A Little 2019 Birthday Haul!

Hi there!

Yup, August 27th is/was my birthday, and I’m officially 21! While it wasn’t the best 21st birthday a teen could’ve wished for, I really did appreciate all of the birthday wishes from my family and you guys here on the internet. I did a little Twitter rant venting some of the week’s frustrations leading up to that Tuesday, and I actually feel better somehow.

Anyway, thank you all very much for supporting me on that day and every day since then (and now of course). No words can express my gratitude for having all of you wonderful people in my life.

Now, no birthday is complete without a gift or two! So, I’d like to share a couple of the books and movies I received from family since one of my blogger goals for 2019 was to do more with my collection. Here we go!

From my sister are three of the new Funi “Essentials” releases designed to replace the yucky SAVE line. Having all the episodes, Blu-ray only—with no hassle of making sure it comes with a slipcover or not—is actually proving great on my psychological health lol. Plus, they’re VERY affordable!

As an artist myself, she picked up Barakamon and Handa-kun, and threw in The Morose Mononokean since it kinda matches the aesthetic. NICE! Not pictured is the new DVD collection for Beyblade Metal Masters (whoops, I forgot). Thanks sister!

My brother bought the Time of Eve: Another Act light novel years ago, but he must’ve thought he’d never read it (or that I’d get more out of it since I’m the one who showed him the film), so he regifted it to me. He also got me the first two novels of the Danganronpa series, a specific part of the franchise I wasn’t planning on picking up myself, so I was beyond happy to receive it as a gift!

From him, I also received two novels he picked up at a bookstore in the city: United States of Japan and the Alita: Battle Angel prequel, Iron City. I didn’t even know that a prequel to the Alita live action existed, so that was a surprise! Looking forward to reading more dystopian sci-fi.

He kinda went overboard this year. The next two items are more books—and look, I can write in these! The green journal has a much darker, classier green in person, trust me. The other book is a pastel agenda, which will prove quite handy with the busy semester ahead. Can’t wait to write in these!

Last but not least is this figure of the “Railgun of Tokiwadai,” Mikoto Misaka, from the electrifying A Certain Scientific Railgun. This specific figure is from Index III, which came in nice timing since I had just finished watching the series. She is my first Railgun figure, and I absolutely just love her!

Funny story, I actually remember my brother picking this up from Naka-Kon in the spring, but noticed he never opened it. Eventually I forgot about it, and lo and behold, she makes her thunderous grand appearance once again as a gift for me! I always thought it was an interesting buy for someone like him, as I didn’t believe he liked the character that much to buy a figure of her. WELL, now it makes sense!


There you have it, a little haul for my 21st birthday last week. I can’t thank my family enough for being so supportive of my hobbies! In the same way, I’m so very thankful to all of you for your birthday wishes. The personal stories and thoughts some of you shared with me did numbers for my self-esteem, and I really value your kindness and concern.

So once again, thank you all!! ‘Till the next post!

– Takuto

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July 2019 Anime, Manga, & Light Novel Pickups | RightStuf 32-Bit Birthday Haul

Hello all!

Since my recent summer Sentai Filmworks haul post was so well received (thank you very much), I figured I’d share some of my other pickups from this past July. There’s a lot to get through, so let’s take a look!

But first, Happy 32nd Birthday to RightStuf! Most of the anime and manga were bought during their sale, so in many ways, this is also one big haul post. Thanks for all the sweet deals!

We’ll start with a couple films. While I’ve never seen Sword of the Stranger, I was convinced to pick this movie up because it’s always featured in those “best fights in anime” videos (plus it was $4). As for Modest Heroes, I can comfortably say I am a Studio Ponoc fan all the way, and will continue support their work however I can!

After finally getting around to this well-known franchise’s first season, I decided to get Blood Blockade Battlefront & Beyond to see how it continues. Supposedly it gets better, which is comforting given that I thought the first was slightly above average at best. Love the shiny holo slipcover!

I’ve been such a huge Yona of the Dawn fan ever since the anime aired several years ago—so much so that I even bought the first NINE volumes of the manga in hopes of eventually reading the story past the anime’s untimely conclusion. I decided to opt for the split part one/part two releases (despite a complete collection already in print) to savor all that art on the BDs, only to be disappointed that my part two set didn’t come with a slipcover. Oh well, ya snooze, ya lose. :/

I can bet you already know why I snagged this lovely gem! It’s the Fruits Basket Sweet Sixteen Collector’s Edition, and might I add that this is one nice set.

If you already own any prior LTD ED set, I don’t believe this is necessary. But if you’re wanting it for the upscaled quality, the stylish white chipboard box, or the plethora of decent-quality art cards, then I’d say go for it.

Look at all them cards! So many classic scenes, the umbrella and living room ones being my favorites. As a fan without my own personal set of the series, for $26, how could I refuse?

Onto the manga! And ooh, some LGBTQ+ stuff at that. Honestly, I can’t say much about Our Dreams at Dusk or That Blue Sky Feeling because I told myself I’d read them all the way through once their entire series has been released (Shimanami is 4 volumes, Blue Sky is 3). Happy to have them for when the rest gets released!

On the less innocent side of the LGBT manga in print, we have Total Eclipse of the Eternal Heart (that name, lol) and Escape Journey volume 3. With Syundei’s work being another standalone volume and this being the end for Tanaka’s short BL series, I’m ready to start these whenever the need for smut hits me.

Ooh, big books. Picking up the gorgeous Sailor Moon Eternal Edition releases by Kodansha was never a matter of if, but when. And well, I guess when is now, even though I have so many other things to read. Really, it’s a high quality, lovely publication targeted at both collectors and huge fans of the series that deserves its own post. Maybe in the future.

Oh yeah, and there’s also volume one of Akiko Higashimura’s autobiographical work, Blank Canvas: My So-Called Artist’s Journey, that I have heard nothing but fantastic things about.

More housekeeping with this third and final volume for the Danganronpa 2 spinoff from Nagito’s perspective. I actually reviewed the series and talked about Dark Horse’s very publication that you can read right here!

I also picked up Komi Can’t Communicate‘s first volume as a recommendation from a book-tuber. Excited to read that.

Lastly for manga are the two Viz series that I will not only collect as they are released, but actually read them too. One shoujo and one shounen, respectively, they are Snow White with the Red Hair volume 2 and Seraph of the End volume 17. I’m enjoying these two immensely, and even have a first impressions post for Snow White in the works, so please look forward to that.

And now for light novels. After finally finishing finishing (more like slugging through) the recent A Certain Magical Index III, I was inspired to resume picking up and reading the LNs. Or, at least, slowly filling in the book perspectives the parts that I thought the anime could’ve done more with (which is, to be honest, all of it). I’ll be hopping around, which is why volume 15 is here.

Continuing my read of Sword Art Online, we have the latest release in the Alicization story, volume 16. I’ll read this when the fall gets closer in anticipation of the anime’s second cour.

More light novels! Eighty-Six by Asato might be a blind buy for me, but with only raving things said about it from even non-LN readers, I wanted to stay in the loop. Plus it looks pretty.

Then there’s my guilty pleasure LN read, volume 2 of A Sister’s All You Need. If you read my review of the anime, you’d know that I positively loved this silly series. I’m currently reading the first book, and am amazed at the word-for-word adaptation that the anime apparently is. Can’t wait to read!

Here we are at the very end, and what a better way to end a haul than with some epic Evangelion stuff. Now, little story here, I’ve actually been excited for this book ever since it was announced in Japan a few years back. I love the Rebuild art and character designs, and at the time, I was so tempted to order a copy even if I couldn’t read it. Welp, I held out, and sure enough, a couple years later Viz announced their licensing of this monstrous art book, and I’m forever thankful.

I’ll probably do a post just for this book, as this thing is MASSIVE. Thought it’d be hardcover, but who cares—I’m just happy we even got a release!


That’s it, that’s the haul. Didja make it to the end? If so, pat yourself on the back, cause I sure did buy a lot of books and movies in July (probably the most in a single month ever, as a matter of fact). Well, maybe. Anyway, did any of these releases stick out to you? Are you currently reading or anticipating one of these titles? If so, which ones? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Also, let me know if you want more of these haul posts, cause I can definitely make this a regular thing if you’d like. ‘Till next time!

– Takuto, your host

Naka-Kon 2019 Experience + Haul!

Hello all!

Apologies for dropping off the face of WP suddenly for two weeks. School’s been kicking my butt (and I had been doing so well blog-wise, uff). But before school got out of hand, I went to Naka-Kon 2019 over spring break, making it my 5th year at the con!

I love Naka. I love the guests they bring in, I love the size (it’s a smaller con, but just big enough to not be able to attend everything if you catch my drift), I love perusing the vendor hall and the artist alley, I love all the wonderful cosplay spirit, and I love staying at the convention center’s hotel. It’s awesome, and it’s perfect for me and my family.

Getting out of town and escaping into the city for three days for Naka-Kon is like a spiritual revival of sorts. I come back to my room with new things to hang up that’ll inspire me to watch more anime and become more productive with my blogging. Honestly, I can’t think of a better way to spend my spring break.


Meeting the Voice Behind the Mic!

This year was particularly great because it was super chill. Much more casual than the usual panic of making sure I attend panels and lines at the right time and such. The big reason for the relaxed tempo this time around was because there weren’t as many voice actors that I felt I absolutely had to meet.

Don’t get me wrong—I definitely went to all of the VA panels that I could, and I will continue to do so until I get sick of them (probably never tbh), but there’s a difference between being compelled to stand in an hour long line (alone away as my family are off doing literally anything that’s more exciting than standing ’till my legs go numb) versus just sitting down and listening to them for a bit.

But I did stand in a couple lines this year! In addition to sitting in on his YT panel, I got to meet the incredibly hilarious Alejandro Saab in the flesh! He was such a kind dude, and unlike the people in front of me who were in and out in 10 seconds, he spend what felt like an entire minute just chatting with me about creativity, motivation, business, anime licencing (regarding The Royal Tutor film) and life in general. (Plus he said he recognized my Danganronpa Komaeda cosplay after we took a picture together!)

Alejandro was well-informed about the characters he voiced (Haruto from A Sister’s All You Need, Prince Leonhard from The Royal Tutor) and was excited to impart his thoughts, which surprised me given that some VAs that I’ve met keep things pretty succinct (and understandably so). Such a generous guy. A positive experience all-around! ^ . ^

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The other actor I met was Jad Saxton, a big name on the dubbing scene and an incredibly sweet person in real life! My meeting with Jad went by a lot quicker, but like Saab she was overjoyed to tell me about the roles I approached her for, particularly Faris in Steins;Gate (which we talked about returning for the much darker Steins;Gate 0 and the simultaneous joy and sorrow it brought) and my gateway role to her, Hatchin in Michiko & Hatchin. Other favorite roles include Sena in Haganai, Ruruka in Danganronpa 3, and Akatsuki in Log Horizion.

As a last-second comment, I wanted to express to Jad my appreciation for the Magical Girl Raising Project dub, as the casting and accents made it my favorite dub of 2018. We each shared a hearty *in a deep-south accent* “Calamity Mary!”, laughed, thanked each other, and I was off!

(My siblings also wanted to meet Miss Saxton, so I lent them something to sign in addition to their own materials. Thanks again fam!)

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Game Rooms, Quiz Shows, and the Big Schedule Conundrum 

My only big issue with this year’s Naka was the substantial number of scheduling errors and lack of communication for changed events. Some VA panels that were supposed to be on Saturday were bumped up to Friday, and we unfortunately missed them without knowing.

And it wasn’t just the times, either; panels of all varieties swapped rooms with each other unannounced, confusing and frustrating a lot of people. Unfortunately, Kara Edwards was getting over a cold, so her stuff was moved accordingly and understandably to accommodate both her health and fans wanting to meet her. But even her situation doesn’t explain why literally sooo many panels were moved around.

But surprisingly, that didn’t bother me too much. In the end, since seemingly all VA-related panels but Kristen McGuire and Jad Saxton’s ADR panel (which was quite lovely and informative!) were shuffled around, we pretty much just went to a bunch of anime quiz show sessions and played in the game room. Still, both ended up being pretty fun, and it allowed me to freely strut my cosplay and take pictures with people that asked without having to worry about time constraints.

RightStuf ran a pleasant anime quiz show through Kahoot, which allowed everyone in the room to be a player (a novel idea!). Although I’ve never participated in these game shows, perhaps I should haha! Out of three rounds with well over 60 participants each, I ended up scoring third, seventh, and fourth place, respectively. 😀 Maybe next time I’ll muster up the courage and volunteer in a less-anonymous game show.

Stuff I Bought!

So a couple VA panels, lots of gaming, and even more picture taking both with and for fellow fans and cosplayers. But what about shopping? Here’s everything I got from the vendor room and artist alley this year!

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These gorgeous Sailor Moon prints by FalseDelusion were an absolute MUST as soon as I saw them, especially the Silver Millennium piece on the left. Not only is the artistry delicate, but the combination of mediums here (hand-drawn characters and kingdom with overlaying of lighting and watercolor effects) creates a really fantastic vision of each planet. The ethereal dreaminess of the Moon Kingdom and the stormy colors used on Jupiter, planet of thunder, add so much character and dynamism.

The artist made one for each of the inner guardians, so I picked my favorites. Also, at my request, I had them signed and dated!

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The artist also had a set of small militaristic My Hero Academia prints featuring bold, bright colors with equally fierce character portraits. Since it was buy 2 get 1 free, I had to snag #bestboy as my freebie. 😉

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The other print I picked up was this adorable yet deep Princess Jellyfish illustration. I actually saw this print last year, but hesitated because I had spent too much—Not this time, though! I bought it in a heartbeat!! And I hope you can understand why. I love how the two are faced away from us, but while Tsukimi is lost in the sea of jellies, Kuranosuke’s attention is elsewhere . . .

My favorite part—the sharp white boarder framing—creates a powerful emphasis on the characters and the dreamy blue waters. In case you’re curious, the artist is Alexis Moore (alexis-moore.com or @alexisparade), and although I didn’t get to interact with her directly, I’m really happy that I was finally able to reunite with this beauty!

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Buttons, bears, and setters, oh my! Of course, it wouldn’t be Naka if I didn’t pick up a few pins for my board at home, so I grabbed up my favorite two Haikyuu!! characters as well as a Monokuma pin: a rare find IMO!

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OMG this artist. She had SO MANY OBSCURE CHARACTERS, MY HEART. It was a no-brainer to grab the Gosick and No.6 pairings (honestly, nobody does art for these characters). I was also really surprised to see the Devilman: Crybaby boys, so they came home with me too. And while I was only planning to pick up Seraph of the End‘s Mika, she jokingly convinced me that Mika and Yuu must not be separated, and I totally agree (<3). It was a 10-pins-for-$20 deal, so I picked up Yuri Katsuki and Suzaku to top my unintentionally bishounen cart.

Seriously though, I could’ve bought EVERYTHING from this lady! And she was so kind and humble :’) We joyfully exchanged our passions for some of these obscure titles and ships—easily one of my favorite interactions from the entire con!

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Onto the merch, my sister wanted a shirt, and since deals come in pairs, I grabbed more Eva goodness. I’d never seen the design for this one, and it’ll be nice to have a white anime tee to contrast my black wardrobe lol.

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Although my hunt for Danganronpa figures and clear files turned up ZILCH, I did manage to find the D3 Despair Arc wall scroll I hesitated buying last year and decided to submit. It’s a fantastic key visual featuring all my favorite Danganronpa 2 kiddos—no regrets!

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I WAS able to add another rubber strap to my arsenal, however—and it’s male Ranma, a classic favorite no less! On Sunday, my sister and I cosplayed female and male Ranma, respectively, so he was bought to commemorate this moment. :’)

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Last but not least is this gift from my brother, a chibi keychain strap of the Yamato (my latest obsession in case you missed it). What’s ultra hilarious about this gift however is the texture. She looks like hard plastic, doesn’t she? Well don’t let the packaging fool you—this keychain actually has a gel-like exterior that, when squeezed, activates a light on the wave motion cannon! #SquishyYamato has become simultaneously the worst and the best meme of our house ever since the surprising reveal. >.<

(PSA: Please check the texture of packaged keychains before buying. Otherwise you get awkward moments like this one :P)


And that about does it for Naka-Kon 2019! I’m hesitant to post cosplay pics just because, ya know, once it’s on the internet, it stays on the internet. But I’m about to the point where I’m like, screw it, it’s something I love doing, and I’m getting much better at it. So I might end up doing an entire post (or even series, who knows!) on my cosplay ventures. Only time will tell!

Overall, I had a wonderful experience—easily my most chill Naka yet—and if you see something cool above or are curious about other con-related details, leave a comment and I’ll definitely respond! Thank you to all who made Naka ’19 a great one, and we’ll see you in 2020!

– Takuto

The Biggest Anime DVD Box Set I Own: RahXephon Limited Edition | Unboxing

Hello!

I’ve got a bit of a different post today. Believe it or not, unboxing and haul posts are some of my favorite to write because once the pictures have been taken, all I have to do is write a couple sentences and upload, easy-peasy.

Specifically though, I’m writing this post because, like any well-researched collector, I wanted to know whether this was the edition of RahXephon that I wanted to buy. But when I began scouring the web for pictures of this box, I found nothing. Now, maybe someone will be able to find security and satisfaction in this A-grade product.

Because oh man, what a fantastic set this is.

I’m gonna boast for a minute here and hail the RahXephon limited edition as the biggest anime DVD box set I own. I know these kinds of box sets have been around in anime for quite some time, but this is my first foray into the classic anime collecting scene (where you’d supposedly spend $30 on a DVD containing four episodes and do this seven times until you eventually roped in all 26-odd-some episodes), so let me have this one.

I was lucky enough to buy from a seller who not only sold it for just $45, but kept it in mint condition. Seriously, this beast is IMMACULATE—and it’s over 15 years old!! Proof that there are good collectors out there who take care of their stuff. And they packaged it so nicely too, bonus points! Really happy with this find.

But you just want to see this beautiful box, don’tcha? Alright, me too, so let’s go!


(NOTE: All of these images are placed in slide shows, so you might have to change browser to view them fully.)

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Here’s the box’s exterior: the front, back, top, and sides. I love the holographic foil printing on the logo (which is consistent on EACH of the DVDs as we’ll see here in a bit. The artwork is also particularly exquisite, capturing the mysticism of the story with these divine pieces worthy of framature in any museum. It’s really cool to see all 8 of the DVD spines together as well. Each is consistently laid out and color-coded, almost as if they were meant to go together or something!

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Onto the DVD cases themselves, each one contains key art from the series on a pristine white background overlaid with that holo-foil logo. Each set matches the color dot on the spine, which is a nice touch. Also included in this set is a hefty artbook for the film, Pluralitus Concentio, which makes the 8th DVD in this complete 8-disc set.

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The backsides of each DVD maintain the same white and color-coded schema. The designers also utilized the series’ theme of music to tie in clever phrases to each progression of the plot, beginning with the prelude and ending, of course, with an encore. I LOVE IT.

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Cracking into the DVDs—if you thought this set couldn’t get any better—you will find a miniature artbook for each set. The cover and back pages have the art printed on a specialty paper with a parchment/wax-like texture, which adds to the classiness of this set. Each pamphlet includes approximately 10 pages of character information, as well as art of the various robots and Dolems that appear throughout the series.

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Want a closer look? So do I! Here’s each DVD set complete with its disc and art pamphlet, as well as the film artbook. I really like the landscape art included on the inside pages of each little book. When you think about it, I guess this is what each DVD contained when it was individually purchased back in the day.

Again, this seller kept the box and its contents in such spotless condition that it truly feels like I’m owning a product that just came hot of the press, let alone an artifact from well over a decade ago.

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So to any fellow anime collector out there looking for a proper review of this set, I hope this post helps. If anyone is wanting an even closer look than I provide here, feel free to ask me in the comments. When I was still laying out my purchase options, it came down to either the thinpack (and then I’d buy the film for a separate $10) or this mammoth set, and I’m glad I stuck with the latter.

Will I buy more boxes like this in the future? Hahaha, good question, if my shelves can support it I guess. RahXephon was a special case given that its main accessibility from a physical standpoint was this, the thinpack, or a couple other thinpack-like options. Only time will tell, I suppose.

That’s all I’ve got for this one. In case you missed it, I watched RahXephon as part of my annual V-Day marathon and enjoyed it so much I also reviewed it on my blog (which you can read right here)! I’d be delighted if you checked it out. Friends and fellow collectors, ’till next time!

– Takuto, your post

 

 

My Experience Buying Manga at a USED Bookstore | Cafe Talk

Hello, and welcome!

On the second to last day of winter break, I took a spontaneous trip to the city with my family for a brief vacation. (Or for one last desperate breath of fresh air before diving back into school work, take your pick.) Anyhow, as we were gliding through downtown, which was still lit by glistening Christmas lights, my brother reminded us of a bookstore he stumbled upon the last time he was here. Being people of culture (and idiots for picking the coldest night of the year to explore outside), we headed for the bookstore as quickly as the slick sidewalks would allow.

The outside of the shop was quaint; a rustic little cart sat just outside the door, which held the discounted-discount books. Lying dead center on the stack was Vol. 2 of A Distant Neighborhood by Jiro Taniguchi, an author whom I’ve heard about as a renowned mangaka, but nothing more.

Now, this was an ancient USED book store, so I was expecting a lot of dusty old books from the previous century stacked onto decaying shelves. To find manga—and without even opening the door—this had to be a good sign. I took the manga and walked in. Immediately, I was consumed by the scent of antiquity and a touch of lemon from presumably some dust cleaner sprayed just a few hours prior.

I had been looking forward to this visit, even if just to look and not buy, so my memory of walking in is a bit hazy. But I was right about one thing: there were a LOT of books, though not necessarily old. Some of the titles that my eyes hurriedly skimmed were, to my recollection, hot off the press from a month or two ago. That surprised me.

Brown wooden shelves lined the walls of the small shop, many of these towering shelves jutting out in to the walkway so as to divide the room into a dozen mini sections, pocket universes of thought for each genre: adventure, mystery, romance, drama, classical, science fiction, young adult, self-help, non-fiction, fiction, and the like.

Numerous unique chairs of all shapes and sizes from wooden to wicker sat pleasantly within reach, as if you were invited in to pull any book to your liking off the shelf, grab a seat, and lose yourself within the pages. It was a colorful place thanks to the thousand upon thousand of beautiful book spines (which were neatly arranged on the shelves, by the way), and despite the dark brown interior of the store, hanging industrial lights from both the ceiling and the shelves themselves lit the chamber with a warm ember glow.


Simply, I was in love. If you’ve ever imagined a fantastical library with a layout not unlike a labyrinth, in that it felt quite easy to get lost in, this was the place.


They had simultaneously less and more manga than I expected; it was just two or three rows of books on these narrow two-foot-wide shelves. The shallowness of the shelf itself was a perfect look for the tiny collection, so I took mental notes about how to remodel my own room once I made or bought new shelves.

There wasn’t much there, yet I was still thrilled anyhow to skim through the used manga. When was the last time I came to a used book store? I thought to myself as I borrowed the nearby step-stool to reach the top shelf where the manga was humbly lined.

I just had to buy something, I remember convincing myself at the time, so I walked away with two others besides Taniguchi: Devil Survivor by Satoru Matsuba (story by Atlus) and Merman in My Tub by Itokichi, two volume ones that I was acquainted with by name. With both in good condition and certainly cheaper than using Amazon’s used services, I consider this small haul a steal. The young woman at the counter rang up the items, wrapped them in a brown paper sack, and we were on our way back through the cold.

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Not a particularly novel (ha!) haul, but one I thought I’d share anyway.

This experience was special to me because it allowed me to reconnect with the charm of the bookstore environment itself. It was a magnificent little shop, and had I taken pictures, I definitely would have shared them with you all—I know you would’ve loved it.

In this digital age of online shopping and even browsing for digital books, I had temporarily lost that joyous feeling of walking out of a physical store, haul in hand. It’s not revolutionary thought; I just went into a bookstore and bought books, but even still, it makes me happy.

If ever you are offered the chance to peruse the shelves of a new or used bookstore—even if your goals in mind are larger than what the store offers—consider closing out of that internet tab for a reconnection with the physical and inviting yourself to the rustic charm of a dusty bookshelf. Trust me, you won’t regret your stay.


It’s always pleasing to use something for its specific purpose. — Mrs. Crocombe, a Victorian Chef at Audley End House


Now, I ask you: when was the last time you went to a used bookstore? What were you looking for at the time, and did they have it or not? For me, it had clearly been way too long, and I’m so glad I was able to spend the final days of my break absorbing pages and panels of so, so many books. I’d love to hear your personal stories if you’re willing to share! I suppose I’ll be off to reorganize my own manga collection, so until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host

Here’s What I Got From the ARIA Kickstarter!

Hi there! How are you doing?

A couple weeks ago my life was super hectic (and it still somewhat is), but right when my ARIA Kickstarter backer awards had arrived on my doorstep in a big unsuspecting package, you already know that my week only got better from there. I had torn into the unusually large RightStuf box and immediately plugged in the first Blu-ray to hear new English dub (which is fantastic BTW).

Suddenly, I found myself at ease with everything that was going on in my life at the time, and I spent the next couple of relaxing nights enjoying the rippling canals of Neo Venezia and the charming allure of the acoustic guitar. From the tender voice cast (well, maybe except for Aika, teehee) to the slow-moving episodic nature of Aria‘s storytelling, I briefly covered my thoughts on Aria‘s healing qualities in my September OWLS post. You can check it out here in case you missed it (and yes, I’ll be getting around to answering your comments, I swear!)

Anyway, you’re probably just here to see all the neat stuff I got as a backer of Nozomi’s Kickstarter campaign, so on to the goodies!

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Starting with the box, here’s an image of the slipcover (O-card?) and the chipboard box. Although the design for the slipcover is, like, really basic, I feel it better represents the show than all the loud, bright, and colorful character art we’ve seen again and again. Don’t get me wrong, I love ALL of Aria‘s art, but not every episode of the series is as cheery as its characters. Sometimes the clouds roll in, the sea lulls, and the characters have to deal with the stirring emotions in their hearts. (Speaking of, the last time I did one of these was way back during NIS America’s A Lull in the Sea release, another excellent sea-side title to make LitaKino jealous, might I add, haha!)

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And here’s the backside of each. While the slipcover is a little flimsy for my liking, what with being just a piece of cardstock wrapped around a sturdy chipboard box, I’m glad that the release came with it anyway. IDK, it just completes the clean, simple aesthetic that I live for. Also, I believe someone mentioned that the art on the chipboard box was created just for this release, which would explain why the characters look so darn good compared to some of the older artwork out there. Not sure if that’s true, but I love the complimentary orange and brown sunsets against the solid aquatic blue sea!

Man, they sure did go overboard in making sure this box was covered in art! That’s alright–I’m a sucker for background art anyway. Here are the top and side spines respectively, and they continue to contrast wonderfully with their bright orange and yellow hues against the rich blue exterior and logo.

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This is the paper insert for the first Blu-ray of Aria, which contains the entire first series—Aria The Animation—on three discs that mirror the basic cover design. It features the three lovely ladies that comprise the main cast of this first season. I appreciate the full image wrap around design, as well as how the art includes more of Neo Venezia’s gorgeous architecture. Once the other seasons are finished, this’ll be one nice set with wonderful continuity in its design!

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And here’s the interior, AKA the art you see when you open the case. Set against gray clouds and the first snowfall of the season, this art perfectly depicts how the series concludes with the onset of the wintry New Year’s celebration.

IMG_7474.jpg The set also contains 5 art cards featuring poster art for each season (designated on the back) and a sticker set. Not sure what I’ll do with the stickers, but it’s nice to get artwork not only for the first season, but the other ones to come—you can see the quality increase as the years go on (not to say that any of this art is weak)!

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We’ve also got a blue and white Aria-themed stationary set and a mug. While they’re not necessarily physical extras that I desire, the mug is really nice, and currently it’s being used to hold business cards and letters from artists I’ve purchased from either on Twitter or at conventions! (Also psyched because the simplistic design I voted for won!)

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We’re not done yet, though—for some reason, patches are still a thing, so the set includes the logos for the three main gondola companies, as well as magnets for each company’s feline mascot. Again, not sure what to do with these, haha, but I’m glad the patches are logos and not characters. As for the magnets, hmmm, I’m sure I can find something metal to stick them to. 😛

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Last but not least is this: the giant-ass lithograph. You see, when I first pledged for this award, I assumed that the numbered lithograph would be the size of your standard art card, much like most limited edition releases have. Well, Aria and Nozomi Entertainment are both exceptionally extra, and art this gorgeous couldn’t just stay rolled up in a cardboard tube and abandoned in my closet. Soooo, I cleared off my wall and framed it, and you know what, it looks pretty damn official, doesn’t it?

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Although the print doesn’t have as high a color contrast as it should to properly show off the vibrant, sparkling blue water, it’s still nice to have something that is exclusive—it’s one more thing that makes paying like $200 worth it as a backer. And 1555/1600? Nice!

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So here’s everything that came in the package! This DOES NOT include the big fancy hardback art book, as well as the first part of the second season: Aria The Natural. Those will be shipped as soon as they’re completed, and if you’d like, I can probably review the art book and give you a glimpse into all that it contains once it arrives (EXCITED!). But yeah, if you pledged for Nozomi’s Kickstarter of Aria The Animation at the Prima Plus tier, this is exactly what you would’ve gotten! As a bonus, I’ve listed my real name in the on-disc credits (the backer wall), so good luck searching for me once the standard release is ready to be sold!

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2,648 backers pledged $595,676 to help bring this project to life, and I’m stoked to have been a part of this little slice of anime history. Nozomi did SUCH a nice job updating us via campaign emails, including pre- and post-production notes, videos from the Englisih VAs, and mini clips of the dubbing process—and to think it’s not even halfway done yet since they’ve still got season three and the OVAs to go! Personally, I found it more enticing than the Escaflowne campaign by Funimation if you participated in that, NAMELY because the actors felt more like friends we helped support rather than “stars.” Maybe that’s just me, but regardless, I’ve enjoyed both campaigns, and I’ve already set out for the next one—Emma: A Victorian Romance!

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Did you participate in the Aria Kickstarter, and if so, how far did you pledge, and what did you think about it? Let me know! If you’ve got any thoughts on the backer awards or campaign itself, we can talk about it in the comments together! Again, in case you missed it, you can read about how I took life slowly with Aria in my OWLS post. You guys have no idea how much I appreciate each and every comment, like, share, and conversation we have, even if it does seem like I’m MIA all the time. I’ve got some more posts planned, including thoughts about the Summer Simulcast season, as well as some other anime-related experiences, and I’m looking forward to sharing those with you as well. Thanks so much for reading, and until next time this has been

– Takuto, your host

Naka-Kon 2018 Experience/Haul!

Hi everyone!

Since 2015, I’ve gone to this midwestern U.S. anime convention called Naka-Kon. That makes this my fourth year, which is kinda hard to believe! It’s a small convention, estimating around 8,000 attendees in 2015, but the population has grown exponentially in the past few years. Soon, I fear that the convention hall itself won’t be large enough to contain all our anime madness!

Anyway, this year was much less stressful compared to years past. Why? Well, I’m one of those eager youngsters that insists on meeting with English voice actor guests. I keep it brief, but try to walk away with a signature on one (or more if I’m lucky) of my Blu-rays, a picture, and delightful, positive memories to cherish. Typically, I’ll know (or at least recognize), say, 6/7 of the VAs—and you can bet that I’d try to meet with all of them if I could! At this year’s Naka, however, I only really knew (and loved) one or two roles per each voice AKA not enough to validate standing in line for a couple hours, sadly.

So I told myself to limit my VA line-standings to just one, and amp up my cosplay game so that I could spend time taking more pics and having fun. After 2017 when I cosplayed Mika from Seraph of the End, I didn’t realize what great fun cosplaying could be—SO MANY PEOPLE WANTED A PICTURE EITHER OF OR WITH ME (which makes me so happy and thankful), yet it was a tad overwhelming given how I had my own agenda of rushing from one VA line or panel to another. The guest line-up happened to work well with my intentions this year, and it all worked out swimmingly!

The unintentional VA-grab theme for this year must’ve been Cowboy Bebop (last year was Final Fantasy XV), as both Steve Blum (Spike Spiegal) and Mary Elizabeth McGlynn (Julia, also ADR Director) were both guests this year. While I love Bebop just as much as the next guy, I knew that his lines and panels would be crazy full, so I skipped out to avoid the hassle. Also, I only knew him as Spike and Todo from Code Geass. WE DID, however, manage to squeeze in to a huge panel hosted by Steve and Mary, as well as Ian Sinclair and Wendy Powell. I count my lucky stars that my sister persisted on us sitting down, as it was really cool to hear all these famous voices casually talking in one room!

As for Mary Elizabeth . . . SHE’S THE FREAKIN’ MAJOR FROM Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex!!!! If you’ve been following me for even the past year, you’ll know that GitS has quickly worked its way up my favorites list following my marathon of the franchise just one year ago from now (happy reunion!). She’s also my QUEEN, Cornelia li Britannia from Code Geass!! Long story short, she was my must-meet for 2018, and though I was only allotted one signing (as I wanted a picture for my second), she kindly signed my DVD copy of Stand Alone Complex, of which, fun fact, I had picked up JUST for this con! Our transient meeting—where we chatted about technology’s advancements and  possibilities, the internet, and finding our own path in this digital age—was brief, but one that will stick with me for a long time!

While at the con, I popped in on several of Xanthe Huynh’s panels. I only really knew her as Love Live!‘s Hanayo, Yuki Yuna‘s titular Yuki Yuna, PMMM Rebellion’s Nagisa, and A Lull in the Sea‘s Miuna (as pictured above). Her charming commentary on the industry and business as a voice actor for “all the cute characters” was very insightful, plus it was nice to balance out the wild loudness of, well, a con with a much smaller, calmer Q&A panel. After visiting like three of her panels, I made it my mission to nab an autograph, of which was quick, painless, and fun to meet her one-on-one!

Oh yeah, I also snagged a ticket for Ian Sinclair since I just could. It was a Sunday, lines were significantly shorter and moved much faster, so I thought “Eh, why not.” He’s not a personal favorite of mine, but I do think he does great work!

**Insert my frustrations when Wendy Powell, who had no people in line for like 20 minutes, left just as I had snagged a ticket to meet her after noticing the vacancy. Ughhh, oh well, at least I got to hear her voice IRL in that panel earlier. Also, the staff were very supportive in my endeavors to try and meet her. Shucks, thanks anyway! :3

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Moving on from my meetings with guests, 2018 was also a year to try out some other activities that the con offered given my greater schedule leniency. Each year, I fear that Naka will offer fewer and fewer surprises for me. Especially this year, I figured I’d be bored half the time—BOY WAS I WRONG, and joyfully so! My siblings and I went to our first cosplay shoot (for My Hero Academia), posed for countless many pictures, and even tried waltz lessons of all things together! It was great fun, and EVERYWHERE we went were nice, happy, positive anime fans! So yeah, new experiences all around—I shouldn’t have underestimated such a great con like I did!

But you probably just wanted my haul. Ok, so do I. 🙂

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Pins, pins galore! Each year I make it a mission to scout out new pins (especially from one artist in particular who designed the trio on the right), and this year my bag had nearly 20 some-odd pins from various favorite anime. With most ranging from one to just a couple dollars, it’s an easy, affordable way to support artists, as well as keep track of your favorite characters. Highly advised! In case you were wondering, those three on the left were gifts from my sister that she bestowed upon me as soon as we got home—how thoughtful of her! And of course, I had to get my Sailor duo, plus the almighty, all-powerful LELOUCH VI BRITANNIA!

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I also got some playing cards, this becoming my third set with anime artwork on them. I was a bit let down with this set, thinking that because the main image had the entire cast on it, it should have pics of the other YOI characters. WRONG, all main three, and all random close-ups, ahahaha! Should’ve gone with the other set they had, but oh well, more YOI to go around.

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Traditionally, I like to snag some new wall art (either as a scroll or artists’ prints) each year. Seeing as how I cosplayed a male version of Danganronpa‘s Junko Enoshima (which a crap ton of people recognized somehow and asked me for a pic), I thought it was only fitting to cap off the experience with something from the franchise. I’d never seen this artwork before, so I thought hey, let’s do it!

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I DIDN’T REALIZE CONS HAD CLEAR FILES until I stumbled upon a couple of vendors on the last day that had stacks full of ’em! These epic Fate/stay night: [Unlimited Blade Works] clear files had the absolutely stunning poster artwork on them that my DVDs had, and though I wish they had the last one from the second season, they make an awesome set to either hang up together (considering a Fate wall in my room) or to use them as actual files. (Does anyone use clear files like they’re supposed to? Let me know . . .)

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AND THEY HAD GHOST IN THE SHELL TOO, LIKE, WHAAAT?!? At either just $4 or $2.50 per file depending on the vendor, these are wonderful deals compared to the $10+ that buying off the net will charge. Like my Danganronpa wall scroll, these SAC files will forever be remembered as the ones that I bought when I met Major Motoko Kusanagi, the great Mary Elizabeth McGlynn herself! #unreal

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This right here was the biggest win for me. I knew that as soon as I passed it on day one, it would be mine come the end of the weekend. Because I was unexpectedly busy with all the cosplay shenanigans, however, I ended up waiting until later in the con ’till I finally snatched it up. Thankfully, the artist still had a few, and she was super happy that I was this excited over her Kiki’s Delivery Service artwork. I mean, WHO COULDN’T?! It’s like Ghibli meets Shinkai all perfectly contained within one aesthetically pleasing masterpiece! The artist is Alexis Moore, and you can reach her at both her website alexis-moore.com and social media (presumably Insta or Twitter?) @alexisparade. Love this so much~!

That wraps up the stuff that I personally bought. Much less money was spent than in years past, but that can be a good thing sometimes. Here are some gifts my siblings bought me (and don’t worry, I surprised them with some neat stuff, too)!

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This blind-pick horizontal poster of Yuuri and Victor that my sister got me, ahhh, so precious. You know how anime fans sometimes like to decorate their own spaces with that bit of anime-inspired flair during the holidays? Yup, I think this might be the winter holiday piece that’ll go over my door. 😛

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Here’s a Code Geass soundtrack (again with the con-specific merch to match the times, damn!) that my brother bought for me! It’s got quite a few quality jams from the series, and for only $8, ummm, duh one of us is gonna get it LOL! After I passed it up for a minute, he swooped in, bought it, then surprised me by giving it to me as soon as we got home (omg how kind). Part of it was as a thank-you for me creating the *coolest* part of his cosplay that everyone admired last-minute, so it was pretty nice to get this after he got all that recognition for my work.  >.<

But that’s not all—he also bought me a new wallet, and it’s Evangelion, holy shit! I’ve already swapped it out with my previous decaying Zelda one, and though this one is a bit bigger, I loving having fashionable anime that low-key celebrate my status as a fan. I was the one who introduced Eva to my brother (and sister), and although I know it was thanks for the cosplay accessories, I also see it as part of a return to introducing them to one of their favorites, too.

And that about wraps things up. Lots of cool voice actors, lots of neat stuff, and lots of pics (which are hopefully coming in a separate post). Even Mary exclaimed how cool my Todoroki ice effects were, and Ian knew exactly who I was as male Junko: “That’s awesome!” he said! All the praise felt good, and for someone with a mediocre body image thing going on, it felt nice to be admired for looks, even if just superficially.

This fourth year held all kinds of surprises, despite my thinking that I had Naka all mapped out. As my fifth year comes next spring, I want to do bigger cosplays, buy even more merch and art, and meet more cool people, be it big names in the industry or simply fellow fans wanting a picture together! Thank you to all who made this year’s Naka-Kon possible, as it’s become my favorite way to spend the spring break! Also, thank you for reading this post! Let me know if any of the art or merch I got was particularly neat to you, and until next time, this has been

– Takuto, your host