You may have seen the post from a little while back saying that Japanese visual artists SIRO-A were coming to Australia for a series of performances. They’ve been likened to the Blue Man Group for their amazing visual performances. For a taste of what they’re about, have a look at the clip below from America’s Got Talent:
Absolutely mindblowingly good, right? Anyways, I was lucky enough to gain an interview with the group’s visual DJ, DVJ Kent recently where I asked him about the group’s direction, inspiration, plans for the future and more.
Japandaman: How did the idea for to start SIRO-A happen?
Kent: SIRO-A was formed in 2002 by six classmates from Sendai, Japan. We performed comedy, which included dance, movie, music. In 2002, we bought a projector and started playing with it. In 2010, we performed our current style of performance at the Shanghai Expo. With the mission to attract and impress the audience, we started making new types of performances with visual effects with just a small projector and our imaginations.
J: How long does a show take to put together?
K: There are multiple performances within one show, and each of the performances basically requires three months of preparation time. It takes another one month to further modify and combine the performances into one integrated show. We also practice our performing skills throughout the year to make sure we’re always prepared for the next show.
J: In the start, how was the reaction to your shows from the public?
K: They said it was “mind blowing”. We received a lot of positive feedback when we put on our show overseas at the Edinburgh Festival. We were very surprised and happy to find foreign audiences were showing even a stronger interest in our show. We really enjoyed their instant reactions showing their joy and excitement openly during our performance, this really boosted our confidence.
J: Where do you see SIRO-A in the future?
K: We would like to continue to perform in every corner around the world to share the excitement and happiness with as many people as we can. It is also our dream to perform on a Broadway stage in New York, and have a permanent theatre there one day.
J: What new and exciting technologies would you like to incorporate into your future shows?
K: 3D technologies has been widely used in movies but are not fully matured for live performances. We previously tried 3D hologram in one of our performance and would like to introduce 3D glasses in the short future. However, we place equal importance to the human factors of our shows. We do not want a fully preset and robotic performance but a combination of technologies with “human power” – our natural abilities such as dancing, pantomiming, singing. We think this is very important to preserve humanity in our performances, although technologies are advancing at an exceptional pace.
J: Where do you draw inspiration from for your routines?
K: We are influenced and inspired by all aspects in our lives, from our traditional cultures to pop trends. Now we take an interest in the traditional idea of Zen (peaceful state of mind).
J: Is there a highlight for you out of all the shows you have performed?
K: What we value the most is the interaction between audience and SIRO-A, so we’d like to highlight the connections that we build with them during the shows. It will be energy to make something new in the future!
A massive thank you to SIRO-A, DVJ Kent and Marissa from KABUKU for arranging this amazing interview!
The Japanese Film Festival is always a highly popular event on cinephiles’ calendar and it’s no small wonder why. The Festival always has a massive array of movies to showcase covering a vast variety of tastes and genres. We were fortunate enough to get some one on one time with the Program Coordinator, Margerett Cortez to discuss the history of the event, the secret behind the popularity of the JFF and which films to watch out for.
Japandaman:Firstly, can you tell us why the Japanese Film festival was established and how it has developed over the years?
Margarett Cortez: The Japan Foundation is a Japanese government cultural organisation which runs various cultural events and programs to strengthen ties between different countries and Japan. At The Japan Foundation, Sydney JFF was established as an annual calendar event as part of our mission and vision. But at the core of JFF is a love for films! Over the years our program has grown larger and we’ve been able to travel to more locations, major and regional, in Australia. Currently we’re able to offer the latest films from Japan with nothing over 18 months old.
J:Given that the Japanese Film Festival is celebrating its 20th year, how will this year’s program reflect this major milestone?
MC: Bigger and better films! Starting off with a special screening of the original un-cut 1954 Japanese GODZILLA in Sydney and Melbourne! We’ve also prepared a program with works by the best contemporary filmmakers from auteurs like Hirokazu Kore-eda and arthouse favourites like Shunji Iwai.
JFF this year also has a small focus program with films by female filmmakers, an issue that is very relevant to the Australian screen industry at the moment: we will have two separate special guest Q&As with directors Miwa Nishikawa and Yukiko Mishima, hosted by Australian producer Glenys Rowe and director Martha Goddard.
J:So many people attend screenings across Australia, what do you attribute to the popularity of the festival?
MC: A shared love for Japanese culture! As well as love of travel and appreciation of other cultures, which is one reason why I think a lot of Australians love foreign films.
J:We noticed that there are lots of special guests and activities, such as pop culture and foodie events- what can you tell us about these?
MC: We’d like the festival to feel more like a festival by adding non-film events where people can come together and talk with like-minded people and enjoy things like cosplaying and washoku (Japanese cuisine).
J:Finally, do you have a favourite film or a ‘must see’ amongst all of the films on offer this year?
MC:THE SUN is a must-watch! It’s a beautifully shot dystopic film but nothing like your usual post-apocalyptic film set in deserts or amidst neon lights. It’s a riveting film which takes place in the Japanese mountain countryside, and touches on a lot of social issues from low birth rate to economic inequality. The lead actor Ryunosuke Kamiki is also a brilliant performer, you may remember him from Rurouni Kenshin: The Legend Ends and BAKUMAN。.
Thank you so much for your time, Margarett, we wish you all the best with this and many JFF’s in the future! And for more info and session times in your city, check out the JFF site.
I hope you’ve all had a chance to check out out Cosplayer Of The Month, the awesomely talented Alyson Tabbitha. Alyson was also nice enough to give us some of her time for the following interview!
Japandaman:When did you first discover cosplay & what inspired you to start cosplaying yourself?
Alyson Tabbitha: I learnt about cosplay by being obsessed with final fantasy and happening upon photos and videos of final fantasy cosplayers! I thought it looked so cool and exciting! I always loved dressing up for any occasion, event or holiday , and my friend Sam ( https://www.facebook.com/SamSparrowOfficial/ ) ask me if I wanted to join them at megacon. I was so excited, loved it, and got hooked!
J:Which of your cosplays is your favourite & why?
AT: That’s a tough one to answer because so many of them are my favorite for different reasons. Like Jack sparrow I love because it was the first costume I had part in making and kinda launched me into this community! But Edward is my favorite because I relate to the character & made everything on it from scratch, no patterns or thrifting. It’s a costume I’m super proud of! Or now Widowmaker is a favorite because it’s not like anything I’ve made before and I learned so much!
J:Is there something you’re planning on making in the future that you’re really excited about?
AT: Yes! But I am going to keep that one a secret for now! It’s a definite future project, I just don’t want to hype it up now, cause I don’t know when it will actually happen!
J:How do you find the US Cosplay scene? Are people supportive of your work?
AT: I honestly love it. I have been welcomed with open arms, and have felt very lucky and happy to be a part of this community. It has been very kind, loving and supportive. I wish everyone could have that experience because that’s exactly how this community should be!
J:Who is your cosplay idol?
AT: I have so so so many! I am really drawn to transformative, crafty, and motivational cosplayers! Such as;
J:Your cosplays are so intricate, how long does it take you to put one together?
AT: All my costumes from start to finish difficulties are so different. Some costumes takes a few days some take a couple months, but I guess average would be 2 weeks.
J:What is your all time favourite anime or game?
AT: I love many of the games from Final Fantasy! But there are far to many favorite animes to list them! lol
J:What draws you to a character? Personality, design?
AT: I have questioned that myself, sometimes it’s because I relate to the character, sometimes it’s because I want to be more like them. Lightning is so strong and brave, which I admire, and she is devoted to her sister, which I relate to. Edward was sheltered for a long time and introduced to the outside world all naive and wide-eyed, to find it can be a cruel place. And fitting is isn’t as easy as you desperately want it to be. Which I relate to.
Sometimes I’m drawn to the mysterious type like Vincent, sometimes the misunderstood type like Gaara. I don’t know the exact reason. The the only time I only wanted to be a character solely for design, I made the costume and never wore it. So I try to stick to characters that I am attracted to on a more personal level.
J:Is there a type of character you enjoy doing?
AT: I really love crossplaying! Being someone completely opposite of yourself is pretty fun! lol
J:Do you have a Favourite convention in the USA or overseas?
AT: I have only been in conventions in Florida atm! I hope to change that very soon! My favorite in FL is Holiday Matsuri! But I love most of the cons I go to!
Alyson, thank you so much for your time and we wish you all the best with your future cosplays, we can’t wait to see what you’ll do next!
Following on from naming her as the Japandaman Cosplayer Of The Month, we now have our interview with Vera Chimera which she kindly agreed to. Vera’s done some stunning cosplays from Tracer (Overwatch), Ada Wong (Resident Evil), Black Cat (Marvel), Katrina (League of Legends), Tifa (Final Fantasy) plus a whole swagload more!
Japandaman:When did you first discover cosplay & what inspired you to start cosplaying yourself?
Vera Chimera:Every time I answer this question, I’m reminded how long I’ve been cosplaying, and how much more I still have to learn haha!
I’ve been cosplaying for around 10 years now. Probably over the last 5 years I’ve tried to step thins up and learn new skills. Originally I began cosplaying to escape a not-so-nice reality, but these days I cosplay simply for the fun and exploration of self-identity.
J: Which of your cosplays is your favourite & why?
VC: My current favourite is Tracer from Overwatch, It took me a couple of months to pull her together, learning how to wire my own LEDs and understand the functionality of the suit. Wearing her gave me the opportunity to compose some really awesome photoshoots with friends, and even score several gigs with Blizzard Australia which were a real blast! I have plans for the future to create her Slipstream skin, now that I’ve literally worn the original costume to death.
Another favourite is Championship Riven from League of Legends. Took only 3 weeks to make and I learnt so much about armour and prop construction. I’ve worn her at Gamestart in Singapore and several local cons. She’s also currently retired from excessive damage. I go all-out in photoshoots, even if the end result doesn’t work.
J: Is there something you’re planning on making in the future that you’re really excited about?
VC: Honestly I am the worst when it comes to sticking to one cosplay idea! I have all these sick ideas, then a new game/skin will come out and I ditch everything! However these days I’ve tried to slow down and choose costumes I know I’ll suit AND make in time. PROJECT Katarina and genderbend Reaper are my two upcoming costumes, and have already started putting the budgets together. I have a bajillion other things I’m excited about but want to wait it out to see if it’s just a phase. Really should get Jessica Rabbit done, as well… It’s my most requested cosplay idea haha!
J: How do you find the Sydney Cosplay scene? Are people supportive of your work?
VC: The Sydney cosplay scene is great. Like every group there have been hiccups here and there, but these days the waters are smooth. I think it all has to do with age and personal life experiences that eventually mould us. Australia has an abundance of talented cosplayers that the world needs to discover. We’re all very supportive of each other and cheer on our champions.
J: Who is your cosplay idol?
VC: I have two idols: Lightning Cosplay and Maul Cosplay. Extremely talented cosplayers who perfectly transform into their character of choice. Lightning also has some fantastic tutorials on armour and crop construction.
J: Your cosplays are so intricate, how long does it take you to put one together?
VC: It all depends on 2 things: spare time and level of energy. Sometimes I can pop out a costume within a few days, other times it can take a few months! Back in the day it was easier since I had a casual job; I could shoot out several costumes in 1 year. Now that I have a full time job and am saving for a house, I’ve been a bit constrained. I hope to set up a schedule to work around though, as I’m getting the itch to make more and more haha!
J: What is your all time favourite anime or game?
VC: Anime: It’s hard to choose. Fullmetal Alchemist, Evangelion, Ergo Proxy, and One Punch Man are my top contenders. Sadly I don’t watch much anime these days as the Western comics and series have kidnapped me. Game: currently it’s Overwatch, But Halo, Deus Ex: HR, Abe’s Oddysee, Planetside 2, and Injustice are my top faves.
J: What draws you to a character? Personality, design?
VC: A bit of both. I like a costume that’s a mix of both fabric and armour, and try to work with some LEDs here and there. I also like to pick out characters that’s spunky or sensual, but need to keep in mind if they will suit me physically.
J: Is there a type of character you enjoy doing?
VC: I like strong, spunky, sexy, and charismatic characters who are iconic in their own way. I mainly aim for the “strong” trope, since my natural bitch-face works very well for photoshoots. Less work, great results, haha!
J: Do you have a Favourite convention in Australia or overseas?
VC: Sydney: Gotta say Supanova. I’ve been attending for many years and it’s still as fun as ever. Overseas: Gamestart Asia is fantastic, as is Blizzcon. Travelling to Singapore and America introduced me to a new kind of cosplay talent. Very inspiring!
Vera, thank you for your time! Everyone at Japandaman really appreciates you taking time out of your busy schedule to talk to us! We wish you all the best in the future!
I was covering Tokyo Game Show in 2014 and I was lucky enough to bump into my favourite cosplayer, Vampy Bit Me! What followed next was a very impromptu interview which she was more than happy to do. I found her to be extremely friendly and down to Earth and great, interesting person to interview.
To kick off the Interview segment on japandaman.com, here’s an interview that I did with Neko for our TV show It’s Japan, Man! The interview was with internationally renowned Japanese cosplayer, REIKA. This is back from our very 1st season and was filmed at SMASH! 2014.
The J-Pop Harajuku Kawaii Amabassador, Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, is performing in Sydney, Australia on the 23rd of March as part of her current world tour. Japandaman HQ was lucky enough to snag a few minutes of her precious time for an interview which she graciously agreed to. Many thanks to Katey Smile for assistance with the questions, Handsome Tours and Angela Henley Publicity.
Japandaman:Are you excited to come to Australia?
Kyary Pamyu Pamyu: Yes very much! This will be my first time in Australia so I am very excited to meet local fans! I’ve never been to the Southern hemisphere so I am wondering if the climate is really opposite from what we have in Japan. Last but not least I would love to see sharks and koalas!
J:Who are your current influences?
KPP: I just love Katy Perry. Her cuteness is just perfect in every way. She is also a very humorous and kind person. Of course I respect her very much as an artist.
J:What is your favourite music video and song that you’ve released?
KPP: “Mottai-Nightland” video expresses the world of fantasy I love so much. On the other hand “Fashion Monster” is the very first video that I could express rock and the world’s quite different from the colourful popness like in other videos. Still it is very hard to pick which one is the best though.
J:What is your favourite costume that you’ve worn?
KPP: I love the Fashion Monster costume. I tend to wear quite colourful and ‘full of pop’ costumes but with Fashion Monster I wanted to challenge something rock and cool so I feel very attached to the costume.
J:Did you think you would end up being this successful when you started on You Tube?
KPP: I haven’t expected anything like this when I first uploaded the “PON PON PON” video on you tube. So I was honestly surprised to see the attention from overseas. I feel very fortunate that people find out about me on the Internet and they come see me on stage when I am touring their local cities for the first time.
J:Which artist would you like to collaborate with?
KPP: I cannot imagine to collaborate with anyone yet.
J:You have many fans that don’t speak Japanese but love your music, why do you think this is so?
KPP: I sing mostly in Japanese but the lyrics really don’t have a clear meaning. You can just enjoy the way it sounds. I think that’s why people enjoy my music even if they don’t speak Japanese or they are too young to understand the language.
J:How do you come up with the ideas for your clothes and music videos?
KPP: I get a lot of inspiration when I am going through the Internet. I pick up some pictures or videos I liked and I just talk with my stylist. Often our discussion starts with me drawing my images.
J:What else would you like to achieve through your music?
KPP: I want to achieve a lot of things through my music and fashion. Other than that I am not really interested. I just don’t want to be a jack-of-all-trades.
J:Outside of music, what’s next for you with your fashion projects?
KPP: I always want to design a costume like no one has ever seen. It is boring to keep doing the same things so I want to keep challenging new things.
Kyary, thank you so much for your time. We at Japandaman and all our readers appreciate it and wish you all the best with your world tour.
During Japandaman and crew’s recent trip to Japan, we saw many cool stuff ranging from Tokyo Game Show to the many sights and sounds of Japan. However undoubtedly, the biggest highlight was reserved for the second last day when we managed to have some sit down time with an important guest. Project Phoenix marks Japan’s first foray into uncharted territory by being the first Kickstarter funded project, featuring amazing AAA talent, to come out of Japan. And leading the charge as Director and Producer of this huge undertaking is Hiroaki Yura, founder of the sublime Eminence Symphony Orchestra and CIA, or Creative Intelligence Artists.
We met up with Hiroaki in Harajuku where we were able to have a chat in a local cafe about the status of Project Phoenix, the state of indie game development and just why so much is riding on the success of Project Phoenix.
Japandaman: Is PP a code name, if so, when will we hear what the title will be?
Hiroaki Yura: Yes, its the project title. It’s not really the title of the game.
J: Do we know what the title will be?
HY: Hmm, no…no idea. NFI (laughs)
J: Has PP been an idea that you’ve had for a while?
HY: It was initially a get rich quick project. We were going to use a tower defence mechanism with some JRPG elements but as us creators got together, we’re never really good at making get rich quick projects. We decided to do a proper JRPG. We were kind of tired with the mechanics and we decided to do a pretty interesting RPG, sorry RTS mechanics.
J: How have you found the transition from music directing to leading a game development project?
HY: I haven’t finished my job yet, I can’t really comment on that. It’s my first time so we’ll see how it goes.
J: How did you pull the project team together? This is a large team of world renowned industry professionals, so pulling that together is a significant achievement, how did you go about doing that?
HY: I didn’t. I think we initially started with friends that I know and those friends brought in their friends to fill in gaps we don’t have filled. And the friends I know are really top notch developers and that’s because I don’t just work in japan, I also work outside of japan as well.
J: So it was word of mouth, people hearing about it and saying count me in?
J: Were there people that you wanted on the project that knocked you back?
HY: There are several but it’s mostly because they want to do it except they have other work, other commitments that’s going to take a lot of time.
J: If the game is successful, have you considered setting up your own game studio?
HY: We are planning to make a game studio for Project Phoenix. But it won’t operate like a normal game studio as in having a bunch of designers or illustrators. I think that defeats the point of being an indie game. I think its better to have freelance people and people get together on the merit of their skill rather than their business skill.
J: So it would be on a project by project basis?
HY: Yes. So people would still have to perform in order to be a part of it. They’re always being scrutinised.
J: With additional stretch goals being added, are you still in the process of adding to the team?
HY: It depends, if anybody has the skills that we need that benefits us.
J: So for all intents and purposes, the team isn’t locked down, it’s still open to having more people join?
HY: Well, to a certain extent. There are already a lot of people we haven’t announced.
J: Tell us how you were feeling with reaching and then surpassing your initial stretch goals?
HY: We’re not gullible enough to think or naive enough to think we can reach the biggest stretch goal of $4.8 million. But we did prepare it just in case. But truth be told, we only needed 100,000 to prove to the world that we can make it.
J: We noticed that one of the later stretch goals included the Skywalker ranch, did you have to negotiate this before offering it and is this one of your dreams, to record at Skywalker ranch?
HY: All you got to do is pay money to get to Skywalker Ranch. That’s it.
J: so it’s open to anyone as long as you have the money?
HY: Absolutely, why wouldn’t it be? It’s a studio. I think its the world’s best recording studio.
J: With the game itself, what stage are you up to? Are you still at concept stage or are you into the development?
HY: We’re into development already. I mean some of the art is still being concepted but we’re getting ready for mass production of characters and the world. So what does that mean? It means we are getting ready to set the standard of the model creation and how we do things. So once that’s set, then it gets out to a lot of other people that will turn out things of that quality.
J: With PP being Japan’s first indie game Kickstarter funded project, can you please tell us how that feels?
HY: It felt like the right thing to do, for me anyways.
J: Is this an inspiration to other indie developers in Japan?
HY: Well, I hope so, that’s what I kind of hoped from the indie stream event yesterday at Sony. The thing is its still very hard for people, indie people, to actually do this. Now Keiji san with mighty number 9 has a whole company set up just for this. So if he doesn’t, you know, he can take care of all that. For us, we don’t have a company, I’m bilingual and I know people outside of japan who are friends who are willing to help out that are doing this. But for other people, you need to speak english and deal with the backers. Talking to the backers even if you’re fluent in english is hard enough because you have so many questions flying around.
J: Do you see this as a start of a shift in development?
HY: I hope so. I’d love to have some competition.
J: What influenced your decision to port the game to PS4 and PS Vita? Playstation is talking about making the PS4 accessible to indie developers. Was this an influence?
HY: Not really, it was the fact that PS43 and Vita are compatible with each other. It was the fact that I believe currently Playstation is a superior, well the Playstation Vita and the Playstation 4 put together is a superior gaming experience than the Microsoft Xbox One. I hope Xbox One puts its focus back onto the gamers not just the multimedia aspects.
J: Do you see Nintendo’s stance on indie development a deciding factor?
HY: Well, Nintendo changed its tune on our portal Kickstarter. During the start of the Kickstarter, Nintendo said no Japanese indie developers are able to create games on their platform. I think 2 weeks into our campaign they changed their tune and they said they’ll allow, you know, the small type is gone. So I guess they’re allowing it now. But that being said for us gamers, us game developers, we want our game to be accessible by as many people as we can and the sales on the Wii U is way too low for us. It’s a great platform but the sales are just way too low for us to commit to it.
J: Me with the 3DS, that’s a different story?
HY: The problem with the 3DS is Unity isn’t supported so that’s a compatibility issue.
We had to wrap things up there but we were extremely thankful to Hiroaki for his time and wished him all the best with Project Phoenix. And for the record, Japandaman backed the project as well, We can’t wait to see this across all platform but especially on the PS4 and PS Vita consoles.