Manual Shoot

Interview with Phoenix Write Composer Noriyuki Iwadare

The very successful Japanese cultural convention in Europe, Japan Expo brought its first US event, Japan Expo USA 2013 to Santa Clara, CA in late August. One of the international guests and a Guest Of Honor of the convention was Noriyuki Iwadare, a Japanese video game music composer known for his work with Capcom’s Phoenix Wright series.

With Phoenix Wright 5 (US release title: Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Dual Destinies) being released in late July in Japan, he impressed American fans on both Saturday and Sunday with his high quality live music performances. I was able to pick his brain about his music and video game music for an interview. Iwadare-san was very friendly and also passionate about what he does throughout the interview. Enjoy!

 Great shows at Japan Expo USA! I was at your Saturday live show and had a lot of fun. It was an interesting experience to be able to hear live music while video game footage played on a side screen.

Iwadare: I’m happy to hear that. I was wondering how it would turn out.


Band master and the Guest Of Honor, Noriyuki Iwadare


Vocal: Yuka Hoshio


Photo via Yomimaid

 The band players were great musicians, too. In the last song before encore, the guitarist did a killer solo and really got the audience excited. Then I saw that solo fired up your solo as well. I felt that there was a great chemistry on stage in the band.

Iwadare: Fukuda-san on guitar usually stays at his regular position on stage and plays, but then he came out in front and played like that for the first time, especially in the USA (Laughs), we got really impressed and got fired up at the same time (Laughs). The band was shocked in the good way. I think it was a song called “Tension” in Grandia. I was asked to compose 4 songs titled “Tension” for the actual game, so I made 1, 2, and 3 and the last one is a Honky Tonk number for running away, but I felt little embarrassed to play that at a live show, so we played 1 through 3 this time.

 That was a song with pleasant tension.

Iwadare: Thank you very much.


 Guitar: Yasufumi Fukuda (Photo viaO-Network)


 Bass: Wllya


 Drums: Rose Horiguchi

 You compose not only for video games but also for many different purposes. Which genre would you say is most fun to compose?

Iwadare: Everything I compose has different reasons to make them fun, but the show music for Tokyo Disneyland is especially fun to work with because the audience is huge; I even go to rehearsals, and spend hours meeting with staff to create live aspects of the show. I came from theater / play music so I love music for dance as well. Composing music for Disneyland covers everything I’m interested in. 


Is it true that in video games, you have to work with the limited number of sound because it’s fixed by the platform?

Iwadare: Yes, it used to be like that, but there is no limitation now. If you are using the internal sound device in a console, you have to work with limited number of sounds for music and recent consoles can play about 20 sounds at the same time. I remember the time when Nintendo Family Computer only had 3 sounds. We were so happy when the Mega Drive/Genesis came out and had 7 sounds (Laughs). After those experiences, now virtually all sounds are available. We gained so much freedom, but at the same time, it takes longer to compose with lots of extra things to take care of. Honestly, it’s too much work (Laughs).

Is it too much work? (Laughs) But if you compare now and how it used to be, which do you prefer?

Iwadare: I’ve been wanting the video game music composition to to be like this for a long time. Ever since I started making video game music, I was asking to make linear music to developers and observed it slowly becoming reality. Now the PS3 can produce 5.1 channel sound and it is already over my expectations. It didn’t have to go that far (Laughs). 

Many gamers say a lot of recent games make the players feel like they are watching a movie while playing.

Iwadare: I’m not in the position to say if that’s good or bad, but I believe (video game music is) different from music for the movies. It’s not so much for the presence, but for something more different. I think video game music is in the transition period. It will change again in 10 more years and in 20 years, because it’s not only the music, but the video game itself and the consoles are changing.

 Mobile gaming is becoming popular these days. Do you compose mobile game music, too?

Iwadare: Yes, I do. There are quite few that are not released because the Japanese mobile game market is on the decline, but yes, I have few projects that I am working on.

Does mobile game music have a higher turn around rate?

Iwadare: It’s very fast. I usually get asked to make a 2 to 3 minute track for a video game. For a mobile game for example, I make songs that are 30 seconds long, so it takes less time to download. There are other restrictions, too, to keep the budget low as well (Laughs). Sometimes I get asked to make 7 ten-second songs. It seems like short music works better with mobile games because it helps the game develop faster.

 Which do you prefer to compose, short songs or longer songs as a composer?

Iwadare: It’s more work, but I prefer to compose longer songs because then I can create a drama in the music. 30 seconds is not long enough to tell a story. It’s like it ends right after you say “Hey” (Laughs). It feels like I’m just repeating “hey, hey” in every short songs and sometimes that can be little frustrating as a composer.

 When you are composing a short piece, do you aim for it to be short to begin with?

Iwadare: Video game music is basically a loop. The hardest thing is to decide the timing of the loop and the mobile game environment still can not set the loop to happen in the middle of the piece, which means the loop always goes back to the beginning of the piece. Other video game consoles can do that. For example, I can actually create an intro and make the loop happen after the intro. Since that functionality is not possible in mobile gaming yet, it’s important to take the time lag when the loop occurs into consideration when composing. I try to make my music still easy to listen to when the loop happens for hours, but when the original piece is only 30 seconds, its only able to repeat the main theme of the music over and over. That’s really hard.

 Sounds like it’s quite a challenge to keep the players from getting tired of it.

Iwadare: I swear, it must be on the mind of all video game music composers from what I have heard and talked with them. I personally think it works better when there is a melody that the players can hum to. Humming to it will help the players not get tired of it. Many people may think the atmosphere music may work better, but when it goes unnoticed, the players can easily turn it off.

 Is it also a matter of the music getting noticed or not?

Iwadare: Yes, I believe it’s better to get noticed than the music being left unnoticed in the game.

Then the music becomes a part of the game play experience.

Iwadare: Exactly. That’s the difference between video game music and TV music. Background music for TV shows can not overpower any lines in the show, so that limits the use of melody and the use of certain sounds such as a flute because it mixes with the female voice.

 That’s why you hear piano in the background music often because the sound doesn’t linger as long. Strings are a little better than the flute, but still, composers have to keep in mind to avoid using the area of human voice tones when it comes to TV and radio background music. That does not mean we don’t have to worry about it at all for video game music, especially for the in-game animation scenes, but we are usually asked to put more melody in. Otherwise, it’s less fun and users ask for it.

That makes me think that video game music is considered as important as any lines in the game. It’s not for just staying in the background. For example, the song titled “Tension”, if it’s just for background music, a simple heart beat would be enough, but we put in melody to stir up some emotion in the players. I try my best to be in the shoes of the players playing the game and I always imagine myself playing the game when I compose.

For example, I ask myself if I was playing the game and I’m in a dungeon seeing my enemy coming at me when the song “Tension” comes in, what music would I hear? I imagine the first song with the pounding sound of enemy rushing towards me, then another song urging me to run away. Then I imagine another song with the sound of rising heart beat with desperation with melody. Stuff like that comes to my head when I do that.

That’s pretty much describing how I felt when I was playing Phoenix Wright during the heart pounding court scenes.

Iwadare: I do the same when composing for Phoenix Wright to imagine myself in the courtroom, too. At the same time, I try not to get too influenced by the jokes in the game scenario because that will change the feel of the Phoenix Wright music.

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Dual Destinies available for digital download in fall for North America

Phoenix Wright also plays with the gap between the seriousness of the music and the light-hearted scenes in the game.

Iwadare: I never receive the scenario before I make music for it. I have no idea how the game is when I’m composing so that I don’t get too influenced and accidentally compose spoilers into music. The music for the series is always on the serious side, but the game has many different sides to it. I was never told the details of the Phoenix Wright scenario either. I only had the list of characters with their personalities and other than that, I worked on updating the arrangement of the music that always gets included in the series. I’m currently playing the game (Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Dual Destinies) myself and discovering many facts saying “Ah ha! That’s what happened!” (Laughs).

That sounds fun to be able to enjoy your own work from the point of view of the players.

Iwadare: Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Dual Destinies has animation scenes. Thanks to that, I had more clues than ever before. I knew when Miles Edgeworth comes into the game because of it, but I didn’t know the context of how he comes in, so I was wondering “Who is this old man?”when I was working on the music.


Who is your favorite character from the series?

Iwadare: I have to say it’s Phoenix Wright himself, since he is the main character and I was focused on him for a long time. My PC wallpaper is him in the court. I get myself worked up with the wallpaper while working on Phoenix Wright project.

How about a favorite female character?

Iwadare: I forgot the name but she is in Ace Attorney 2, but the title has not been released in North America. She dresses like a ninja (we found out that it was Kay Faraday). She was really memorable to me and I put extra something in the music for her. It’s too bad that Ace Attorney 2 is not available in US. If fact, I met Capcom USA people the day before yesterday and asked them directly for the release here with Tatsuo Iwamoto (the series character designer, another guest at Japan Expo) since we both worked on it, (laughs).

If it comes true, fans here would be very excited!

Iwadare: Oh by the way, have you watched the Takarazuka Phoenix Wright Musical? It’s great! Phoenix sings and dances and the stage even has nice love scenes. I was surprised! It’s very different, but it still has the same feel of the game and it also uses all the in-game sound effects on stage. I submitted my orchestra score for the production and the Takarazuka people arranged it for the stage. It was more interesting than I expected. I believe there is a DVD available (in Japan), I recommend it for all Phoenix Wright fans.


Phoenix Wright Musical home disc cover by Takarazuka Review

How many visits have you had to the US so far?

Iwadare: This is my third visit. The first time was Hawaii, the second time was when I was invited as a guest to see VGO, Video Game Orchestra’s concert that included songs from Grandia in Boston last year, and this is my third time in US and first time in the West Coast. In Boston, I was only there to see the concert as a guest, oh and I did a panel discussion at the Berklee College of Music. Berklee has classes for people who want to make video game music and sound effects.

More than 100 people came to the panel and it was me, Hitoshi Sakimoto (FFXII), Yoko Shimomura (Kingdom Hearts) and Kinuyo Yamashita (Castlevania) were the guests. It was a very interesting experience. Takahiro Nishi, who did the sound effects for Grandia was also there, too. Many participants of the panel expressed interest in coming to Japan, but in fact, I feel more good games are developed in the US, while Japan is a little quiet these days. I see small developers in US making interesting things.

 I think Japanese developers are having a harder time taking more risks because their budget is too large, forcing them to make safe decisions that are sure to recoup costs, while I think being a small independent developer gives more freedom to try new things. That’s something to work on for the future.


Lastly, is there anything you would like to accomplish by this visit?

Iwadare: I would love to meet more fans! I really want to have a good talk with them. I was able to chat with them at the autograph session, but I actually want to be close to them and ask more questions. I’m interested in hearing what they want as users. Other than that, I was able to visit San Francisco for sightseeing. If time allowed it, I would have loved to go to Disneyland, but I have to leave tomorrow to get ready for my orchestra concert. Then the next day is the Asakusa Samba Carnival.

Samba Carnival?!

Iwadare: There is a video game company called Gungho in Japan (Puzzle & Dragons) and they are participating in the carnival with 2/3rds of their employees and willing users, which makes it a total of about 300 of them! I was working on the music for them and saw their practice and it looked really fun, so I decided to participate myself as a musician, too (laughs)!  After that, I will have another orchestra concert on September 25th in Japan and October 13th in Taiwan with the same band that I brought to Japan Expo!!

Thank you so much for the fun interview, Iwadare san!

Noriyuki Iwadare official site (Japanese) (English)

Photos by Martin Wong, unless otherwise noted

Written by Yomimaid

Also featured on Crunchyroll

Click here for the review on Japan Expo 2013!

Japan Expo 2013

Japan Expo’s first appearance or “impact” in the United States definitely came and went with a bang. With the knowledge that the con has kept to only Europe and Japan until this year, many of us Bay Area folks were excited for the fact that Japan Expo USA was being hosted locally. With familiar sights and an favorite convention center (Fanime, to be exact!) as the place to go, this expo was definitely not one to miss with its incredible Guests of Honor, concerts, and eclectic charms of cultural Japan. And the best part?

They were all accessible with ease.

To start off, the festival experience was pretty smooth from beginning to end, its organization impeccable. Registration was a breeze. No one had to worry about long lines, a bane for most convention goers, since attendees scanned in and out with their own QR codes. Picking up badges on site? That’s old news! Needless to say, for most of us it was a surprising beginning into an action packed weekend!


But there were also many other surprises Japan Expo had behind its sleeves. One was definitely the incredible line up of guests. From legends like Yoshiyuki Sadamoto (founding member of Gainax anime studio and also designer for Neon Genesis Evangelion) to Tatsuro Iwamoto (did  someone say Miles Edgeworth?), Japan Expo was ready to offer fans opportunities to meet talents like never before. And just to top it off, other guests like 1000say, and J-DEE’Z to fantastic American talents such as Felipe Smith, Michael Sinterniklaas, and Ian Sinclair and more were all readily available in panels, meetings, etc. There was definitely someone for everyone to get hyped about, no matter what type of fan they were!


And even with so many guests lined up, the autograph process was well thought out and quite fair; the time saved waiting in line for autographs was gladly spent on checking out the Q&A panels, picking up swag gifted by some sponsors, and socializing with old and new friends. Each guest had multiple signings scheduled throughout the weekend as well as special panels, giving it a more personalized experience for the fans. 

Most of the festivals’ fun activities were located within Exhibit Hall A, which made it easier as  attendees didn’t have to go far to check out the scene. Although most conventions regularly host vendors, artists and panels, Japan Expo brought a refreshing taste of Japanese culture to our palates.


Fans were practically living in the Japanese life, finding themselves easily surrounded with the roaring beats of the taiko drums and their brightly costumed drummers. For the more gentler of bunch, the classical sounds of the elegant koto, and the inspiring chants from Gamushara Oendan were available.



Children and adults alike were able to enjoy traditional Japanese activities as well like the booths demonstrating card games (karuta), beautiful floral arrangements (ikebana) , and the art of rice pounding (kagami-kai). There was so much packed into the three day weekend, there was not a single dull moment in sight.


One of the most exciting events within an expo were the concerts. A variety of music was showcased, and all the performers gave an energetic and passionate show. One of the most exciting concert turnouts was the performance by Noriyuki Iwadare and his band, playing songs from the video game classics Lunar and Grandia as well as Ace Attorney. It was not only amazing to hear fans’ favorite video game songs performed live but seeing Iwadare playing the keytar and keyboard while hearing Yuka Hosio’s angelic voice was such a treat. But this is not to say that the rest were anything to blink at!



Overall, Japan Expo’s first impact went full blast and had a great turnout for being its first year in  the US. This is definitely a con that not only offered fans an inside look to legendaries but Japan Expo also gave all of the attendees a chance to truly submerge ourselves in the Japanese culture—something that we don’t see as often in a convention. We definitely hope to see more in the upcoming years, and we’re looking forward to the second impact!

Japan Expo Gallery

Interview with Phoenix Write Composer Noriyuki Iwadare

San Diego Comic Con 2013


There are many comic cons in the United States but if you asked comic fans which one is the biggest and the baddest, you’re most likely going to get SDCC as an answer. To many (including myself!), it’s a big dream and an even bigger journey to experience what most fans know as the Mecca of all comic conventions. 

As a first time SDCC goer, I already knew the weather was going to be hot enough that any time walking outside is going to get a lot of sweat and boy—if you were wearing a cape of any kind or skin tight layers? Hall H, especially when it gets crowded in the afternoon, and outside of the doors of the convention center itself weren’t your friends. But on the bright side of having one full weekend of sunny days, the photoshoots outside and gatherings for DC and Marvel cosplayers showcased every single cosplayer in perfect light as they posed, play battled, and smiled at the hundreds of cameras pointed in their direction.


But even as many veteran and newcomer cosplayers were enjoying San Diego’s weather and outside attractions (which included an amazing Assassin’s Creed ship), there was an even bigger group getting a taste of what SDCC has to offer— on the inside. 


Everywhere you looked from up and down the halls,  you could see cosplayers and fans gathering around showcases of new games (ranging from Bioware to Rocksteady) and character models with some on sale and others, eyes only. And if they weren’t in the mood to shell out some cash for some well worth collectible items, there was plenty of panels available for enjoyment. I personally enjoyed DC’s showing of Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox and Marvel’s Women of Marvel. Best of all worlds were ready for viewing pleasure at any time and any day. 



But of course, even with the big name panels and showcases, there are certain events that put the Big in SDCC’s name. Among them is Hall H’s all day showcases and the annual Masquerade and Cosplay Contest. Fans of all movies and games were blown away by the guests brought in who spoke about brand new spanking movies (Godzilla and Batman and Son, anyone?) and exclusive trailers and actors (Whose army was the loudest? Loki!). If the Exhibit Hall wasn’t worth your money, then Hall H might be the one thing that makes the cash worth everything. 


If you’re a fan of comics, games, or just want to enjoy an amazing experience among artists, SDCC is definitely the one con to consider putting on that bucket list of life. And as a first time goer, cosplayer, and comic book fan? 

SDCC was more than anything I could ever ask for or imagine when it comes to what makes a spectacular comic con spectacular. 

Anime Expo 2013

Los Angeles, California was filled to the brim last week as people started moving in to prepare for Anime Expo. Like every year, it looked like AX was home to a great many cosplay debuts and cosplayers that hailed from all four corners of the world!


AX was additionally the stop for several famous international industry members and directors. Anime fans and cosplayers were ecstatic knowing that there was an opportunity to meet people ranging from George Wada, producer of hit series Shingeki no Kyojin (or as some known it, Attack on Titans!)  to the editor for CosMode, Asako Yamamoto. Other popular artists and guests of AX this year that brought tremendous happiness to both fans and cosplayers were cultural ambassadors KANAME and Makoto Shinkai along with the ever so popular musical guests, Porno Graffiti! 


Even if con goers weren’t particularly excited for the panels and booths for AX this year, there’s no doubt they found some interest in the cosplayers walking around. To say that it was an amazing sight to see would be an understatement. League of Legends cosplays with elaborate detailing to armor pieces and weapons walked side by side with Attack on Titan! cosplays. Just by turning 180 degrees, any fan would be bombarded by an array of colors and personalities. Interested in Persona? To the left! Vocaloid and Magi? To the right! 


If you’re looking for a con with diversity and guarantee for quality, you’re definitely looking at the right con. It can be hard to do everything at once and especially so if you’re new to the cosplay or con scene but AX makes it a point to be interesting for just about anyone. As one of the largest, if not THE largest anime, game, and manga convention in the US, AX holds true to its name as one of the best westside cons to attend.


Convention Photos:
Anime Expo 2013 Gallery
Anime Expo 2013 Photoshoot Gallery

Anime On Display (AOD) 2013

It’s Anime of Display time once again in windy San Francisco.  Brrr.  It was a bit chili outside.  AOD is a pretty cool anime con held at the Kabuki hotel in Japantown  San Francsico, CA.  We’ve watched the con slowly grow over the past couple of year and we’re happy to see attendees are enjoying the con. 

Some of the panels we were pleasured to attend  was A Pleasant Interlude with Happy Tree Friends with Ken Pontac and Warren Graff.  Not exactly something anyone would expect from such cute little characters, the Happy Tree Friends are sadistically adorable.  Manual shoot is pretty heavy into photography so we totally supported the panel Cosplay Photography at Conventions with Elliot Trinidad.  A lot of the basics of con photography were covered in the panel which we Manual shoot photographers practice as well.  One of our members has recently been hooked (more like helplessly addicted) to League of Legends.  He thoroughly enjoyed the League of Legends Voice Actors panel with Adam Harrington, Cristina Vee, Erik Braa, Kyle Hebert and Melissa Hutchison. 

And as with any con, cosplay cosplay cosplay all throughout the con areas indoors and out.


Anime Los Angeles 2013


Despite Anime Los Angeles taking place on the first weekend of January, the sun was shining and the weather was friendly for all types of costumes and outfits. This cozy yet exciting convention also took place at the LAX Marriott, making it convenient for those traveling from near or far.

ALA is on a considerably smaller scale than its neighboring conventions such as Anime Expo and Comic Con; however, the intimate environment made it a more personal experience. For con-goers in the west coast, familiar faces were always just around the corner.

This convention also featured a large variety of content for their panels, ranging from Guest of Honors, cosplay construction tips, musicals, and even a panel on how to run a panel! Fortunately, I was able to catch at least a couple of panels:


Friday, Advanced Sewing Techniques @4:45pm

Although the description of the panel sounded simplistic to the average seamstress, panel hosts and veteran cosplayers Caistarrin Mystical and Sionna Neidengard provided incredibly insightful information, covering topics such as corset boning, unique fabrics, different types of sewing tools, and more. They also chose marvelous yet complicated looking outfits to wear- Sionna as Tron’s Quorra and Caistarrin as FFIX’s Kuja- to give their audience a visual guidance of the techniques they discussed in their panel.

Saturday, Vocaloid: The Fan Phenomenon @7:45pm

Most of us are familiar with the name and face of Hatsune Miku, but who is this virtual idol? Why is she so popular? And most importantly, why does she carry a leek around? In the anime, music, and cosplay world, Vocaloid is in abundance, and this panel explained the humble start of vocal synthesizers programs that transformed into this huge phenomenon of music, videos, and art that is truly created for the fans, by the fans. The Vocaloid world can seem intimidating with so much content on the internet, but the panel host’s presentation was easy to follow and entertaining.

Overall ALA 2013 was a great convention. Although the convention is more fun-sized, it was action packed with enthusiastic attendees and entertainment. Looking forward to the next one to start off 2014!

Photoshoot Album:

Impromptu Portraits:

Written by Yona 

AnimeIcon 2012

AnimeIcon is an up-and-coming anime con in Monterey, CA.  Manualshoot had the pleasure of attending the con this year.  After speaking with many attendees, the con seems to be growing in popularity fairly quickly.  Some really neat panels and guests included: Voice Acting 101 with Kyle Hebert, Character Creation with Irene Flores, and Cosplay Construction with Nancy Lam.  Manualshoot is a big fan of cosplay.  We enjoyed attending the cosplay contest with judges Nancy Lam and Imari.  Rockin out with VIS and akai SKY easily set us in the party mode to end our con experience.  We look forward to coming back go AnimeIcon next year.  Thanks guys.


Midori-chan.  Winner of the cosplay contest.


Imari and Nancy Lam.  Guest judges for the cosplay contest.


musical guest: VIS

Anime Expo 2012

Photo by Martin Wong

Anime Expo is always an exciting event in California, this year is the 21st year! They really demonstrated their years of experience this time, the registration process ran smooth, the free shuttle provided easy mobility, and the guests of honor are ever so awesome. This year they hit a record 49,400+ unique attendees and an attendance of over 130,000 during its four days.


We were very pleased by the guest of honor this year:  Ryo HorikawaSteve BlumJamie MarchiMonica RialTatsuo Sato,Nobuhiko OkamotoRikiya KoyamaHikaru KondoEi AokiJoel McDonaldIan SinclairMadhouse, and Master of Ceremonies Danny Choo, along with memorable concerts from Yuki Kajiura / Fiction Junction, breakout star LiSA, and AniMetal USA.


Photo by Martin Wong 


Photoshoot album:

Event Album:

Fanime 2012

Fanime- it’s an event that so many of us prepare year round for. Has anyone else established their Fanime 2013 plans already? This Fanime definitely felt different than previous years. The con had a rough start with the unfortunate power outage on Day 0- kudos to the registration team for working extra long to distribute badges to eager attendees. We are no longer welcomed with dancing fountains in the face of the San Jose Convention Center; this year the water turned to land, and much of the gathering space outside got pushed to the far side due to construction. Despite the outward changes happening around the convention, it seemed that all spirits were high, and it turned out to be another great year.


Lolita Fashion Panel

Several lolita fashion enthusiasts that reside in the bay area held a panel to educate both new and veteran lolitas about the history of the fashion, the categories and subcategories of the key styles, and personal stories about their experiences while wearing the fashion. The panel’s atmosphere was very casual and lighthearted, as each panel member answered questions from the styles of different lolita fashion brands to their funniest encounters with “muggles” commenting on their clothes. After the panel, a fashion show was held featuring several indie brand designers- the show had a great feel as each piece was quite unique from the standard patterns and prints normally used in the fashion.

Indie fashion designer “Bisoux” and her collection

Limitless Edge’s How to Pose Like a Pro Panel This panel provided an abundant amount of helpful tips and tricks to be mindful of when posing for a photo. The members of Limitless Edge (Jie, Ker, Lyn, and Lee) introduced great example photos as well as in-person examples of poses specific to general types of characters, including romantic, crossplay, aggressive, etc. The panel succeeded to be informative as well as fun and energetic. If you missed the panel, catch this awesome video of their full panel:


Cafe V

Cafe V falls under Fanime’s mentality of “by fans, for fans”; it is a non-profit butler cafe that launched in Fanime 2011. Since then they have had several events within California, including J-POP Summit, Pacific Media Expo, and Yaoi-Con. The event was held a few blocks from Fanime Con at a tea house called Satori. Guests were served a wide selection of teas, sandwiches, and sweets followed by gut-bursting, hilarious, and charming entertainment provided by the butlers themselves. The event also featured a raffle, silent auction, a games with prizes.

Scones, cupcakes, and sandwiches, oh my! There’s always so much so see in a convention, but not nearly enough time. Although Fanime Con has changed on the surface, it is still the home of the largest bay area anima convention as well as my favorite anime convention to date.

Event Album:

Photoshoot Album: 

Written by Yona

Stereopony Rocks Santa Ana, CA

Stereopony (ステレオポニー) 

Aimi (vocals/lead guitar) - Shiho (drums) - Nohana (bass guitar)

April 12, 2012 in Santa Ana, CA – Stereopony rocked the Yost Theater on Thursday night in front of an enthusiastic crowd.  Before the shakedown, I met a couple hardcore Stereopony fans who traveled to see every US concert of the tour. These were very exciting times for the fans who finally got their chance to see Stereopony live in SoCal.  Armed with glow sticks, the audience whole-heartedly welcomed the Japanese rock band with cheers.  Santa Ana marked the last US stop for Stereopony as they headed back to Japan the following week to complete their More! More!! More!!! tour.  Once again, Stereopony played a number of fan favorites including Hanbunko and Sweet Blue as well as Stand by Me (ending theme to the anime sequel Eureka Seven AO).  During a concert break between songs, Shiho (drummer) talked to the crowd in English.  Since Shiho is so beloved by the fans, they began completing her sentences.  Shiho busted out with laughs and big smiles.  It was a quite a cherished moment.

I also had a chance to meet the band during the autograph session after the concert.  They remembered me from Sakura-Con in Seattle five days prior to that evening which definitely made my night.  In a short conversation with Aimi, she thanked me for coming to their concerts and expressed how happy the band was to tour the West Coast US.  I thoroughly enjoyed the concert.  Their tunes are so catchy that I found myself humming some of them on my drive back to San Diego.  Can’t wait to see them again on their next US visit.

Michael Cabusi

Stereopony concert gallery in Santa Ana, CA -

Wakeshima Kanon concert @ Sakura-Con 2012


April 7, 2012 in Seattle, WA – Wakeshima Kanon (分島 ) graces the stage at Sakura-Con with her musical talents.  This beautiful singer and cellist from Tokyo, Japan began playing cello at age 3.  From middle school to high school, she began singing and at 19 yrs of age, she debuted her first single “Still Doll”; the ending theme for the anime Vampire Knight.  Later that year, Wakeshima released a second single “Suna no Oshiro” which was used for the ending theme of the anime series Guilty (second season).  One notable characteristic about Wakeshima is her love for lolita fashion.  She can easily be found in magazines, videos and even her music CD wearing lolita dresses.  In a single word, I would describe Wakeshima Kanon as lovely.  After attending her concert at Sakura-Con, I can only say that we will definitely see more of this unique singer-lolita-cellist in the future.

Click here or on the photos above for Manual Shoot’s Wakeshima Kanon concert gallery.

Sakura-Con 2012

Despite the chilly weather on the first day, we received a warm welcome from Sakura-Con. Sakura-con was a three days convention at Seattle, Washington. This year, the convention was held at the Washington State Convention and Trade Center.  Located in downtown Seattle, we were surrounded by many stores, tourist attractions, and restaurants.  One of our favorite restaurants was MOD Pizza.  I really wish we had one here in Cali.  We also had a chance on check out Pikes Place on day zero. 

We were very impressed by the convention center.  It is relatively huge compared to a lot of conventions in California. Being the 3rd largest anime con on the west coast, there was a lot of room for both indoor and outdoor photoshoots. But what stood out to us the most was the Artist Alley and Dealers’ Hall room.  Not only it was quite large with variety of booths, but there was also a lot of space between each aisle and the room was brightly lit.

Just like Fanime, we were very pleased to see that Sakura-Con ran 24/7, meaning more time for us to take pictures and enjoy all the activities it provided. The dance room every night was also amazing, with astonishing music, AMV, and sound system. We were able to use the convention center to its full extend. The Sakura-con and convention center staff were also very friendly and helpful.

With attendance nearing 20,000, we were able to meet cospalyers from all across the United States and other countries. And of course we got some great pictures of them and did some photoshoots! We also attended the Stereopony concert and Kanon Wakeshima concert, as well as, the h.NAOTO fashion show.


Event album:

Photoshoot album:

h.NAOTO fashion show:

Wakashima Kanon concert:

Stereopony concert:

Martin Wong and Michael Cabusi

Manual Shoot

Stereopony @ Sakura-Con 2012

Stereopony ステレオポニー

Aimi (vocals/lead guitar) - Nohana (bass) - Shiho (drums)

On April 6th, 2012, Stereopony performed their first West Coast concert at Sakura-Con 2012 in the Washington State Convention Center in Seattle, WA. The all-girl rock band from Okinawa, Japan blew up the stage in front hundreds of fans Friday night to lead their first US tour.  This was a very exciting time for me (Cabusi) since I have been an adoring Stereopony fan for years.  Butterflies filled my stomach as Stereopony laid down tracks such as Tsukiakari no Michishirube (“Over the Border” album and opening theme for the anime Darker than Black: Ryūsei no Gemini), Hitohira no Hanabira (“A Hydrangea Blooms” album and 17th ending theme for the Bleach anime series), and Namida no Mukou (“A Hydrangea Blooms” album and 2nd opening theme for second season Mobile Suit Gundam 00).  After speaking with many of their fans, they were really happy to see Stereopony because most have only heard their songs in anime themes.  Finally, we on the West Coast US have the opportunity to see them perform live.  Below are the concert dates in California.  I encourage everyone to come to their performances.  You’ll love it :D

April 10 (Tue): San Francisco – Slim’s:

April 11 (Wed): Hollywood-Los Angeles – Key Club:

April 12 (Thu): Santa Ana – YOST Theater:

Stereopony concert gallery link by Cabusi of manual shoot. 

Click —-> ステレオポニー

Michael Cabusi

manual shoot