Utada Hikaru: Queen of J-Pop

Utada Hikaru: Queen of J-Pop

Utada’s 33rd birthday may have already passed, but I think it’s only fitting that I write a tribute to her about my love for her music that started in my latter days of elementary school and continues to this day.

I’ve always had an exquisite taste in music since I was very young. I did listen to pop songs by Backstreet Boys, Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera and *NSYNC like everyone else in the late 90s, but my mother gave me a wonderful opportunity to hear pop music from the greatest (and often controversial) musicians of her time–Madonna, Prince, Michael Jackson, the Eagles, UB40 (the band most people confuse with Bob Marley because their voices sound the same), Sade, Marc Anthony, Ricky Martin, and even Alejandro Fernandez. English and Spanish were my primary languages in regards to music, as I’m of Spanish descent from my mother’s side of the family. At the age of 11, I would discover Japanese music in the form of none other than Utada Hikaru.
At the start of 5th Grade, my after-care counselor introduced to a new girl named Rebecca, who transferred to my school after moving to South Florida from New York. Rebecca had a lot in common with me–we both played Sonic video games frequently, loved to read, and watched the most complex cartoon shows at that time. One day, some time before my father died of liver cancer, Rebecca popped her headphones onto my ears and played something peculiar on her CD player. The singer’s voice was angelic, but the language she was singing in was too foreign for my tongue to decipher, yet the background music sounded familiar.
“Rebecca, what song was that, and what language is it in?” I asked after the song was over.
“It’s the Japanese version of ‘Simple and Clean’ from Kingdom Hearts,” Rebecca said matter-of-factly.
In that instant, my mind flashed back to watching the TV ads for both Kingdom Hearts and its Game Boy Advanced sequel Chain of Memories with the English version of the same song playing for 30 seconds. I didn’t know the name of the artist at the time Rebecca introduced me to her. It was only weeks, months even, before I set foot in middle school that I would find her name on Barnes & Noble’s music search network in its music department: Utada Hikaru (or Hikaru Utada per the Japanese naming custom).
I discovered her English album Exodus at the Virgin Megastore in Downtown Disney (now Disney Springs with the Virgin Megastore replaced by a bowling alley) and I begged my parents to get it for me. They did, on the condition that we all listen to it in the car on the way back to the Ramada Hotel. I loved it, but my mom expressed some concern about the content contained in all the lyrics of the Exodus album despite that there was no PARENTAL ADVISORY disclaimer on the cover. Sure, Utada wrote some pretty suggestive stuff, but I only cared about the beats in the songs, not very much for the lyrics–such is the innocence of childhood. My mom even went so far as to read some of the lyrics to our friends to get their opinion and, on the second day of 6th Grade, impound the CD from me. I was six months shy of 13, yet I got really upset about the fact that my parents decided right off the bat that Utada’s music isn’t appropriate for a 12-year-old girl. Ironically, a lot of kids my age were listening to raunchy rap music on the radio.
What my family didn’t know, Utada lent her musical talents by recording a new theme song for the North American release of Kingdom Hearts II called “Sanctuary” (“Passion” in the prior Japanese release). Kingdom Hearts II was released for the PlayStation 2, as was the first game [that I never played], in March 2006, but I was one of those gamers who acquired the game on Christmas. “Sanctuary” fit so beautifully with the opening sequence for KHII, for every word in that song described Sora’s goal to achieve peace, harmony and justice for his friends. If the fact that Utada sang for the Kingdom Hearts series didn’t convince my mother to accept my interest in her music, I don’t know what did.

During my teenage years, as I was listening to songs from her old and recent albums on YouTube, such as Distance (2001) and Ultra Blue (2006), Utada released a lot of interesting new music. In 2007, in addition to providing the ending song Beautiful World for the 2007 anime film Evangelion: 1.0 You Are (Not) Alone, she sang a cover of Frank Sinatra’s “Fly Me to the Moon (In Other Words)”, lengthening the song by one minute by adding an extra verse of her own at the beginning. I appreciate the original song my mother introduced me to, but Utada’s version was even better. The next year, she released Heart Station with three out of six popular singles that I loved: “Heart Station”, “Beautiful World”, and “Kiss & Cry”. As much as I liked hearing Japanese music, I wondered when Utada would make another English-language album. The answer came one lazy January day in my 8th Grade Language Arts class.
My teacher allowed us to use the school’s laptops to goof off for some reason, so on a whim I logged on to the website for Island Def Jam Records, the record label Exodus was released under. I typed Utada’s name in the search box and, sure enough, there was a new English single called “Come Back to Me” for a new album in the works. I plugged in my earphones to take a listen and, oh, my God, “Come Back to Me” was the best song since Justin Timberlake’s “Cry Me a River”! The way she played the piano from a decrescendo to a crescendo in the beginning was genius! I mentally thanked my Language Arts teacher for giving me the rare opportunity to discover Utada’s new English song during class. The physical copy of This Is The One was released May 12, 2009, and though I would’ve loved to go out with my mom to buy it, I figured I wouldn’t find it at any music store in South Florida, so I couldn’t. Thank God LimeWire still existed long enough for me to download at least a few songs from the album that I liked (I’m not telling which ones they are).

My sophomore year of high school came with the announcement that Utada Hikaru will be taking an indefinite hiatus from music. It was shocking, considering how popular her music was with the anime community. Fortunately, Utada was nice enough to release four new singles that would be featured on her second compilation album Utada Hikaru Single Collection Vol. 2: “Goodbye Happiness”, which also came with a YouTube-esque music video where she sang to the webcam, danced like a goofball and played with puppets, “Can’t Wait ‘Til Christmas”, “Show Me Love (Not a Dream)”, and “Hymne à l’amour (Ai no Anthem)”. All of them were epic as always, except the full version of her cover of the Édith Piaf original didn’t show up anywhere on YouTube no matter how hard I tried to look for it.
I was sad to see Utada move on to other things for the duration of her hiatus, but I understood why. Life as a musician can be tedious, especially when your career begins at the tender age of 13, singing with your parents under the band name U3.
In my Chorus class, my Japanese singing practice would pay off when I decided to sing “Passion” at the year-end cabaret show. Two months before, an earthquake and tsunami hit the northeastern coast of Japan, knocking down the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant and releasing radioactive chemicals into the air and the water in the process. I thought it was appropriate to dedicate the song to the people of Japan who were still recovering from the disaster and needed their spirits lifted. On the day of the show, there weren’t a lot of people in the audience, so I was a little bit discouraged. And even though no one understood a word I was saying–Japanese was not in my high school’s curriculum, such is the Latino-dominant South Florida–I still enjoyed myself onstage. I made Utada and the tragedy-stricken Japan proud. Most of all, I was proud of myself for being able to sing a popular Japanese song to the entire school (even if it was just my Chorus classmates) without fail.

Utada has experience a tidal wave of events during her hiatus. She quietly released the song “Sakura Nagashi” for the final Evangelion movie in 2012; her mother committed suicide by jumping 13 stories from her condo in Shinjuku in 2013; she married an Italian bartender in 2014; and just six months ago she gave birth to a healthy baby boy whose name she hasn’t revealed to her fans. In spite of everything, Utada has still managed to keep her honest personality intact. I can’t wait for her musical return in Kingdom Hearts III, if she decides to write a song for the highly anticipated game.

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Shadow the Hedgehog (Or, the Unlikely Relationship in Loss)

Shadow the Hedgehog (Or, the Unlikely Relationship in Loss)

Next week will mark the 10th anniversary of the release of Shadow the Hedgehog, a spin-off game of the Sonic the Hedgehog series that focuses on Sonic’s dark counterpart Shadow, who after the events of Sonic Heroes, tries to find out his life’s purpose and overcome amnesia as he searches for the seven Chaos Emeralds, powerful gems that turn him into Super Shadow when gathered together and that may hold the key to his past.

Courtesy: Wikipedia
Courtesy: Wikipedia

The gameplay for Shadow the Hedgehog incorporates most of the elements seen in the majority of the Sonic the Hedgehog series: mainly collecting Rings for health, and defeating enemies by any means necessary, especially–as the game’s cover art implies–weaponry such as firearms, bazookas, and even swords, depending on the player’s preference (although at the time, the notion of weapons being featured in a Sonic game was considered by the fans to be too edgy, even by today’s standards). Players have the ability to affect the storyline by embarking on missions labeled as Hero, Dark or Normal, depending on the path they want to go down on. Hero missions involve Shadow assisting the heroic characters of the Sonic series, including Dr. Eggman (on one occasion). Dark missions involve Shadow assisting either Eggman or Black Doom, the leader of the invading alien army Black Arms (who claims to have known Shadow at all) annihilate the Guardian Units of Nations (G.U.N.) troops. The Normal missions involve reaching the Chaos Emerald or the Goal Ring without anyone’s help, plain and simple.

Courtesy: Reddit The completion of Hero, Dark or Normal missions determines which level is subsequently available.
Courtesy: Reddit
The completion of Hero, Dark or Normal missions determines which level is subsequently available.

Now, allow me to explain Shadow’s background. In Sonic Adventure 2, his first appearance, Shadow the Hedgehog was created 50 years prior to the events of the game by Eggman’s grandfather, Prof. Gerald Robotnik, as a part of Project Shadow, with the goal of creating a creature endowed with immortality in order to cure Neuro-Immune Deficiency Syndrome (N.I.D.S.), a fictional equivalent of AIDS that affects the nervous system while simultaneously weakening the immune system. Maria, Robotnik’s granddaughter and Eggman’s cousin, inspired Project Shadow as she was diagnosed with N.I.D.S., and Robotnik couldn’t bear the idea of losing his granddaughter to such an incurable disease at a very young age.

Shadow befriended the blonde girl, and they grew very close, spending their valuable time together watching over the earth from the Space Colony ARK, the orbiting research facility where Project Shadow took place. Unfortunately, the G.U.N. soldiers raided the ARK to shut down the project because they deemed Shadow to be too dangerous. Maria helped Shadow escape the raid via escape pod, but she got gunned down by the soldiers in front of Shadow in the process. Maria’s last words to Shadow were, “Bring hope to humanity.”

I didn’t like Shadow the Hedgehog when I first played Sonic Adventure 2 because of his supposedly evil demeanor. Looking back on it, I saw why Shadow was mean-spirited towards the other characters–it was due to the death of a loved one. Two months prior to the release of Shadow the Hedgehog, I lost my father to liver cancer in 5th Grade which, being autistic, meant diving into anger and other psychological issues associated with the loss of a loved one, especially because I was unable to attend his funeral. Unlike Shadow, I wasn’t mad at humanity. Rather, I was extremely pissed off at the disease that took my father away from me at a time when I needed him the most, and I took the anger that was supposed to be directed at the fatal illness out on some of my classmates at school when they interrupted me from my homework assignments (although I was very smart in other areas of life due to my Asperger’s syndrome, I started taking my schoolwork very seriously at this point).

Over time, I came to like Shadow as a character not because of his good looks like most fangirls, but because I can relate to his pain of losing a loved one, even to this very day because I lost my grandfather earlier this summer. Strange having a fictional friend, isn’t it?

Ironically, Shadow the Hedgehog was released in the United States on my grandfather’s 65th birthday, Nov. 15, 2005.

On an end note, here is the opening cutscene from the game.

Cosplay Blues, Pt. II

Cosplay Blues, Pt. II

The first rule of cosplay is, try to make your costume look as accurate as possible to the character you’re trying to portray. So far, I got the following items for my female Sora cosplay:

  • Crown necklace
  • Blue tank top (though I may have to change it to red)
  • Black shorts
  • Cropped hoodie vest
  • Black faux-leather fingerless gloves
  • Black Mossimo shoes

The last items I’m trying to find are the yellow strappings and red pouch bags for my hips and thighs. I discovered last week that the yellow suspenders I bought at Party City won’t work for the strappings because they’re not long enough for both sides. I could try to buy another pair of yellow suspenders, but I don’t think my mom would want to spend another $10 on an accessory that the original character wears, so I would have to return them.

Here’s where the financial constraints come in. My mom and I spent almost $40 on the cropped hoodie vest Jack and I found at Justice, after which my mom said that my female Sora cosplay is the most expensive cosplay I ever undertook. On Tuesday night, I was waxing extremely desperate from trying to find the yellow strappings and red pouches for my black shorts at the mall. I talked to a girl who worked at Spencer’s about the issue, and she said to look on eBay or Amazon. When I got home, I logged onto the latter website and found exactly what I was looking for:

The leg bag accessory modified by Wing Seng, cosplay seller on Amazon.
The leg bag modified by Wing Seng, cosplay accessory seller on Amazon.

It was relief to find an accessory–er, accessories since there’s an extra leg bag–that looked exactly like it did in the drawing so that I didn’t have to go crazy looking for the materials that the crafts stores in my area might possibly not carry. When I showed my mom the leg bag(s) I needed, I thought she would be relieved, too. WRONG! She looked at the cost of the leg bags, which was $49.98 plus $7.04 shipping (because it’s coming from China, mind you), and said to me condescendingly, “Are you okay?! Only a rich person would want to wear your costume. I’m not gonna spend $50 [on that accessory]. You’re scaring me, Cristina.”

I looked up to my work-in-progress outfit hanging from my closet door and thought to myself, “Looks like the entire female Sora cosplay project is shot (unless I find an alternative to the leg bags I’ve been struggling to acquire for nearly a month).”

The next day or two at school had me convinced that maybe my own mother was right, that I am insane. Insane for taking on a cosplay project that I believed to be fun and fresh because I wanted to try something new. Insane for doing a cosplay that’s hurting my mother financially in the same manner as the unfortunate circumstances that have transpired this year–my grandfather’s death, my wisdom teeth surgery, and more recently, my brother’s non-lethal car accident.

I put in my best effort in everything I do, even if it emotionally kills me. Cosplay has become one of those things. I’m gonna try my hardest to complete my female Sora cosplay done by Halloween. I’ve always wanted to hold a Keyblade, anyway.

#TenThingsNotToSayToAGamer

Recently on Twitter, two hashtags were trending: #TenThingsNotToSayToAWriter and #TenThingsNotToSayToAGamer. The latter hashtag was not as popular as the former because #TenThingsNotToSayToAWriter was created by professional writers who have been beleaguered by some of the statements their readers gave them, such as, “You’re still doing that writing thing or are you working now?” “When will your next novel come out?” “Writer’s block doesn’t exist. Get on with it,” and “How’s that novel you’ve been working on?” The last quote came from Stewie in Family Guy, but you get the picture. I will write more about this in the foreseeable future.

Today, I want to emphasize on Twitter’s least popular hashtag #TenThingsNotToSayToAGamer. As a gamer and anime fan myself, I have heard derogatory statements about gaming and anime life from some people, including my family. Here is a list of ten things you should NEVER say to a gamer…EVER.

 

1. “Instead of wasting time playing video games, you should be applying for scholarships.”

~ My mom told me this last year, and I got pissed off to the point where I wanted to create a meme featuring some of my gamer friends that reads, “We don’t just play video games, but we also…” and place a word that best describes their other hobbies on their pictures. That meme has yet to come to fruition, and I hope I get to create it sometime.

2. “You look like you’re in elementary school instead of college wearing that (Sonic the Hedgehog, Kingdom Hearts, Black Butler, or My Little Pony) shirt.”

~ This one came from my stepdad towards the end of the Spring Semester, and I have to say straight up that that is complete bupkis. I understand that I have to wear only a suit and tie–actually, a blazer and a skirt–when I enter the corporate world after graduation, but to have a parent penalize me for practicing freedom of expression by wearing a T-shirt displaying the characters from Black Butler to a college campus is a great injustice. I have seen other college students don shirts with Mario, The Legend of Zelda, Kingdom Hearts, etc., designs printed on them, so why should my fashion choices accommodate to what my family wants? Just because I’m wearing a shirt that displays one of my favorite video game/cartoon/anime characters doesn’t stipulate that I’m an immature adult who doesn’t take any real world situation very seriously. I mean, Jesus Christ, I got a blue Classic Sonic top from the junior’s department at Macy’s; a pink Classic Sonic T-shirt from my aunt’s friend in Germany; and a checkered Classic Sonic shirt and Black Butler tank top from freakin’ Hot Topic! Did any of my teachers downgrade me for wearing such attire despite the fact that I pay attention to everything they say in class? No, because that’s discrimination. There may be Video Game Design majors who might also be offended by this. (See: Never Judge a Person By Their Shirt)

3. “Keep playing video games and you won’t be moving out of your parents’ house anytime soon.”

~ Oh, really? It just so happens that video games help gamers succeed in life by endowing them the following life skills: patience and perseverance; forward thinking and strategic planning; leadership and socialization; mental and creative prowess; and sympathy and empathy.
My mom sometimes tells me that I have no patience and that I give up very easily when she gives me certain tasks. Ironically, in Pokémon Alpha Sapphire, because Master Balls are so rare, I’ve had to throw at least twenty- to thirty-something Ultra Balls at every Legendary Pokémon I’ve encountered and attempted to weaken until they’re captured completely. I’ve been working on my first novel for over a year now, and I’m not entirely sure when I’ll be able to finish it. But I know that by being patient I’ll be able to persevere through the creative process as quickly as humanly possible. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and a novel certainly wasn’t written in a day either. Great things come with time.
Most gamers, like myself, enjoy video games that stimulate critical thinking and problem solving. When I played Angry Birds in high school, I always told myself and a select few people, “It’s more of a game of strategy,” because you can’t sling shoot every bird at your disposal at the same spot every time. You have to think about the most effective way to knock down the buildings that house the bad little piggies, where to hit them, and what power-ups to use in order to stamp out the pigs (if you’re willing to pay for power-ups at all). Games like Angry Birds stimulate the ability to conjure up plans in real-life situations, such as a two-week vacation itinerary, a career path, or a basketball game plan.
Broader society has always viewed gamers as antisocial man-children who are unable to hold down a job, get married and have kids of their own, and may have to be supported by their parents for the remainder of their lives. This is the most vicious stereotype in the history of the gaming industry because it’s a total lie. Before game developers even thought of massive-multiplayer online (MMO) games, gaming involved a large physical gathering of friends in front of a console and a TV as big and heavy as a walrus. Today, gamers communicate over voice and video chat. Hell, they even do Let’s Play livestreams of video games of their choosing for YouTube or Twitch, inadvertently giving their viewers tips on how to get through certain levels they’re struggling with in the same games they’re playing at the moment. Whether they’re playing MMOs or livestreaming console and handheld games, gamers are actually socializing with their peers. As far as leadership goes, that skill is picked up from clans and guilds in Dungeon Fighter Online and World of Warcraft to resolve interpersonal conflicts and inspire motivation towards goals in their jobs.
Games such as Brain Age and Tetris help you work on mental math, reading speed, and concentration, as well as developing pattern recognition skills. Other games also improve memory, hand-eye coordination, peripheral vision, visual acuity, and out-of-the-box thinking. I’ve played similar games on Lumosity, and I should probably get back to that.
Most games I’ve played are narrative–the Kingdom Hearts series and the Sonic the Hedgehog series, to name a few–and they do encourage sympathy and empathy. Anyone remember Sora’s reunion with Riku and Kairi in Kingdom Hearts II? That scene certainly played at my heartstrings, including my cousin’s.
Shame on you for saying that gamers never leave their parents’ houses to go after every opportunity life gives them.

Controller quote
Wallpaper Courtesy of: Marilla

4. “Violent video games can turn you into a vicious killer.”

~ Every time a mass shooting occurs–Newtown, Aurora, Columbine, the 2011 Norway killings, for example–the news media tends to blame violent video games, specifically first-person shooter (FPS) games, for those killings right off the bat. Even though studies have shown a correlation between violent games and violent deeds, correlation is not causation. Those findings are phrased the other way around: violent people have been attracted to violent games to begin with. Maybe people who feel the need to wring someone’s neck or literally knock their brains out turn to Call of Duty as an outlet instead. The only predictor’s to one’s violent tendencies are a hostile home environment and actually being bullied by one of their family members.

5. “Flunked your Algebra exam? You shouldn’t have stayed up playing Halo or whatever the hell you were playing the other night.”

~ If you’re a parent or psychologist, you should never assume that video games are the sole reason why your child or patient got a bad exam grade in one or more of their classes. Gamers are more than capable of balancing schoolwork and play, among other responsibilities. Consider this meme you’ve probably seen:
A high school or college student sits down at their desk to pour over their notes for an upcoming Biology exam. Believing that their teacher/professor is expecting too much from them for the exam, they pick up their loose-leaf notes and toss them in the air as they loudly declare in sing-song, “Fuck this shit!” Five seconds later, they bend down to pick up their notes, saying, “Just kidding, I need to pass [this test].” This proves that gamers are not the most irresponsible students most people deem them to be.

6. “Games are a waste of money. You should spend your time and money on important things.”

~ We understand that we should save our money other things like food, clothes, utilities, music, and trips to places we would love to visit, like Hawaii, England, or even Japan (since 90% of the games we play originate from there). But it’s blatantly unfair to say that video games and gaming consoles themselves are a bad investment. To discontinue our financial support for the gaming industry is to further damage the global economy.

7. “Aren’t you a little too old to be playing video games?”

~ The average gamer is 31 years old, but that doesn’t mean the expiry date for gaming life by law should be 31 years of age. Whether or not the person wants to continue playing video games is entirely up to them, NOBODY ELSE.

8. “Put your controller and hit the gym, you pig!”

~ Not every gamer is suffering from obesity, you know. And we do know that physical fitness is essential to our health, so we eat just as healthy and exercise just as much as the average person.

9. “Do you even have a job yet?”

~ Please refer to the third item on this list.

10. “Female characters in video games are often treated as sex objects.”

~ While that may have been true in the industry’s infancy, the current generation of male gamers don’t necessarily see the female characters, playable or otherwise, as sexual objectifications.

Pop Culture Mania in Miami Beach (Florida SuperCon)

Today, I went to SuperCon at the Miami Beach Convention Center with my brother with the intention of showing him that my anime/cartoon/gaming world is not as childish as he and my stepdad claim it to be. I was afraid that my brother wasn’t going to like at first, but guess what? He enjoyed it! He had just as grand of a time as I did looking around for anime and video game memorabilia and seeing some celebrities.

Speaking of celebrities, I wanted to meet J. Michael Tatum, the voice of Sebastian in Black Butler, and Roger Craig Smith, the 3rd-generation voice actor for Sonic the Hedgehog since Sonic Colors, but it was a disaster on the timing front. First, I was trying to find Tatum’s booth pretty much since I arrived at the convention, but he was nowhere to be found. All I wanted was to ask him when the English dub of Black Butler: Book of Circus will be released because I watched the English sub last summer and FUNimation hasn’t said anything about the English dub being in production. Not even once. Then, I look for Roger Craig Smith so that he could sign his autograph on a Sonic fan art poster I bought earlier only to find out that the line for his booth was full and that he wouldn’t return for another two hours or so. When I came back to Smith’s booth at 3:00pm (I heard he would come back at 3:30), a kid in front of me and my brother said that J. Michael Tatum was two booths down, which elated me. So, I went down there and squealed “I FOUND MY BASSY!”–I was cosplaying Grell Sutcliff, a grim reaper who has a giant crush on Sebastian, so of course I had to get into character. I said it to someone who I thought was another fan of Tatum’s work in Black Butler and other anime (including the recent Free!–Eternal Summer, which I would like to see), but turned out to be a convention employee who said, “The line is closed, but J. Michael Tatum will be back at 5:30.” The problem was, my brother wanted to leave by 4:30, which also turned out to be the ACTUAL time Roger Craig Smith would retreat to his booth. Being denied the opportunity to meet the two voice actors I know in the anime/gaming industry got me a little bit discouraged. However, every gray cloud has a silver lining. That silver lining came in the form of the incomparable Tom Kenny, the voice actor for SpongeBob SquarePants (and Ice King for all you Adventure Time fans out there). Despite that I was wearing a long red wig, Kenny said that I was beautiful in his SpongeBob voice, which flattered me. I asked him if he voiced the Mayor and Professor Utonium in The PowerPuff Girls, and he said while he did voice the Mayor and the narrator (“And so, once again, the day is saved thanks to the PowerPuff Girls!” Remember that line?), Professor Utonium was voiced by Tom Kane. No wonder I confused Kane for Kenny–their last names sound almost the same! Although I got no picture taken with him nor his autograph, meeting the legendary Tom Kenny satisfied me just enough. I was also surprised to discover that Kenny also voiced Spyro the Dragon in the following Spyro games: Ripto’s Rage, Year of the Dragon, and Enter the Dragonfly. I played the second game mentioned when I was 8.

The video game arcade room was very crowded. I came in hearing “For True Story” from Sonic Adventure 2, thinking somebody might be playing the game, but it was actually coming from a cover band…or something else…I couldn’t tell exactly. The gaming stations were so full, even the PS4 and Xbox One consoles that were available had their controllers missing and no games running at all. The only game I was able to play, however, was kinda like Dance Dance Revolution but had a different name. I danced to 3OH3’s “Don’t Trust Me” missing some steps on the dance pad, which had a center button in the shape of a circle. As much as I love Dance Dance Revolution–and other games like it–my red coat hindering my dance moves discouraged me from dancing to another song.

Now, let’s talk about some of the memorabilia I bought, shall we? Although everything from Pokémon to Kingdom Hearts to even Sword Art Online overstimulated my senses, I only got the cheap stuff. The Sonic fan art poster I bought for the Roger Craig Smith autograph that I never received cost me $10. Then I bought two clip-on bottle cap hair bows with Sonic and a Poké Ball on them for $7 a pop–I’m starting to regret that purchase a little bit. Finally, I got an Olaf decal for my mom and a Sonic decal for when I get my own car for $5 a pop.

As for my Grell cosplay, a bunch of people were so in awe of my modeling in it they came up to me and asked for pictures, which I gladly agreed to.

Despite some major setbacks, it was a lovely day for a pop culture convention like SuperCon. All I need to do now is get red wig fixed–it’s frizzy and knotty.

Kingdom Hearts III at E3 2015

Kingdom Hearts III at E3 2015

At the E3 2013 conference, Square Enix and Disney Interactive announced the development of the long-awaited title Kingdom Hearts III in the form of a teaser trailer, which showed a compilation of CGI cutscenes from the previous Kingdom Hearts games in the beginning and then faded to Sora grabbing a Keyblade different from his own and fighting a horde of Heartless in Twilight Town. The graphics have drastically improved since Dream Drop Distance, thanks to a new animation program called the Kingdom Shader. My Alaskan cruise had just stopped in Ketchikan when I saw the trailer on YouTube, and I was completely surprised that Square Enix actually got around to producing Kingdom Hearts III at all.

Now, two years later, my cousin from my father’s side of the family was there to witness the new trailer for Kingdom Hearts III at Square Enix’s conference. I called him and asked if they posted a release date at the end of the trailer, and he said that it still reads “Now in Development.” I groaned. Two years after the initial announcement, I thought Square Enix would be towards the finish line in cooking up Kingdom Hearts III, releasing it to the gaming market by next year the latest, but some people (my cousin included) believe that it will be done later than that.

The recent trailer for Kingdom Hearts III–dubbed in English, and showed teenaged Eraqus and Xehanort playing chess–revealed a few things. First, Sora’s new outfit, which is a combination of his KH2 outfit and the one in Dream Drop Distance sans the “X” sigil. Tetsuya Nomura, the creator of the Kingdom Hearts series, was pressured by his staff to design that outfit for Sora to accommodate for his Flowmotion moves. I’m not exactly sure–nor is anyone else entirely sure–if Sora is gonna wear that outfit the entire time, or if he’s gonna magically change from his KH2 outfit to his new one when the need requires just like his Form outfits. Second, some of the new Disney film worlds that Sora, Donald Duck, and Goofy are going to travel to, and the only one added to the World Map so far is the world based on 2010’s Tangled. And finally, the Keyblade’s transformations. It can turn into dual bazooka-lasers at will, and change into some Disneyland rides, including the Mad Tea Party teacups and the Thunder Mountain train. Not to mention, a pegasus drawing a chariot. Everyone was hyped to see all of that.

The new teaser trailer for Kingdom Hearts III also made me ponder about some challenges that Square Enix and Disney Interactive will face. The first of these is who will voice Ansem the Wise (if he’ll appear in the game at all) and Master Xehanort now that Christopher Lee and Leonard Nimoy, respectively, have recently passed away. Actually, Lee was replaced by Corey Burton in Re:Chain of Memories, Birth by Sleep, and Dream Drop Distance, so that part of the problem solved itself. The real problem is who will take Nimoy’s place as the voice behind Master Xehanort. When Nimoy died earlier this year, I didn’t know that he voiced the main antagonist in Birth by Sleep and Dream Drop Distance, but I do know that his voice-acting in the games was incomparably legendary. I do hope they find someone whose voice is equal to that of the late Nimoy. Honestly, I wish any Star Trek fan would’ve told me that Nimoy voiced Xehanort before I read his filmography on Wikipedia. Another challenge is asking Utada Hikaru if she will write a new opening theme song for Kingdom Hearts III. I understand that in most anime a new opening theme by a different artist will play at some point, but I think Square Enix is crazy if they’re thinking about replacing Utada with someone else as the main singer of the series. I know Utada is still on hiatus from music and has gone through some trials and tribulations, including the tragic death of her mother, Keiko Fuji, and her marriage to Francesco Calliano, but had she not sang for the Kingdom Hearts series I wouldn’t be listening to her music today.

As for the release date…well, I just hope that Kingdom Hearts III comes out next spring or next summer. If Square Enix decides to release it by the time I earn my Bachelor’s degree in Mass Communications, I will be seriously pissed. After all, Nomura stepped down from Final Fantasy XV so he could finish producing Kingdom Hearts III as quickly as humanly possible.

Never Judge a Person By Their Shirt

Never Judge a Person By Their Shirt

Until very recently, I never had any problems with someone giving me harsh judgment for wearing a T-shirt embedded with one of my favorite cartoon/video game characters (except maybe in 6th Grade, but that’s another story). Precisely one month ago, I was going to my World Geography class wearing a pink Classic Sonic shirt and denim jean shorts–it was already too hot for me to wear pants of any sort in South Florida. My stepdad looked at my attire for the day and said that I looked like I was going to kindergarten instead of a college class. I couldn’t tell whether he was telling the truth or joking about it, but I didn’t give a shit regardless. The next day was worse. I planned on going to another campus wearing my Black Butler tank top, black shorts, and Ed Hardy converse shoes. Cute, right? Not to my stepdad, who still had the audacity to tell me that what I was wearing was “not age-appropriate for college,” even though the Black Butler shirt was women’s medium and I bought it from Hot Topic. I cried almost the entire time I was in my Western Civilization class, barely writing down the notes about Ancient Rome that my professor wrote on the whiteboard as he was lecturing. I asked my classmates and the professor if they deem me immature for wearing such attire–they said no.

Yesterday, I told my mother that my bathing suit–a two piece that’s designed to look like Ciel Phantomhive’s green outfit–was ready for pickup at Hot Topic. My older brother asked me what kind of bathing suit it was, and when I told him “Black Butler” he groaned. To make matters even worse, my mom said that someone asked her how old I was the day before simply because I was wearing a red Hello Kitty shirt (which I bought from the juniors department at Wal-Mart, by the way). I got extremely pissed off at hearing that someone thought I was 12, not 21. I was even more enraged when my own mother and brother mocked me for wearing clothes that featured my favorite video games and cartoons/anime.

So I beg the question: Why the hell is my family judging me for wearing clothes based on my interests in video games and cartoons/anime? It may have a lot to do with how society views people in the gaming community: man-children who would rather spend every waking hour of every day playing video games and watching cartoons/anime in lieu of attending school and/or holding down a job. I find this to be an extremely vicious stereotype, and I can’t believe that this is coming from some family members who claim that my teachers will downgrade me for exhibiting my interests in such popular forms of entertainment despite the fact that I take my schoolwork very seriously and that people will take advantage of me for doing so–both of which I never had to deal with.

I firmly believe in the basic human right to freedom of speech and expression, and if I want to wear my Classic Sonic shirt, my Black Butler tank top, or a My Little Pony T-shirt, that is my right. I shouldn’t let anyone tell me otherwise.