itself. Often, he’ll simply cause you to explode. However, in special cases, he may cause your spine to twist in half, make you hug another man to death, or walk backward off a cliff. Once Kenshiro has performed the lethal blow, the opponent may still protest, only to heed Ken’s trademark warning, “You are already dead.”
May God help you if ever you strike a woman, child, or puppy in proximity of Kenshiro. Because then it is on. Ken does not take kindly to that nonsense…not on his watch. He does not put up with that. Any act of cruelty will earn you a fate that usually ends with an NBA shot clock counting down the seconds until some part of you goes “boom”.
After watching a few episodes, one may find it difficult to determine whether Hokuto no Ken is either the manliest show ever or the gayest show. It’s visuals and storytelling style are quite reminiscent of something an adolescent male would doodle in his junior high math class, yet there’s an undeniable homoerotic accent to the show. On the one hand, you have beefy, super-powered dudes punching, avenging the women they love, and nunchucks. At the same time, you have these same beefy dudes who are also dressed in tight jeans, leather straps, and express shared deep, spiritual connections with each other.
Most often before a major villain dies, the audience will be given a ten-minute monologue that reveals how despite their evil ways, they posses a heart of gold. The Nanto Star, Souther, was a cruel, maleficent overlord who ordered a pyramid to be built in his honor, constructed entirely by hundreds of enslaved starving children. After Kenshiro beat the hell out of him, Souther uses his dying breaths to explain that the reason why he was such a monster is because when he was a child, he was forced to kill his master as the final test of his martial arts training. He loved his master so much that he’d vowed that he’d never allow himself to experience love again, for fear of the pain that may come from it. It’s not bad to give that little extra depth to the villain to lift some of the demonization, however those moments tend to execute as too warm & fuzzy. Fist of the North Star is ripe with fodder for “slash” fan fiction authors.
My own favorite Fist of the North Star moment was early in the series, when one foe dared pose the question, “Can your Hokuto Shinken stop a tank??” The answer: Yes…yes it can. The villain approaches Kenshiro in his tank, but Ken attacks head-on. He then pummels the front of the tank with a barrage of punches and kicks until the tank finally halts. The villain errs in sticking his head out of the tank’s hatch in frustration, leaving him open to Kenshiro touching his vital pressure points. He then collapses back into the tank where we assume he dies. But, no! Ken walks away from the wreckage, toward the camera, with just enough dramatic pause before the tank itself explodes behind him…for no reason. We can only assume that tanks also have vital pressure points which can cause it to explode, much like a human’s skull.
The series as a whole, I find deliciously campy. While some may quick to simply label the show as stupid, I prefer to deem it under what I affectionately call “the theater of the absurd”. It’s so ridiculous, that alone makes it entertaining.
One of my annual indulgences from my Animazement adventures are accumulating more anime character figures. Unlike previous years, all the figures I purchased appeared to have one thing in common: The ability to assemble them without their skirts, thus leaving nothing to obstruct the full view of the character’s panties. This option was not exclusive to unassembled figures; even the fully assembled Haruhi Suzumiya figure I bought could be taken apart and rebuilt sans skirt with minimal effort.
It may sound strange, but there’s a simple explanation: It’s Japan. Japanese are obsessed with girl’s panties. Not that I fault them for it. I’ll steal a peek myself, if fate grants me an opportunity. And a hot girl standing before you in her underwear is always a delight be behold. However, the Western culture from which I’m akin to is more conservative about such things, while Asian culture (perhaps especially Japan) are far more overt with their perversions.
Discovering this cultural accent inspirited within my otherwise innocent figures doesn’t bother me, rather it grants them an additional charm. Though it did remind me of a far more twisted fetish from Japan that I’d discovered in the far-most reaches of the interwebs many months ago. I’m not certain if there is a designated term for it yet (in either language), but one need only Google “semen on figure” to realize its self-explanatory keywords.
Basically, as it sounds, a man will beat off and then ejaculate onto an anime figure. Then these men will compare photos of their handiwork online. It’s hardly a sign of a healthy lifestyle, but my own protests may not be over what one may expect.
As I am reminded of every year when raiding the Animazement dealer’s room, anime figures are not cheap. Even 2in figures can go for $25-30 without question. Figures that are often used as these targets of affection cost upward from around $75 and beyond. What offends my sensibilities is that this is such a waste of an expensive figure! I don’t have that kind of money just laying around to blow on a figure whose artistic beauty may or not match it’s price tag…only to stain it with bodily fluids. That stuff doesn’t just wash off. And even if you give it a thorough cleaning, there’s a stubborn, lingering odor. As far as I’m concerned, the figure–whatever its intended purpose–is ruined. It breaks my heart. Both as an otaku and as a penny-pincher…
Animazement was a blast! Ashley, my sister, and I had loads of fun, though this year’s con seemed lacking compared to the last. The dealer’s room surprisingly didn’t have much merchandise of stuff I’m into (Ace Attorney, Disgaea…even Gurren Lagann and Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei). The artist’s alley mostly made up for it though, as we had plenty of talented people attending. It’s also very clear that we need to move to the new Raleigh convention center, since I heard that there was a ~30% increase in attendees this year. And you could feel how packed it was!
As you can see above, Ashley did a phenomenal job on my costume. She even had time to whip together a Cooking Mama costume for herself. I’ve looked around to find myself in some cosplay photo galleries only to realize I probably should have chosen a more flattering pose than attempting Godot’s “Objection!” position. I was flattered to see that not one, but two groups of Ace Attorney cosplayers were seeking me out to either join the contest or something. To which I responded to both with “Very no.” I was however stoked to pose with Akiko as Edgeworth. Ashley and I have already decided that we’re going as Team Rocket next year. We’re not sure how we’re going to do Ashley’s hair, but we do plan on hijacking my sister into being our Meowth.
Swag: As I said, there wasn’t much to tickle my fancy, but that wasn’t to say that my fancy was left untickled. Most of my loot consisted of figures, of which I’ve been accumulating a nice collection of this past year. Of that booty, I scored a 1:8 scale Haruhi Suzumiya, and a handful of trading figures including Jennifer from Disgaea, Ibuki from Street Fighter III, and Edgeworth and Godot, both from Ace Attorney. Godot was an extra-sweet victory, since there was only one booth that sold Ace Attorney trading figures, and I’d grabbed the very last one, only to find him inside!
Other things I bought while here were assorted things from the artist’s alley… Homemade buttons, magnets, etc. I also picked up some adult doujinshi manga, for shits and giggles. They were remarkably cheap and where else are you going to find such a selection of bizarre fan-crafted smut? I came ever so close to acquiring a copy of the Segata Sanshiro game for Sega Saturn, but negotiations on the price fell through. Perhaps another time, but for now it is not meant to be…
I promised myself for years that I’d get around to seeing Phil’s Anime Hell event. Two and a half hours of brain-twisting videos; the audience reactions being just as entertaining as the images on screen. I will make a habit of this. Had it not been for Hell, I might have volunteered to help run the COUp video room. But signing up for that will be my promise for next year. Some of my friends signed on for some painfully long shifts. I’d like to do my part to not only contribute to the con, but also spend some time with them.
The game room sported some awesome head-to-head “candy” style arcade cabinets this year. One had Street Fighter Alpha 3, which of course I sank my teeth into. I didn’t win, but I fared better than expected. I also played a few rounds of MvsC2 (didn’t win, but gave the guy a run for his money until a Time Over) and Melty Blood: Act Cadenza (kicked quite of bit of ass there). What brought joy to my heart was seeing about six kids (ages 8 and under) crowding around the games in the arcade cabinets. Ah, to be that young again…
All in all, we had loads of fun. I ended up going home with a LOT of leftover cash, which I suppose is good. I have other things I should probably throw money at. Thankfully, I don’t have to head back to work until Wednesday, so I have some time to recover from the post-convention blarghs.
As a warning, some of the imagery linked here is NSFW.
As I browse through the various online art galleries that I frequent, it’s hardly uncommon that I come across adult material. And let’s be honest…some of it is pr0n. But every now and then I see another genre that I can’t tell if it’s meant to be erotic or just something else. It’s called “guro” or “ero guro” (“ero guro nansensu” being derived from the English words “erotic grotesque nonsense”) and it’s very brutally violent.
I usually skip over these images, but every once and a while I’ll take a curious peek. Lately, a few of those peeks have lead me to another shocking discovery. Now, I know that most artists out there–whether you see it or not–create mature art. Some, like Josh Lesnick, will even admit that the majority of his income comes from adult work (Slipshine), even if his labor of love (Girly) is more tame. It’s also not hard to find erotica made my manga god Masamune Shirow. But every now and then I’ll find an artist that I had no idea had such a dark side to their art.
I like to read Chugworth Academy. I even bought the first book. Apparently many in the webcomics community knew, but I’m just finding out that the series as I know it is actually it’s second incarnation. The first being more pornographic. Not only that, but Scribble Kid used to draw and post all sorts of erotica that even I would call “questionable”. It wasn’t until I recently saw some comics like this one posted on an online art gallery that I learned that side of him. At first I thought, “Yikes, this comic is kinda gruesome, but the art looks just like the style from the Chugworth Academy guy.” A google or two later, I found out that the style resemblance was more than coincidence. Now, I’m not passing judgment on him as an artist, but I certainly feel like I understand him a bit better as a person.
Another shock was when I found this guro image, with incredibly impressive pencil work. I’ve come to find out that it was done by Hiroaki Samura, famed artist of the Blade Of The Immortal manga, whose work I also admire. In fact, there’s a whole art book that collects it! Again, I was a little shocked… I can’t say I’m surprised when I find these things, but it’s always a bit of a shake-up when I identify the artist.
Most guro I’ve seen is meant to just be gross or disturbing. Often it comes off more as silly. But when I find a piece done by an artist whose work I dig, I get a sense of the emotions behind it. Kinda like the reaction you might get from an HR Giger piece. As a male, at least, I can empathize that sometimes men feel a hostile anger toward women, and pieces like the ones I’ve seen are an expression of that anger. I don’t at all condone the actual brutalization of women, but I do understand the emotions that fuel the art. Most guys have that part of them deep down that holds hostility toward women and uses sex to express dominance over someone.
Through all this, I’ve become wary of the other artists whom I admire. In the back of my mind, I’m now thinking, “Okay, which one of you fuckers am I gonna find next?” It’s like finding your friend’s porn stash…only he’s the one that shot the video.