Saturday, August 10, 2013

I Know That Voice

John DiMaggio (Bender, Jake the dog, and many other voices) created a fun romp into the looking glass of animation with the informative documentary, “I Know That Voice."  Recently when John was a guest in Rob Paulsen’s (aka Pinky, aka Yakko) podcast, Rob Paulsen Live, John told how 'I Know That Voice' started.  Like all good projects by 'I Know That Voice' was created by accident.  'I Know That Voice' was first conceptualized when John went to a concert in Amsterdam.  Two German fans identified him. Not by his face, but rather his voice.  With that chance encounter led to the creation of 'I Know That Voice' .

'I Know That Voice'  is whose who of veteran voice artists. From June Foray (Rocky the flying squirrel) and Gary Owens (Rodger Ram Jet) to the newest voice artists, such as Josh Keaton (Ryu Hayabusa, Ninja Gaiden Video Game Series) and John himself.  John has worked with his director (Lawrence Shapiro) to create a labor of love.  He has encountered many missteps that prevail to all artists, such as finding the right distributors.  As he said during the podcast, fans will flock regardless of the media.  This was most evident at the San Diego Comic Con (SDCC) 'I Know That Voice' panel.  There was an excess of 3000 fans filled at one of the larger ballrooms at the San Diego Convention Center.  The whole ballroom was sold out. The people behind 'I Know That Voice' are well known to the animation community.  They are still unknown to the general public.  There are people who helped with the unraveling of the curtain has helped the general public most particularly, Rob Paulsen, has opened the curtain slightly. 'I Know That Voice' might do the same. Maybe more. 

When I asked John about a sequel with Japanese Voice Artists (Seiyuu).   John joked that they didn’t start showing the first film.   John would love to interview Seiyuu for the next documentary.  Obviously cost is the issue, but there is always a possibility. Anime conventions in the US such as, Katsucon, Anime Expo, Otakon, and many others, could help.  There are even conventions in Japan that cater to the animation industry, such as Tokyo International Anime Fair (TAF) and Comike (Comic Market).

The animation industry is expanding at an alarming rate.  Many modernizations in the past 10 yrs are simply mind blowing.  These include: high-speed Internet connection, digital distribution (Amazon, Netflix), and mobile devices (Android and Apple).  Now I think there is a need a film where the industry began can showcasing the veterans of the animation industry.  At the same time this could be a helpful education tool for students who want to be involved with communication (STEM). The documentary could assist people who have a yearning for be apart of animation industry, but don’t know where to start. 

John has a deep understanding with people who could be considered as odd by the general public.  His mom was a SPED teacher.  John learned at a young age to help those people who are the most vulnerable.  Without knowing it, John is helping educate the general public about what their favorite characters look like in real life.  

We are stewards of techniques that not only make people laugh, but allow them to understand the social situation in that particular era in history.  As the great Rob Paulsen would say, "Laughter is the best medicine, you can’t OD and the refills are free."

Monday, May 14, 2012

Summer Con Season is upon us

I have some great stuff over the summer.  I will share it after June.  I'll keep you all posted.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Bridges of Culture (3 of 3)

Comic Book artists are one of the vital links for bridges of culture. Mr. Steve Scott is a very talented comic artist who designed characters for DC and Marvel.

Bridge of Culture (2 of 3)

Another key link to the bridges of culture are voice actors. Voice Actors give life to 2-D and 3-D animated characters. I was fortunate to interview Ms. Veronica Taylor. Ms. Taylor is best known as the voice of Ash Ketchum from the popular series Pokemon. Ms. Taylor was a gracious person and fun interviewing. Please excuse the terrible audio because there were lots of people coming in and out of the green room.

Also listen toward the end of the interview for a really great audio treat.

Bridges of Culture People (1 of 3)

A bridge literally is a physical object that links between two items. A bridge could also be a metaphor for a person. Culture is a person's identity or tradition. People who are bridges of culture are an important aspect in human history.

In today's pop-culture, it takes a few special individuals to open a bridge to exchange new ideas.

I did these interviews at New York Comic Con 2010.

The first group of people who help contribute to be a link of culture is the New York Based group, Echostream.

Friday, March 30, 2012

AKB48 in DC

Loud music, tons of screaming fans, streams of neon, and cute girls singing Japanese Pop music. What a time to celebrate a party. 2012 marks the 100th anniversary of how the Japanese gave the US rows of Cherry Blossom Trees (Sakura) as a gift of friendship of the two nations. On Tuesday (March 27, 2012) the Japanese gave another gift. It wasn’t more cherry blossoms, but rather an all girl singing and dance troop known as AKB48.

AKB48 was in DC to help promote this year’s Cherry Blossom event. The J-pop group performed at the historic Lincoln Theater along U Street in Washington DC. The theater is not far from DC’s other famed establishment, Ben’s Chili Bowl restaurant. AKB48 had two sold out shows at the theater to the delight of their many fans.

The first sold out show started at 4pm, but some dedicated fans waiting until 8 am to get a coveted spot to see the group. Some fans came as far away as Japan, Mexico, and Canada. The concert had a strict “no photography” policy so, if you had a camera, they would take it away from you. When AKB48 performed in NYC a few years earlier, no such policy was in place. Many of the major Japanese broadcasters, such as NTV, TV Asahi, and TBS videotaped many fans waiting in the nice cool spring afternoon. During the second show, the fans had to change several times to stand in line. The staff didn’t really tell them why they did that.

After an hour and half of waiting the doors opened and the fans ran to the front of the theater, neon at the ready. Early that day AKB48 got to meet some local elementary school children. Monica Hesse of the Washington Post detailed what the group did. As a gift from the group, the same students got VIP seating to see the group at the Theater.

10 minutes prior to start of the show, the fans were screaming “A-K-B!” Then, the concert began with a flash of light to delight of the fans. The group was wearing a dress with pink Sakura highlights in the bottom. They sang two songs that were well known to their adoring fans.

After the third song the group made a brief introduction. Each member gave her first and last name. Then they said a special nickname along with a tidbit about themselves. Many of the members tried to speak as best English as they could. One of the newest members, Rina “Hirari” Hirata spoke perfect English. She told the audience that she spent time in Arizona. Hirari-chan asked the fans if they visited the Grand Canyon, which most of the fans cheered. The group then asked if the audience visited Japan and if they knew about AKB48. In the second show the group said they loved eating at Ben’s Chili Bowl. This drew a loud applause from the hometown crowd.

As soon as the introductions were over, the girls got right to what they did best, put on a great show. Three members sang one song in angelic costumes, and then just as magic three other members were dress in ragged clothes with matching hats. During that number the girls twirled the hats around with fans screaming each member’s nickname. Next up as another three girls in while frilly dresses with matching tambourines. The crowds were inundated with song after song with routines more elaborate than the last.

Finally came the last of the main number. The members wore matching blue dresses reminiscent of drum majorettes. They thanked the audience for their support during the March 11th Earthquake and Tsunami. The song was entitled “Sakura Kimi Naro.” The song started with School bells ringing in the start of the school day. This time of year is normally graduation for students in Japan. The fans used their glow sticks to flow back and forth like a neon river against the Sakura Colored lights. The members also pantomimed trees swaying back and forth. At the end of the song the crowd gave a standing ovation.

The fans wanted more so they shouted “Oncoru” or “Encore.” The group returned back wearing black and white dresses with matching black t-shirts. They then sang two more songs getting more upbeat than the next. Toward the end of the 2nd second show the girls looked tired, but they trotted forward following the “fighting spirit” (Ganbatte). It was like the group was drawing more energy from the fans and cheering them on. The group gave a final bow to the roaring audience.

First time fans and long time fans alike were entertained with a high-energy show. There will be a lot more Japanese related events early next month. Stay tuned to this blog for details.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Bridges of Culture (Stores)

Buying the newest international items would be fine for some people. They would buy the newest Asian imports from the nearest online store without a care in the world. But, there are a few people who are willing to venture outside his or her comfortable confines. They are willing to see what is beyond and share it will the rest of us. These few people and stores act like “bridges of culture” to other people around the world.

Below are just a few companies that have taken the big leap and communicated with other fans around the globe to see what they are like. Surprisingly their counterparts are exactly like them. The only difference is that they speak different languages. Having something in common is the greatest thing a fan can have. Trying to speak to each other will come later.

(Photo by: Ichigo Black. Used with permission)

Ichigo Black is an alternative clothing company run by Sasha Thomas. She is currently attending Massachusetts College of Art and Design. She is majoring in Fashion design and has been sewing professionally for over 4 years. Sasha has a passion for Japanese street fashion. Her goal is to create Japanese inspired fashion for the US market that fits a person’s changing lifestyle.

(Photo by: Brian S. Mah. Used with permission)

has been the place for all things Japanese pop-culture for over 30 years. With its humble beginnings as a bookstore in western Tokyo, Mandarake has become a destination for fans of Anime, Manga, and video games from around the world. Mr. Kono from the Mandarake’s international office was gracious enough to answer some questions regarding bridges of culture.

(Photo by: Brian S. Mah. Used with permission)

GAMETECH is a Japanese company based in Fukuoka, Japan. The company specializes in custom cases for the PSP, iPhone, and iPod models. The designs come in typical Japanese names, WaSaBi, Kataki, Yawaraka, Miyabi, and Iki. Gametech had a booth at New York Comic Con 2010 with many people trying to buy these cool designs from Southern Japan. Mr. Morita was kind enough to answer some questions.

1. How long have you been selling products?
Ichigo Black: 6 years total, but I've been selling under the name "Ichigo Black" for 2 years only.

Mandarake: We have been doing business in Nakano Broadway building since 1980.

GAMETECH: Our Company was founded in 1985; it‘s our 25th Anniversary. We have released more than 1,500 items since then.

2. How long have you been a fan of Japanese popular culture?
Ichigo Black: For as long as I can remember! Going to Japan had been a dream of mine to experience it all for myself since I was a kid.

Mandarake: Some of our staff loves American toys as well, but we mainly focus on Japanese culture.

GAMETECH: We have been doing business in Japan. Lately we have just started studying about the U.S. culture.

3. Have you noticed any changes in the customer's buying habits over the years?
Ichigo Black: Yes, the economy has left a lot of people jobless with less expendable cash. Last year I noticed buying necessities comes first and then there's not a lot left after that. This year has been a little better, but I find people only buy something if they know where they'd where it and what they'd wear it with. In past years, if someone saw something and thought it was cute, they'd usually end up buying it whether or not they've got anything specific in mind.

Mandarake: Increase in customers who doesn't look like typical "otaku" but true Otaku.

GAMETECH: We feel people tend to buy more items for Smart Phone than video game items.

4. What genre has always been popular with fans?
Ichigo Black: I'm not sure genre is the best word to describe it, but what's always been popular is any and everything with animal ears. At the moment most fans fall head over heals for the Animimi hoodies. They're cute hooded sweatshirts with animal ears (and tails coming soon)! They're kind of new, so there isn't a lot available on the site, but we do make sure to have quite a selection when we sell at anime cons.

Mandarake: Animations being aired on TV, manga on Jump magazine, pop games, Idols, anime voice actors, and a lot of other things.

GAMETECH: iPhone is becoming the most popular in our product.

5. What are some of the difficulties facing your business today?
Ichigo Black: The main difficulty I'm facing today is the rising cost of materials here in the US. Also, since the decline of the economy, a lot of the smaller discount fabric stores have closed down and the local factories have moved their production to China. Another problem I've noticed is that the major stores have caught on to the popularity of Japanese pop culture and the bigger chains are starting to produce styles similar to mine for about half the cost (since they can afford to outsource their production).

Mandarake: If many of the future products will be based on downloading data such as games, rather than selling goods.

GAMETECH: Gamers’ preferences are becoming more and more diverse everyday.
It is difficult for us to target a certain range of users.

6. What do you think are ways to increase understanding of different cultures?
Ichigo Black: The Internet is very helpful for informational purposes, but it can only go so far... Traveling is probably the easiest way to gain a better understanding from your own experiences.

Mandarake: Fastest way is to take interest in something, and to understand that something you like.

GAMETECH: We would say people should respect each other and acknowledge that a good thing is good. (We are worried if you understand this.)

7. What is your personal favorite item in your store?
Ichigo Black: My personal favorite items would have to be the wrist cuffs. They're versatile so they go with almost any outfit ^_^

Mandarake (Kono): Transformers, Macross, and Gundam

GAMETECH: WaSaBi iPhone4 Metal Cover, which is coming soon.

8. What are the biggest obstacles preventing more cultural exchanges?
Ichigo Black: I think the biggest obstacle preventing more cultural exchanges is the lack of opportunities for young people to travel to other countries. I know quite a few people who have not left the state they were born in far less the country. I've been traveling since I was 3 years old and that's the reason I've always had the urge to experience other cultures. I think if kids were able to travel more often, it would open their eyes, from an early age, to the wonders of the world around them :)

Mandarake: If there is a mutual interest such as Animation or Manga, we do not think there will be any big obstacles.

GAMETECH: I personally think a language would be one of the obstacles. Many Japanese can’t speak English. In addition, they are very reserved and shy. (I am NOT) But I feel American people do not call down foreigners just because they do not speak English properly. This is what I felt when I went to L.A. It would be very useful if people across the world had a common language!

9. What do you think is the next "hot" item?
Ichigo Black: I honestly have no idea >_< As long as its nothing like the crazy 80s that's going on now, I'm happy to see what will be next!

Mandarake: We would like to know as well.

GAMETECH: Next generation of iPhone

10. What advise would give to people who want to make the leap to
work with other cultures?
Ichigo Black: There are quite a few teaching opportunities for those who don't mind jumping right in and living in a different country for a while... You can also just hop on a plane and wing it... which I've done and, depending on where you're going, I've found people in other countries are quite nice and very helpful to visitors ^_^

Mandarake: To pursuit on something you love, will lead to work.

GAMETECH: I would say, “Don’t be shy and don’t think your culture is the standard of the world. Different people have different thinking.”

Next up, several people have been interviewed who are bridges of culture.