A visit to Nan Desu Kan: Cosplay takes the spotlight at anime convention

As an outsider to the anime and manga community Erin and I are drawn to Nan Desu Kan, Denver’s anime convention that celebrates its 16th year this weekend at the Marriott in the Tech Center, in large part for its attendees’ passion for cosplay. We’re not that familiar with the plethora of contemporary anime titles (though I did grow up as a kid in Japan watching the likes of Astro Boy).

But you don’t need to be an anime expert to appreciate the crazy freakshow (in the good way) of cosplay.

Cosplay is a word coined by a Japanese animator, Nobuyuki Takahashi, after attending a Los Angeles anime convention in 1984. He was taken by how many American fans dress up to role-play their favorite anime characters. When he returned to Japan and reported on his trip in the media at home, he called the phenomenon cosplay, a typical Japanese language trick of creating a pun by collapsing two words together: Costume Play.

At the Marriott last night, cosplay was front and center: The annual Cosplay Costume, the main event for many attendees, was held in the hotel’s event center. The lobby, halls, restaurants and conference rooms were all thick with people dressed to kill … in a cartoon. The hotel reserves every room — the entire building — for the three-day event.

And last night the highlight of the convention, the annual Cosplay Contest, was held.
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Yellowface redux: Why is it OK for Hollywood to cast white people as Asians?

Yellowface is back in Hollywood, and it’s as big, ugly, blatant and offensive as ever.

Racebending wrote about this a couple of weeks ago in “The Cloud Atlas Conversation: Yellowface, Prejudice, and Artistic License,” but as more and more people see the trailer for the new sci-fi flick “Cloud Atlas” (the film just premiered at the Toronto Film Festival) the outrage over the casting of white actors as Asian characters is beginning to boil over. I get pretty upset myself, just looking at Hugo Weaving (of “Lord of the Rings” and “Matrix”) shown here with his lids Asianized.

Now, one of the movie’s stars, British actor Jim Sturgess, pokes fun at the controversy by comparing yellowface to a frozen yogurt topping. Really:

Yellowface? Blackface? Pinkface? Pinkberry? Blackberry? Crackberry? Blueberry? Strawberry? Bananas? Frozen Yogurt? All the toppings?.Lovely

It’s easy for Sturgess to make light of this issue — he’s white. But yellowface is deeply offensive to me as an Asian American, and to a whole lot of Asians.
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JACL’s Pacific Citizen newspaper looking for new editor, assistant editor

Pacific Citizen Extraordinary APAs issueHere’s a column I wrote for the latest issue of JACL’s Pacific Citizen newspaper, which is undergoing a crisis with the loss of both its executive editor and assistant editors. The paper is also looking for a fulltime business manager.

I’m on the search committee, so if any of my readers is interested in applying, you should send me an email. I can send you the official job announcement as well as the requirements, which includes the salary ranges.

It’s a tough, demanding position but one with real potential for greatness.

The PC is at a crossroads

As a writer and editor, I’m not supposed to rely on clichés. But the current situation of the Pacific Citizen is best described by a cliché, that the Chinese character for “crisis” also means “opportunity.”

When I served as the PC Editorial Board’s chair for seven years, I defended the newspaper and its staff vigorously at national JACL board meetings. Because it’s expensive to run a news organization, even a super-lean one like this, the PC has always been an easy target when budgets tighten and money is scarce.

But I warned the national board every time someone didn’t understand the importance of the PC to the general membership, or the value it represented for its cost to the organization’s bottom line. I also warned that the staff, including Executive Editor Caroline Aoyagi and Assistant Editor Lynda Lin, were precariously underpaid and were working their butts off doing an excellent job primarily out of passion for their mission and pride in the quality of the PC.

I cautioned that both these fine journalists might flee for other media jobs. Finally, that’s what happened with Caroline, who was wooed away for another job. Lynda is moving because her husband was suddenly transferred overseas by his company.
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V3con held a digital media mirror up to Asian Americans

The V3 conference for Asian America Digital Media, which was held August 25 in Los Angeles, was a landmark event. It was the first time that Asian American media from both journalism and the blogosphere gathered together to discuss their online presence and share their knowledge and skills.

The conference grew out of a similar event, the Banana conference that celebrated Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) bloggers. Erin and I were a panelist at the first Banana conference in 2009, and helped organize Banana 2 last year, which was produced with help from IW Group, an Asian American media and marketing agency.

For V3, which was presented by the Asian American Journalists Association’s Los Angeles chapter, I was the Director of Programming. I decided the topics of the panels and chose most of the panelists, from sessions on Asian Americans in politics (moderated by MSNBC anchor Richard Lui) to a plenary session on the increase of AAPIs in mainstream Hollywood movies, TV series and even commercials. We held serious sessions on how Asian Americans can use social media for non-profit organizations and causes, as well as pop-culture topics like how anime and manga are evolving in the digital era.

The conference was a success, with 500 attendees who filled the sessions, which were held at the Japanese American National Museum in Little Tokyo. Attendees enjoyed a Friday night Opening Reception and Awards Ceremony at the Pacific Asia Museum in Pasadena. But numbers weren’t the only measure of success.
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