Monthly Archives: January 2014

How I Got Into Anime

Like many kids, I loved watching cartoons when I was little.  I watched them every weekday after school and often on Saturday mornings as well.  I also loved to draw, so I never grew out of my love for animation.  My favorite cartoons were the Nintendo ones (The Super Mario Bros. Super Show, with Zelda on Fridays, and Captain N).  Unfortunately as I got older and my favorite shows stopped airing, I had trouble finding new shows I liked, and I turned my full attention to video games.

Then one summer morning, my mom turned on the TV, and Ronin Warriors happened to be on.  I was mesmerized by the drawing style and thought, “Wow! It looks like a video game!”  My mom said, oh it must be one of those Japanese cartoons.  At that point my only exposure to Japanese anime style was through games.  We watched the rest of the episode, and I was hooked.  I looked forward to watching the next episode every weekday morning.  Not only did it look pretty, it also told a story.  To me, it was like a cartoon version of an RPG.

Later that summer, during one of many trips with my mother to the fabric store, I saw a display advertising a pattern for a “Sailor Moon” Halloween costume.  I pretty much stood there and stared at that display while my mother shopped.  My first thought was “There’s more of this Japanese stuff?!” and my second was “I like the red one with the black hair!” (Sailor Mars, haha.)  I went home and immediately searched every page of the TV guide, but could not find a show called Sailor Moon.  As it turns out, Sailor Moon didn’t start airing until that fall, and then it was on at a time when I was still at school.  I didn’t let that stop me and asked my mom to tape it for me every day.  I was so excited to come home and watch Sailor Moon, I was completely obsessed.  Some of my friends at school started watching it too, and they had this magical thing called the Internet where they were able to look up more information on this thing called “anime”.  They would also print whatever Sailor Moon pictures they could find and bring them to school.  Another friend then reported being able to find Sailor Moon stickers, t-shirts, posters, CDs, and other goods in Chinatown, and Chinatown became my favorite place to visit.

I started wondering if there were more anime series on TV that I had missed, so I searched the TV guide for any show that sounded Japanese or like it could be a cool sci-fi/fantasy cartoon.  I found Robotech on a local Sci-Fi channel, and later Urusei Yatsura, Tenchi Muyo! and Key the Metal Idol.  I loved all of it.  I then heard about a local video rental store that had anime, and I became a frequent customer.  I discovered Animerica magazine, and through that started reading manga as well.  Soon we had the Internet at my own house, and I spent countless hours on Anime Web Turnpike browsing random anime sites.  I even learned HTML and put up my own Sailor Moon and Ronin Warrior fan sites, although they didn’t have much substance.  By that time I was in high school, and I started an anime club there.  It wasn’t long before I discovered anime conventions and started meeting even more anime fans.  Luckily by the time I got into anime, it was already becoming more readily available to the U.S. market.  I missed the era of mailing VHS tapes to fansubbers, although I have several friends who did that.

Now anime is everywhere.  You can find just about any series you want on the Internet, and new series are translated so quickly.  Some are even simultaneously released here and in Japan, which is still unbelievable to me.  These days I am not the crazy anime fan I was in high school, but I still enjoy a good series. Actually, for a while I didn’t keep up with anime at all and returned my focus to video games.  I prefer video games because they are interactive.  Sometimes I have trouble sitting still and focusing on just watching something.  Now I am engaged to a man who is a huge anime fan and watches just about everything as soon as it’s released, so I’m starting to catch up with what’s current.  The great part is that he previews all the new series and passes along only the ones that he thinks I will like.  The problem is that now my cosplay wish list is expanding again…

By the way, my favorite anime series of all time is probably “Full Metal Panic!”  “The Mystic Archives of Dantalian” and “Shining Tears X Wind” are also way up there.

Growing Up With Video Games

Video games have always been a part of my life.  My dad was one of those early computer/game nerds, so thanks to him I’ve been playing games for as long as I’ve been able to sit in front of a screen (there is even a photo of me at one year old playing on a PC).  We had an Atari 2600, a Commodore 64, and many PC games. Of course when I was very young, I mostly played toddler games like Alphabet Zoo, FaceMaker, Strawberry Shortcake Musical Match-Ups, and Alf in the Color Caves.

Alf in the Color Caves. I will never forget this music for the rest of my life.

Of course, I also played all of the great Atari classics such as Frogger, PitFall, Space Invaders, and Centipede. I could go on for days about all the games I played, we had a large collection. One of my favorites was Vanguard, a side-scrolling shooter, because it was so colorful. I loved all the rainbow stages!

When the Nintendo came out, we didn’t get one right away.  My family has never been one to jump on things when they are new.  One summer, we went to visit my aunt, uncle, and cousins, and they had a Nintendo.  We had a great vacation, and when we got home I missed having everyone around and felt so lonely that I cried.  My parents mistakenly thought I cried because I wanted a Nintendo, so they went out and bought one (I’m sure my dad wanted one too).  Needless to say, I perked up pretty quickly after that.  The first games we got were Zelda II, Super Mario Bros. 2, and MegaMan 2.  My parents would only allow me to play games on the weekends, so I would anxiously look forward to Saturday morning and then get up early to play.  We would also go to our local video rental places (remember those??) to rent games, and if we liked them we would buy them later.  Games were expensive back then, so we had to make sure we really wanted them first.  I probably spent most of my weekends just playing games.  I was definitely “hooked on the Nintendo”, and will always look back fondly on the days when Nintendo was synonymous with video games.  The Nintendo became so popular that there were even Nintendo comics and cartoons based off Super Mario Bros. and other games.

After the Nintendo came the Super Nintendo, which is probably my favorite system of all time.  There were so many good games for the SNES.  My family was loyal to Nintendo and actually never bought the early Sega systems (although my cousins had them, so we did play them some).  Even when the PlayStation was released and started dominating the market, we didn’t bother getting one until I saw Bust A Move: Dance & Rhythm Action and decided I had to have that game.  At that point I’d started going to conventions and meeting gamers who knew about modding systems so we could play Japanese games too.  My family currently owns all the major Nintendo consoles up to the Wii, the PlayStation consoles up to PS3, and a Dreamcast (another great system).  I personally own a Japanese Xbox 360, but the only games I have for it are the IDOLM@STER games.  Unfortunately I have trouble with motion sickness and can’t play a lot of the newer 3D games, so I haven’t been keeping up with gaming recently.  These days when I buy games, it’s mostly for my Nintendo DS/3DS.  I always did like cute, colorful games, and you can still find plenty of those on DS.

Meanwhile, I still play computer games too.  I am a huge fan of the StarCraft series, and actually I played the WarCraft series since the very beginning.  I have played a number of online games, but somehow I always return to my first MMORPG, Ragnarok Online.  I have been playing RO since 2002.  I dabble in MOBAs as well.  Mostly I am a casual gamer, though.  I don’t have nearly as much time as I would like these days to play games, but one thing’s for sure — being a gamer is always going to be a big part of who I am.  My dad still plays video games (in fact, now that he’s retired he spends a lot of time playing), and I know I will be playing games for a very long time too.

U-KISS Concert in San Francisco!

As a fan of Asian pop music living in America, I don’t get many chances to see live concerts.  I’d been to a couple concerts at anime conventions (like Hangry & Angry and Morning Musume), but my first real concert was TVXQ in Los Angeles last year.  The concert was during Anime Expo, literally right next door to the con, and since I was already going to be there for AX, it was easy for me to hop over and see the concert too.  It was like a dream come true, as TVXQ was my favorite group, and I never expected them to come over here to do a concert.  They are one of the most successful K-pop groups though, so I guess it really wasn’t all that surprising that they would eventually come.  It was a little weird for me, since I was used to listening to all of their songs in Japanese, but it was amazing to see some of my favorite songs performed live, and they did sing two of their Japanese-only songs as well.  They were such incredible dancers and put on a great show.  Even though our seats were a little far back, I really enjoyed it, and I thought nothing could top that experience.

Shortly after that I got into became obsessed with U-KISS.  U-KISS is not an extremely well-known group and is not part of a major label, so I never dared hope they would come to do a concert here.  Imagine my surprise and excitement when they suddenly announced their first U.S. Tour for January 2014!  I could hardly believe it, but I knew for sure there was no way I was going to miss it and that I had to get the best tickets available.  I knew they would probably do a concert in San Francisco, since one of the members, Kevin, is actually from the SF Bay Area (specifically Danville, which is very close to where I live)! The SF concert ended up being on the single worst day of the month possible for me — I had to cancel a convention in order to go, but it was absolutely worth it.  To top it all off, the first 150 people to purchase VIP tickets at each concert would also get a photo with U-KISS!  My mind was blown.  A chance to see them up close!  Getting tickets was a bit of a challenge.  The servers crashed, and actually I was never able to get through, but a friend managed to snag three tickets, so we were set!

U-KISS sign in front of the Warfield

The day of the concert I wore pink to show my support.  Yes, their fan color is PINK.  How perfect is that?  My favorite color!  My friends and I got pink glow sticks, and we were ready to go!  We didn’t worry about getting there too early — my friends and I are quite a bit older than most of the other fans, and we weren’t about to fight them for a spot in the front.  Truth is, the theater where the concert was held was so small, we stood at the back of the VIP section and probably got one of the best views of the concert.  We were close, but just far enough back that we could see the entire stage at once.  Since most of the other VIP attendees were trying to squeeze up to the front, that also meant we had all the space in the back to relax and move around if we wanted.  No, we didn’t get to touch the guys or interact with them like some of the fans up front got to, but honestly I’d rather have a better view, so I can watch the whole dance.

The concert itself was excellent, and I’m not just saying that because U-KISS is my favorite group.  The boys are talented, yes, but they are much more than just that.  U-KISS stands for Ubiquitous Korean International (Idol) Super Stars — and they really try their best to live up to their name.  Three of the members are fluent in English (two are American and a third went to an international school and is now studying at Columbia University).  They were able to talk directly to the fans without an interpreter and could really interact with the audience during the concert.  In addition, U-KISS is a group that really appreciates and cares about their fans all over the world.  They were constantly coming up to the front of the stage and reaching out to fans.  They did a Q&A session in the middle of the concert, during which they picked questions that would yield the greatest amount of fan service possible.  Kevin serenaded one girl with Bruno Mars’s “Just the Way You Are”, and Soohyun sang a dramatic “Happy Birthday” to another girl (they both sounded incredible).  Also, one lucky superfan got to be on stage with the guys as they performed “Mysterious Lady”.  It really felt like they were working hard to put on the best show possible and make sure all of their fans were happy.  The guys were also extremely goofy at times, not afraid to joke around and act stupid in front of their fans.  This level of interaction really made the concert a unique and fun experience.

As for the songs they performed, it was mostly their main Korean songs.  The set list actually felt kind of short, because they talked so much (which was fine ♥ they still got through all the major songs).  I was delighted that they performed “Someday”, as it’s one of my favorites.  They only performed two Japanese songs, “Tick Tack” and “Forbidden Love” (more of my favorites, and awesome to see live).  I was disappointed that they didn’t perform any of their Japanese songs from 2013.  I thought they would at least sing “Inside of Me”, since it was used in the official promotion video for the U.S. Tour.  I understand that they would want to focus on their Korean songs though.  It would be a dream to go to one of their Japanese concerts someday.  They have so many great Japanese songs!

I don’t have any pictures or video from the concert.  I was too busy watching!  Actually, I found that even waving my glow stick was too much of an effort while I was trying to focus on watching them dance.  Haha.  Sorry, I’m a boring person. U-KISS is my favorite group, but I can’t be loud and crazy, it’s just not physically possible.  I had my eyes glued to Kiseop practically the entire time.  He’s such a great dancer!  It really inspired me to want to go home and practice more myself!

I only have two small regrets from the concert.  One was the photo session — it went by so fast, I forgot to look at half of the members.  Mostly I saw Kevin, who is like a shining beacon of friendliness.  I did a heart pose for my picture, and Kevin told me “nice heart!”, so that made me happy.  As I was walking away, I glanced at Kiseop, but he wasn’t even paying attention.  Oh well.  I think it turned out ok, considering how they were rushing us through.  I’ll only know if it was really a success or not once I see the picture.  Also hopefully they will be back for more concerts, so I’m sure I’ll get more chances to meet them.  They are really so friendly and kind to their fans!  My second regret was that I was not able to buy the official light stick, because they sold out.  I knew I should’ve ordered one online!  Yeah, I know… big deal, right?  Like I said, small regret.  I did make sure to write them a fan letter.  It was the first time I’ve been inspired to write one, not only because they can actually read English, but because they seem like the kind of idols who would really appreciate the gesture and actually read them.  I know how good it feels to receive any letter of support, so I wanted to do my part. I also wanted to wish Kiseop a Happy Birthday — actually it’s tomorrow, the same day as my mine (although I’m much older…)!  What a funny coincidence, since he is my favorite!

I’ve been following the guys on Twitter and on YouTube through Mnet America’s Go! U-KISS series (posted below – I found Clip #4 to be the most entertaining).  It was fun to see the guys get excited about coming to America, go sight-seeing, and enjoy the food here.  It sounds like all the concerts went well too.  I hope they all had a great time and that they will be back again before too long!

Edit: I got my photo on my birthday (Happy Birthday to me)!  As expected, I look like a dork, but the photo came out pretty well!  I am still cracking up at AJ’s face (far left).  I took a brief look through the gallery and I feel bad for the fans whose photos were out of focus.  I’m relieved that my photo turned out as a success, and I have this nice memento of such a great concert!

Also I forgot to post the stuff I got from the concert!  All VIP ticket holders got a free t-shirt, which is the same as the ones the guys are wearing in the photo (my picture below shows the back of the shirt).  I also bought U-KISS’s latest Korean album “Moments”, which came with an autographed postcard.

J-pop Idol OBSESSION – How I got into J-pop

Music has always been a big part of my life.  Music talent runs strongly in my family — in fact, my maternal grandfather was a composer and songwriter (among many other things).  I’ve loved singing and dancing with a passion for as long as I can remember.  My preschool teacher even noted in my progress report how much I loved to sing.  Although I was discouraged from singing and dancing as a child (a story I won’t get into) and I am not formally trained in either, I have a strong sense of rhythm and fairly good relative pitch.  I played flute and piccolo in school, and everything I know about singing I learned from my flute teacher.  I regret not taking music theory in high school, as songwriting is a talent I admire and envy greatly, but I was too shy.  These days I’ve rekindled my love for singing and dancing by going to karaoke with my friends and dancing with my cosplay group, Angel Hearts. I also listen to music almost nonstop when I can.  Few things make me happier than music.   Japanese pop music is my favorite genre and has become practically the only thing I listen to.  I am also OBSESSED with idols, real or fictional.  They are all the things I love — cuties with charming personalities who sing, dance, and wear fabulous outfits.  But how did I get into J-pop?

When I was little I loved listening to my dad’s music (like The Beatles, Simon & Garfunkel, Johnny Mathis, and classical music).  As I got older, my favorite thing to listen to was video game music.  I had a few game soundtracks, but sometimes I would turn on a game just to listen to the music (this is probably where my fondness for techno and electronic music came from).  As I started getting into anime, I discovered that I could buy anime and game CDs in Chinatown.  Although I woke up to the radio every morning, I never really got into American pop music (is this where I tell the story of how N*Sync performed at my high school before they were famous?  Wait I just dated myself… and besides, I liked Backstreet Boys better).

I started meeting more anime fans online, and we would sometimes talk about music.  I was listening to more anime soundtracks at this point — Sailor Moon, Gundam Wing, Tenchi Muyo, Macross, Key the Metal Idol, Record of Lodoss War, Card Captor Sakura, etc.  When I discovered Bust A Move (the dance game, not the puzzle game), I instantly fell in love with Kitty-N, the dancing catgirl idol (actually, this was the reason I finally got a PlayStation).  Kitty-N had a J-pop song as her theme song, and back then there was a huge difference between the quality of anime music and mainstream J-pop.  My online friends told me, if you like Kitty-N’s theme so much, you should listen to some REAL J-pop.  I visited a friend, and he burned me four CD’s full of songs and music videos.  Thus started my music video and idol obsession.

My favorite group from what my friend had given me was SPEED, which wasn’t really an idol group, but they were the “Princesses of J-pop” back then.  Takako Uehara became my first idol obsession, and she was just starting her solo career.  I bought all her CD’s and photobooks and downloaded all the videos and pictures I could.  She wasn’t the best singer, but she was so pretty and I liked her style.

One of Takako Uehara’s early singles from 1999, “Come close to me”

When I went to college, I made more friends who were into anime, games, and J-pop.  They were also really into SES, so I got my first taste of K-pop then as well.  We were constantly downloading and sharing music videos, and we all started getting into Morning Musume and Hello! Project.  Hello! Project pretty much dominated J-pop idol music at that time, and it was then that my love of idols really expanded.  I was a big H!P fangirl for a long time, and an especially big Aya Matsuura fan.  She really had an amazing voice an was an extremely talented singer and performer.  She was the perfect idol, the “Idol of All Idols”, who was always super cute and energetic.  She never lost her composure or showed her bad side.  She started out singing really cutesy, fun songs, but as she matured she started singing more songs with meaningful lyrics about being a good person and persevering through life.  She is now retired due to health reasons, and recently got married.  I hope she is doing well, but I miss her music.  Her songs are some of my favorites to sing at karaoke.

Aya Matsuura’s “Ne~e?”

Once I got into Hello! Project, I started watching concerts, variety shows, and Japanese music shows — anything I could get my paws on.  The music shows introduced me to a lot of other groups.  I discovered Johnny’s Entertainment when Kanjani8 made their big debut with “Naniwa Iroha Bushi”, which is still one of my favorite songs.  Johnny’s Entertainment is the main source of J-pop idol boybands and produced groups like SMAP and Arashi.  Arashi is currently one of the most popular music groups in all of Japan.

Kanjani8’s “Naniwa Iroha Bushi”, a unique enka-pop song

I started downloading every J-pop music video I could find (this was before everything was readily available on YouTube).  This was how I discovered TVXQ, a Korean boyband and one of my all-time favorite groups.  Still, I mostly only listened to their Japanese songs.  I could go on forever about my favorite J-pop groups and singers.  Unfortunately, when AKB48 and all its related groups hit the scene and pretty much took over, I started losing interest.  I’m sorry, but AKB is one group I cannot support — let’s just say I don’t believe in the concept behind the group and the way the girls are exploited, and leave it at that.  At that time, THE IDOLM@STER, a game about training idols, started becoming more popular, and I diverted all my attention to that series (but that is a post for another time).  Now there are so many anime series about idols, and they all have great music… how times have changed!  So even though I don’t like AKB, I can still get my idol fix from all the great idol anime out there.

Recently a friend of mine who is into K-pop tried pushing various K-pop groups on me.  K-pop has started to invade Japan as well, but for the most part I am not a fan of the K-pop aesthetic (they’re more into the bad boy/bad girl image).  I was curious though, and started looking up Korean groups that had released songs in Japan.  It was then that I discovered U-KISS, which is now my #1 favorite group, bumping TVXQ to #2.  They are true idols — not just great singers and dancers, but charming boys who really care about their fans.  I started to realize that the Korean groups who are popular in Japan are also some of my favorite groups.  You can’t deny how hardworking and skilled Korean groups are (their dance choreography is particularly amazing), and the groups that are more active in Japan have more of the softer, cuter Japanese aesthetic.  It’s the best of both worlds!

I was lucky to be able to see TVXQ in concert last year when they came to Los Angeles.  Then just this past weekend, I saw U-KISS in San Francisco (more on that in my next post~)!  It’s really amazing to be able to see these idols perform live in America.  I hope Asian pop music continues to expand across the world and more groups will come to perform here!  Of course, it would be a dream come true to be able to go to an idol concert in Japan.  Until then, I will continue to watch all the videos and support my idols from home!  …and of course, occasionally join in the fun by cosplaying idols and performing their songs. ♥

HI EVERYONE!! \(>w<)/

Hi! Welcome to Pretty Kitty Princess, the fashion, hobby, and lifestyle blog of Kie (pronounced like “Key”), a super girly geek girl from California, USA.

For years I hesitated in starting this blog because I wasn’t quite sure how to categorize it and what the main focus was going to be.  My good friend Rey, a well-known basketball blogger, kept telling me not to worry about it — just start writing!  I was still afraid that if I talked about too many things, it would confuse people.  After going through many dozens of Japanese fashion magazines though, I realized that my blog would be kind of like a multi-genre Japanese fashion magazine.  So what can you expect to see on here?

Fashion: I was never a trendy girl growing up (my mom sewed a lot of dresses for me when I was little), but I’ve always loved clothes and dressing up.  I especially love Japanese fashion, so you will see many Japanese fashion-inspired things on here. Japan is great at making things cute, and I love cute things.   I enjoy sewing and crafting, and recently went back to school to earn a degree in Fashion Design from FIDM/Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising, so you will see some of my own designs on here as well.  I am into Lolita fashion (Sweet and Classic), nail art (although I can only do the basic stuff), and deco art (rhinestones on everything? YES PLEASE).  Beauty often goes hand in hand with fashion, so I will also sometimes post about makeup, hair products and styling, and skin care.

Cosplay: I have been cosplaying since 1999, and while I haven’t been able to cosplay as much as I would like lately, it will always be one of my big hobbies.  I love recreating my favorite characters and meeting with other fans at conventions.  I am also the leader of Angel Hearts, a cosplay dance group that has been performing at events around California since 2003.

Music and Idols: One of my great passions.  I am OBSESSED with idols and listen to a lot of J-pop.  This is the reason I started Angel Hearts, so I could play idol too by making their outfits and learning their songs and dances.  Right now I’m really into Korean groups that release songs in Japanese — I prefer the Japanese aesthetic (it’s typically cuter and softer), but I can’t deny how hardworking and skilled Korean groups are.  They also have awesome dance choreography.  Idols are often plastered all over Japanese fashion magazines, and they can certainly be style inspiration too, so don’t be surprised if I occasionally gush about how much I love a certain song/video/group/idol.

Video Games and Anime: My dad was one of the early computer nerds, so I grew up on computers and video games. Even as a toddler, I played games on PC, Atari 2600, and Commodore 64.  I’m a huge Nintendo fan.  I also really love Starcraft (sorry it’s not cute) and Ragnarok Online.  Although I haven’t had as much time to play games lately, being a gamer is something that is ingrained in me and will never change.  I discovered anime as a teen and started watching it because it looked like “video game art”.  I probably won’t be posting so much about the games and anime themselves, but it’s obviously closely related to my interests, so it will inevitably creep in here and there.

Artwork: I have been drawing ever since I could hold a pencil.  When I was young I wanted to become a comic artist and drew some of my own comics.  I actually first became involved in the anime and convention community through the fan art community.  Watching other amazing artists struggle to make it in the comic industry made me rethink it as a career though.  Also as it turns out, I am terrible at backgrounds.  Even now I am only trained in fashion illustration, but artists like Sakizou give me hope.  I still love drawing and would love to do some art books someday.  I unfortunately don’t draw much at all these days, but I hope to get back into it and post some of my art here.

Cats!  …Well ok, I don’t actually talk about cats, but I really like cats.  Like, a lot (if that weren’t obvious by the site name).  So if I suddenly start talking about cats out of the blue, don’t be surprised. =^.~=  I’ve been known as a kitty girl ever since I was little.  I have a little black furball named Nightshade who’s gotten to be quite elderly (she’s 17). Also my first online screen name was “Baby Snow Leopard”, so if you notice that I have a special affinity for snow leopards and snow leopard themes, that is why.

AND OTHER THINGS!  Ok, I’m warning you now.  Sometimes I just get distracted, and talk about really random things.  Like roses.  Milk tea.  Hello Kitty.  Dishware.  This blog is really just about a shy geek girl who aspires to be cute in all aspects of life and wants to share the things she loves with everyone.  LET US GO FORTH AND BE CUTE!

If you are interested in more of my daily musings and random chatter, follow me on Facebook and Twitter!

Thank you for reading, and I hope there will be many fun times ahead! ♥