Arizona Renaissance Festival and Twig the Fairy

Last Saturday I went to the Arizona Renaissance Festival for the first time.  When it comes to Ren Fest, I’m pretty spoiled because the first one I ever went to was the Minnesota Renaissance Festival, which is one of the largest and oldest.  I’ve also been to the one in Irwindale in Southern California, which is apparently the oldest Renaissance festival in the US.  However, I was delighted to find that Arizona also has a large Renaissance festival.  There was a lot going on, and I recognized a number of the vendors.  I was a little surprised, because it’s so hot here, but it makes sense that they can hold a big event here early in the year when it is too cold and wet in other parts of the country.  One thing I noticed pretty quickly was that not so many people dressed up, and a lot of people were carrying parasols.  It was about 90°F, which wasn’t so terrible in the shade, but the sun was so intense that it just hurt.  It was the last weekend of the festival, so next year I will definitely try to go earlier.

My favorite part of Renaissance festivals is all the fairy and fantasy themed stuff.  I like to go as a fairy myself when I dress up (or as an elf when I feel like wings are too much trouble).  During one of my early trips to the Minnesota Renaissance Festival, I took a picture of Twig the Fairy.  Later I saw her again with more spectacular wings plus her own booth and merchandise!  The images she creates are just beautiful, and as a huge fairy fan I was really inspired by her work.  She is super cute in person and also plays delightful music on her flute.  I love watching her interact with the kids.

TwigBooks

I was really excited when I saw the advertisement for the AZ Ren Fest because there was a picture of Twig!  It turns out AZ is one of the Ren fests she comes to!  I was lucky and ran into her almost immediately upon entering the festival.  I got even luckier that she was at her booth when I got there!  They had a discount for buying three books, so I picked up the three I didn’t have, and now I have all five of her books.  I also got them all signed!

TwigSign

I told her I had all of her books, and she made a cute gesture and then wrote a note in the last book (Twig the Fairy does not speak, she communicates through gestures and music).

TwigSig

Then of course I had to take a photo with Twig!  I am suuuuper happy at how well this photo turned out!  She is so pretty!

TwigKie

Next time I’ll dress up as a fairy for sure! :)

My Favorite U-KISS Music Videos

U-KISS recently released a new Japanese album “Action”, which reached #1 on the Oricon!  It may be one of my favorite U-KISS songs and Promotional Videos ever.  The song is like an upbeat version of “Someday”, which is also one of my favorite songs.  Both songs are about doing your best and looking forward to a positive future no matter how tough things get — a theme very appropriate to U-KISS, who just recently won their first Korean music show award since their debut seven years ago.   Big congrats to my favorite group!  They’ve come a long way.

The song is so catchy!  I can’t get over the cutesy dance and Easter egg colored suits.  Really, guys aren’t supposed to be this cute.  I’d like to take this moment to point out that besides the youngest, these guys are all in their mid-20s.  Much respect to them for doing a song like this.  It’s so happy~!  I also like that the rappers get to sing in this song.  It’s a shame Avex only post short versions of PVs, because the ending features cheesy English rapping by Eli, super-derpy dancing by Kiseop, and a ridiculously cute ending pose. ♥

Let’s face it… U-KISS has had some not-so-great songs in the past, but they’ve worked hard and really polished their skills and image.  With their fun personalities, they put on a great show, and perhaps because of their struggles they’re always very appreciative of their fans.  For us English-speaking fans, it also helps that two of their members are American, and three are fluent in English. I’ve always been a very visual person, and U-KISS has a lot of great dance routines as well as catchy songs. Here are my favorite U-KISS music videos:

NEVERLAND

NEVERLAND is my #1 favorite U-KISS song AND video.  Perhaps because I grew up as a gamer, I’ve always liked music with techno and other electronica influences.  I love the dance routine, and I think everyone looks good in this video.  That’s a lot of eyeliner (not complaining). Also I have a thing for water stages.  I want to dance in one someday~

Inside of Me

Inside of Me is such a romantic song, and I think the style perfectly complements Shining Idol Kevin’s sweet image.  Maybe I’m biased, but to me this is totally a Kevin song.  I would have liked the video better if they’d shown the dance routine (yes, there is one!), but the visuals work well with the song and it’s still one of my favorites.  The song itself is definitely in my top five for U-KISS. P.S. Don’t let Eli wear trench coats.

Tick Tack

Tick Tack (Tick Tock… think Japanese pronunciation) was U-KISS’s first Japanese single, thus the first U-KISS video I ever saw.  I became an instant fan.  The music style and the cool dance and visuals are right up my alley.  Also features a lot of eyeliner (it came out right after NEVERLAND).  I liked this and U-KISS’s other Japanese songs so much, it inspired me to look up their Korean songs, which was my first step into the world of K-pop.  I’d been a huge fan of TVXQ, but I still only listened to them in Japanese.  This song bugs me a little because I don’t believe there is ever a good reason to lie.  The song is about lying to a lover because they can’t be together and he’s trying to make the breakup easier for her.  I understand the sentiment, but I can’t think of any situation in real life where this would be applicable.  Still, the song is very catchy and has an addictive beat.

ALONE (Dance Shot)

The refrain of ALONE has the kind of Avex J-Euro sound that I love.  This is my favorite U-KISS dance, but I wasn’t a huge fan of the styling in the video.  Thank goodness for Dance Versions!  “Is it Ace of Spades or the only Joker?”

Standing Still

Like ALONE, Standing Still is a dark song with a good beat and awesome dance choreography… but I’m not a fan of the styling (it’s similar to ALONE, and was released soon after).  Unfortunately, there’s no Dance Version for this one.  There’s a fair amount of English lyrics.  A few people have told me this is their favorite U-KISS song.

Fall in Love

When I first watched Fall in Love, I didn’t think much of it.  “That was a nice song.  The video was well done.”  But it didn’t blow me away — it’s not that kind of song.  As I listened to it more and more though, it grew on me and I started thinking WOW, this is actually a really good song.  U-KISS’s rapper AJ wrote this song (I’m impressed because it’s in Japanese!), and he really did a great job showcasing each of the member’s strong points.  This is the kind of song that pulls at your heartstrings.  Don’t be fooled — this song is actually pining over lost love, as illustrated with the bursting bubbles.

I could go on forever about U-KISS music videos, but those are my favorites!

Throwback Thursday – Zelda and Meeting Japanese Cosplayers at Anime Expo 2001

The Legend of Zelda has always been one of my favorite series of games, and Princess Zelda has always been one of my favorite characters.  Even back in the Zelda I and II days, I loved the images of Zelda and wanted to cosplay her before I even knew what cosplay was.  It’s still my dream to cosplay those old versions of Zelda.

My first Zelda cosplay was the Ocarina of Time version, which I first wore at Anime Expo 2001.  My family and I spent a long time working on it, and it was my first experience making armor with thermoplastic and casting ears out of latex.  Back in those days, no one cosplayed Zelda, and it was probably because of the lack of reference.  This was before Smash Bros. Melee was released, and the only reference I had of adult Zelda from Ocarina of Time was footage from the game, which my friend had taped for me on VHS, and a tiny drawing on the cover of a CD soundtrack.  Unfortunately, despite the amount of work we put into the costume, the details were pretty inaccurate.  When Smash Bros. Melee came out with Ocarina Zelda as a playable character and all kinds of reference for her costume, it was both a blessing and a curse.  I could finally see all the details, but I realized that in order to make my costume accurate, I would have to completely remake a significant portion of it.  Maybe someday I’ll get around to it, as this is still one of my absolute favorite costumes.

My Ocarina of Time Zelda Cosplay from Anime Expo 2001 and Japanese cosplayers Kaie, Barbie, and Nomi.

My Ocarina of Time Zelda Cosplay from Anime Expo 2001, and Japanese cosplayers Kaie, Barbie, and Nomi.

The memory that stands out in my mind with this costume was running into Japanese cosplayers BK Moon (Barbie Tsukino and Kaie Tada) and Nomi backstage before the masquerade — or rather, having them run after me.  My friend said, “Hey, the Japanese cosplayers are calling you, but I can’t understand what they’re saying.”  Their interpreter then came up to me and said, “They really like your costume and would like to take a closer look if that’s ok.”  Those three had been my cosplay idols ever since I saw them at my first anime convention, Anime Expo 1999, so it was kind of surreal to have them gushing over my own costume.  My friend later realized that they were calling “Piichi-hime!  Piichi-hime!” — they had mistakenly called me Princess Peach instead of Zelda. ^^; I guess even in Japan Zelda wasn’t well recognized.

This is a memory I’ll always treasure, because even now these cosplayers are my idols.  I found out only recently that BABI and KAIE now have their own Gothic Lolita brand, Triple Fortune.  Back then I never could have imagined them in J-rock or Gothic Lolita style!  They were probably best known for their Sailor Moon and Sailor Venus costumes.  It’s really inspiring to see how far they’ve come, and it helped give me the courage to continue working toward my own transformation from cosplayer to designer.

EZ DO DANCE

Have you seen the anime Pretty Rhythm?  I haven’t watched very much of it, but it seems to me like Aikatsu on Ice.  It’s cute, but ice skating idols is a bit of a stretch for me.  Maybe I should watch some more though, because Avex created some idol groups for this show, and they cover some well known Avex songs.  I just heard this one — EZ DO DANCE by Prizmmy☆.

The girls are super cute!  But hearing this song sung by such young girls is just… weird.  The original song was by TRF, released in 1993.  It was very different from the kind of music that was popular in Japan at the time but became a big hit.

Speaking of TRF, they released a series of dance workout DVDs called EZ DO DANCERCIZE a few years back, and apparently it was really popular in Japan.  I was really tempted to pick up a copy myself.  Dancing to your favorite songs is certainly a great way to work out!

Simple Nail Art Tips

My Nail Polish and Supplies

I LOVE nail art.  I try to keep my fingernails painted on a regular basis because my nails are particularly thin and brittle (due to health conditions), and polish helps keep them from breaking as often.  I have over 150 bottles of nail polish, which I blame partially on the year I spent working front desk at a nail salon, staring at a wall of polish all day.  I became interested in nail art when I saw Japan’s INCREDIBLE nail art magazines.  You can see some of the designs I’ve done on my Facebook page.  I haven’t tried any of the more complicated designs, but there are a lot of easy things you can do to jazz up your manicure or pedicure.

Nail Decorations

Tools and Materials:

  • Nail polish – This is obvious, but there are different kinds of nail polish too, like glitters, sheer iridescent colors, and shatter polishes, which you can use for layering.  You can also get small bottles of polish with skinny brushes which are specifically intended for nail art.
  • Base coat and top coat – It’s important to use a base coat to protect your nails from staining and a top coat to seal in all your work when you’re done (and give it a glossy finish).  They also help your manicure/pedicure last longer.
  • Nail stickers – You can get full-nail stickers for an “instant manicure” or smaller designs that you can scatter on your nails.  They’re easy enough to find at drug stores and Target and such, but you’ll probably find a better selection at a beauty supply store (like Sally’s Beauty Supply).
  • Confetti, jewels, and 3D decorations – jewels are easy to find but you’ll probably have to go to a place like Sally’s or a nail supply store to get things like 3D hearts, flowers, chain, etc.
  • Loose glitter – Any kind of craft glitter will do.  Some nail supply stores will sell small containers of loose glitter, too.
  • Misc tools – Beauty and nail supply stores offer variety of tools to help you with your nail art.  Wooden sticks and clean-up pens can help you clean up your edges and remove polish from surrounding skin.  Tiny brushes help with painting designs (I’ve been meaning to get a slightly larger one for doing French tips).  There are also dotting tools (my angled brush has a metal dotter on the other end) and pickup tools with rubber tips that let you pick up confetti and jewels more easily.  Tweezers also help with placing decorations.

Nail Art by Kie

Easy designs you can do:

  • Paint each nail a different color – or just use two or three colors.  You can do rainbows, ombre, or other coordinating colors.  This is the easiest thing to do to make your nails a little more fun!  For a while it was trendy to just paint the ring finger a different color.  I like to use at least three colors though.
  • Stickers – stickers are super easy to use and make your nails look like you spent way more time on them than you did.  After your base dries, just plop your stickers on top (it’s easier if you use tweezers), put top coat over everything, and you’re done!
  • Glitter – Layering with glitter polish is really easy, of course.  Painting designs in glitter (tips, half-moons, stripes, dots, etc.) takes a little more skill and patience.  If you want to use loose glitter, you can paint your nails or part of your nails with clear polish (top coat) and then sprinkle the loose glitter on top.  After it dries a little, you can brush away excess glitter and put more top coat on top to seal it.  It’s messy so I do this on top of a sheet of paper, then I try to collect the excess glitter and put it back in the container.
  • 3D decorations – These can be added while your polish is still tacky.  Just press them into your wet polish or top coat and they should stick.  Then cover them with a layer of top coat.
  • French tips – this takes a little more skill… or you can cheat and use French tip stickers to tape off the end and help you get a clean tip.  Tips don’t have to be white!  Try different colors!
  • Paint your own designs! – This is a lot more difficult, but your imagination is the limit! …. or maybe your skill with your non-dominant hand.  Once your base color dries, use a small brush and draw stripes, dots, hearts, flowers, or whatever you want.  With nail art pens, you can draw patterns on your nails more easily.  Sally Hansen’s nail art pens can actually be washed off with water, so if you make a mistake you can always wash it off and try again (but when you get it right, make SURE not to forget your top coat, or it will come off the next time you wash your hands)!  If freehand designs are intimidating to you, try starting with just one nail, like your ring finger or big toe.

I hope this helps inspire some of you to try some nail art of your own!  Special occasions and holidays are great chances to experiment with festive designs.  Have fun with it!

Idol Dances and ParaPara – Plus Tips for Learning

As you may have noticed in my activities with Angel Hearts, I love to dance.  I am not professionally trained, but I love learning and performing idol dances and ParaPara. When I was little I really wanted to be a dancer, but I was never allowed to take lessons.  When I started cosplaying, I fell in love with the character Kitty-N, a pink and white dancing catgirl idol from Bust A Move (Bust A Groove in the US).  I loved her so much that when I cosplayed her, I was inspired to try learning all of her dance moves as well.  Some of it was too difficult for someone with no dance experience, but I managed to learn a few of her combos and performed them on stage during cosplay Masquerades.  Little did I know, that was only the beginning!

In 2000 I started listening to J-pop, and then a friend introduced me to ParaPara, a synchronized club dance which was having a comeback in Japan.  I started learning every dance I could, both J-pop and ParaPara, and it became a sort of daily workout for me.  In fact, even though ParaPara has long gone out of style, I still use my ParaPara Paradise DVDs as my default daily workout (although if there’s a performance coming up, I will practice whatever songs are in the show).  Remember those 80’s aerobics videos? Ok, maybe I just dated myself, but ParaPara Paradise is kind of like a Japanese version of aerobics videos to me.  There are seven volumes, each a little under an hour, so it’s a fun way to stay in shape.

My friends used to joke that I was a dancing machine and that my natural state of being was dancing.  I’ve gotten pretty quick at learning dances, so I’d like to share some tips for those who are interested in learning idol and ParaPara dances and are just starting out.

*Tips for Learning Dances*

  1. Find good reference videos.  Ok, this may be kind of obvious, but it’s worth mentioning.  Some J-pop groups release Dance Shot Versions of their music videos.  A lot of K-pop groups take this a step further and release dance studio practice videos.  THE IDOLM@STER game has a built-in “Long Camera” that lets you zoom out to view full dances.  Sometimes though, you don’t have a choice but to gather as many videos as you can of a routine and piece it together.  Don’t forget also that sometimes a close-up version can be helpful for seeing hand gestures and other small movements, like winks!  ParaPara videos are already set up as instructional videos, so you’re good to go.  If you’re using a video off YouTube, you can use a site like Keep It! to save the videos to your hard drive.
  2. Reverse your video.  For this, I like to use VLC Media Player.  It is hands down the best player to help you learn dances.  You can mirror a video by going to Tools > Effects and Filters (ctrl+E).  Click on the Video Effects tab, then the Geometry tab, and then check the box that says “Transform”.  In the drop-down box, choose “Flip horizontally”.  The new version of VLC even remembers this setting so you don’t have to keep resetting it every time you open VLC (because of this, I use VLC for practicing dances and Media Player Classic for watching everything else, so I don’t have to keep changing the settings).  Now the video is flipped so you can just copy the moves without having to think too hard which direction you need to move!  The only thing that can get confusing for me is circles, since I tend to think of them as “clockwise” or “counterclockwise”, and it will be backwards if you reverse the video.  Sometimes I will un-mirror the video just to check that I’m moving in the right direction.
    Of course, if you want to use a video editor to permanently mirror your video, that is a good option too.  You can then share the video without having to worry whether or not everyone has VLC.
  3. Slow it down.  Slowing your video down makes it a lot easier to see complicated moves and follow along when you’re just learning.  VLC will allow you to change the playback speed to whatever you wish.  They’ve changed the interface a few times, but in the latest version for Windows, you can control the speed easily if you make sure you have the Status Bar showing (under View).  In the bottom right of the player there is a box that says “1.00x”.  Click on that and a little window will pop up where you can change the speed.  The arrows will change the speed in set increments, or you can move the slider wherever you want.  Hit “1x” to go back to normal speed.  Typically when I am first learning a song, I will slow it to 67% (one arrow click).  If I’m really having trouble with a section, I will slow it to 50%.  When I’m feeling confident that I can follow along at 67%, I will go back to normal speed.  If the song is really fast, sometimes I need to practice for a while at 80% or 85% before I can turn it back up to full speed.
  4. Break it into sections.  Don’t try to cram everything in at once.  It’s a lot easier if you break the song down into sections and learn one at a time before moving on.  Start on the opening, then move on to the verse, or however it makes sense for you to break up your song.  Dance moves typically repeat for verses and refrains, so if you learned it well the first time around, adding the second part is easy.  After I learn a new section, I start from the beginning of the song and make sure I can do the entire song up to that point before moving to the next section.
  5. Start on the right and be aware of your spacing.  Again, I am not a trained dancer, so I’m not an authority on this, but there are a few things I picked up while learning dances.  First of all, with few exceptions, dances always start on the right side.  You start by stepping with your right foot.  You move your right arm first.  Exceptions to this may be when you’re mirroring someone in a group choreography, your arm moves opposite your foot (most likely your foot will be moving right and your arm left), or if moving left in one section leads into the next section starting on the right side.  This will help you remember your moves in the right order.  Also, you may have seen a group performance where someone is stepping opposite the others.  If you remember to step right at the beginning of each section, you can avoid this problem.  Another thing I’ve noticed with solo dances is that they tend to start and end in the same spot.  If you find that you’ve drifted to the side, or even forward or back from where you started, you may want to check your stepping to find out where you made a mistake.  Sometimes you can get off if you take too big or too small a step, or if you move to one side and forget the other side.  Just remember to keep yourself centered.  When you’re in a group, keep an eye on the others around you to make sure you maintain proper formations.
  6. Practice in front of a mirror.  You may feel like you’re getting a move right, but then when you see yourself in the mirror you realize you’ve got it wrong!  Use the mirror to work out the details in your poses and spacing.  You may find that you’re not reaching far enough, or not bending far enough, that you’re bending the wrong leg, or that your balance is off.  Keep working at it until you look just like the dancers in your reference video!  Remember how a move feels when you finally get it to look right.  If you don’t have a mirror to practice in front of, you can also take videos of yourself or ask someone else to watch you.  These are good ideas anyway, as you may notice a mistake you didn’t see in the mirror when you were busy focusing on your dance, or another person may be able to catch details you missed.  When you have all the details worked out, make sure you don’t become too dependent on your mirror (or reference video!) and that you can still get the moves right without it.  After all, you won’t have anything to look at when you’re on stage!
  7. Remember your posture.  Good posture makes any pose look better!  I myself have a terrible slouch and have to focus on keeping my back straight and my chin up.  Posture exercises and general strength exercises will help your poses look better.  Putting power into your moves will make them look cleaner too.
  8. Listen to the music. Dancing isn’t the same without music, the two go hand in hand.  Remember to listen to your music and get a good feel for the song.  It will help you remember the moves if you can associate moves with sounds and imagine the two together.  It also helps to look at the lyrics (and translations of lyrics if they’re in a language you don’t understand) because a lot of times dance moves are designed to act out the lyrics.  Most of the members of Angel Hearts are not trained dancers, but those who are trained musicians have an easier time dancing because they can count music and find downbeats. However, for those with no music or dance background whatsoever, I find that lyrics are what help them the most in learning and remembering moves.
  9. Dance like you mean it. Dancing is more than just learning a set of moves to a beat.  Be confident and put feeling into your moves!  The most important thing when you’re on stage is to smile and look like you’re enjoying yourself.  If you’re having fun, the audience will have fun too!  Of course, it may not be the best idea to plaster a huge smile on your face if you’re dancing to a sad or angry song.  Keep in mind the mood of your song and focus on getting that mood across, but don’t forget to keep your energy up and dance with confidence!
  10. REPETITION. There is no substitution for practice.  Practice, practice, practice.  Repetition is key.  If you have a performance coming up, make sure you start practicing early enough and keep at it until it feels like second nature.  If you practice enough, you will build muscle memory and you may find yourself going through the routine without having to think much about the next move.  When you know a song well, you will naturally become more confident, and that confidence shows in your dancing.  It also allows you to focus on the finer details and showing emotion if you’re not having to think about what comes next.

I hope those tips were helpful to some of you!  Good luck and let’s have fun dancing!!

Idol Anime

It’s a great time to be an anime idol fan.  The idol anime genre is really exploding, more than I ever could have dreamed of even just five years ago.  Who are your favorite anime idols?  Some of my friends have been using this site to help them sort their favorites: http://kouhi.me/idol/

Here are my top 5:TopIdols

1) Chihaya Kisaragi (THE IDOLM@STER) – Chihaya will forever be my anime idol queen.  Her voice is incredible and she has many beautiful and powerful image songs.  But did you know she is also one of the best dancers?  Her skill level is so high, even her weakness (visual) is stronger than some of the other idols’ strong points.  Unfortunately she is so focused on singing, we rarely get to see her dance.  She is calm, serious, and extremely hard-working, but if you can get her to open up you can see a little of her cute side.

2) Yoshino Nanase (Wake Up, Girls!) – Apparently I go for the “cool” types.  I think personality-wise I can identify with Yoppi a little more than the other “cool” idols.  She’s a little cuter and less…. severe.  She’s mature, determined, and takes her job seriously, but she’s also not afraid to share her doubts and feelings.  She just wants to be the best she can be, as an idol and a leader. She has a nice voice too~

3) Rin Shibuya (THE IDOLM@STER Cinderella Girls) – Another blue idol, thankfully this time with brown hair.  I knew I would like her from the moment I saw her, so I’m really excited that Cinderella Girls is getting its own anime.  She looks serious and unfriendly but is actually a very nice girl.  I look forward to seeing how she grows as an idol.

4) Ichigo Hoshimiya (Aikatsu!) – Ichigo is everything in an idol that I wished I could be until I realized I was more of a “cool” type.  Aikatsu may be a crazy over-the-top magical girl series but I think if you put all the magic and goofy outfits aside, Aikatsu really captures the heart of what idols are, and Ichigo is “The Idol”.  She’s pink, cute, energetic, passionate, pure-hearted, and just seems to sparkle.  The whole idol-aura thing may seem silly, but I have seen it in real life — a idol with a presence so strong that they just seem to shine and you forget everything else.

5) Miyu Okamoto (Wake Up, Girls!) – I was immediately drawn to Miyu’s design — tall and curvy with brown pigtails and cute outfits, finally a cute-type that isn’t a little girl!  But when I heard her voice, I thought oooooh no… she’s a little too ditzy for me.  She’s still really cute though.  Appearance-wise, she’s exactly what I like, and though she may be air-headed, she’s caring and passionate, and in a way she can be intuitive as well.  She seems to really understand what it means to be an idol.  She also works at a maid cafe, which I can identify with.

It’s worth noting that I put Takane Shijou in sixth place.  I really love Takane and had a hard time deciding between her and Miyu, but in the end Miyu won because she’s more natural.  I could do without Takane’s silver hair and strange personality, but I love her voice and her style.  Takane was another character that I latched onto as soon as I saw her.

As for series as a whole, THE IDOLM@STER is still my favorite.  It was really the pioneer of the idol genre.  There are so many good songs, dances, outfits, and characters, there’s really something for everyone.  Wake Up, Girls! is a close second for me.  WUG is a more realistic take on idols, and I love that it shows some of the hardships that idols face and explore what it really means to be an idol.  I also love that it takes a jab at AKB48 — if you want to know why I don’t like AKB and its sister groups, just watch WUG.

No matter your preferences, idol anime has really come a long way.  The first idol anime I watched was Lovedol ~Lovely Idol~ in 2006.  It was terrible.  The songs were awful and the animation quality was poor, so the “dancing” consisted of maybe a two-step and maybe raising their arms at the end of a song.  The girls also looked like anime characters rather than idols.  After this disaster of a series, Idolmaster: Xenoglossia was released, in which they took the characters from the IDOLM@STER series and rewrote them into a mecha series.  I’ll be completely honest, I didn’t even watch it (but I do kind of want that Chihaya figure, she looks cool…).  It was a while before THE IDOLM@STER got a real anime series, and it was everything I could have hoped for and more.  It had all the voice actors and songs from the game that the fans already knew and loved.  The anime also introduced a bunch of great new songs.  It brought a lot of new fans to the series and really raised the bar on the idol genre.  There used to be an obvious difference between anime music and Jpop, but these days it’s sometimes hard to tell.  Also, 3D technology has greatly improved and has made it possible to animate complex dance routines that would otherwise be difficult and costly to draw.  Now there are many idol series such as Love Live!, Aikatsu!, Wake Up, Girls!, and even AKB0048.

As a huge idol fan, I’m really happy that the idol genre is doing so well these days.  But before idol anime, there were still anime idols.  When I think back, who were some of my favorite anime characters who were idols?  Lynn Minmay from Macross, Key from Key the Metal Idol (even if she never really became an idol), and even Rei Hino briefly during Sailor Moon R.  Idols always had a special place in my heart, no matter where they came from, but I’m really glad that I have so many people to share my fandom with now!  I’m looking forward to seeing how the genre will continue to grow and what new series there may be.  Maybe someday Morning Musume will even get an anime.  One can dream, right?

Happy New Year!!

Happy New Year, everyone!

I can’t believe it’s 2015 already.  2014 was a busy and life-changing year for me.  In addition to the usual convention and dancing shenanigans, and unfortunately getting really sick in the spring, I was busy preparing for my wedding and my big move out of state, to Phoenix, Arizona!  Unfortunately my poor blog got abandoned in the process.  Actually, a lot of things got abandoned.  BUT–! After a few months settling into my new home, I think I am finally getting close to having everything organized!  The most exciting part about my new house is that I finally have my own sewing and craft room!  I can’t wait to finish getting it organized and get back to work making all kinds of fun things!

I won’t be able to go to many conventions in 2015, but I will at least try to go to all the local Phoenix area events and a few California conventions.  My first convention for 2015 will actually be Anime LA (Jan 9-11), and then the weekend after that is Taiyou Con in Mesa, Arizona.  In 2014 I didn’t have much time to sew or make new costumes, but as I was packing and moving my things, I realized I have waaaay too much fabric, so this year I’d really like to focus on sewing as much as I can and clearing out my stash.  I’m also hoping to finally catch up with my photo backlog, finish coding my site, and start posting my costumes!  Hopefully this year I can stay on top of posting photos when they’re new.  I’ve got a lot to work on, and I hope 2015 will be a year of great progress!  Let’s do this!!

WORLD ORDER

Sometimes I feel a little out of touch with the internet.  I have just been introduced to the awesomeness that is WORLD ORDER.  How did I not know about these guys before??  They are such amazing dancers, and you know how much I love dancing!

WORLD ORDER is a Japanese music group known for their robotic dance choreography.  Their most well known song “MACHINE CIVILIZATION”, which was produced in response to the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami.  This video has well over 6 million views on YouTube!

Of course, anime, videogame, and idol fans like myself would appreciate their latest song, “HAVE A NICE DAY”, in which they invade Akihabara, go to a maid cafe, and wotagei for AKB48.

Too awesome.  Enjoy!!

How I Got Into Cosplay

I have always loved dressing up.  When I was very little, the first thing I would do each morning after I got up was play dress-up.  My mother sewed a lot of dresses for me, and I loved going to the fabric store with her to pick out fabric and patterns for new dresses.  She also made my Halloween costumes, of course.  I even had two Halloween costumes that were inspired by my love of video games — a white magician inspired by Final Fantasy and an adventurer inspired by the American design for Princess Moonbrooke from Dragon Warrior II.  I was never interested in learning how to sew for myself though until I started cosplaying and going to conventions.

When I got into anime, I naturally started wanting to dress up as some of my favorite characters for Halloween.  My mom even said I should dress up as Sailor Mars!  But Halloween only comes once a year.  As I scoured the internet for any Sailor Moon and anime web sites I could find, I came across some sites that included cosplay photos and photos from conventions like Anime Expo.  I was really excited that there were people of all ages who dressed up in anime and game costumes outside of Halloween.

I looked up Anime Expo and found out that it was in Anaheim and that the next one (AX’98) would be exactly one week before my family trip to Disneyland.  So close, yet so far.  I was bummed that I couldn’t go, and when we made it to Disneyland I kept thinking, “Just a week ago, there was an anime convention here, where people dressed up as anime characters.”  My parents said that maybe we could go the next year. (Yessssss!)  At that time I was hanging out on IRC with a group of anime fan artists, and many of them had cosplayed and gone to conventions.  When I found out they were doing a panel and meetup at Anime Expo ’99, I was even more excited to go.  It was a chance to meet my online friends, wear a bunch of costumes, and even enter a costume contest!

The 1999 San Francisco Cherry Blossom Festival Anime Costume Parade and Contest, my first cosplay event. Photo by Eurobeat Kasumi Photography.

My first cosplay experience, however, was not Anime Expo.  I was with my family in San Francisco’s Japantown one weekend when I saw a flyer for a cosplay contest and parade during San Francisco’s Cherry Blossom Festival.  The event was in two weeks!  There was not enough time to make a Sailor Mars costume, so the night before the contest my mom and I threw together an extremely ghetto Tifa costume from Final Fantasy VII.  It was the easiest thing I could think of and didn’t require buying anything (yes, I already had kickboxing gloves).  I met a lot of fun people at the event and even won a DVD box set in the contest.  It was a great introduction to what I could expect to see and experience at anime conventions.

After that, I was inspired by all the costumes I saw.  With only two months left before Anime Expo, my mom and I got to work on making a few more costumes so I would have one for each day.  My mom sewed while I worked on accessories.  I started by upgrading my Tifa so I had all the accessories.  I knew I wanted to be Sailor Mars for the costume contest, but I felt that the regular version was too common and plain for a contest, so I chose the Eternal version.  I hadn’t even thought about the third costume until I happened to find a blue and yellow Adidas bodysuit in my size at Ross.  It didn’t have the right number of stripes, but the moment I saw it, I thought, “Chun-Li!” … and it was cheap.  It was close enough that I knew I could get away with it, and then I would just need a vest, armbands, and hair ribbons.  I have to admit, I actually hate that design of Chun-Li, and I’m more of a Cammy fan (in junior high I was obsessed with black lace-up boots because of her), but this was too good of an opportunity for me to pass up.  My Chun-Li costume was well received at AX and some people even told me, “Wow! You have the legs for Chun-Li!”  (I was active in martial arts back then and was fairly muscular.)  To this day, I am still not sure if that is a compliment.

So I went to Anime Expo 1999 with three costumes: Alpha Chun-Li, Eternal Sailor Mars, and Tifa.  I had so much fun, met so many people, and took pictures of EVERYTHING.  When I got home I connected with the people I’d met online and started joining more communities and looking up more conventions.  In 2000 I graduated from high school and I went to as many conventions as I could — FanimeCon, Sakura Con, Anime Expo, Otakon, and Ani-Magic.  The most fun for me was participating in cosplay groups and meeting other cosplayers who were fans of the same series.  I am thankful to my parents for allowing me to travel to all of these events — especially the out of state ones, because for the next ten years I was only able to go to California events.

My mom taught me how to sew so I could make my own costumes.  Although she still occasionally sews something for me as a favor, I make most of my costumes myself.  Unfortunately in recent years I have not been able to make as many costumes and travel to as many events as I would like (real life comes first), but cosplay is a hobby I know I won’t be giving up any time soon.  I have an insanely long cosplay wish list and am constantly adding new ideas.  I also met my best friends and fiancé through cosplay and conventions.  I have so many great memories from cosplay, so as long as there is more fun to be had, I will continue making new costumes and dressing up with my friends.