Party pics: Joy of Sake 2015

Sake lovers came out in full force Friday night for Joy of Sake 2015 at the Hawaii Convention Center. This annual event is the largest public sake-tasting celebration outside Japan, pairing premium sake with exquisite dishes from some of Hawaii’s top restaurants.

This year’s event was the biggest yet, with a record 391 sakes for attendees to taste and 21 restaurants, including three that are not open yet: SKY Waikiki, chef Chris Kajioka’s mystery Kaimuki venue and Lee Anne Wong’s upcoming noodle and sake bar.

Miss Sake 2015 Sachie Ogawa also made a special appearance, pouring namazake (unpasteurized sake) in a special tasting section and greeting her fans.

Joy of Sake 2015

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Party pics: Bread + Butter Grand Opening

Bread + Butter, the new cafe/restaurant/pinot bar next door to Shokudo, held its official grand opening Thursday evening, with a crowd of about 300 turning out to enjoy musical entertainment by acoustic artist Chris Salvador and DJ Jem, along with wine, beer and delicious bites like the quail egg and shortrib loco moco.

While the eatery has been open since May and has already become a favorite, there were many in the crowd who were being introduced to the food for the first time.

Here are photos by Eric Baranda and Tracy Chan:

Bread and Butter Grand Opening

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Photo by Tracy Chan

‘Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection ‘F”: Opening the swag bag

KAMEHAMEHA! No, not the famous Hawaiian king, but the infamous signature attack of Son Goku, hero of the best-selling anime franchise of all time, Dragon Ball Z. Any otaku worth the name has tried to do the Kamehameha at least once in their life. Along with going Super Saiyan. If this makes no sense to you, you obviously do not suffer from the malady of being an otaku.

Funimation sent me a screener of the upcoming movie “Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection ‘F,'” being released in American theaters for a very limited time from Aug. 4 to 12 (only until Aug. 8 in Hawaii). It’s the sequel to “Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods,” where we see Son Goku achieve Super Saiyan God level for the first time. I’ll review “Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection ‘F'” shortly, but first things first. Let’s take a look at all the swag that came with the screener.

Let the unboxing begin:

If your name is Frieza, why are you on fire?

This is the fancy box the screener and swag came in. A nice poster of everyone’s favorite villain Frieza is plastered on the exterior. I’m surprised the poster was left relatively unscathed. Now to figure out how to get it off without tearing it.

Bubble wrap. I like bubble wrap.

Bubble wrap. I like bubble wrap. Who doesn’t like popping bubbles for days? I won’t let it distract me from my goodies. Well, maybe I’ll just pop a few.

Now that I’ve popped all the bubble wrap, let’s take a look inside.

What do we have here? Swag, that’s what we got. For the uninitiated, swag in this case refers to the free goodies that one gets from anime and comic conventions. Usually the goodies are relatively inexpensive, like posters or key chains, but sometimes you find something quite valuable, like a limited edition collectible.

A San Diego Comic Con 2015 exclusive.

Here we have a limited edition collectible. From my understanding, you could only get this little guy if you attended San Diego Comic Con 2015. Or if you happen to be the resident otaku at Frolic Hawaii. Vinyl figures like this one are quite the rage among collectors. Spoiler alert: This figure shows Frieza in his ultimate final form.

Best friends forever.

Before there was a Super Saiyan and final form Frieza, we had these guys. You plug these guys into the headphone jack in your smartphone and watch them dangle the night away. Or you can put them on your key chain. Or gym bag. The possibilities are endless. Pretty much like their transformations. Super Saiyan God Super Saiyan anyone?

What would you wish for?

The ball that started it all: the four-star Dragon Ball. Oh, the stories you could tell. I didn’t realize it was soft and squishy. Well, this ball is, anyways. Whenever I get stressed, I guess I can just grab a Dragon Ball and squeeze the Home For Infinite Losers out of it. That’s an inside joke for those of you that haven’t watched that American version of Dragon Ball Z.

Gohan can’t find his gi. So he’s wearing a track suit.

A pamphlet giving a breakdown of the movie and the characters, along with the DVD itself. If you can’t read the print, it says Krillin is working as a cop and Gohan lost his gi. He also let his hair grow out apparently. I have a confession. I need to watch the first movie, “Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods,” before watching this one. I know. I know.

I’m not size Large.

And finally, we have a T-shirt in the same shade of purple that can be found on Frieza. I don’t wear size Large though. I guess I can wear it like pajamas in bed when I’m watching the DVD screener in the comfort of my home.

“Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection ‘F'” will be shown in select Hawaii theaters Aug. 4, 5, 6 and 8. Check local listings for showtimes.

Russell Tanoue’s 18th Annual Birthday Project Celebration

Beautiful people came out in force Saturday night for Russell Tanoue’s 18th Annual Birthday Project Celebration. The celebration at M Nightclub benefited Project Shine Hawaii, which helps local at-risk teens. The event featured a silent auction, raffle prizes, photo shoot giveaways and more.

Russell Tanoue's 18th Annual Birthday Project Celebration

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Guide to Comic Con Honolulu

I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out. Only instead of something terrible, it’s actually something great that’s coming. What I heard rippling through the universe was the sound of local geeks and nerds crying out in glee. Comic Con Honolulu is just days away.

Happening this Friday to Sunday, July 24th through 26th, Comic Con Honolulu marks the first of many sci-fi, fantasy and comic conventions coming to Hawaii this year. It’s brought to you by the same folks that put together the anime convention Kawaii-Kon, so there’s a bevy of experience behind Comic Con Honolulu. So much to see, so much to do, so very little time.

Here’s my breakdown of top happenings at Comic Con Honolulu:


Gaming and tabletop games

Although life doesn’t allow me to play games as often as I would like, I still consider myself a gamer at heart. Throughout the convention, you’ll have the opportunity to test your skills against local talent or try out games you’ve never played before.

For you video gamers, there will be a League of Legends tournament starting on Friday with finals on Saturday. Winners receive a one-day pass to next year’s Comic Con Honolulu along with bragging rights. Other video game tournaments will include Hearthstone, Super Smash Bros. and Call of Duty. Stop by the gaming room to sign up or just enjoy free open gaming.

For more old-school gamers or the plain curious, there’s tabletop gaming. Here you can find a mix of board games, role-playing games and collectible card games. The power of imagination, dice, paper and colorful displays bring these games to life. Doesn’t get any geekier than this. Or more fun.

This is a great place to find local players or learn to play a game you’ve been curious about. Demos happen throughout the day, with chances to win some of the games you play. My personal favorites are the Munchkin card game and the Pathfinder RPG.

Here’s the gaming schedule, and the tabletop game schedule.


Dealer’s Room and Artist Alley

For some, it’s all about the swag they can bring away from the convention. There’s money burning a hole in their pocket and the only cure can be found in the Dealer’s Room and Artist Alley.

The Dealer’s Room houses vendors from all over that cater to geeks and nerds. Imagine the lovechild of a comic book shop and video game store, and you get an idea of what you’ll find: costumes, comic books, toys, video games, movies and more. And considering the shipping to Hawaii, this place is a godsend for Internet shoppers.

If you’re more about buying local, check out Artist Alley. You can find things that are just as good as the Dealer’s Room, the main difference being that the vendors are from Hawaii and tend to be smaller, sometimes even one-person operations. The thrill is seeing the quality of talent that Hawaii can produce. And they can sometimes give you a better deal on prices.

Here’s a map of the Dealer’s Room and a list of who’ll be at Artist Alley.


Panels and events

Sometimes you just gotta talk shop with your fellow geek. It’s the definition of convention, convening. You might learn a thing or two.

Panels and events give you the chance to get your hands dirty. Many of these panels are hosted by Hawaii residents and allow you to experience different facets of geek life. Listen to the stories of professional cosplayers, learn the art of medieval fencing, play the time-honored game of Quidditch. Anyone can apply to host a panel and it’s greatly encouraged for the geek community to do so.

Here’s the schedule of panels and events.

Edward James Olmos, Commander Adama from Battlestar Galactica. Picture provided by Comic Con Honolulu.

Getting autographs

I’m a fanboy when it comes to meeting stars of my favorite shows, authors of my favorite books, or just anyone related to the professional industry as a whole. Industry being anything that geek fandom finds interesting. Being a fan means you can’t help but want to meet your stars and idols.

Comic Con Honolulu brings characters such as Commander Adama from Battlestar Galactica, Deathstroke from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D and Commander Wilma Deering from Buck Rogers. This is your chance to meet the actors behind the characters and get their autograph and picture for a fee.

Here’s the lineup of guests and autograph sessions.


Costume contest and photo shoot

It’s what everyone works on before the convention: cosplay. It’s the spectacle that draws a crowd and makes a convention what it is. Cosplay is such a driving force that the quality of a convention can sometimes be judged in direct proportion to the quality of cosplay. Since the first Kawaii-Kon, Hawaii has had a long tradition of cosplay. Expect to see some amazing costumes, since Comic Con Honolulu has an even broader focus. This means that not only will you see characters from your favorite anime, but any geeky character imaginable, from superheroes to wizards to Jedi and Stormtroopers.

Cosplayers can be a competitive breed. Dressing up in a costume attracts attention, no, demands attention, and to that end, there is the Costume Contest. It’s the highlight of any convention as some of the best cosplays parade down a runway for your visual enjoyment. Check it out to see the best of the best.

Photographing cosplay is also an art. Cosplayers and photographers have been collaborating weeks in advance to schedule photo shoots at Comic Con Honolulu. It’s your chance to see dozens of your favorite characters gathered in one place. If you ask nicely, maybe you can even take a few pictures.

Here’s info about the Costume Contest and the photo shoot.