Archive for photos

Oni Market #28: Kokuhaku (Confessions)

Posted in Oni Market with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 12, 2011 by speedxgrapher

Here we are again, not nearly as much time having elapsed from the last update as (what has ended up being the) usual. Whereas once I had the luxury (and, let us be honest, the drive) to update my blogs on a regular basis, especially this one, now I follow the “having something interesting to share” pattern. Thankfully, apparently such things have started emerging again (with the exception of the whole Japanese disaster, which has taken quite a bit of space here and for which I am NOT thankful), so it seems you will be seeing more of me (lucky you, heh).

At any rate, I have a couple of things lined up for you:

Item #1: I know I have posted the professed “Final Update” on this matter, but now that we know the things bought with the money raised from the charity event have reached their destination, we’ve really come full circle. Here is Hiromi Komatsu’s “thank you” mail:

Dear Olga

We’ve got all your presents at 2nd of this month. All of your stuff are fine, cute and with good sense of design. Some of them have been already taken for kids. Not only kids but also their parents seem happy with your stuff. I really thank you for this and kind words always.

I have a dream here, Olga.When people in my home town can live in peace and quiet some day, I’m sure to go to Greece. If I can meet you there, that would be fantastic.

Take care, Olga, and have fun with your family and friends! 🙂

Hiromi Komatsu

Item #2: Kokuhaku (Confessions). This is obviously the main subject of this post, a 2010 Japanese live-action movie (as in “traditional cinema”, not anime you bleedin’ otaku!), which I watched with some friends on DVD the other day. It was described as a “psychological thriller”, but Japanese live-action cinema being what it is (i.e. usually a disappointment), we did not really expect much. The short description said that a Middle School teacher, Yoko Moriguchi (played by Takako Matsu), has her life torn down, when her 4-year-old daughter is murdered by two of her students (aged 13, I think) and after she quits her job, she resolves to get revenge on them. Sounded fairly interesting, so we gave it a shot.

Let’s start with first impressions: great photography, great shooting and carefully picked music but the fact of the matter was, the first 15 minutes were dominated by Moriguchi’s near-monologue in front of her class (she was their homeroom teacher), as they mostly ignore her. However, the movie actually begins with them drinking little cartons of milk, as part of a government campaign (this is important for later). At first she goes on and on about  renowned Dr. Sakuranomiya, who was her inspiration as a whole and who sadly died of AIDS. Then she announces that she is going to retire because of her daughter’ s death, a murder in fact by two students in that very same classroom and goes as far as saying that she thinks she has been a bad teacher because she wanted to be devoted to her dingle parenting. Thus far, the speech being completely rehearsed and delivered in a droning, monotonous voice, evokes almost no reaction from a class of misconducting, bullying, text-messaging 13-year-olds and yawns from us.

Then, surely and steadily, Moriguchi ups the ante, saying that Sakuranomiya was her lover and once-future husband, that he gave her HIV and that they decided not to marry, in order to avoid stigmatizing their child. The reaction is almost instantaneous, as students shy away from her in panic, as if she is carrying the plague and freak at her merest touch. Various scenes make perfectly clear that, not only her students ignore basic facts about AIDS, but also many adults have complete and hysterical misconceptions on it. Further on, talking 0f her daughter’s murder, she mentions facts, referring to the perpetrators as students A and B, as well as the reactions of student B’s mother, who finds no fault with her son (naturally). She also says that the Juvenile Law part of the Japanese Criminal Justice System protects them from any actual prosecution, so they can walk away from this murder without any real consequences. At this point, the downward spiral begins, as Moriguchi is of course not satisfied with such leniency: therefore, the milk cartons of the two murderers, she informs them, were laced with her dead lover’s  HIV-infected blood! Gasps of horror from the class, round of applause from us.

From this point onward, there is not a dull moment in the movie, as we see the impact of these news on the two boys, as well as the reaction of their classmates (which is bullying, a lot of it!), which is a spiral of madness and hate. The movie is segmented as its title: confessions. So gradually, we get all the facts of the story from the viewpoint of each character, including, the teacher, the murderers, one of the two murderers’ mother, as well as the other’s girlfriend. Amazingly, it is both a mind and time trip, which largely revolves around Shuya Watanabe’ s (student A) mother complex and rejection issues, as well as his conviction that he is a genius (of which his mother, a brilliant mechanic, convinced him at a very young age, then abandoned him).

The whole movie is an elegy to the cruelty and stupidity of adolescence, the hubris of privileged youth (believe me, for all their problems, these kids had not had to fight for anything yet) and how, when taken too far, those who afford them this protection can utterly destroy them. It is also a disturbing look into Japan’s youth, much like REAL WORLD, where juvenile delinquency is glorified, a tendency represented by Mizuki Kitahara (who idolizes Lunacy Girl, a teen murderer who poisoned her parents and becomes the girlfriend of Shuya). Furthermore, the movie is not afraid to point the finger at the parents who are responsible for the delinquency of these children, whether by pampering or negligence and abuse, the two extremes represented by the two murderers’ mothers. In the end, they too will pay the ultimate price.

However, the story reigns in its theme and avoids the mistake of creating an all-around “hate film”. With the exception of Moriguchi’s daughter (a “background victim” to the movie ‘s action), everyone who is destroyed absolutely deserves it. In contrast, the replacement teacher of Moriguchi-sensei, nicknamed Werther (played by Masaki Okada), who is only guilty of being good-natured, naive and hopelessly optimistic, merely has his feelings hurt and Moriguchi-sensei herself is obviously left with nothing when her revenge is done, but not before she has completely taken apart the lives of the two young murderers, both metaphorically and actually, inflicting upon them the full extent of the loss she feels, without ever being caught – it’ s the essence of Nemesis, as the ancients called it, only set in modern-day Japan.

Even with all I have said, I have not gone into any terrible spoilers, for the way everything comes together and more so, the way everything is depicted, is the true treat of this movie. It has the careful plotting of a Sherlock Holmes mystery and the emotional impact of Greek tragedy, centered around the theme of vengeance. Just be patient for the first 15 minutes. It will all make sense in the end and it is totally worth it. The movie was based on the novel of Kanae Minato.

Item #3: Tatsumi: A Life in Animation. As I have said before, I have stopped watching anime for quite some time, but this is one I am willing to give a try. It deals with the real life, as well as the stories of post WWII manga creator Yoshihiro Tatsumi, one of the most “human” and iconic storytellers of manga. This goes beyond retro: it is history, treated by a modern medium.

Well, that is all for today and quite a bit, if I do say so myself. Keep reading. You never know what else I might dig up.

Peace,

Speedgrapher

Feel, Pray, Give [Support Japan Music Event] Final Update

Posted in Archive, Events with tags , , , , , , , on April 28, 2011 by speedxgrapher

Back again dear readers (wow, 3 posts in a week – that’ s scary; maybe we should do this charity thing more often, if for no other reason than forcing me to write here). This is indeed the final update on our (Bloody K., Kami, KrizD, Kyoshiro, N8 and yours truly) effort to provide some support for the people of Fukushima, struck by multiple calamities and still struggling with hardships and the danger of radioactivity.

It all started with an idea over coffee, the event took place on the 15th of April and just two short weeks later we were able to send our boxed prayers and support, with the help of everyone who chose to lend a hand in helping these people in need. Did we change the world? No. Did we turn the tide of this disaster? Surely not, but we did what we could , knowing that each person receiving help is one less person in dire need of it; and when every such gesture is added to the others, then perhaps change can be effected, hope restored, lives rebuilt. We are but a pebble and proud to count ourselves among every other pebble of support from around the world.

The clothes have shipped and are on their way to Fukushima as we speak.

It’ s been an interesting process, revealing how easily will turns into a way, as well as how unwillingness can be an insurmountable obstacle. If anything, it was a very edifying experience, illustrating not just the weight of words and images, but also the deeper meaning of one’ s presence or absence. Thank you all for your support – you know who you are.

Peace,

Speedgrapher

P.S. If you are interested in the full story, you can begin here, then read the two previous posts on this blog. Also, KrizD has posted more photos of the clothes’ shipping on his blog. All photos are courtesy of Kyoshiro.

Feel, Pray, Give [Support Japan Music Event] @ Da Sein (15/04/2011)

Posted in Archive, Events with tags , , , , , , , , , on April 21, 2011 by speedxgrapher

Been a while again… Lots of things going on and an absolutely bare minimum of time: MANGAIJIN ~memories~ came out via Blurb.com just in time for COMICDOM CON ATHENS 2011 (more on that in a future post), over the past two months I have written two new detective stories (“Culture Pop” and “The Gargoyle’s Song”), one set to come out in May and the other (probably) June, then there was COMICDOM CON, of course, as well as the lengthy reports that followed it.

That said, just a week after the convention, we got together with a couple of friends and hosted a charity music event for the victims of the recent earthquake, tsunami and danger of radioactive exposure from the reactor on Fukushima (where radiation levels have now reached those of the Chernobyl disaster, although the contamination is not as widespread).

The whole idea was first mentioned by Kyoshiro around a month ago and after a get-together, KrizD, N8, Bloody K. and myself were on board (as well as Kami, added later). Details on the event were posted on Facebook, a number of blogs, Anime.gr, communicated via posters, as well as a donation box, placed at the entrance of the Hellenic-American Union, over the three days of the comic book convention.

Although we encountered a number of problems at the beginning of the event, with a bit of obsessive compulsion, divine intervention and the presence of one Alexander Markezis, CFO of a corporation known only as “Tremere”, we were able to get the whole thing off the ground. I would like to take a moment and thank all of you who attended this very special event, thereby showing true affection for this country, whose culture we so cherish. Even at the outset, there were those who said that it was meaningless, that any amount we gathered would be insignificant in the face of the disaster, or by comparison to Japan’s economy. I said it then and I say it now: no amount of help is meaningless. No, it won’t save Japan, it won’t even be noticed by anyone other than those who receive the help, but, in this case they are all we care about, the only thing that matters. It is what we could do, so we did it. Pure and simple.

As we speak, the amount collected has been used to buy clothes for children in the struck areas, which will be then distributed via a local relief group in Fukushima. Again, thank you all for being there.

As for the event itself, our roster and succession at the decks was a bit wacky, with KrizD starting, followed by Kami, followed by myself and finally, our lovely freak, N8. We also had a small exhibition at Da Sein’s basement, comprised of photos from various areas struck by the three calamities, as well as art from all over the world, drawn in support of Japan. Furthermore, Kyoshiro selected some pieces from the blog Voices From Japan, which consist Tweets from and related to the situation in the country. I translated the texts into Greek and Kyoshiro was in charge of editing, printing and setting up our exhibits.

Although not at my best (far from it, in fact – three days of COMICDOM and the post-Con edit-binge stretched me to my absolute limit, which accounts for falling asleep at 19:00 this past Monday and waking at 06:30 on Tuesday), I did take some pictures at the event and so I shall cease my rant and leave you with these. Enjoy.

Yours in earnest,

Speedgrapher

P.S. You might notice I still use the nicknames from way back when. This probably won’t change, so learn to live with it.

Oni Market #26: So, What’s Cosplay Then?

Posted in Oni Market with tags , , , , , , on December 17, 2010 by speedxgrapher

No, I have not had an accident which deprived me of my memory, nor is it an early onset of Alzheimer’s, or even one of my usual failing-cosplay-quality-in-Greece rants. No, actually this whole cosplay business (and rather charged discussion) got me wondering: what’s cosplay like elsewhere? Furthermore, what is cosplay to the people of different countries and even more importantly, to those whose country birthed it? (Well, actually birthed it retroactively, since the term was coined by Nobu – often written as “Nov” –  Takahashi in 1984, after seeing trekkies dressed up as the crew of the Enterprise in Los Angeles Science Fiction World Convention). At any rate, the cosplay culture (you could even say “movement”, since Visual Kei and by extension, all the “Kei”, are essentially costume plays targeted at varied but not necessarily different audiences) was born in Japan and integrated into the everyday life of its youngsters (up to the age of 25, mostly), whether as a past-time (the Harajuku Sunday Outings), a commercial tool (advertising of manga, anime, games and along the way, anything from ramen to love hotels) and even a full-time job (whether it’s sewing, modeling or photography, or a measure of all of the above put together).

Night Elf Cosplay by helloloveducks of deviantArt. Simple materials, elegant result.

Now, if you google “cosplay”, “cosplay photos” etc. you will get something in the area of 40000000 results, so this is not really a good way to go about looking for cosplay around the world. However, I stumbled on a thing called 2leep, which is an online application for associating blog content (and ultimately augmenting site views) an following a trail of “associated clicks” (and annoying pop-ups) I found a few interesting things. It’s mainly photographic material but it illustrates in an excellent manner some of the things that Tomodachi (affectionately or derisively known as the “Mother of Greek Cosplay”) has been running her mouth dry about: creative care, posture and (glaringly) physique.

Isaac Ferdinand von Kaempfer of Trinity Blood by Cytanin of deviantArt.

On the other hand, I found some articles and interviews (a good number featured in the newly established COSPLAY GEN Magazine) which illustrate the views of the people involved. One was a particularly interesting (though short) interview with a Chinese cosplayer, explaining why she chose the 1925 version of Hatsune Miku, one of the Vocaloid characters (the Vocaloid phenomenon being interesting and frightening in many different ways but that is a discussion for another time). It is also interesting that, although Chinese, in this case being a cosplayer transcends the rivers of spilt and bad blood between the two countries. Another, featured here (unfortunately in French), explains how Harajukers are gradually breaking with the Sunday Outing tradition, because they have had enough of tourists taking pictures, finding new locales unknown to non-natives. Now, in my mind, bizarre though these people may be, they treat this dressing up as part of their lives and not some excuse to indulge in camera whoring.

Hatsune Miku 1925 Version from COSPLAY GEN.

The things I have mentioned above are just the tip of the iceberg: there are tons of sites, articles and photographs out there which, though serving different purposes, all underline one fundamental truth about cosplay: it’s an art celebrating one’s favorite characters, into which goes a great  deal of work and should be treated as such. On the other hand, cheap antics and poorly thought or executed dress-ups often become the subject of Failblog and Demotivational Posters. What follows is a small compilation of sites, posts and pages, which I believe one can find useful in truly understanding what cosplay is about and how people go about it on a global scale.

Tokyo Game Show 2010: cosplay in its natural environment.

51 Sexy Cosplays: because sexy doesn’t mean slutty or trashy. Good examples of attention to physique.

New Fashion Exploration – Cosplay: cosplay overview in a design blog. Note the variations, both of the cosplays, as well as of the character canon.

Pein Sexy no Jutsu by Cytanin of deviantArt. Not canon, yet exceptional (and I don't even like Naruto).

COSPLAY GEN: the magazine’s official site with tons of interviews, tutorials and other interesting material.

Doodles: a Singapore communication artist’s site which includes cosplay photography and her inspirations.

Dhalsim Cosplay: perhaps the best ever example of attention to physique.

Cloud Strife 8-bit Cosplay: the perfect example of cosplay not looking uber-cool, yet being celebrated as an authentic trip down memory lane (and I don’t even like FF7).

Living Cosplay 1: I think the photo and text will be self-expletive.

Living Cosplay 2 and above: this is a bit marginal, since Star Wars and Star Trek dress-up existed long before cosplay itself, but you get the idea.

So, what’s the conclusion? Well, there isn’t one apart from everything I have already said. All that remains is for aspiring cosplayers to browse through the info and get creative, or just drop the matter if they think it’s too much fuss. For the record, since I often hear the excuse “Japan is their home ground” or “you can’t compare stuff from conventions”, only one link is from a convention and of the photos posted here, none are Japanese (even though Hatsune’s cosplayer is Chinese).

Somewhere out there,

Speedgrapher

Oni Market #23: Cosplayers & J-fans @ Comicdom Con Athens 2010

Posted in Events, Oni Market with tags , , , , , , , on April 29, 2010 by speedxgrapher

Hello again dear readers. It’s time for some glorified voyeursim yet again– err, I meant a new photo gallery containing cosplays and featuring some friends from the J-Events. I shall not tarry with pointless chit-chat and will just say two things: first, CHORISSU is on its way to Salonika as we speak and soon I will have more news as to where you can get it, both there and in Athens and second, I would like to congratulate Helen Trigatzi for her Silk Spectre depiction, as well a thank her for putting some of my photos up on her very interesting Deviant Art page. Go and have a look – you will be amazed!

That said, we can move on to the photos. Note that they are an assortment from all three days.

Well, that was it – I did warn you they were just a small assortment, but fun all the same I suppose.

See you around,

Speedgrapher

P.S. [WordPress can go fuck itself because it lost my captions once more. I am too bored and busy to rewrite them. Gomen…] I did rewrite them after all.

Timeflip: Harajuku Street Party

Posted in Events with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on March 30, 2010 by speedxgrapher

Once more time has stumbled its leg  on its proverbial sands and so, even after all this time, I am still not going to complete the Cosplay & Maid Cafe series of posts. It’s either a peculiar time/space aberration, OR the photos from Wrong Group’s Harajuku Street Party were much fewer and easier to edit (I leave it to your collective judgment to figure out which of the aforementioned holds true).

At any rate, given that this party was organized by some of my favorite people, I had promised I would attend since Day 1 of its inception, my recent absence from similar events notwithstanding. Here is the catch though: a couple of days earlier I had caught a case of the seasonal flu (or even a plain old cold affecting my mucus glands – OK, I’ m stopping now). Whatever the case, just the day before I was a royal mess and on Saturday I had woken up in a most inconvenient and unseemly fashion (more disgusting details withheld). The thing about promises though, is that generally I try my damndest to keep them: so I had to go downtown to a meeting about the upcoming COMICDOM CON and then go over to some friends’ house, which was incidentally pretty near the location of the party (if I turned back home after my initial run, there was no way I was going to extract myself a second time).

Generally, I am very skeptical of so-called signs and portents but when the heel of my boot came off its nails at my friends’ house, I admit to questioning the wisdom of going to the party. Then I thought again of many people who would be attending and whom I had wanted to see for some time (I HAVE mentioned I do not get out much, haven’t I?) and as I said to a certain huggable someone, a promise is a promise: so I borrowed a hammer and some nails from my friends ans simply repaired my boot, before setting out.

Besides people being awfully nice after my long absence, the heartwarming meeting with many among them and a last opportunity to see some for the foreseeable future (since school exams are coming up fast and furious – ganbatte minna!), it was interesting spending the little time I managed (you have no idea of the voice from Hell I got from yelling and inhaling so much smoke, even for an hour-and-a-half) at an event of much different flair than those of recent months, not just in choice of theme or music, but also mood, which brought to mind earlier days…

But I will not veer off in that direction here: you came for the photos and photos I have, although I must warn you that this set’s quantity pales in front of anterior ones, which I hope will be balanced out by its quality. Also, it is by no means complete but I did what I could and hope you will enjoy it. Curtains please!

Well, that was it. I hope you enjoyed it. I certainly did, even though it ruined my voice for the next day and I could not, for the life of me, got o Makari and attend The Daughters’ of Fable Storytelling Night. I am inclined to think that, seeing many among you was worth the sacrifice (although I HAD kinda hoped I would manage both). Someone wondered if this signaled my return (who am I, Aragorn???). That I cannot answer yet. We ghosts are fickle this way.

May you dream of castles in the sky,

Speedgrapher

P.S. N8 had this great thingamajig that made her teeth flash all sorts of colors and I have it on video, which I will post as soon as it uploads. Sad thing is someone stole it on that same night…

Time Capsule Files: Cosplay & Maid CafĂ© @ fnac – The Mall Athens (22 – 24/10/2009) – Day 3: Part 1

Posted in Umi & Sora with tags , , , , , on February 17, 2010 by speedxgrapher

Well, it seems I finally found a (very) small niche to post some photos from 4 months back (wow, its been THAT long). Looking at this event in retrospect, I am very happy we had the opportunity of doing it and also feel a bit pessimistic about modern J-culture in Greece. Why? Well, it’s really simple: while I have not come at a cosplay party for some time, news do reach me and I do tend to see the connections between things. At this moment in time, modern J-culture in Greece is becoming a rapidly fading trend. It is centered exclusively around the parties and then again to a great degree around cosplay. Make no mistake, the crowd IS thinning (the Carnival season does not count – it’s the only time of the year when cosplay is widely accepted in Greece, after all) and at some point not in the far distant future, if things do not change, everyday life will take its toll and you will have done this one too many times to find it interesting anymore.

If you do not believe me, you only have to look at all the other imported cultural (subcultural in Greece) trends of the past and see that I am right. Those who did not manage to find a sense of community, a REAL sense of community, faded into obscurity and vaguely remembered fun times. Which brings me to the main problem: there IS no community, in that there is no sense of purpose or direction and with the exception of a very few people, J-culture is not treated as a whole but segmented in its various aspects, the various followers of which are even hostile to each other (again, if you do not believe me you only have to open your ears, check backlogs in forums, remember discussions, have a look at widely publicized fights and ask people who thought there was a community and rapidly found otherwise). Each has their own agenda, each seems to think “they are right”, “they are the Keepers of J” and in a number of variations “cooler, wiser, better dressed than thou”.

Now, I will be the first to say this is just a hobby (for which opinion I have also been criticized) and as such, it is supposed to be fun, to take the mind off problems, not create more for someone to solve or even be aware of. As a hobby, it is also supposed to be creative. Sure, cosplay IS a really creative process for some but looking at the pictures, there is the evident presence of a peak and the beginning of a decline, not only (or even at all, all things considered) in quality but mainly in the choice of character, the roleplaying and slowly, even the physique. It’s becoming a habit, instead of something special. At any rate, what I witnessed at the event in fnac was a good start, an opening to something that could maybe survive the trend’s death, that could inspire a different way of thinking, a sense of… COMMUNITY. Sadly, it’s not happening and rest assured, the way the economy is going, soon our troubles will outweigh the remaining fun value of the parties, which will end up not being worth the trouble.

Sound bleak? Yes, I know it does and I assure you that I thought long and hard about this before writing it here, knowing full well I might become unpleasant. My inner demons are not for public consumption and I would never entertain the thought of basing anything I posted here on them. So after you entertain yourselves with the following photos, stop for a moment and think what this whole modern J-culture means to you, what it is and what it could or even should be. On the other hand, don’t: it won’t be the end of the world and I am sure something else will eventually replace “the J”.

On with the show…

Well, I hope you enjoyed that little bit of time-travel (there are, of course, tons more which I have no idea when I will be posting) but more importantly, I hope you will take a moment and think about what was different there and how it can be accomplished again.

From the depths of oblivion (no, not the game),

Speedgrapher

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