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DIY Totoro Highlights at Anime Boston’s Artists Alley

25 Apr Totoro Kimono

There’s never a shortage of Totoro crafts at Anime Boston! This years DIY Miyazaki highlights are featured below: A hand-painted (and home-sewn) kimono by Hanabi Kimono, and plushies by Sam and Rae Crafts.

Totoro Kimono

Handpainted on gingham nursery cloth. Note the soot sprites on the belt!

Totoro Kimono detail

Wonderful flair on the left hip.

Totoro Plushie

Totoro is my spouse's spiritual guide

More Totoro plushies

All of them eminently huggable.

Disney’s Anime Connection: Hayao Miyazaki

8 Apr
Kiki's Delivery Service cosplay at Anime Boston 2009

Kiki's Delivery Service cosplayer at Anime Boston 2009

Why yes, the advent of anime con season has got me a little more anime-obsessed than usual! So it’s not surprising that this week’s Jentasmic! at StudiosCentral encourages Disney fans to explore the works of Hayao Miyazaki. Disney has released several Miyazaki films, including production of the English dub tracks, providing a real service to those of us who frequently introduce others (especially families) to anime.

The Family That Geeks Together, Keeps Together

5 Apr
Anime Boston 2007, with Dan Hess and my son

Anime Boston 2007, with Dan Hess and my son

Wondering what I’m up to when I’m not geeking out about Disney? Well, I just might be geeking out about anime, or nerdcore, or even sneaking in a little tabletop gaming. And now that convention season is upon us, I’m writing a whole lotta powerpoint slides.

If you’re interested in any of these aspects of geek culture, swing by my family’s Facebook page: The Family That Geeks Together. We’ll be presenting our signature panel at Anime Boston 2011 this year, as well as a couple others; information is on our Facebook events page, plus one more panel I’m on at Anime Boston this year.

If you’re at Anime Boston, ConnectiCon, or PortCon this year, come say hello! I’m always easy to spot at these cons: Just look for the middle-aged lady with the short bleached blonde hair. There’s rarely more than one.

Another Anime Boston 2011 Panel: Get Offa My Lawn!

18 Mar

I’ve just agreed to serve on one more Anime Boston 2011 Panel: Get Offa My Lawn, in which us old geezers school the young’uns on how good they have it these days.

Back in my day, we had three anime shows, and we found them by turning the UHF dial. And we liked it that way.

(Which three, you might ask? Well, Kimba, Speed Racer, and Astro Boy of course.)

So . . . if you’re interested in Japanese animation or just plain want to watch a bunch of people running around Boston in awesome costumes, or if you’re intrigued by any of the other panels I’m involved with, mark your calendar for April 22-24, 2011. The old geezer panel is currently scheduled for 5pm on the 22nd, but schedules are subject to change.

Even if you don’t make it to any of my panels, I’m pretty darn easy to spot: Just look for the middle-aged lady with short blonde hair, glasses, and (most likely) carrying a Tokidoki bag or Totoro backpack. Even just the middle-aged part narrows the crowd down a whole lot.

My Anime Boston 2011 Panels: Hello Kitty Theme Park, Family Geekdom

23 Feb

Dear Daniel at Sanrio Puroland

Hello Kitty's boyfriend (husband?) Dear Daniel, in the Sanrio Puroland afternoon parade

Long-term readers of this blog might just remember that my favorite non-Disney theme park is Sanrio Puroland, the five-story indoor Hello Kitty theme park I visited in 2002.

Sanrio Puroland is located in Tama City, about 30 minutes outside Tokyo. You can take the subway there, if you don’t mind traveling through a good number of stations where the signs are written only in Japanese and Chinese characters. Luckily, I had a Japanese friend in Tokyo who gave me excellent directions, and my then-five-year-old son and I found our way there with little difficulty (the rest of the family decided to spend the day in Tokyo rather than visiting Hello Kitty’s homeland . . . gee, I can’t imagine why!).

This April, at Anime Boston 2011, I’ll be presenting a session titled, “Hello Kitty Holyland: A Personal Journey.” From the not-yet-published Anime Boston 2011 program guide:

Sure, you love Hello Kitty, but did you know she has her very own fivestory indoor theme park in Tama City, a quick commute from Tokyo? And have you ever considered making the ultimate Sanrio pilgrimage? Come to this panel to hear first-hand stories of my journey to this site where gaijin rarely tread with my then-five-year-old son, and watch the super-hard-to-find Sanrio animated and live action video that inspired three generations of my family to cross the Pacific.

If you’re going to be at Anime Boston, stop by to say hello! I’m also presenting as part of The Family That Geeks Together:

Ever wonder about this anime stuff your kids are into? Worried you could never understand all these crazy shows? Wish you could clue the parents into how great your favorite shows are, or why you spend all your free time editing AMVs and haunting costume shops? An actual family – two parents & a 14-year-old – talk about their shared love of anime and cosplay, offering tips on bridging the generation gap from either side. Bring your frustrations and questions, and come away with practical ideas for how to make anime cons a new family tradition.

Detailed information about both these panels, as well as my husband‘s panel on Anime and the Japanese Experience of  War, is available on our family Facebook page.

Jentasmic: Who Are You Calling Geek?

8 Aug
My family and I cosplaying Jet, Spike, and Vicious from Cowboy Bebop (left to right). Just try to ignore the super-boring convention center background!

A Broke Hoedown family portrait: Jet, Spike, and Vicious from Cowboy Bebop (left to right). Just try to ignore the super-boring convention center background!

When anime cons have been at your local convention center or mall, have you scoffed at those wackos dressed up as their favorite anime or video game characters? It’s all a bit beyond the pale, eh? Well, somehow this week’s Jentasmic column on the relationship between Disney geeks and Anime geeks bring to mind a certain Kris Kristofferson song:

‘Cos everybody’s got to have somebody to look down on.
Who they can feel better than at anytime they please.
Someone doin’ somethin’ dirty, decent folks can frown on.
If you can’t find nobody else, then help yourself to me.

This week’s Jentasmic! column, written while I was packing for last weekend’s ConnectiCon multi-genre geeky convention, talks in more detail on the topic.

I guess I don’t need to tell you what Disney geeks tend to think about Anime geeks, but I won’t let that stop me. Disney geeks tell me that Anime geeks are just, well, weird. They dress up like their favorite characters, after all, and parade around in the convention center as if there’s nothing to be embarrassed about. They’ll even go out in public that way! And, well, the funny thing is, when Disney geeks are telling me how weird Anime geeks are, we never seem to get past the wardrobe issue.

Anime geeks, on the other hand, tend to think of Disney geeks as boring, mainstream, without any sense of adventure or imagination. Anime geeks see Disney films as lacking in significant plot or character development, and by association see Disney geeks as somewhat unimaginative dullards, to be satisfied by such simplistic entertainment.

I had a fabulous time at ConnectiCon, as you might have already guessed from the cosplay photos posted earlier this week. And it wasn’t all taking pictures, watching anime, and attending panels….I also co-led a panel with my spouse and son, “The Family that Geeks Together, Keeps Together” (ppt slides here). Those Darn Cats podcast listeners should expect to hear some discussion of and live audio from ConnectiCon (including snippets from our panel) in late August/September episodes, so subscribe now and beat the rush! Also actually, this week’s episode is awesomeness of an entirely different variety, as my BFF scored an interview with Devon Dawson, who voiced Jessie the Yodeling Cowgirl with Riders in the Sky on the album Woody’s Roundup.

But I digress.

Next time you see those wacko cosplayers at the local convention center, maybe take a moment to ponder the look you get from your co-workers when you tell them you’re going to Walt Disney World again. Do you really want to throw stones from that glass house?

Kimba the White Lion King?

14 Oct

If you’re old enough to have grown up watching Kimba the White Lion, you’ve probably noticed it bears some similarity to Disney’s The Lion King. And if you’re geeky enough to read this blog, you probably already know there’s some controversy over whether The Lion King is an unauthorized remake of Kimba . . . or perhaps a tribute, consciously or unconsciously. From Wikipedia:

In 1994, controversy arose over the possible connection of Disney‘s animated feature The Lion King with Kimba the White Lion. Fans in Japan and the U.S. called for the Disney company to acknowledge the use of characters and situations from the Japanese production in the Disney movie. The situation has remained a controversy due to the Disney Company’s statement that no one in the company had heard of Kimba until after The Lion King was released — in spite of the fact that people related to the production of The Lion King had referred to “Kimba” as the main character of The Lion King.

FlashFlood27 has posted a video to YouTube, so let’s review:

Kimba was my first cartoon love. When I was five years old, and we moved from New York to California, I comforted myself by drawing pictures of Kimba sleeping in my room, keeping me company in our new home. I loved loved loved his sweet girlfriend Kitty (whom I now find embarrassingly saccharine, but I digress) . For years, I wouldn’t watch The Lion King, on the general principle that it sounded like a Kimba rip-off, even before I heard others talking about the controversy.

If you’re feeling nostalgic for Kimba all of a sudden, you might find yourself tempted to pick up the feature film Jungle Emperor Leo. But if you do, be warned . . . it’s not a comforting movie for small kids. I learned that the hard way.

Hey Totoro Fans, Wanna Get Creeped Out?

23 Apr

The Best in Show winner from the Anime Boston 2007 Anime Music Video contest takes footage from the adorable, charming, friendly movie My Neighbor Totoro and twists it into a truly frightening bit! Something Wicked This Way Comes is available to view online at You can also download a copy if you register at (search for “something wicked this way comes totoro and it should be the first link”).

Disney, Cosplay, and Anime Boston 2007

23 Apr

In a recent Disney Blog post, John Frost linked to a video of Disney Princess cosplay at the 2005 San Diego Comic Con, and asked:

Cosplay is heavily Anime oriented. Anyone know why there isn’t more Disney stuff? (Aside from the fact that it originated in Japan.)

Stitch at Artists AlleyWell, um, if we’re talking strictly cosplay, we’re talking about a particular cultural phenomenon rooted in Japanese animation fan culture, and expressed in the US almost exclusively at anime conventions. Disney characters show up at anime cons mostly in the context of Kingdom Hearts cosplay. And in all fairness, the word is sometimes bandied about a bit more casually than cosplay purists would prefer. Here’s the definition currently listed on wikipedia:

Cosplay (コスプレ kosupure?), a portmanteau of the English words “costume” and “play”, is a Japanese subculture centered on dressing as characters from manga, anime, tokusatsu, and video games, and, less commonly, Japanese live action television shows, fantasy movies, or Japanese pop music bands. However, in some circles, “cosplay” has been expanded to mean simply wearing a costume.

(I’ve cosplayed a couple times myself. Once as Sgt Keroro from the Sgt Frog manga, accompanied by my son as Private Second Class Tamama; and once as Kiki from Kiki’s Delivery Service, accompanied by my son as Gigi. Trust me, you don’t want to see the pictures.)

But if by cosplay we mean “people wearing costumes,” I’d have to argue that Halloween is the single largest cosplay event in America, and that Disney characters are hard to avoid. While Disney’s supremacy in the US animation market is surely a major reason for this, there’s also the easy availability of mass-produced costumes of Disney characters, which is very much outside the DIY aesthetic of cosplay.

Captain Jack SparrowCaptain Jack SparrowAnd even at anime conventions, bits and pieces of Disney crop up, for better or for worse. (Despite my Disney fandom, I’d rather see anime cons stay focused more strictly on anime and Japanese culture.) Given the long-term battle of Pirates vs. Ninjas, you know you’ll always find at least one Captain Jack Sparrow. This year I found two, one of whom had found himself a rather large key to Davy Jones chest.

Warning invadersThere were also a few Stitch sightings, including one in which several Stitch heads were placed atop poles in the Dealer’s Room, as if to warn potential invaders as to how strongly the locals will defend themselves. Or perhaps the proprietor had recently been to Stitch’s Great Escape, and left with a few things to work out in his psyche. My son tells me that the pink creature looking much like Stitch is Angel, Experiment 627.

Power RangersTotoroPower Rangers showed up, though of course Disney acquired rather than created them. And finally, one of my favorite anime characters of all time, not created by Disney but now distributed by them, My Neighbor Totoro.

Does all of this look like fun? Well, ConnectiCon, July 13-15 2007 in Hartford, CT, has a broader focus, including Star Wars and Harry Potter, so there’s a little something for every geek. Time to start planning your costume, anime or otherwise.

Need a New Tattoo for Star Wars Weekends?

20 Apr

Here’s some wonderful inspiration: A Hello Kitty storm trooper tattoo, posted here courtesy of the Hello Kitty Hell blog.

I do indeed feel a great disturbance in the Force.

And hey, while we’re talking about Hello Kitty . . . if you’re in the Boston area, you might want to think about dropping into Anime Boston this weekend. It’s just like an awesome anime convention, but with the extra Mouse-tastic geeky goodness of stopping by to meet Dan Hess from, who’ll be there staffing the WirePop table in Artists’ Alley. Word is that he might be wearing his MouseGuest shirt on Saturday, all the better to recognize him.

If you see somebody’s mom running around wearing a Totoro backpack and purple kitty ears, that just might be me. Come say hello.

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