Wednesday, August 21, 2013

What is Japan Expo?



Japanese animation has a strong place in many Americans hearts. This led to the creation of Anime Conventions, which was based off the models of earlier science fiction conventions like WorldCon and mutigenre conventions like Comic Con. The popularity of anime has led to many long running conventions in North America like Project A-Kon, Anime Expo, and Otakon. Across the seas, the people of France have a longstanding love of everything Japanese. The manga industry in France is decades old compared to the relatively young American manga industry. France is one of the biggest and most vibrant consumers of Japanese culture. Naturally, it is also home to one of the biggest conventions in the world, Japan Expo, held in France annually in the beginning of the month of July. I will explore the history of Japan Expo and its sibling conventions, and why Japan Expo is the gigantic convention it is in Europe.

Crowds at Japan Expo
©Japan Expo ©JTS Group
The history of the largest convention in Europe is a humble story of anime and manga fans who wanted to make a difference. Jean-François Dufour, Sandrine Dufour and Thomas Sirdey, huge fans of anime and manga, founded Japan Expo in 1999. They based Japan Expo on small European conventions with an average attendee size of 1,000 to 2,000 people. The company behind it, the JTS Group was originally a non-profit company in France. Due to a conflict with French tax laws; it was reclassified as a for-profit company. Since its inception, Japan Expo grew from a convention with 3,200 attendees to a record 235,000 attendees in 2013. With the popularity of the Japan Expo brand, they have expanded into several other events. Japan Expo Sud started in 2009 in Marseilles, France as the spring anime convention in Southern France. Japan Expo Centre is the Fall convention in Orléans, France founded in 2012. They expanded to Belgium and started Japan Expo Belgium, which is one month after Japan Expo Centre in Brussels, Belgium. Their first foray to the English speaking world is Japan Expo USA. Thomas Sirdey and Sean Chiochankitmun started this American convention through the company SEFA Entertainment, a subsidiary of JTS Group.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Editorial: The Changing Landscape of Cosplay


Seeing people in cosplay is a highlight for me as long as I have attended conventions. There is so much skill in artisanship, posing, and facial emotions to get the character right. Over time, I have done photoshoots with people in this hobby and through that, I have connected and made friends with a variety of cosplayers over time. Over time, I noticed several trends, some I like and some I do not like. What I like is the increasing quality of Cosplay and the amount of effort in costumes has improved in leaps and bounds. By extension, the quality of the posing and facial emotions has improved significantly over time. What I do not like are the increasing sexualization of Cosplay and the influx of photographers that are drawn by this sexualization of Cosplay.

For the positive, the quality of Cosplay has improved significantly over time. The cosplay wigs have become much better in quality, and there has been a huge improvement in the craftsmanship of the Cosplay outfits. In turn, people practice their Cosplay more, and the ubiquity of the Internet means that there are many more references to understand and master the character. In turn, posing and facial emotions have improved significantly, since people understand the character and how they interact with the world out there. There are also many avenues to get instantaneous feedback between the photographer and the cosplayer that has push the skill levels of both far beyond how it was in the past. From this perspective, the art of cosplay itself has flowered beyond my wildest expectations when I got into cosplay photography so many years ago.

The negative has bothered me and it will continue to bother me, it is the increasing sexualization and of Cosplay. There are varieties of geek websites that unfortunately use these cosplayers to increase hits for ad revenue. Greater exposure to the hobby is great, but they tend to highlight the best and the most beautiful of the cosplayers. Due to the nature of these sites, they also tend to ignore male cosplayers unless they are very eye-catching or have some sort of gimmick to attract attention. This focus leads to people who have a misinformed opinion that only the most beautiful and genetically gifted can cosplay. Those with a misinformed opinion may also shame people who are bigger, skinnier, darker, or not as pretty as those featured on those websites. It changes the dynamic of the fandom from one of connecting and showing love for a character to one of finding Cosplay that can make them more popular than ever. This shift in Cosplay culture has created an arms race where people try to become "Cosplay Popular" and race to get as many likes as possible

This leads to another unfortunate paradigm shift, the influx of photographers who are not fans of the hobby but of certain people who cosplay. They are there because of the sexualization of Cosplay, and taking photos can fulfill personal fetishes. They are not there for capturing the spirit of Cosplay; they are there to get as many beautiful people as possible. This leaves certain cosplayers who have a glut of photographers asking for “photoshoots” while there are many walking around the convention wondering if they will even get the time of day. Many of these people are not familiar with social norms, hence why there have been a rise of "creepers" with cameras.

As I have seen from experience, the common solutions people bring to the table are wrong. Some resort to “slut shaming” where they would insult them and berate them. The problem with this is that it also does not reward the hard work it takes to keep a fit body, the dieting, exercise, and scheduling needed to maintain a fit figure. It only brings negativity and divisiveness to the community that should be more inclusive, rather than exclusive. Ideally, we welcome all in the cosplay community. On one level, a solution can be found by us, the people within the cosplay and cosplay photography community. Make sure they have a level head and a good heart. It is perfectly fine to be a fan, but there is no need to idealize them and blindly follow what they do. A true fan would knock them back to reality if they do something wrong, and praise them for doing hard work. The most important part is that include them as part of the community, they are not above it, they are a part of it. Treat them as equals, not as superiors. Being white-knight sycophants that praise them for every good and bad thing they do is destructive.

The situation with cosplay has changed a bit over time, and it has its fair share of the good and bad. The quality has improved light years and it has improved the cosplay experience as a whole. There is an increase in sexualization due to the heavy promotion of the prettiest and the sexiest, which had a rather unfortunate side effect by drawing in people who only wants to photograph the prettiest and the sexiest. Instead of berating these cosplayers, include them in the community and keep them in line by being constructive, not destructive.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Taking Photoshoot Requests for Anime Expo 2013



Okay, taking requests for photoshoots for Anime Expo 2013. As of right now Saturday and Sunday are for sure, and Thursday is a most likely.

Please send me an email if you want a Photoshoot: kriszphotography@gmail.com

Subject Header: AX 2013 - Shoot Request for (Insert Name here or Insert group name here)

Cosplay/Cosplay Group:
Cosplay Character:
Series:

Experience with shoots:
Availability during con:
Time Preference: Morning/Afternoon/Night/No Preference
Theme you want the shoot to convey:
Length of shoot you want? 15 or 30 minutes

Do you want your photos posted online? Yes/No
Do you have a fanpage you want tagged with your photos?
Yes/No If yes, do you have a link?

*Disclaimer* 
Sending a photo request does not guarantee a shoot due to the high level of photoshoot requests.

Final requests for photoshoots end at May 25th, 2013 at 11:59pm. Any submissions after that time will miss the deadline, thanks!!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Behind the Cosplay - Tomoyo-Chan (Part III)


Tomoyo-Chan aka Jen B. is a rising star in the world of cosplay. She has grown to become one of the premier Latina cosplayers in Southern California with her wonderful renditions of Sailor Jupiter, Shana, Rise, Luka and many more. I have had the pleasure of doing many photo shoots with her since we became friends several years ago. Here is a transcript of our three part interview that covers a variety of broad subjects, from the origins of her love of the hobby to how she deals with future cosplay.

In Part 1 she went over the anime that got her into the hobby and her thoughts of the decline of the manga market in the USA. In part II she talked about her experiences in anime conventions and her favorite cosplay. In this section, she talks about Infotakus and her favorite cosplay photographer. Hint: He has a master's degree and used to run Anime Expo.

Interview Part III

Kris: Let's go on to another topic, the group that you started called Infotakus.

Tomoyo-chan: Ah yes!!!

Kris: What was the inspiration for this group?

Tomoyo-chan: We started it due to con withdrawal. Primarily, we wanted to hang out more, not only at cons. My friends and I wanted to reach out and meet new people, we are based in the LA area and I know there are tons of otakus here; we just need to reach out to them.

Kris: Yes, some of the best ones in SoCal are in the area. What are the qualifications to join Infotakus?

Tomoyo-chan: That is the best part! There are not any, anyone can be part of it. Of course, we have staff and admin, but anyone can be a member. Our only golden rule is NO DRAMA. Otherwise, you are good to go.

Kris: Yes, that is a rule that should be heavily enforced, since the convention world is filled with it. So what does infotakus do over the course of the year?

Tomoyo-chan: We host gatherings for most of the major holidays: Valentine's Day, Easter, Summer, Halloween, Christmas. In other words, we get together when there is not a con going on, we also celebrate birthday parties

Kris: Awesome, have you considered expanding Infotakus beyond the LA area? Such as expansion into the Inland Empire, Orange County, or San Diego?

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Behind the Cosplay - Tomoyo-Chan (Part II)


Tomoyo-Chan aka Jen B. is a rising star in the world of cosplay. She has grown to become one of the premier Latina cosplayers in Southern California with her wonderful renditions of Sailor Jupiter, Shana, Rise, Luka and many more. I have had the pleasure of doing many photo shoots with her since we became friends several years ago. Here is a transcript of our three part interview that covers a variety of broad subjects, from the origins of her love of the hobby to how she deals with future cosplay.

In Part 1 she went over the anime that got her into the hobby and her thoughts of the decline of the manga market in the USA. In this segment she talks about her experiences in anime conventions and her favorite cosplay.

Interview Part II

Kris: A perfect segway to the next segment, anime conventions. Can you tell me about your first anime convention?

Tomoyo-chan: Yup - Anime expo 2009. It was a date, my boyfriend took me, I had no idea this con existed, I had just moved back from Guate like a year before

Kris: Oh wow, so your first big event from coming back from Guatemala was an anime convention?

Tomoyo-chan: Yup!! I was so excited because while growing up in Guate we didn’t have that

Kris: Why did he decide to bring you to an Anime Convention for a Date?

Tomoyo-chan: He knew how much I loved Anime and we lived so close, so it was convenient. We only went one day and it was enough to get me hooked, just one day. I said: "I HAVE to go back next year" and I did, all 4 days

Kris: Wow, that is wonderful. What popped in your mind when you first saw cosplayers?

Tomoyo-chan: I was like WOW! "I'M HOME!" Finally a place where people could understand my geeky tendencies

Kris: That is so cool. So when was the first year you started cosplaying?

Tomoyo-chan: I want to say 2010, but I only wore like a school girl uniform

Kris: What motivated you to start cosplaying?

Tomoyo-chan: Seeing other people in cosplay and how much fun they were having

Kris: So a part of it had to do with wanting to join the fun.

Tomoyo-chan: Yup, definitely

Kris: I remember that at first you had some apprehension about cosplaying, what was that final push to motivate you?

Tomoyo-chan: Yeah - well, me being Latina I felt like I would not be able to pull of the look, and I have always been very self-conscious about my body image, too tall - not too thin enough. I dunno - silly girl worries, but I really wanted to join the fun and make new friends so I just jumped and did it and when I did cosplay with a full on wig and everything people were taking my picture, and I was like: "WOW! Maybe I do look ok after all."

Friday, February 1, 2013

Behind the Cosplay - Tomoyo-Chan (Part I)


Tomoyo-Chan aka Jen B. is a rising star in the world of cosplay. She has grown to become one of the premier Latina cosplayers in Southern California with her wonderful renditions of Sailor Jupiter, Shana, Rise, Luka and many more. I have had the pleasure of doing many photo shoots with her since we became friends several years ago. Here is a transcript of our three part interview that covers a variety of broad subjects, from the origins of her love of the hobby to how she deals with future cosplay. Enjoy!

Interview Part I

Kris: Welcome Tomoyo-chan to my third interview

Tomoyo-chan: Konbanwa!

Kris: So let's get started, what drew you to anime conventions?

Tomoyo-chan: I have been watching since I was like 10 years old. I used to live In Guatemala so I grew up watching anime subbed in Spanish, they are really good dubs by the way!!

Kris: Nice! Can you talk a little bit about the anime that got you into the hobby?

Tomoyo-chan: SAILORMOON! It was the first anime I ever watched

Kris: Wonderful, so what aspects of the anime drew you in?

Tomoyo-chan: I want to say the storyline, magical girls with awesome powers. I was into Power Rangers at the time too.

Kris: I see...

Tomoyo-chan: so I wanted something more girly as a counterpart, hehehe

Kris: Did you want to be a Sailor Senshi when you were little?

Tomoyo-chan: Yes! I used to play Sailor Moon with my friends. We roleplayed and I was always Jupiter because I was tall, but I knew more about the show so I directed the roleplaying

Kris: So speaking of Sailor Jupiter, you have cosplayed as her and gained quite a reputation with her cosplay. Can you relate to the character?

Tomoyo-chan: I can! She has always felt in disadvantage with other girls because of her height and I feel that way as well. I also love sweets and flowers like her and she is a very quiet character but when she gets upset, the thunder comes out! I can relate to that.

Kris: Are there any other females in the cast that you could relate to?

Tomoyo-chan: Sailor Pluto, whom I will also be cosplaying at AX

Kris: Why do you like Sailor Pluto?

Tomoyo-chan: she has a motherly vibe - she is very protective of her friends, especially chibi-usa chan. I am like that with my friends. Come on, She can stop time!

Kris: That is quite an awesome power, with a rather unfortunate consequence. Ha ha ha

Tomoyo-chan: Yup, ha ha ha!!

Kris: You mentioned that you were born and raised in Guatemala. So can you give a little insight into anime culture when you were younger?

Tomoyo-chan: Of course! I was actually born here and then had to move to Guatemala

Kris: Oh my fault!

Tomoyo-chan: So I had built somewhat of a geekness here before going to Guate. I was exposed to American culture long enough to understand that awesomeness of being a geek. I moved to Guate when I was 8.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Neptunia V gets NA date and trailer


Today, Nippon Ichi Software America has announced the North American and the European Union release date for the third game in the Neptunia franchise. Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory will be released in North America on March 12, 2013 and it will get a European Union release on March 15, 2013. This announcement was complimented by a (fairly bad) trailer that gives the audience an idea of what the third installment of the Neptunia franchise will be about. Neptunia Victory is the sequel to Mk2 and uses references from the 1980's generation of consoles. Look forward to a full review shortly after the game is released in March 2013.

Links
Neptunia V Website
Neptunia V Trailer