It's great to be an otaku today, though I’m certainly not as hardcore as some fans. My shrines to Tenchi Muyo have been packed in boxes, but my dining area still features a beautiful Vampire Princess Miyu poster, and action figures are scattered around my house. We grow up, we get new interests, but we’ll always be otakus at heart. We’ll see someone with a Naruto t-shirt and give them a smile and a nod, that is, if we don’t have time to start up a whole conversation about the inherent coolness of ninjas.

When I started doing columns here at, it was great because suddenly I was in touch with my audience. People from all walks of life, all demographics, could give me input, correct my mistakes, and point out something I forgot to factor in.

I’m excited about Version Vibrant, and I can’t wait to try out my columns again. I do plan to put in more information and news updates about topics I find interesting, as well as focus on my columns about aspects of otaku life. I plan to set up a tagging system to identify different topics, so if you’re only interested in one thing, you can just check on that.

Some of the topics I’m planning to cover are:

Anime Conventions, AMVs, Otaku Socialization, Cosplay, Dealing with Parents, Writing, Publishing, Artists Alley, and Making a Difference in the Anime World

As always, check out the site at

Artist's Alley AX

Back now from AnimeExpo and I suppose I should talk about the Artist’s Alley at the country’s biggest anime convention.

First off, business-wise, it could have been better. A lot better. My sales were okay, but not any better than at SakuraCon, which is a third the size if not smaller. Yes, the AA was bigger with more competition, so that probably accounts for some of the difference. More people were selling buttons and Disgaea stuff (we didn’t sell a single Disgaea pin, where we usually sell a few), but the traffic in there never really felt like it was a con with 40K people.

For those of you artists out there who are hoping that bigger will be better, I’d recommend you stay at your local cons. So far, out of all the Artist's Alleys I’ve done, my best sales were at relatively small conventions, Nan Desu Kan (really sad I won’t be back there this year) and KumoriCon. This is both in terms of sales of the buttons we make and of my Otaku Survival Guides.

One thing that disappoints me about some of the bigger AAs is the cookie cutter nature of some of the booths. There are quite a few that have the exact same pvc piping displays and the same style of shiny print fan art. Some of the tables at AnimeExpo looked exactly the same because they were by the same guy, but even without that, a number of independent tables also tended to look just like their neighbor. Yes, people buy those pieces, but I can’t help crying for the lack of creativity that comes from numerous prints of Characters X, Y, and Z from the waist up, trying to look sexy. I know people buy them, and the profit margin is good, but… still makes me a little sad. There's a fine balance as a creative business person between making something just because it sells and making something because you want to make it. That’s a line I constantly debate, and I can’t exactly fault those who want to draw something just because it sells. Still, I’m more likely these days to pick up something because it makes me laugh or something original that is beautiful, instead of just another picture of Sephiroth or Orihime.

This isn’t to say there wasn’t plenty of talent in that room! I bought some great prints and plenty of cute little stickers and buttons, plus a nice Death Note doujin in English and an original graphic novel that I have yet to read (but I started, and I love the art, plus the creator was willing to put up with my stupid questions about how he was doing selling the book). Plus, I think between my roommate and I, we bought at least one of every Disgaea piece in the room. I also had a great time talking with some artists I’ve met before, as well as making some new contacts and friends. Plus I had the great joy of talking with Nene Thomas’s husband about some of her upcoming projects and finding out about their own publishing woes. If I see someone with a self-published book, chances are I’m going to start talking to them!

Outside of the Artist’s Alley, I really didn’t do too much at the convention. I went to a meet-up for, where pretty much no one showed up, and got to talk to the Anime Pulse guys a bit. Most of my day was spent in the alley, from 10 in the morning to 7 in the evening, and after that I was generally pretty pooped. I did shop around the Dealers Hall quite a bit, and like always, I walked away with quite a bit less money, though my spending is getting better. Got myself a Kurtis Prinny!

I was warned when I started down the path of attending conventions as more of a business than just for fun, that it would really become work. And in some ways, it is. I worry about money, I worry about what products we’ll have, and I certainly don’t get to see much of the con. But at the same time, I stopped really attending conventions for the paneling some time ago. And I honestly love sitting at my table and talking to everyone who comes past. So when I’m exhausted at the end of the day, it’s the good kind of tired. And I’ll keep doing this, even if the money isn’t that good and the hours are long. Because it lets me do the one thing I really like to do at conventions, and that’s meet new people and socialize.

Parent's Guide to Anime

Parents and Conventions :: P1 Parent's Guide to Anime

As I stress out about Anime Expo next week and try to get ready for the Artists Alley, I'm thinking it might be appropriate to start my parents columns off with talking about parenting at conventions. First, let's go through the different age group concerns and how to deal with them at a convention This is great for both parents and older siblings who are trying to bring in siblings or who need to counter the "well, we don't want to take your baby brother..." argument. Then, I'll leave you with some tips on what the liberated parent can do at a convention while their teens are off playing.

I hope you find this useful (or good reading to forward on to your own parents) and be sure to stop by my table if you happen to be at Anime Expo!

Parents At Conventions

Conventions can be a lot of fun. Whether you are an avid anime fan introducing your child to their first convention or a parent reluctantly convinced to play chaperone, you can still have a great time at an anime con with your kids.
What age is appropriate for their first con?

This is an incredibly tough question, and one that comes down to knowing your child well enough to know how they are going to handle being in a busy room with lots of other people for many hours. So let’s look at concerns by age:

0-3 Years – While illness may be a minor consideration at this age, most parents and doctors agree that for the average baby, there is no harm in being among other people. Now, you don’t want someone coughing on your kid, but you don’t really want them coughing on you either. So unless your doctor has specifically said your kid might be susceptible to diseases right now (such as if they are preemie), then this isn’t a concern.

Something that might be a problem though is the method of transportation for your child at the con. Baby slings or backpacks are going to be useful in the crowded hallways, as strollers are often more of a hassle than they are helpful. As your child gets older, an umbrella stroller might be useful, since those are more flexible to navigate through a crowded room and can be easily collapsed when you are in a panel.

Another thing to think about is that none of us want to listen to your baby scream. Having a child is not a reason to lock yourself up at home, but it is a commitment to take care of your child’s needs and make sure that those needs do not hurt the comfort of others. If your child wakes up from a nap and cries, you need to leave the panel and attend to their needs.

As they get older, they aren’t going to want to sit still in panel rooms, and there isn’t going to be much you can do about it. That’s where tag team parenting comes in, and I wouldn’t recommend that you attend an event with a child this young by yourself. Get together with some friends or other parents who want to attend, and take turns taking a break with the babes so that everyone gets some time to enjoy the convention.

At this early of an age, the actual value of the convention to your child is minimal. It can be a way to get out and learn to deal with other people, but even towards the age of three, they probably won’t be distracted by the shinies for very long. Really, at this age, they are there because you want to be there and there wasn’t a babysitter around. And that’s fine. It just means you have more responsibility to your fellow con-goers.

3-6 Years – By this age, they are probably getting to actually recognize Pikachu or Vash, whatever you may let them watch. Now the ability to sit still is still a major issue, but there might be more activities that can catch their interests. Craft areas can be a lot of fun right now, and some conventions have specific activities set up for kids under the age of ten.
All previous comments about courtesy do still apply. While most people understand that kids act, well, like kids, that doesn’t mean they want to have to deal with it firsthand. Many attendees are single teens/early twenties, and they are not there to babysit. Keep track of your kid and monitor their crankiness levels.

Art by Nightambre

Parents, remember there is a difference between being supportive and being embarrassing!

6-10 Years – Okay, now your kid is beginning to have fun and be interested in the convention. They are probably starting to have enough of an attention span to sit through some panels and pay attention to what is going on. Now’s a great time to let your child take part in planning what they are going to do at the convention.

10-13 Years – And now the attitude starts. This is the age where they are going to want to be separated from you, and you might be tempted to let them meander by themselves for a while.

The problem with that is that most delinquency is caused by this age group at conventions. I’d recommend knowing your child very well at this age before you let them off by themselves, and check the convention rules. Many conventions require that parents stay with their kids up until at least the age of thirteen, if not fifteen.

One way to give them privacy while they are still under the age of thirteen (or even up to fifteen at some cons) is to simply be in the same area, but out of hearing distance. That way you can keep an eye on what is going on, but allow your pre/teen to have space with their friends.

13-18 Years – Many cons require that parents still be on the premises with their minors, and really, this is good for your child’s safety. If your teen doesn’t have a cell phone, try to make sure they have one at least for the convention, in case of emergency.

Check the rules for the con that you are attending and see what the age limits are. Even if you are not required to stay on site with your teen and you trust your teen to be by himself or herself, make sure to be accessible throughout the day.

What Parents Can Do While Their Teen Plays
So once your offspring is old enough that you just want to be in the same building, but not following them around, what can you do?

Well, anime cons tend to not only offer a large variety of anime related activities, but they also have many culture related panels. This can be a great time to learn about the Japanese tea ceremony or how to play a new game. There are also often panels like Anime 101 and Parent’s Guide to Anime, which can be a great place for parents to learn more about their child’s love. Anime viewing rooms can be a way to pass your time and watch shows that your teen watches as well. Crafts are becoming more and more popular at cons, too, and the devoted crafting rooms are always fun to hang out in.

Check over the program and ask your teen what kinds of activities they would recommend for you to do. Also, express an interest in attending a few panels or viewings with them.

Darker Side of Cosplay...

Darker Side of Cosplay... :: Cosplay Mayhem P5

Sadly, for every five people who are cosplaying for the fun of it, there is that person who is cosplaying to be superior or, worse yet, who don't cosplay and just want to make fun of those who do. Now we all know that people have choices in life; they can like cosplay, they can hate it, but going to the extent of making up websites just to bash those who are slightly "off" on their costume is just plain mean. Unfortunately, it goes with the territory, and there isn't much to do besides develop nerves of steel.

… and you'll need those nerves of steel when you run into the big hairy man in a little tiny skirt. But more on that later.

Costume Accuracy and Choosing Fabrics
There are always going to be people judging you on every little detail related to your costume. Most people are nice enough not to say it, but competition can get fierce at cons, and you need to be ready to deal with petty backstabbing. You haven't seen drama like this since the high school cafeteria.

Now, some cosplayers are just casual costume makers who care more about the fact that you recognize the character than that they got every little detail right. Some are lazy, and some just don't want to learn how to make real armor and figure foam will do instead. There isn't anything wrong with not having a "perfect" costume, but you have to accept that there will be those that find fault with it.

Unfortunately, there are sites and blogs out there that will rag on anyone who doesn't fit the perfect image of a cosplayer. They don't tend to pick on the small mistakes as much, if you don't have the right wig color or whatever (though probably someone will notice and comment), but if you dare to cosplay Slayers' Naga and you're overweight, you might well be a target for them.

Another point on costume accuracy is the fabrics that you choose. I've seen some neat costumers that added in extra detail, like choosing a more watery fabric for Sailor Mercury's blue or a detailed scroll print on a medieval dress. Those kind of changes can add to the character, as long as they fit into the idea of the outfit. On the other hand, I saw some cosplayers who used fancy Chinese fabrics for some Naruto costumes and, well, I don't even watch Naruto, and I immediately knew how out-of-the-norm the costumes were. I later saw the two cosplayers' pictures on one of the "cosplayers suck" type websites.

The moral of the story is, be aware when you are deviating from the accepted costume design or making odd fabric choices. Someone will pick up on it, though most will be too polite to say anything, but other cosplayers do notice.

Art by Joe Blank

Have you heard of Man Faye? Cardcaptor Will? Sailor Bubba? Have you noticed men in tight skirts and women with large bulges?

Crossplay is the term for this growing obsession for dressing as the other gender. Now, when a woman dresses like a guy, we hardly bat an eye. As a society, we're used to it. But when it's a man dressed as a woman, we all have to turn and stare, fascinated, and wonder: "Did I just see what I think I saw? … Nah… … On second thought, I guess I did."

For a while, it seemed like guys would only dress as Vash or Alucard, someone manly and worthy of their time. Lately though, guys have realized that if they are pretty, and dress as a bishounen, they will have girls fawning all over them.

Crossplay covers all these situations, but it's still the guy in the short shorts that makes us stop and stare. Girls dressing as boys has become a norm for anime conventions, as many characters (Xellos from Slayers is a classic example) are often seen as too feminine (or flaming) in personality for boys to dress as. Therefore a guy dressing as some of these characters (James from Pokemon is yet another example) is often far more shocking than a girl dressed as these boys.

So women will just have to try harder to shock and amaze. Hence, long discussions on proper bulge stuffing.

And thus, with that image in mind, we end our discussion of cosplay. Next time I'll be talking about explaining anime to your parents and some various gateway animes that might just get them hooked. Plus, for any otaku parents out there, later on there will be tips on making conventions fun for the whole family, from infants to teenagers.

RPG Piggy Bank

Having trouble saving your money?

Well, if you live in Japan, you can now save money via an RPG style bank. As you add money, apparently you can buy accessories for your character.

Why can't we get cool electronic toys like this?

Found via Boing Boing

Make-up, Wigs, and Feet

Make-up, Wigs, and Feet :: Cosplay Mayhem P4

So the best part of cosplay is being able to completely immerse yourself in a new character, to become someone you aren't. Or at least that's why I cosplay! In order to do that though, most of us need some extra help in the way of wigs, contacts, make-up, and yes, even padding sometimes. Oh, the stories I could tell you about cosplaying Amelia from Slayers (Naga's little sister) and the number of "Your chest isn't big enough" comments another friend and me have both gotten during our experiences cosplaying as the over-endowed princess.

Hair & Wigs
Hair is difficult to talk about, because everyone has different types. Curly, straight, long, short, thin, thick, light, or dark, there is no good universal advice on cosplay hairstyling.

My hair is naturally light-colored, thin, and medium length. Because of that, it's not hard for me to pull my hair up or curl it, but I can't do Sailor Moon buns and tails, because my hair isn't long enough or thick enough for that. My favorite method of lightening or darkening my hair is to use Kool-Aid. I mix it with less water than the package says and use black cherry for darker and strawberry or regular cherry for more of a brown tint to light hair. This leaves the hair feeling a little bit sticky, but it dries quickly and doesn't stain or flake off once the hair is dry.

For hardcore cosplayers, you can actually dye your hair using permanent or semi-permanent dyes. Once I tried to help a friend dye her hair blue, and I will never dye hair again. The bleach was hard to apply and time correctly in her very dark hair, and it ended up kind of patchy. The blue didn't take very well to the hair either, and according to her hairstylist, who fixed it, blue is the hardest color to use to dye hair.

Wigs are of course the non-permanent alternative. I don't really like wigs, as my skin tends to get itchy, but if you are going to wear a wig, make sure you have plenty of bobby pins to keep your natural hair up. Wigs tend to be at their cheapest around Halloween, or you can find specialty anime wigs online and at conventions. These will be more expensive, but typically a higher quality and will come in more anime suited colors and styles.

I styled my own wig, the one time I used one, by using normal hair care products. (It was a synthetic wig, and I was cosplaying as Amelia wil Tesla Saillune from Slayers, who has short purple hair that curls outwards.) I found a wig that had the basic shape I wanted, and then used normal styling gel to make the shape more distinct. Finally I topped it off with some purple streaks from a streaking product. In contrast, the same friend with the unfortunate blue hair incident cosplayed Amelia a few years before that, and I spent a couple of hours with a curling iron and styling gel to get the same effect in her natural hair. Using a wig had more preparation time (styling the wig) but meant I only needed to tie up my hair and put on the wig at the event itself. It just goes to show how much your natural hair affects what you'll need to do. Really, both methods had their own problems and conveniences. Personally, I don't like wearing wigs, so I would have rather styled my hair if possible, while other people I know aren't bothered by wigs at all. Of course, a wig you can do yourself, while hairstyling often takes a generous friend.

Hair extensions can also be useful, and they are rarely very expensive. These can then be cut and restyled if you are ambitious. My Vampire Princess Miyu hair was done with a hair extension that I found as a braid on a scrunchy (on clearance) that I then cut off, re-tied, un-braided, and washed so the braid waves would go away. It was a much less stressful way to do a bun with a dangling hair piece than to try to bobby pin my own hair into that style.

Art by Nut-Case
Remember, cosplay can be a fun even for the whole family. Get your parents and their creativity involved!

This is another very ethnic and diverse area for cosplay. Most anime characters are Japanese, though only some look it, and most cosplayers in America are not. Some people go with painting anime style eyes around their own eyes. Others use make-up to make their eyes wider. This is a cosplay area where talking to other cosplayers can really help. has a whole forum on make-up, and you can take advantage of finding other people with similar facial styles and learn from them.

This seems as good a time as any to mention contact lenses. Plenty of cosplayers use them these days, and if you don't need them to be prescription, then they are moderately priced. Average prices seems to be between $30-$40 for solid colors, while specialized styles might cost you upwards of $160 to $300 for the most unique and anime centric contacts.

Barefoot Dilemma
Just to be difficult, some of our favorite characters like to run around barefoot. This can be quite a problem for cosplayers, as anyone that's ever walked barefoot across an asphalt parking lot can tell you. As many conventions grow too big to use a single hotel or convention center, cosplayers need to deal with traveling between buildings several times a day.

Even if you are inside all the time, in such a crowded space, toes can be stepped on, and many mysterious things can be stuck in the carpet.

So here are a few choices:

  • Wear slippers/shoes/sandals when outside, and then go barefoot inside.
  • Create a substitute – for my Miyu costume, I found white sandals with only a few straps. Since Miyu has a ribbon around her foot, I painted some of the straps red to represent the ribbon and left the rest white. I then tied the rest of my ribbon up my leg. (In retrospect, I should have made the ribbon on my leg shorter, because I had people stepping on it at the con.)
  • Get a pair of flesh-toned ballet slippers and use those.

Certainly, with a bit of creativity you can find a solution that works for you. And when it comes time to be on stage for cosplay, it's easy enough to remove any footwear.

Next time I plan to talk a bit about the pit-falls of costuming and the drama associated with cosplay bash sites and the interesting phenomena known as cross-play.