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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.

Tears for Japan: My Neighbor Totoro

15 Mar

Whatever I might write here about the ongoing devastation in Japan, the situation will have changed by the time you read it.

All I know is that I think of the Japanese rural areas affected by the quakes, the tsunamis, the radiation releases, and I can only imagine Totoro weeping.

My Neighbor Totoro is a sweet film about two girls living in rural Japan, their parents, and the forest spirits who watch over and protect them. Nothing happens quickly in this film, and nothing should. It is a meditation on love, on family, and perhaps also on animism, one of the basic principles of Shinto, a significant religion in Japan. It tells a story about fear, and love, and joy, and being comforted and helped by spirits that perhaps nobody else can see, or understand.

Totoro may not be the sort of spirit one would pray to for intervention. While he occasionally does step in to save the day, he’s more the type to give quiet comfort, to roar and fly and pull full-grown trees quickly from the ground. He’s whimsical, and childlike at times. Umbrellas confuse and delight him. He doesn’t always seem to understand how large he is (look how he tries to protect himself from the rain in the movie poster pictured here).

I’ve heard from a couple friends in the Tokyo area, and they both tell the same story: Stranded after the earthquake, impossibly long walk home, difficult logistics, continuing aftershocks, new challenges. And the situation in Tokyo doesn’t compare to the level of devastation nearer the epicenter.

I think of Totoro, and his quiet comfort, and I hope something like that is with the people of Japan today.

Cosplay at Anime Boston 2009

27 May
Scout Trooper with kitty ears

Hmm, didn't I meet his brother at ConnectiCon last year?

Methinks this is the caterpillar from the book, not the movie. Supercool.

Methinks this is the caterpillar from the book, not the movie. Supercool.

No, I was not expecting to see Darkwing at an anime festival....but I was glad I did.

You never know who you'll run into at these conventions. Like, maybe even Darkwing Duck.

I still haven't played Kingdom Hearts, but I recognize this character for sure.

I still haven't played Kingdom Hearts, but I recognize this character for sure.

How do I love Totoro? Let me count the ways.

How do I love Totoro? Let me count the ways.

Kiki, from another great Miyazaki film: Kiki's Delivery Service.

Kiki, from another great Miyazaki film: Kiki's Delivery Service.

My Favorite Stormtrooper

4 Aug
Look, matching ears!

Look, matching ears!

I met this awesome kitty-eared Stormtrooper at ConnectiCon, where members of both Alderaan Base and the 501st New England Garrison were out in force, with plenty of Star Wars costuming goodness from both sides of the Force.

The dashing fellow even had a long, orange tail to match.

I also briefly spotted this fabulous Catbus costume, which should look familiar to any Miyazaki fans (my apologies that the picture’s not better, but I just couldn’t resist sharing it anyway):

There appeared to be just one person in the Catbus costume, which must have made for rather back-breaking locomotion!

Save the Totoro Forest! Charity Auction at Pixar Campus

16 Jul

Have you seen the most-recent Disney DVD release of My Neighbor Totoro, a Hayao Miyazaki tour de force? No? Well then, get thee to Netflix or BestBuy or your DVD procurement method of choice. My Neighbor Totoro is a sweet, gentle, engaging movie about forest spirits that come into the lives of two young girls. Fans of Spirited Away will see similarities in imagery, and a similar Shinto tone.

(My reference to the Disney release is not gratuitous…it’s actually quite important. You don’t want the Fox DVD release, which is a pan-and-scan. This is a gorgeous movie, and you need every single pixel, I swear to you.)

The very-real Sayama Forest, which provided inspiration for the spiritual and aesthetic grounds of the movie is now endangered. The Totoro Forest Project, a non-profit organization, is working for its protection, and is having both a special exhibit at the San Francisco Cartoon Art Museum and a charity auction at Pixar Animation Studios Campus. Dude, I cannot tell you how badly I would like to be at both events!

Tip o’ the hat: Collateral Damage, aka Mr. Broke Hoedown.

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.

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