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Press Q&A with animator and director Hiroshi Nagahama (J!-ENT Interviews and Articles)

November 9, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

In Japan, Hiroshi Nagahama is well-known for directing animated films such as “Mushishi”, “Detroit Metal City”, “The Flowers of Evil” and most recently for 2017, Nagahama directed “The Reflection”, which he co-created alongside with Stan Lee.

A hardcore comic book fan, Nagahama was a special guest at Sakura-Con in Seattle, Washington and J!-ENT’s Michelle Tymon participated in the press Q&A with animator/director Hiroshi Nagahama.


Press: I want to start off by asking about Flowers of Evil. You chose to do that in rotoscope, and I’m wondering how you managed to convince the producers and sponsors to let you do that.
Nagahama-san: Well… I was first approached with the idea of doing Flowers of Evil, by a producer named Nakanishi from King Records. He told me that they were looking to do an animated version. So rather than me trying to find someone to let me do it, it was actually a project that was offered to me. And at first, I actually declined. I read all of the manga, and it was extremely interesting, but I initially didn’t think this was something that the fans would enjoy in an animated format, so I declined at first. After that, he said that he would try a few other people, and that was that. But I think it was about a week later, and he said he really wanted to meet with me again. So we met again, and he told me that he had thought about it, but really wanted me to do it. He was kind enough to say that if they were going to make a animated version of this, that I was the only person he could think of to work on it. He then asked me what would it take for me to agree to work on this project. What would I need to make this happen. And so I told him that there was a way. He asked me what it was, and so I told him that it was rotoscope. I would film actual people in real life and incorporate that into the animation. If I was allowed to do that, this might be a weird way of saying it, but I thought I could translate everything the original work was trying to get across in animated form. And that’s how we moved forward with the project. So from the beginning, it was decided we were going to do rotoscope. Then I thought about everything I need to do to make this happen. Because we planned it from the beginning, we were very lucky and we never had an instance where we were in the middle of production and realized we were overbudget or anything like that.

J!-ENT: You had come to Seattle and Sakura-con previously, but has there been anything different on this occasion?
Nagahama-san: Well, I think this is one of the best things about Sakura-con… but it never changes. It’s almost astonishing. Nothing has really changed. The staff, the atmosphere of the convention, all of the fans that attend… From my first Sakura-con in 2002, the only things that have changed are the actual scale of the event and the number of attendees. Otherwise, I believe that the staff is able to achieve the kind of event that they are trying to achieve, and I believe the event is as polished as they are trying to make it.

Japan-A-Radio: From the last time you were at Sakura-con and this time, what has changed for you personally in the anime industry?
Nagahama-san: Let’s see… the biggest change is the fact that my project with Stan Lee is finally starting to take shape. When I was here last, this project was still in the planning stages and was something similar to say mist floating in the air. But now it’s finally starting to take a distinct shape and showing itself.

Press: Speaking of Stan Lee, I hear that you are a huge fan of American comics. What do you find so appealing about American comics and superheroes?
Nagahama-san: First, I was drawn to the art. I’ve mentioned this at Sakura-con a number of times before, but when I was a child, I wasn’t a very big fan of the SD art style that was used in Japanese animation. But all the kids around me seemed to love CoroCoro Comic, which serialized series like Doraemon. It was a kids’ comic magazine that all of the kids were reading. And then as you get older, you usually started reading Shonen Jump or Shonen Sunday. This path seemed like it was laid out for us by adults, and everyone just automatically read them. But something about that bothered me. Like the art in Doraemon… or say Ishinomori Shotaro-san’s drawings… I really liked the stories and thought that they were interesting, but I couldn’t help but wonder why the art had to look the way it did. I always couldn’t help but wonder about that. But of course there were more dramatic and serious anime and manga that had a more realistic art style, but it still wasn’t quite what I was looking for. And that’s when I discovered the Spider-man comics. They were translated into Japanese by a gentleman named Kosei Ono, who had also released translations of other American comics at the time as well. When I read that, I instantly thought that the art looked cool. They properly drew details like the nostrils and lips. They drew eyelashes, and even the tear ducts in the eyes. And even then, the female characters still looked cute and pretty and the men looked handsome and cool. As a child who loved drawing, this became my guiding principle. The art was the first thing to leave an impression on me, but eventually, so did the writing. I was a child who read manga in a rather strange way, but it seemed that my way of reading seemed to fit how American comics were drawn and written. With Japanese manga, you read in a structured, chronological format. So it’d go, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. And because of that, it’s expected that you buy volume one and start from there, or you wouldn’t be able to understand the story at all. But a lot of American comics continue for hundreds of issues, so most readers inevitably have to start with a random issue. They can’t always read from the part where Peter Parker gets bitten by the radioactive spider. There are some people who read from the part where Gwen Stacy is kidnapped, or some people whose first issue is when Doctor Octopus shows up. But when I was buying Japanese manga, I would always buy the ones with the cool-looking covers… ever since I was a child. And then if the story was actually interesting, I would start collecting from there and go back to volume one. And then I would actually understand the interactions and relationships between the characters and it was very interesting. I would wonder why two characters didn’t get along very well and then I’d find out they fought in volume one. That was all very interesting to me, and I thought that’s exactly how people read American comics. There’s a slightly difficult term in Japanese, “yotei chowa,” which means pre-established harmony. So things that have already been determined progress as they’re intended. You can predict what’s going to happen in the future. And for someone like me, who didn’t like doing everything that people expected, American comics were filled with unpredictability. So I just kept immersing myself into American comics. And the more I read, the more I found things that appealed to me, so I can endlessly talk about everything that interested me about American comics. And I’ll end this answer with the following statement, but there’s one other thing that I think is fascinating… I think it’s amazing and wonderful that a grandfather and grandchild can talk about and bond over the same character. It’s very rare for something like that to be able to happen in Japan. For example, there’s Sazae-san, and also Doraemon, and Chibi Maruko-chan. But all of these long-running Japanese manga series never have any dramatic changes happen. Sazae-san doesn’t get a divorce, Doraemon doesn’t stop functioning suddenly. There are dramatic things that happen in the series, but they’re usually resolved in an episode or two like Doraemon turning red. But nothing happens in the story that changes the course of the series forever. However, that happens in American comics and so the grandfather and grandchild can have conversations about it. The Angel from X-Men that the grandfather would probably know is the one with white angel wings. But the grandchild would probably go, “Wait, no. He has metallic wings and is called Archangel.” And then the grandfather can be shocked and ask his grandchild when Angel’s wings became metallic. I think it’s wonderful that a grandfather and grandchild can have conversations like this. It’s my hope that I’m able to make stories that are that compelling myself.

J!-ENT: This is going to be another question about American comics, but I was wondering if you’ve seen the Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist, Netflix series and what your thoughts on them that are.
Nagahama-san: Of course! I’ve seen all of them!
J!-ENT: Also, The Defenders is coming out soon so I was wondering about what you thought about that. And if there were any changes you could make to any of the series, what would it be?
Nagahama-san: My thoughts on these series… is that they are wonderful. I never thought I’d be able to experience something so wonderful while I was still alive. When Sam Raimi directed the Spider-man movie, I thought I could die happily. I was able to watch such a wonderful Spider-man movie while I was still alive. I was able to watch the real Spider-man on the big screen. But now, it’s just been one record-breaking experience after another for me. Like this series? Wait, Doctor Strange, too? I was like, there’s no way that people would watch a Guardians of the Galaxy movie with those ridiculous characters! It’s just been one pleasant surprise after another. And out of all of the heroes, Daredevil has always been one of my all-time favorite characters. Daredevil is very bloody. He has a lot of limits. He can’t fly, he can’t see, and has various other limitations. On top of that, he’s a lawyer. As someone has who has to deal with the law, his heart is also bound. He can’t do whatever he wants to all of the villains in court. I think it’s absolutely amazing that they were able to make an entertaining TV series about someone who is so limited and so human. It makes me very happy. In addition, the Guardians of the Galaxy that I knew was from a very long time ago where it was Yondu, the blue guy with the red mohawk, and some other weird characters that were not in the movie flying around the ends of Space, and it was extremely bizarre. The Guardians of the Galaxy now is completely different. In the comics, Yondu came from a different world. He happens upon this team of scoundrels and tells them that they can use the team name “Guardians of the Galaxy,” which was the name his old team had used. So it was a completely different team. And I was still reading that slightly lamer version of the comic a long time ago. So when I heard that it was going to be made into a movie, I was very amused and couldn’t fathom how they were going to do it. And when I saw the movie and Yondu, I realized he was on the old team, and was very excited about the whole thing. As for the Netflix series, I like all of them so far. Luke Cage, Jessica Jones and Iron Fist are all great. But if I had the choice, there’d just be one thing I’d like to change… I’d like for them to show Daredevil’s nose. In the Netflix version, his mask sort of makes him look like Batman. His nose is guarded, and I think it’s great that his face is being protected… But no matter how I look at it, he sort of looks like a version of Batman where a lot of things are just smaller. His horns are smaller, and the point on his nose is smaller. If his face was showing a little more, it’d be absolutely perfect. And that’s why I absolutely love the design they used for Daredevil in the Daredevil movie with Ben Affleck, where it was all leather. I thought that the design for his costume used in that movie respected the original design of his costume from the comics to the utmost level.

Japan-A-Radio: With the upcoming release of The Reflection, are there any details that you can reveal currently? What can the fans look forward to?
Studio Deen rep: I can touch upon the broadcast details. I’m from Studio Deen, which is producing that anime. The Reflection will start broadcast in July of 2017 on NHK in Japan on Saturday at 11 PM. I believe that Crunchyroll has already announced it at this event, but they will also be simulcasting this title this title in the US and North America. I’m not sure of the exact time it’ll be available in the US, but I believe it’ll probably be around two hours after it has aired in Japan.
Nagahama-san: The Reflection… What can the fans look forward to and expect? Let’s see… I’m not sure what I can say. It’s an original story that I created with Stan Lee. Even if some of the characters may look familiar or if the premise may be something you might’ve heard of before, I still believe that it will feel like something completely different. This is slightly difficult to explain but… This time, we’re only using part of the whole story. The world of The Reflection is very vast. Just like Stan created the Marvel Universe, Stan and I sort of created our own Stan Lee universe, where we created various heroes and villains within this universe. It’s also set up where we can have various stories from this universe. So I want fans to watch the series and know this isn’t the last time they’re going to be seeing something from this universe. After this story, another story with this villain might start next. They barely touched upon that one hero, but I wonder why they were like that? Why were they dressed like that? Those might all get answered in the future. Just as I mentioned earlier, this is very close to how American comics are read. With The Reflection, I want people to think it was like they happened to grab issue 112 of The Reflection when they’re watching it. And starting from that volume, there’s going to be once incident that starts and comes to a conclusion within twelve issues. So I’m hoping that I’ll be able to show the audience the continuing story, or a different part of the story later on. There’s one other thing that I think that the fans can look forward to, so I hope you’ll let me share that. There will be characters in this series that are pretty symbolic to this universe. The idol group 9nine, who sing the ending theme, will show up as superheroes in the show. I think it’ll be fun to see when they might actually show up in the series and what kind of costumes they’ll be wearing. They will actually be wearing costumes and fighting in the series. I was very careful about when and where to use them in the series. The concept behind their characters is the Japanese ideal for superheroes. They look like what Japanese people would think of when they think of what heroes look like. That’s what 9nine will look like in the show. As for the rest of the characters, they all look like they came out of American comics because I enjoy American comics so much. They were all designed with that in mind and while discussing how they should look with Stan. With 9nine, I didn’t really talk to Stan about them. Since they’re Japanese characters, he told me that I could do whatever I’d like with them, and let me bring up the concept behind them. So I think that they can give a special perspective within The Reflection. As for the art style of The Reflection, it’s made to look more like American comics.

Press: You have done a lot of work with the director Akitaro Daichi. What did you learn from him and does he mean to you?
Nagahama-san: Mr. Daichi was someone I had met after being in this business for a while. So instead of him teaching me various things, I’d say that he validified things for me. He would tell me that my way of doing things was fine. If I ever had any doubts about what I was doing, he was the person to tell me that I was fine with how I was doing things. He would give me courage. Also, rather than using words, he would physically show me. He’s always been very supportive of me and is very important to me because of how he’s helped me to develop. Just to add on one last thing, Mr. Daichi said something to me that I will never forget. He told me that there’s really nothing holding me back. If I feel like I should do something, then I should do it because I can do anything. He told me that I was the only person putting restrictions on myself, so if I free myself of them, I can do whatever I want… That there’s nothing that I’m not allowed to do. I think those words still affect me greatly.

Interpreter: There’s actually one question I’d like to ask really quickly if I may. So in American comics, they quite often retcon things that happen. What do you think about that? In Japanese comics, once something happens, it doesn’t really ever get retconned. In a way, this is a freedom that only exists in American comics.
Nagahama-san: That actually might be one of the reason that I don’t really like DC superheroes as much. That happened a lot to DC superheroes ever since I can remember. Superman couldn’t fly at first, and Krypton kept changing over and over. Because of all of the changes, I didn’t know what was true or not anymore in those comics. But in the Marvel Universe that Stan created, there wasn’t as much wavering. The settings for Spider-man haven’t changed much at all from the beginning. And recently, they finally did start changing some things and some characters did come back from the dead. But for decades, they actually stayed dead and there wasn’t much wavering overall. My favorite era of Marvel comics is the Silver Age, where when something happened, it didn’t get retconned. For example, the Green Goblin was dead for a long time before he was finally brought back. I actually liked that era when something happened, it didn’t get retconned. So when asked if I can relate to doing retcons, to be honest, I can’t. But these things really never happened with the characters that I really liked. I definitely have no plans on doing something like that in The Reflection. If I was going to do something like that though, I’d like to do something like Age of Apocalypse where the whole world gets flipped around. Age of Apocalypse was an absolutely amazing crossover. So unless it’s something that drastic, I don’t think I’ll ever do it.

Final thoughts: Final thoughts?
Nagahama-san: From me? I can’t help but feel like I might’ve talked a bit too much about the American comics that I love so much, but I’m very thankful that all of you were here to listen and that I’m in this situation where I can talk about all of this. I feel blessed that I was able to come back to Sakura-con again, and that I was able to walk through the streets of Seattle again. This is definitely a unique experience, and I feel very special to be a part of it. So when I get back to Japan, I know I have to go back to work on The Reflection. And when I think about that, there’s a part of me that can’t help but feel like I want to stay in Seattle a little longer.


 

J!-ENT’s Dennis A. Amith interviews Babyraids JAPAN (J!-ENT Interviews and Articles)

November 2, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

It was back in 2012, when Babyraids JAPAN made their debut through their agency LesPros Entertainment.

Babyraids JAPAN consists of Rikako Ooya, Erika Denya, Manatsu Hayashi, Nao Takami and Rio Watanabe.

The group made their debut with the single “Babyraids”, followed by “Baby Revolution” that year but would eventually break into the top 10 in 2013 with their singles “Koyomi no Ue de wa December”.

And while their single debuted at #6 on the Oricon Charts, having been around for two years, the group made a goal, perform at Budokan and if it doesn’t happen, they’ll end the group.

Fortunately for fans, Babyraids Japan would make their dreams come true before Christmas of 2014 by performing at Nippon Budokan.

The group would release a string of hits that would debut on the Oricon top 10 such as “Koi wa Panic”, “Bucchake Rock’n Hachake Roll/Baby Step”, “Tora-Tora Tiger” and “2 Years”.

In 2016, the group’s “Hashire, Hashire” would have their best debut at #3 on the Oricon Charts and since then, have released a total of 14 singles and two albums. Plus one mini-album and five video releases.

J!-ENT’s Dennis A. Amith had the opportunity to interview two of the five Babyraids JAPAN members, Nao and Rikako, a few days before their live performance in San Francisco.

Click here to read our J!-ENT Interview with Babyraids JAPAN


 

J!-ENT’s Dennis A. Amith interviews Misaki Iwasa (Wasamin)

October 20, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

AKB48 has dominated the Japanese music charts for numerous years and while many may recognize the main core members of the group, there is one former AKB48 member who has shined thanks to her talent of singing enka songs.

Her name is Misaki Iwasa, known by her fans as “Wasamin” and was a 7th Generation AKB48 member who passed the audition for AKB48 back in 2008.   Iwasa was also a member of the side group Watarirouka Hashiritai 7 and while performing a lot of pop songs as a member of AKB48, she is known for her love of enka music and for performing enka music, especially exposing the music to a younger generation.

In 2011, she won first place in the AKB48 YuruYuru Karaoke competition by singing an Sayuri Ishikawa’s enka song “Tsugari Kaikyo – Fuyugeshiki”.  And her participation in the competition sealed the deal for AKB48 creator and producer Yasushi Akimoto, who gave the unranked AKB48 member her start to shine with a debut CD single titled “Mujin Eki” (which translates to “Empty Train Station” or “Ghost Train Station”).

While Wasamin has graduated from AKB48, she has released numerous singles, a photobook and has performed all over the world, most recently at J-Pop Summit 2017 in San Francisco, California.

J!-ENT’s Dennis A. Amith recently had the opportunity to interview Misaki Iwasa (Wasamin) before her performance at J-Pop Summit 2017.

Please click here to read the interview


 

Interview with Penelope Lagos, Author of “I Miss My Best Friend” (J!-ENT Interviews and Articles)

October 16, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Back in 2011, I had the opportunity to interview actress Penelope Lagos about a film that she starred in and also discuss her career as an actress and a model.

In 2017, I am interviewing Penelope once again, but not as an actress or model, but this time as a writer.

Penelope has written and published her first children’s book titled “I Miss My Best Friend”, featuring illustrations by Sophie Moracchini about her dog Cassius “The Legend”.

A dog purchased for Penelope and her twin brother Louie, the entire family raised Cassius since he was a puppy.  Taking him to Greece and to see Cassius become a champion swimmer.

He was no doubt more than just a pet, he was a family member.

And when Cassius passed away, dealing with the grief of losing a part of your family was a challenge for the Lagos family and for Penelope, she decided to write a book about Cassius to help children deal with the passing of their beloved pet.

“I Miss My Best Friend” has received a lot of positive reviews and I recently had a chance to interview Penelope Lagos about her new book and also about Cassius “The Legend”.


Penelope, I interviewed you as an actress and for this latest interview, I am interviewing you as an author of your first book, “I Miss My Best Friend”. What was the inspiration for writing this book?

PENELOPE: My own dog and best friend, Cassius. He was everything to me and when he passed away, I was absolutely devastated. I looked online and in stores searching for something, anything that would make me feel better, but I quickly realized there weren’t a lot of resources out there. I wasn’t ready to sign up for a pet loss group or even talk to anyone about my feelings, so I started writing them down. Within these notes, a story began to form and hence the fruition of “I Miss My Best Friend”.

Illustrator Sophie Moracchini did a wonderful job with the illustrations. How did the two of you come to collaborate on this book?

PENELOPE:  Sophie is such a talented and professional young woman to work with. I had taken a canine conditioning course and the instructor, Dr. Erica Boling, created various dog groups on Facebook for people to connect/network. I saw a beautiful drawing of a dog that Sophie had posted and I knew immediately I had to reach out to her. She lives in the UK, but technology has afforded me the opportunity to easily work with her throughout this entire process.

Were there any major challenges in writing “I Miss My Best Friend”?

PENELOPE:  Yes (laughing). What I have come to realize is that writing a book is not easy. If it were, everyone would be doing it. I think that condensing my story to fit the standard 32-page structure for a children’s book was difficult for me. I tend to be wordy, so it challenged me to keep my story simple, yet still include what I hope is a powerful message for children and adults alike.

Of course, the book was written to also help children understand the loss of a pet. Any tips that you have on what helped you overcome those difficulties of losing Cassius?

PENELOPE: I think each person copes differently with death, which is why I included the ten tips at the conclusion of the book. I personally found writing to be helpful while another may want to put a scrapbook together or talk to their friends and family about the loss. For me, the most important tip is to let yourself grieve. Don’t ever apologize for feeling sad. A pet provides unconditional love and is a member of the family, and the grief process often mimics that of losing a human.



“I Miss My Best Friend” revolves around the love and also the pain of losing your dog Cassius. Having to say goodbye to my dogs a little over a year ago, both brother and sister, who were very much part of our family was very difficult. And as the passing of time had made things better and we eventually ended up adopting a new dog a year later.   I’m curious, how often do you still think about Cassius and have you moved on by getting a new dog?

PENELOPE: I think about him every day. I grew up with cats and Cassius was the only dog I ever had. Unlike the book version, he lived to be almost 16 years old, so in essence he was with me almost half of my life. Shortly after his passing, so many people sent me photos of dogs that needed a home, others stopped by with one in hand. I wasn’t ready and I don’t know when or if I ever will be. I think it’s a personal decision and there are so many beautiful animals in need of good homes, so it’s nice to be able to open your heart again and adopt.

What is your favorite memory of Cassius?

PENELOPE: What I’ll always remember about Cassius is what an incredible swimmer he was. Being outside with him and playing in the pool were my happiest times. Even near the end, with his severe arthritis, we swam together. He even went to Greece not once but twice where he swam in the Aegean Sea. He was a very special boy who was known internationally!

PENELOPE: “I Miss My Best Friend” has received positive reviews online. I have to ask, can we expect to see more books written by you in the future?

I am beyond happy that people are responding positively to the book, and I’m hoping in some way I will be able to help people overcome their loss. I am also donating 10% of each book sale back to St. Hubert’s Animal Welfare Center who does extraordinary work in the mission to rescue animals. I already have an idea for the next book, so you won’t be hearing the last from me


“I Miss My Best Friend” is available on Amazon

J!-ENT INTERVIEWS PUFFY AMIYUMI (2017) by Dennis A. Amith and Michelle Tymon (J!-ENT Interviews and Articles)

March 20, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

When I first discovered Puffy AmiYumi (known as “Puffy” in Japan), they took Japan by their storm with their simple style of t-shirts, blue jeans and sneakers.  Bucking the fashion trend and dance choreography of other Japanese female music artists during the 1990’s, Puffy AmiYumi impressed audiences with their style of music and presentation.

The duo consisting of Yumi Yoshimura and Ami Onuki burst into the Japanese music scene back in 1996 dominating the charts.  And while Puffy AmiYumi would release their debut album in America and perform in the U.S., it wasn’t until their music was featured in the Cartoon Network animated series “Teen Titans” that the duo would receive recognition internationally.

In 2004, the duo would have their own animated TV series titled “Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi”, would be featured on a GAP fashion ad and performing at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade.

And as I have interviewed Puffy AmiYumi for the next few years, our last interview with the ladies, was back in 2010 to celebrate the duo’s 15th Anniversary (view our 15th Anniversary Puffy AmiYumi special).

And here we are in 2017, celebrating the duo’s 21-year anniversary and knowing that there are not many female Japanese music artists that have had the same level of success of Puffy AmiYumi and continue to perform for audiences worldwide.

Starting on March 31st, the group will be performing at Anime Boston 2017 and on April 4th, the group will be performing at the Belasco Theater in Los Angeles, followed by a performance on April 6th at the Regency Ballroom in San Francisco and on April 9th at Trees in Dallas, Texas as part of their Puffy AmiYumi US Tour 2017 “#NotLazyTour”.

I recently had the opportunity to interview Puffy AmiYumi about their upcoming U.S. performance:


I interviewed both of you when you made your debut in the United States and I have listened to your music when you first made your single debut “Asia no Junshin” in Japan. What is the biggest difference in your approach to music today versus when you first started out.

Ami: When we debuted, we really didn’t know anything. We were always surprised by how our producer, Tamio Okuda, and other musicians made music and the various things they concentrated on. But now, we really understand how that feels.

Very few Japanese acts were able to penetrate the American music scene, yet Puffy AmiYumi was able to create an audience thanks to the theme song for “Teen Titans” and you eventually had your own animated show in the United States. You had a GAP ad and performed on the Macy’s Parade on national TV. Looking back at your success and knowing that you accomplished something that many Japanese have not done, was there a lot of pressure on for the both of you to continue that success?

Yumi: There wasn’t really any pressure. We always make sure to have fun with anything we do as a part of Puffy’s style, so when we did all of those things, I believe we did while having fun. And those were all experiences that most Japanese people aren’t able to experience much, so we are very honored.

Last year, Puffy AmiYumi celebrated their 20th Anniversary and the music scene has changed a lot in the past two decades. One difference is the popularity of social media such as YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. Do you feel that social media has changed the way for the both of you to communicate with your fans?

Ami: I believe that the spread of social media over the last 20 year is definitely huge. I personally have my own Instagram, and because of that, I’m able to directly receive messages of support from fans. And since we can see how our fans our reacting with so little time lag, it’s very helpful to us.

You are about to embark on another tour which includes performances in the United States (for Puffy AmiYumi US Tour 2017 “NOT LAZY”). It’s been awhile since you performed in the U.S., how does it feel to be coming back?

Yumi: Even though we hadn’t traveled to America for a while, we had been constantly doing concerts in Japan, so I think we’ve powered up even more since our last visit. So right now, we’re very excited!

As you celebrate your 21st year, after all these years…Ami, what are your top three songs that you love performing in front of a live audience?

Ami: “Asia no Junshin,” “Akai Buranko,” and “Circuit no Musume.”

I’m curious to see how your musical tastes have changed.   In our very first interview, Yumi you said you were listening to Nirvana, Eels, Hole and U2 and Ami said Red Hot Chili Peppers. But what about now?

 

Yumi: Of course, I still love all of those groups. When I listen to the albums that I love, I remember things from when I first heard the albums, or feel very nostalgic.

Back in 2002, for our second interview, I asked each of you to describe each other in one word. Yumi, you said of Ami, “Serious” and Ami, you said of Yumi “Young”. In 2010, Yumi said of Ami “Relax” and Ami said of Yumi, “Older Sister”. Ami, if you had to describe Yumi, what would you say today?

Ami: For Yumi…“Hanashi ga Tomoranai” (She doesn’t stop talking)

Yumi, you told me you were playing the video game “Ryu ga Gotoku” (known as “Yakuza” in the U.S.) a lot back then.  Ami you were playing “Dragon Quest Monsters Joker II”. Any certain games that you are playing now?

Yumi: I still love “Dragon Quest” even now and continue to play. Right now, I’m trying to figure out if I want to buy a Nintendo Switch or not.

Both of you told me you love tea! But I didn’t get to ask what kind of tea that both of you enjoy? So, I have to ask…what is your favorite tea? And if there is an area in Tokyo that serves the best tea, which area would you recommend?

Ami: We like tea… Did we actually say that? Either way, I do like tea. I like chai. I think I’d recommend the café next to Saigoyama Park.

It’s funny because in our 2010 interview, both of you said that you wished Taco Bell would open a store in Japan and now you can find a Taco Bell in Japan. And now there are more Mexican restaurants in Tokyo. But with you returning back to America, is there a certain food that you have wanted to try but never yet had the chance?

Yumi: While we weren’t in America, I can now eat some foods that I couldn’t before. For example, cilantro and lamb. Because of that, I’d like to try out some places that I never got to try before.

What final words do you have for your fans worldwide?

Ami: This year, Puffy is now in our 21st year. The reason that we’ve been able to continue for so long is the countless support we’ve received from people from various countries!! We’ll continue to work even harder so we can someday hold concerts in countries we haven’t been to yet!

Yumi: Last year, we celebrated our 20th anniversary, and we are grateful to all of our fans! The upcoming concerts should be a lot of fun. Please come out and see us!

For more information, please visit their official website or their Facebook Page.

Photos courtesy of Sony Music Entertainment Japan


Read our complete J!-ENT Puffy AmiYumi interviews and articles from 1996-2010 (Click on image)


ZappCon 2016 by Derek Orchard (J!-ENT Interviews and Articles)

October 19, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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Zappcon 2016 was held October 15 and 16th at the Valdez hall in Fresno California. ZappCon brings a wide range of talent from all kinds fandoms. You can learn about voice acting, building models from masking tape board, gaming and many more.

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I think this year at ZappCon, they improved on their organization of the booths and table, putting more like things together. If you are looking for cosplayers, go to one location, toys another location, videogames another location and so on.  I do think that made it easier if there was something that you wanted to buy, but you didn’t want to buy it right away, it made it easy to find that vendor later.

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Some of the special guest that were at Zappcon this year. Hynden Walch, she is The Voice of Starfire on “Teen Titans” and the new “Teen Titans Go!”, Princess bubblegum on cartoon networks smash hit “Adventure Time”, Harley Quinn on the Batman series as well as DCU animated feature “Assault on Akrham”, for which she received a BTVA People’s choice award. Lisle Wilkerson, she is a power house behind some of gaming industry’s most popular female fighting characters, such as Nina Williams, Christine Monteiro from “Tekken” and Sarah Brandt from “Virtual Fighter”. She’s acted alongside Bill Murray in the academy award winning film “Lost in translation” and had the lead role in the award winning in the film, “Kamataki”. D.C. Douglas the sinister voice of Albert Wesker in “Resident Evil”, The Voice of Legion in “Mass Effects” series and he was Bud in the movie “sharknado 2”. Chanda Hahn, a New York Times and USAID today best-selling author of “Reign (an unfortunate fairy tale)” she also writes the “iron butterfly” series. Eben Burgoon, started his career writing short fiction and sketch comedies for over a decade before embarking into comics, his first comics series was “Eben07: covert custodian”. Shawn Sutter, he is the creator of “Relicblade” and is the lead artists on the comic “B squad”.

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There were some familiar faces down Cosplay row, returning this year Holly Brooke, based out of northern California, right now she is studying to become a veterinarian. Loki Hates You return ZappCon, and this year for his 2nd appearance and Mighty ThorTV to continue the panel they did last year the “awkward family panel” where they interview the audience. Yes is true Loki’s running for President. And new to ZappCon this year, Princess Marley cosplay, she has been active in cosplay since 2007 she is an advocate for body positivity in the cosplay community. She is also a huge supporter of cosplay in the things you love no matter how many people may recognize you. Originally reached nor I are to the running the popular tumbler blog “the little cosplay things”. If you wanted to get a picture of or with one of your favor characters they had several cosplay meet ups for photos. So if you are dressed up your get got to gather together to should a photo together and I was a great place if you wanted to get your photo with your favor character. These happened multiple times each day plus they had the all ages cosplay contest on Saturday and on Sunday they had a kids cosplay contest.

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Kirby Krackle A internationally touring nerd-rock artist, featuring the music of songwriter and performer Kyle Stevens. Pioneering the genre in 2009. Kirby Krackle is known the world over as the go to band for heartfelt songs dedicated to the best in comic books, videogames, Pop and geek culture with youTube videos, totaling over 3.5 million views and I have been featured on MTV, i09, boing boing, Gizmodo and more.

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Okay, you walked the floor, I maybe you made a few purchases, found if you must have items like comics may be some art from a local artist, but you’re not ready to go home yet. What are you now? Well if you have young ones you could take them over to the kid’s own where there was  Bat party for kids, Todd the snake man, the discovery center, California arts Academy, pro martial arts. And if you don’t have any kids. outdoors there was iron gate sword fighting, Terras Wars. You could go and get a photo taken with the 501st in the photo area. And you could check out any board games and play them there at the show in the gaming area they had set up. They also had a video game area also set up so you can go play video games while you are at the show and at certain times,The Voice actors were playing there games that they had voice characters in, so you could smacked down our get smacked down in person by the characters you play in the game.  if that wasn’t enough, after all of that they had multiple panels starting at every hour. You probably could of watch panels all day and never seen the floor.

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I really do think this is a fun show. Sure maybe it’s not one of those huge shows that you hear about on TV. And they always have something new big and exciting every year. But not everyone can go to those shows. I do see the event coordinators doing their best to create a fun and happy environment for their attendees. I enjoy the smaller shows because I think they stay to the heart of why we have all gotten into the stuff. For the fun in the enjoyment, for ourselves and that what we share with one another. With events like this where just all people, we all can be kids and act like kids. Here we are all friends and we help one another.

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So if you didn’t make it this year, you should think about attending next year.

 

More Photos by Derek Orchard Read more

Zappcon 2015 by Derek Orchard (J!-ENT Interviews and Articles)

November 4, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Article and Photos by Derek Orchard

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ZappCon , took place on October 17 and 18th, 2015. At the Convention Center in Fresno, California.

                After spending the last year seeing what some of the San Joaquin Valley of California has to offer in ways of Anime/Sci-Fi/Comic conventions. It seems that I’m ending it with ZappCon. What a way to end it, I have really been looking for a traditional comic con that felt like, San Diego comic con felt when I first started to go. This is ZappCon’s 2nd year and is not a small as I thought it was going to be. The fact was very large.

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                A few of the guests were voice actress Andrea Libman. TV and movie actress, Gigi Edgley. Illustrator for wizards of the Coast, RK Post. Webb artist Drew Green. Periscope studios from Portland, Oregon. Actor Joey Oglesby, of law and order:SVU and NCIS. The guest cosplayers they had of the show was Loki hate you, ThorTV, Christine Sprankle and that’s just naming a few of everyone who was here at this show.

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                What I found the show is what I expect to find when I go to a well run comic convention, I expect to find everything that I want there and to me, they had at all, they had Anime, they had comics, they had steampunk, they had sci-fi/Star Wars. Videogames both current and classic. Vendors were selling all the main stream stuff that you’re looking for, a couple of vendors were selling stuff, they had picked up from Japan and were selling at the show.

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                If you’re on a budget they had gaming areas for both card and table top games. They had games there that you could try out to see if you do even would like plainly game later on. So you do even need to know anything about the game before you were there to play it. An upstairs they had video gaming on all the major consoles And also had RPG gaming. Outside, Terra wars, Iron gate sword fighting and Sunspear Belegarth. They also had a kids zone, which offered  activities for kids, seem like everyone was Entertained.

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                Let’s talk panels! The 501st Legion had a panel on making costumes from the Star Wars universe and they also talked about how to joined the ranks of the 501st. they had a panel on farscape with Gigi Edgley. A on panel how to be successful on YouTube, a game design Roundtable, tip and tricks for cosplay, working at Jim Hanson Studios, voice acting, making as independent artist, how to set up a kickstarter and be successful, that is just a few of the panels They had at zappcon.

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                They were also showing off Artemis spaceship bridge simulator which is a game that allows you and your friends to be the bridge crew of a spaceship. Just think rock band, Star Trek flavored. But allows you to network 5 computers together play on a server where you are the crew of one ship all in one room. This is the first time, I have seen it in action and they had a set up. So you could play for a while but then’s a will allow another group players to come in and play the games there wasn’t anyone monopolizing the game play on it.

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At ZappCon, each day they had a Cosplay contest, the first day was the all age contest, which I think they had at least 30 cosplayers and on the 2nd day they had a kids only contest, which I think they had just as many kids’s cosplayers as they did in the all age group.

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                The thing That surprised me the most about this show. Was the amount of people that attended the show, there was another event going on across town. I did not expect to see A lot of people showing up on the first day. But There was not a shortage of attendee’s so they had done a good job of getting the word out about the show and when it was happening.  on the 2nd day which is a Sunday, and at most shows, it is a slower day at any convention. It started off slow but then people started showing up. I know a lot of these people must have come the day before. And for them to come back a 2nd day says they had a lot of fun and that they brought more people with them, I didn’t talk to anyone that had anything really bad to say about the show. Everyone was really happy and they all seem to have a really good time. I hope they can continue the momentum that they have an do the same or an even better show next year.

Check back for more photos from Zappcon 2015 in our J!-ENT 2015 Annual scheduled for November 2015

Long Beach Comic Con 2015 by Derek Orchard (J!-ENT Interviews and Articles)

October 8, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Article and Photos by Derek Orchard

Long Beach comic con, took place on September 12th & 13th, 2015 at the Long Beach convention Center.

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           This is my first year attending Long Beach comic con and I had a fantastic time, I would say it’s grown into a midsize convention plenty of people attending, plenty of small vendors, cosplay , variety of panels and my personal favorite lots and lots of artist and independently created comics.  Some of the guests they had there at the show was comic book artist, Arthur Adams, Kris Anka, Chuck BB, Joe Benitez, writers, such as Sandy King Carpenter, Dennis Culver, Dean DeBlois, Jeff King, Jim Krueger, Sarah Kuhn and on the list of voice actors, they had Rikki Simons, Neill Ross, Bill Ratner, Alan Oppenheimer, Samantha Newark, Mary McDonnell Lewis. That just to names a few. they had so many guest there it was hard to see everybody, but there were something there, for everyone. Chloe Bennet from agents of shield was there for a photo op and to present the Girl Scouts with badges. John Barrowman was there for a Q&A.

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                    It was announced at Long Beach comic con that the Columbia Memorial space Center are working together for space Expo 2015. Space Expo was a part of Long Beach comic con and they have all sorts of different activities, they were doing 3-D printing, remote-controlled robots and a lot of different activities. Therefore, for the family and for kids and they also had a space suit that you could climb into get your picture taken. They had a lot of different panels, ranging from Star Wars Steampunk, Indi creators, animated films to Marvel comics. Buffy the vampire slayer panel. There was just a Star Wars panel. There even was a “Drawing at comic con” where you were able to get instruction on drawing, you brought your own material to work with, but there were people there to help review what you are doing give you some pointers on how to improve. So you could actually go to this comic con and learn something before you went home.

                       They also had a costume contest or cosplay contest. Now this wasn’t a masquerade, doing a little performance or something was not a part of it, it was as mainly showing the costume, but that didn’t stop some from doing a short little thing to show how much they are in character. I believe they had something around 50 entries of singles or doubles or groups in costume. It didn’t take the very long to get through it, it ran very smoothly. They had 3 cosplay judges and they were Vegas power girl, Raychul Moore and Giada Robin.

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                 Long Beach comic con was a well run show tickets were available each day at the window and people were lining up to come to the show. Everyone was having a good time and there at the convention Center is not far from other attractions to the area of Long Beach and there’s a nice little shopping center across the convention Center, where there were different places to eat, a movie theater. Now outside of the convention hall there was a Starbucks and there is eateries inside for people to have the traditional “con food” but outside. They had food trucks, they had like for different food trucks with a variety of selections to to choose from. And also outside. They had a lineup of cars from different TV shows and movies, Magnum PI’s Ferrari the original Knight rider Kitt and the new Kitt, back to the future DeLorean, a Jurassic Park SUV.

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            On top of everything else I’ve already mentioned, they had a kids play area. So you can have your kids playing around get them right of all the excess energy giving you a chance to catch your breath. Table top game mean card game mean all could be found here at Long Beach, con they had a huge area with I want to say at least 6 Row of tables 10 or 15 seats deep double-sided so you go buy cards and play a game right away.

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                Yes. This is a comic book convention, but you could also find Anime, Manga, videogames toys statues from all the different genre’s. Some vendors were selling material to make costumes from, this is a very well-rounded show. I mean, you can go there and find everything you’re looking for just about. There was even a group promoting their roller derby team. There are quite a few people to come to the show but I never really felt like the room was overly crowded with people sure there were certain time. Something would be happy not more people would be in one area at one given time, but it didn’t stay like that indefinitely you could go and come back and then be less people and you could see an you can look at things and you can really have some fun.jent!-11

                   I sure would like to return next year, it not too loud, so you still think while you’re there, really pull in the feel. the show as a really Exciting, really friendly Vibe, inviting; Doesn’t feel like it’s overwhelming or that you’re going to just get sucked into this thing and just be lost for couple  hours. I do think you if you have young ones and you want to go you can take them with you to this show and you all can have a good day together!jent!-10

                    The odds are, this show is going to grow and it has grown. There’s no reason for it not to grow. No two Shows are the same, they change year to year. it is not like a Theme park. So I will tell you to go now and become a part of the fun, part of the legacy and share the joy that a show like this can bring.

Check back for more photos from Long Beach Comic 2015 in our J!-ENT 2015 Annual scheduled for November 2015

 

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