Benihana and The Cheesecake Factory [2016]

23 August 2016

Once in a while, my boss takes me out to lunch and this time he felt like going to Benihana. I haven’t been to Benihana in ages and free lunch is free, so who am I to say no?😀

Benihana is a restaurant chain that was founded in New York in 1964 that specializes in Japanese teppanyaki cuisine. Now, there are Benihana restaurants all over the world — just don’t try to look for them in Japan, lol.

The main appeal of going to Benihana is the performance put on by the teppanyaki chef as s/he prepares your meal on the steel grill in front of you at your table. I’m sure they must get a lot of training to be able to do all the neat knife and flame tricks without injuring themselves!

So this is how much Ramune you actually get in one of those $3 bottles. ^^;

Vegetable fried rice comes with all of the lunch entrees, which is why that heart is so big (you’re seated with other guests, usually 8 to a table).

After we had lunch, we popped next door to grab some dessert at The Cheesecake Factory — another restaurant chain you won’t be able to find in Japan. (However, the first one in Asia opened this year in Shanghai Disney Resort’s Disneytown complex.)

These were taken on my fixed focus cell phone, so excuse the terrible quality. ^^;

See the full album on my Fan Page on Facebook and be sure to Like The Vault on Facebook, where I’m finally caught up through 2010!😀

2016 04 22 Fri: Benihana and The Cheesecake Factory

Wurstküche and The Pie Hole [2016]

16 August 2016

Every time my friends and I go to The Pie Hole, we see the line in front of Wurstküche and talk about trying it some time. Well, that time finally arrived!

Really, Wurstküche is pretty much just a bar that also happens to serve exotic sausages with atypical meats such as duck, rabbit, lamb, and rattlesnake. You also get to choose from four different toppings, but only the first two are free.

Once you place your order, you make your way into the back room, which is dark and loud and not at all conducive to conversation. Some of the benches in the middle have butcher’s paper that you can draw on while waiting for the waitperson to bring you your food (it’s in the Arts District, after all).

My friend tried one of the draft beers while we waited in line and enjoyed it immensely, but the consensus was that Pink’s is much better in terms of not only flavor but price and ambience. Wurstküche was worth trying once, though!

Afterwards, we popped across the street for some dessert from The Pie Hole.

I guess it was just meant to be a gastronomically unfulfilling night, as my selection, the Cereal Killer Cheesecake, also wound up being quite disappointing.

See the full album on my Fan Page on Facebook and be sure to Like The Vault on Facebook, where I’m finally caught up through 2010!😀

2016 04 02 Sat: Wurstküche and The Pie Hole

LEGO/Building Blocks Events [2016]

09 August 2016

It’s been a while since I promoted something that wasn’t one of my own projects (like Looking for Miku, my short film, or Tomo Neko, the maid cafe I was a board member of), and this isn’t a promotion per se. However, since there a couple of similarly-themed events coming up, I wanted to put in my two cents. (All photos from my previous coverage of Brick Boutique.)

I recently received a Groupon offer for an event called Brick Fest Live. I had previously reached out to them since I’d wanted to cover one of their events and help them promote. Little did I know that what I thought would be a private message to their info email would be posted to their public forum, without notice or disclaimer. Pretty shady, if you ask me. Additionally, they closed the “support ticket” without response or even telling me. Wow, how professional! /sarcasm

The Groupon offer I got for Brick Fest Live gives you the privilege of paying “only” $20 to play with Legos for just four hours (regular price of $35). Seriously? What a ripoff! Brick Fest Live is obviously one of those organizations that only care about your money.

I’d rather go to Brick Boutique, which happens at the same exact convention center, where you can do the same thing ALL DAY for only $7 ($12 if you want the early bird entry ticket and FREE if you show up after 4pm). Not only is it cheaper for a longer experience, you also get admission to Robo Toy Fest at the same time! You can’t beat that!

Brick Boutique has all sorts of vendors selling Lego kits both old and new. They also have a building contest and, of course, a FREE building pit where you could take home your creation when you’re done — for FREE! They even have special guests, like voice actors from the Lego video games and designers from Power Rangers!

Forget that lame ripoff Brick Fest Live; if you want to get your Lego fix, go to Brick Boutique instead! The next Brick Boutique will be in October 2016.

There’s plenty of coverage of Brick Boutique in the Archives! Also, check out my Fan Page on Facebook as well as The Vault on Facebook for more of my adventures!

Ariel at Target [2016]

02 August 2016

Had been sweatshopping Looking for Miku during January for the original world premiere (which didn’t happen because Anime LA dropped the ball😛 ) so didn’t really get away from the computer very much. Even afterwards, I was so burned out that I only emerged from my cave to pick up snacks and such, which is how I came across these new marketing materials featuring waifu Ariel at a couple of different Target stores!

Haven’t been to Disneyland in ages so always happy to see new Ariel stuff, especially stuff that doesn’t make her look like Joan Rivers. It’s great that she continues to resonate with consumers today.

Seeing all the Disney Princess stuff that’s available now, it’s hard to believe that Disney had no idea that this was an untapped market until the early 2000s!

Since I also enjoyed Tangled, I wanted to take this home, haha.

Did you know that Ariel’s character designer, Glen Keane, also designed Rapunzel?

These were all taken on my cell phone, so excuse the blur and weird aspect ratios. ^^; Make every day an adventure!

See the full album on my Fan Page on Facebook and be sure to Like The Vault on Facebook, where I’m finally caught up through 2010!😀

2016 02 18 Thu: Ariel at Target

2015: The Year in Anime

26 July 2016

Here is the final recap post for 2015; the anime I watched!

Started the year off rewatching a couple of films, the first being the third in the series of Puella Magi Madoka Magica films, Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magika the Movie Part 3: -Rebellion- (劇場版 魔法少女まどか☆マギカ 叛逆の物語). It was fun to rewatch this sequel to the original TV series/two recap movies and even more fun to watch my friends’ reactions to the mindscrew ending!

Image taken from my coverage of the Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magika the Movie Part 3: -Rebellion- premiere in Hollywood!

Next, I unexpectedly wound up rewatching the anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day The Movie (あの日見た花の名前を僕達はまだ知らない。 めんまへの手紙 / A Letter to Menma). While I didn’t cry the first time I saw the film, there was enough distance from the last viewing that I was bawling my eyes out before it ended.

And, yes, I’m still pissed about those letters (which you can read about here) to this day. XP

I continued to revisit old acquaintances through a couple of OVAs, the first of which was the Highschool of the Dead (学園黙示録 HIGHSCHOOL OF THE DEAD) OVA “Drifters of the Dead”. If you thought the main series, which is about highschoolers trying to survive a zombie outbreak, was chock full of fanservice, the OVA pushes it right to the edge of hentai. >/////< The whole thing is pretty much a fantasy/side story/beach episode with no real bearing on the plot. Despite its shortcomings, I actually enjoyed the TV series but since the original work is on an indefinite hiatus, this is prolly the last episode this show will ever release.

Photo of Saeko from the Highschool of the Dead photoshoot I did with Tora-rin.

To be honest, I don’t even remember the Kill la Kill (キルラキル) OVA, but I know I watched it, lol. It was about graduation and closing down the academy and one of the minor characters trying to exact revenge, but honestly I think that plot was the last element that went into creating this over-the-top final visit to Honnouji Academy.

Image of Fight Club Mako from FanimeCon 2014, but you can read my thoughts on the show itself here.

After that, it was time to take the Wayback Machine way back to one of my very first anime, Project A-ko! I’d had the box set sitting on my shelf for literally years and finally decided it was time to crack it open. I’d enjoyed the first A-ko movie when I was younger but never really saw the rest of the entries in the series (save for an unsubbed A-ko 2 and maybe parts of A-ko 3 or A-ko 4).

Project A-ko (プロジェクトA子) came out in the mid-1980s and is a zany fantasy/sci-fi parody film that features tons of in-jokes and homages to other works. I hadn’t watched it a long while and I certainly didn’t know as much about anime then as I do now, so it was like watching it for the first time and it was great fun catching all the things I didn’t remember or notice previously!

The film focuses on three girls named, appropriately, A-ko, B-ko, and C-ko (“Girl A”, “Girl B”, and “Girl C”). A-ko and C-ko are besties but B-ko wants C-ko all to herself so she continually challenges A-ko to increasingly insane battles featuring increasingly insane mecha of her own design. Unfortunately for B-ko, A-ko is ridiculously strong (for reasons alluded to at the end of the film). They ultimately get caught up with aliens who are searching for their long-lost princess and (even more) mayhem ensues. The film features one of my favorite anime soundtracks, which was actually composed by two American musicians (Joey Carbone and Richie Zito) and has English-language songs.

The three sequels, unfortunately, are much weaker. Project A-ko 2: The Plot of the Daitokuji Financial Group (プロジェクトA子2 大徳寺財閥の陰謀) is about B-ko’s father and the search for alien technology; Project A-ko 3: Cinderella Rhapsody (プロジェクトA子3 シンデレララプソディ) features A-ko and B-ko fighting over a boy’s affections; and Project A-ko 4: FINAL (プロジェクトA子 完結篇) sees previously minor character Miss Ayumi (the girls’ teacher) preparing to get married.

The two OVAs, A-ko The VS (A-ko The ヴァーサス), alternatively called Project A-ko: Uncivil Wars or Project A-ko: Grey Side/Blue Side, were also made back in the day, when OVAs were more experimental and tended to be unrelated to the main stories they were offshoots of. In this alternate universe, bounty-hunting partners A-ko and B-ko attempt to save a kidnapped C-ko from space pirates with the help of a weird little alien named Maruten. It has none of the charm of the rest of the series and I wish they would’ve spent the money making an A-ko 5, lol.

I’ve never run across any A-ko cosplayers or even A-ko merchandise besides the English-translated DVDs and comics/graphic novels, so here is a picture from my Back to School sale (items listed in the post are still available, natch)!

I revisited the movie sequel to Tiger & Bunny, Tiger & Bunny The Movie -The Rising-, which still managed to get me in the feels.

Photo from the theatrical screening that you can read about here.

Following that was (finally) something new to me: Hanasaku Iroha (花咲くいろは) aka HanaIro. After picking it up at AX 2013‘s Charity Auction (still seriously wondering why they didn’t get Mari Okada to autograph it as well since she was there to promote it with P.A. Works producer Nobuhiro Kikuchi but that’s just par for the fail course for AX), it sat on my shelf for three years for no particular reason besides my working on Looking for Miku and prolly fear that Okada-sensei would fail to come through. As much as I wanted to like it, this coming-of-age tale of a girl working at her grandmother’s hot spring inn didn’t live up to my favorite Okada-written works (Toradora! and AnoHana).

Loot photo from coverage of Anime Expo 2013, Day 4.

Going back once more to something familiar, I decided to revisit Diebuster (Aim for the Top 2! / トップをねらえ 2!), the sequel to possibly my favorite anime OVA series of all time, Gunbuster. Why didn’t I just rewatch Gunbuster? I have no idea; I think I was just on a break-open-the-shrinkwrap kick, lol. I’d bought the ridiculously expensive single discs even though I’d been incredibly disappointed by the sequel, but having only seen it as a fansub I decided to give it another go with the official release. I’m happy to say that it made all the difference to my enjoyment of the alien invasion show, and I came to appreciate the connections to the original and the expansion of the universe. The included booklets and notes were also a nice extra.

Photo of Diebuster cosplayers from AX13.

Was happy to revisit some old friends on my anime feels trip and also glad to meet some new ones! Feel free to make your recommendations on what I should watch next in the comments below, and check out my Fan Page on Facebook as well as The Vault on Facebook for more of my adventures!

2015: The Year in Photoshoots

19 July 2016

Since I was still in post-production for Looking for Miku and my con appearances were under the radar, I only did a couple of quick little shoots in 2015; here they are!

Ninja-Con 2015: Photoshoots

It’s always fun to shoot with my friend Aoi Mizuno! Since I was staffing Ninja-Con, this shoot was actually being run by someone else and I was able to sneak in for a few quick photos before I had to get back to work. See more of Aoi as Macross F‘s Ranka Lee as well as other cosplayers in the link above!

D23 Expo 2015, Day 3: Cosplay and Photo Areas

The only con that shows up less often than I do is D23 Expo, which takes place every two years! Spent most of my day at con like everyone does at anything run by Disney — stuck in line. However, being trapped in a queue means that other people are also, so I was able to at least get a few cosplayers, including this awesome Black Widow. Click the photo caption for more cosplay from D23!

Lolita Photoshoot [2015]

Finally, the one proper shoot I did all year took place at PMX with my friends in their Lolita dresses! We were on our way back from dinner heading to the CosFest Masquerade so it was really quick, but we still had fun taking pictures outside this awesome building!

Even though I didn’t do as many shoots as I’ve been able to in the past, it was still really fun to take these pictures of such great cosplays and outfits!

Check out the posts linked above for expanded photoshoot coverage from 2015, see full albums on my Fan Page on Facebook, and be sure to Like The Vault on Facebook, where I’m finally caught up through 2010!😀

2015: The Year in Events

12 July 2016

Continuing last year‘s new tradition of recapping events (since — once again — I went to more events than cons), here are the ones I went to in 2015!

Team LA JAPAN 2015 New Year’s Celebration

For the second year in a row, I started things off at the Downtown Independent! Team LA JAPAN 2015 New Year’s Celebration featured a live performance, an art show, a cosplay contest, and music by Tune in Tokyo.

Anison USA 2015, Day 1: Momoi Haruko Mini Live
Anison USA 2015, Day 2: Part I
Anison USA 2015, Day 2: Part II

Following that was the debut of Anison USA, which featured local J-pop and J-rock style bands as well as J-pop idol Haruko Momoi!

Monterey Park Cherry Blossom Festival 2015
PMX/Infotakus Cosplay Runway Show 2015
PMX / dolldelight Fashion Show [2015]

Spring brings the annual Cherry Blossom Festival in Monterey Park. For the past few years, PMX has been holding a Cosplay Runway Show as well as a Fashion Show, usually featuring dolldelight.

Tokyo Status Farewell Midnight Shinigami: Part I [2015]
Tokyo Status Farewell Midnight Shinigami: Part II [2015]
Tokyo Status Farewell Midnight Shinigami: Part III [2015]

The same weekend of the Cherry Blossom Festival, my friends in Tokyo Status said goodbye to my friends in Midnight Shinigami, as they were planning to move out of state (unfortunately, their plans fell through and they wound up staying, but it was still an emotional event).

Final Fairytale MMXV [2015]

Had to say another goodbye at the end of April to my friend’s Fairytale Boutique. I was there for the beginning, so I was happy to be able to pay my respects at the end.

Hello Kitty’s Supercute Friendship Festival 2015

While I was unable to attend myself, my friends went to check out Hello Kitty’s Supercute Friendship Festival, Hello Kitty’s first live North American tour. They had a blast!

Back to the Future at Twin Pines Mall

After the summer con season, I was happy to be able to celebrate the 30th Anniversary of one of my favorite film series, Back to the Future, by visiting Twin Pines Mall!

Every day can be a special event if you make it one! Here’s to many more in 2016!

Check out the posts linked above for expanded event coverage from 2015, see full albums on my Fan Page on Facebook, and be sure to Like The Vault on Facebook, where I’m finally caught up through 2010!😀


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