Otakon 2017: Our Adult Christmas

Every year my husband and I look foward to Otakon like a kid does Christmas. This was the first year it was held in Washington, DC; rather than Baltimore, MD. For us it would be a whole new adventure because we usually stay with our brother who lives in Baltimore and knows it like the back of his hand. This year we booked a room in The Westin, a .6 mile walk from the convention center, and our brother caught the train from Baltimore. The trip was great.  There were some bumps in the road but the excitement of Otakon was more than enough to cover that. Here are some of the highlights of our trip!

otakon grin
My traditional 1st day of Otakon grin

Gaming Room

The two places we spend the most time during Otakon are the game room and dealer room. There are long tables on one side of the massive room with chargers for handhelds as well as phones. This is perfect for charging my phone, resting my feet, and even taking a little nap. My husband usually finds Naruto or Injustice; our brother, Halo, Gundam, or some cool retro gaming system. As for me I don’t game a lot. I may play around on a fighting game like mortal combat, Naruto, or Injustice, but I get serious when it comes to Just Dance. We had not bought the newest, Just Dance 2017, but I still dominated whenever I came over. I play different than most. I don’t just play to win, I play to groove. Otakon ain’t never seen a nerd with rhythm like me. I usually play for an hour per day, that along with all the walking gives me a decent calorie burn to offset the extra eating.

Dealer Room

This year we did not get a lot from in the dealer room in terms of quantity. I usually go to find some unique graphic t-shirts that will stand out from my normal JC Penney and Old Navy collection. I also look for my traditional Harry Potter gift for my sisters birthday in September (which I did find, but am not going to disclose just in case she reads), a gift for my son, and some kind of Sailor Moon collectible for my cousin. The dealer room seem to be a little lacking this year. They had some awesome stuff, but it didn’t feel like there was as much. Maybe some of the dealers that usually come to Baltimore couldn’t make it to DC. But what we did find became the highlight of the whole trip. We got stainless steel wedding bands engraved in…..ELVISH! They were an early anniversary gift for each other as our anniversary is TOMORROW! It was perfect; we condensed the Dr. Seuss

rings
Our “Rings of Power”
quote from our wedding program:  “We’re all a little weird and life’s a little weird. And when we find someone whose weirdness is compatible with ours, we join up with them and fall in mutual weirdness called love.” The perfect description of our relationship. Our brother also got a ring engraved in Draconic.

Panels

I am usually the one that finds the good panels.  Maybe its because I am the newest to anime so I am eager to learn. On Friday we attended “Anime vs Hollywood”—Whitewashing. It gave some interesting perspectives. The most profound being how World War II affected American comics vs Japanese manga and anime. America was the “winner” and therefor comics showed incredible heroes but was also heavily censored only showing positive images. Whereas, Japan was the “loser” and their animation was deeper and darker, a quality I enjoy.  Saturday we wen to “Skin Deep: Diversity in Japanese Pop Culture. It mentioned some of the same ideas, but also broke down how different groups are stereotyped in anime, manga, and video games. They included: East Asians, Europeans, Americans, Blacks, others (hispanics, muslims, etc.), LGBTQ, and persons with disabilities. Once again eye opening. These were sadly the only panels I was able to attend due to time overlapping with other events and meal times.

Cosplay

One day I’ll start cosplaying myself, I’ll start with sometime simple like punk Storm with a white “fro-hawk. My family jokes and says that if I cosplay they aren’t waiting for me while people take pictures. I hope to cosplay good enough that people will want pictures. Until then I’ll just marvel at the creativity and hard work of others. There’s not much a can say about the cosplay, so I’m just going to include some of my favorites below. Enjoy!

Eateries

When Otakon was in Baltimore we usually tried to eat as much as possible as our brothers house and maybe get some snacks here and there. Being that the Baltimore convention center was with next to the ball fields there were the hot dog vendors that usually sold at the baseball and football games there available for a cheap lunch of hot dogs, sausages, fries, or chicken sandwiches. In DC we were able to find some reliable places. Our regular breakfast and lunch spot was the West Wing Cafe. They had sandwiches, wraps, soups, and plenty of vegan options for me. For breakfast I’d get a smoothie and lunch I got a Korean Bibimbap salad with tofu. For dinner Friday night we went to a burger spot called Bolt Burgers. They had the best french fries EVER! I got a black bean burger with added curry spice and it was divine. I’m not sure if it was because of all the business they were getting but they seemed to be giving everyone (with regular burgers) double patties. My husband and brother got two, even though when asked they said they only wanted one. Oh well, I’ll accept a freebie anytime.

Saturday nights meal, though an adventure, was another highlight of the trip. In Baltimore our signature Saturday evening dinner had been “Bubba Gump Shrimp Co.” on the harbor. We wanted to find something in DC that could replace it and were leaning towards an Asian spot. After searching Google maps for reviews of nearby places when decided on a place called “Chaplin’s”. We did not realize it was the Saturday evening hot spot. We walked through the doors exactly as a thunderstorm dropped all the water from the heavens only to find that without a reservation it would over a 2 hour wait. We waited in the crowded entrance trying to figure out our next course of action. My husband was getting “hangry” and said lets just get an Uber and go to the burger place. I was disappointed and did not want to settle for that. We got an Uber to the burger place, but decided to walk to nearby Chinatown. The rain had died down an we had a back up restaurant there in Chaplin’s didn’t work out. We got there only to discover that it had been rented out for a private party. Across the street was a small restaurant Reren Lamen & Noodles. I was assuming that Lamen meant “ramen”, so we decided to check it out. It was PERFECT we found our official Saturday evening dinner spot. My husband got the Kung Po beef lamen, I got the Buddah style tofu lamen, and our brother got Shrimp fried rice (basic I know, but it was the best). We ordered some dumplings to share as an appetizer and my husband and I ordered alcoholic drinks. The price was VERY reasonable and the food impeccable. My only change will be to next time ask if I can get some of the spiciness of my husband’s beef based broth in my mushroom broth. I saw that they had an article in the Washington Post so I looked it up, the article explains the owners Chinese roots and why it calls their noodles “lamen” rather than “ramen”. Check it out if you have the chance.

All in all it was an epic trip. Somethings I will do next time are possibly flying or taking a train and using cabs/Uber rather than dealing the garage parking or getting tickets. We will also be leaving Monday rather than Sunday so we can take advantage of all 3 days. My husband and I will do Otakon boot camp so we can wake up earlier and stay up later in order to maximize our time to hit all the events we want. Until then I will fill the void soaking up all the anime I can and attending local statewide cons. Now I will begin marking my calendar until Otakon 2018, August 10th-12th.

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Anime in Physical Education

I never miss an opportunity to show my students how much of a nerd I am. I might  teach them Muggle Quidditch  or have a bulletin board of the Physical Education components each represented by a different superhero. The health room I have created a word wall called “Wonder Words” it is decorated with a wonder woman theme and has vocabulary from the current unit. The current unit we are doing is Martial Arts. I am in no means a martial arts instructor, but I teach them what I’ve learned from self-defense, cardio kickboxing, and Tai Chi classes. They are working to earn a class from a martial artist that I bring to class. I want to also focus on the character building aspects of martial arts. We discuss topics such as confidence, discipline, and respect. What better way to explore this than inspirational anime clips.

I begin each class with a video clip and they answer a reflection question. The first two I used were from “Kung Fu Panda 2” and “Karate Kid”(the remake with Jaden Smith). Even though they aren’t anime they were still very meaningful messages. With the Karate Kid clip we watched the “Jacket On, Jacket Off” scene. We discussed the importance of following directions and understanding how to learn form mistakes and experiences. The Kung Fu Panda clip was about finding inner peace.  I also intend to show a clip from “The Last Samarui” this will tie in Social Studies concepts of imperialism (you like how I did that). These are just some of the things I want them to focus on rather than fighting.

Now to the best part, the anime. Action anime are full of inspiring scenes and characters I could draw from. At the top of course are Naruto and Goku. I’ll lean towards those because I fell like those are characters that the largest amount of students would be familiar with and therefore draw a connection.  For Naruto I intend to have students establish their “Ninja Way”. In Naruto they work in integrated teams. Meaningful collaboration is a huge buzz word in education. Cooperation and teamwork is major in Physical Education. Using some of the teams in Naruto to illustrate this only seems natural. Goku uses determination and consistent training to reach every goal, even after death. This is another important concepts I want them to understand.  I also think using some “Attack on Titan” would be good. I teach at an urban school, with the majority of my students being at-risk. In this anime the characters live in constant fear and struggle, I think a lot of my students can relate to this. Fullmetal Alchemist, Hunter X Hunter, and Bleach are some others that come to mind that I think would have powerful messages.

I always strive to teach my students to be open minded. Everyday my goal is to teach them how to improve their physical, as well mental, and emotional health. These are themes that run throughout many Anime. These strong fighters battle personal conflict and keep their morals along the way. Hopefully they don’t think its too lame and are able to gasp the message I am trying to send.

Recap: Naruto Shippuden Episode 455

25560312204_c541bdea2c_oItachi’s Story- Light and Darkness: Moonlit Night

My husband and I love Naruto. It is the show that brought me to love anime. This love has led us to make Thursday nights (when new episodes post on crunchyroll) Asian night. I prepare some Asian dish, sometimes inspired by Naruto itself. Tonight I made Onigiri with a spicy tuna filling and vegetables. Naruto makes you fall in love with the characters and the story lines, even some of the fillers like this current arch. Filler episodes in anime are something I’ve had to adjust to. Just when you get hooked on the action and can’t wait for the next episode its something completely unrelated and sometimes not even in the same time sequence. I do however enjoy fillers that give background information on specific characters. The current story arch is telling Itachi’s story. We’ve heard his story several times throughout the anime and each time there something rich to add. Its to the point that my husband and I realize that Naruto is the main character in the spotlight, but this anime and the Ninja world within are all driven by Itachi’s master plan inspired by his best friend Shisui.

To catch everybody up. At this point in Naruto Shippuden the entire Ninja world is under Madara’s Infinite Tsukuyomi, except team 7: Naruto, Sakura, Sasuke, and Kakashi. We call this the “matrix effect”. Everyone else is trapped in this alternate reality. Within this reality the ninja world exist as if war had never happened. Team 7 are protected by Sasuke’s Susanoo. So we come to that point, to enter fillers that show everybody within the alternate dream world. Once those fillers are over, we enter another saga that is once again retelling Itachi’s story, which I have no problems with whatsoever.

The previous episodes showed Itachi’s childhood and rise to power within the shinobi of the Hidden Leaf. He was always a prodigy even among the talented Uchiha clan. With his talent and quick ascension in the shinobi ranks he began to question life and the motives of his fellow clansmen. Much of it started seeing dead shinobi on the battlefield and a brief but powerful conversation with Orochimaru. I wondered if Orochimaru planted those seeds within Itachi’s mind on purpose solidifying his fate before any other influences. But mostly the death of his friend and teammate, awakening his sharingan had changed Itachi, to who he know him as today. Before this occurrence he was a normal, but gifted, young shinobi. Itachi was able to meet another friend, Shisui, a gifted Uchiha shinobi much like himself. The two became like brothers. Itachi continued to increase his skills and earned a position in the Anbu (pretty much the ninja worlds B-613).

This episode showed how he begins to question whether his alliance should be with the village or his clan. As a memeber of the Anbu, he protects the village by whatever means necessary, even if that means doing things the Hokage has not approved of. The other Uchiha are tired of their isolation and being treated like enemies in their own country because of the actions of Madara Uchiha many years ago. They are planning a coup d’etat, to overthrow the current leadership making Itachi’s father the Hokage and the Uchiha respected leaders of the village. In order to prevent their clan from their own treachery Shisui sacrafices himself and gives Itachi his Sharingan, awakening his Mangekyou Sharingan. Itachi has decided to turn his Uchiha brother-in in and tells the Hokage and village leaders of the plan. He is given the task of slaughtering his entire clan, except his brother Sasuke in order to protect the village. He sees this as saving his clan, since they will not go down in history having started civil war, thus ending the dark shadow the clan was carried its entire history. He calls upon Obito, pretending to be Madara, pretending to be Tobi, to help him with the task (although I don’t know if Itachi knew he wasn’t Madara). He leaves with “Tobi” to join the Akatsuki as a rouge ninja.

This episode like this entire story arch shows emotions and thoughts that we never knew of Itachi. We knew about what he did for the village already, because he told this to Sasuke within the Ninja War, but we did not see the agonizing process of him making this decision. I don’t understand how the Uchiha saw their plan as a solution. It would pretty much prove everyone’s fear of them to be valid. The other villagers would still fear their rule and see them as tyrants. They’d have to continue killing and wiping out all those loyal to the previous regime once again solidifying there sinister outlook. Why were only Shisui and Itachi able to see the truth? Maybe it was there connection to other rest of the shinobi world due to their skill. They were not confined as ninja police. They were able to be loved as shinobi by the other villagers. So the blame comes back around to the village for ostracizing them. Which was the same thing that lead Madara to his deep bath of darkness. It was all a cycle that Itachi alone had the responsibility of breaking.  Up until now Itachi just seemed like this all knowing omniscient person among all these other “bigger” people. If I didn’t know it before, I know now that Itachi is the true hero of the Hidden Leaf Village. He did everything for his clan, village, family, and brother. My heart hurts for him, because he did not get to be the big brother he wanted to be. He had to carry the burden caused by others, and everyone but him gets to reap the benefits of his and Shisui’s sacrifice. Shisui, got the easy part. He pain was over, while Itachi lived on many years with his hurt, pain, and sacrafice. He’s like the ninja world Batman, not the hero they needed, but the hero they deserved or maybe its backwards, but you get the idea. The episode ends with his joining of the Akatsuki. I’m interested to see him participate in their Akatsuki terrorism, knowing now that he’s really a hero. Itachi is one of the people I would like to see somehow able to come back to life, where’s Nagato when you need him?