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Anime Expo: From Ventura to Japan in a day

by Chris O’Neal


he temperature outside of the Los Angeles Convention Center had reached a balmy 102 degrees by noon on Saturday, July 7, the third day of Anime Expo. The only thing hotter was my sheer, unbridled excitement at the thought of wandering its halls elbow-to-elbow with costumed otaku (anime, manga and pop culture obsessives). Anime Expo is a four-day convention organized and hosted by the nonprofit Society for the Promotion of Japanese Animation. It is the largest anime convention in North America, encompassing manga, films, video games and music, attracting over 100,000 fans from around the world. This year’s expo was held July 5-8. Think of it as San Diego Comic-Con specifically tailored for the anime genre, replete with special announcements, panels featuring voice actors and creators and world-premiere screenings. With one day scheduled for attendance, I would need to formulate a tight schedule for the optimum amount of anime consumption. As it turns out, one day wasn’t nearly enough. After catching a portion of Kimba the White Lion at around 9 a.m., I succumbed to sensory overload as I stepped back into the convention center lobby, thanks to the incredibly creative cosplayers scrambling about. “Nani?!” I shouted. (“What?!” in Japanese). Fans by the thousands came donned in costumes, portraying characters from popular and sometimes incredibly obscure series, memes, video games and

everything in between. Attack on Titan, Sailor Moon and Dragon Ball Z were well-represented. Several cosplayers arrived as colorful characters from JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, an anime and manga by Hirohiko Araki. Over the weekend, it was announced that part five of the series, Golden Wind, would premiere in anime form later this year. Excitement was palpable throughout the convention center. For certain premieres, fans required tickets or wristbands. Dedicated thralls lined up in the sweltering heat earlier in the week to procure passes to several events, including the film adaptation of Boku no Hero Academia, an immensely popular series following the exploits of wannabe heroes. By midday Saturday, the convention center was packed tight. It took 15 minutes to wade through the swarming masses from the West Hall, where costumed and non-costumed folks alike could pretend that they were inside of an anime by posing in intricately designed sets, to the South Hall, where the big-name anime purveyors such as Funimation and Crunchyroll set up shop next to not-so-big-names selling T-shirts, figurines, replica weapons and even sleeves for body pillows adorned with a wide variety of anime characters in various stages of undress. It was hot. It was sweaty. And it was, well, wonderful. There truly is no place better than Anime Expo to immerse oneself in this particular niche. Aforementioned series can be found on Netflix, Hulu, Crunchyroll and other streaming services.

Fans of anime classic Sailor Moon gather for a cosplay photo-session. 20 —

— July 12, 2018

Ant-Man and the Wasp Size matters by Dave Randall Ant-Man and the Wasp Directed by Peyton Reed Starring: Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Michael Douglas, Hannah John-Kamen Rated PG-13 for some sci-fi action violence 1 hr. 58 min.


ighty percent of the Earth’s species are insects. Before you grab that can of Raid, bear in mind that some of these creepy crawlers and winged biters inspired comic book legends Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, then Hollywood. The Marvel Cinematic Universe has cornered the market on box office hits, if not insect superheroes. Ant-Man and the Wasp have the stage to themselves this summer, in a film full of fun and post-Fourth of July fireworks. Before Ant-Man was released in 2015, the character didn’t enjoy the adulation reserved for the other Marvel superheroes introduced in 1962 — Hulk, Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, et al. Like Iron Man, both Ant-Man and the Wasp derive their super powers from technology. Their story is much different than those of, say, Dr. Strange, Thor, the X-Men and others with powers based in mythology or the supernatural. They use their suits to shrink, grow, fly and kick ass — not necessarily in that order. Paul Rudd’s boyish charm makes Scott Lang, the AntMan, all his own. Scott’s under house arrest, with a monitor on his leg, on the outs with Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and his daughter, Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly). Hank, a gifted scientist who created the shrinking and expanding technologies of the Ant-Man suit, and Hope, also a whiz, have been building a superlab. They’re searching for a way to find Pym’s wife, Janet (Michelle Pfeiffer), lost for 30 years in a microworld, the quantum realm. Over the decades, Hank has improved upon Janet’s old suit, and Hope is now the new Wasp. It’s not necessary to have seen the first Ant-Man to


enjoy this sequel. Know that Janet is using Scott as a conduit to reach Hank and Hope, who are on the lam from S.H.I.E.L.D and other government agencies. They engage the sleazy Sonny Burch (Walton Goggins) to get the black-market tech they need to continue research. Burch, naturally, wants the results for himself. Most captivating is the other party in pursuit of what’s discovered — Ava, the Ghost, a former S.H.I.E.L.D operative with super powers that promise to prove fatal. Played by Hannah John-Kamen, an actress with haunting gray eyes, Ghost is the most empathetic adversary Marvel has come up with to date. The Ant-Man himself has a daughter to tend to (Abby Ryder Fortson), an ex-wife (Judy Greer) and her current husband (Bobby Cannavale, in a warm, cuddly role diametrically opposed to the bad guys and psychos he’s played in the past). Plus, Scott and his business partner Luis (Michael Peña) are being closely watched by S.H.I.E.L.D agent Jimmy Woo (Randall Park). As Ant-Man and the Wasp, Scott and Hope (and buildings) vacillate between tiny and huge. Cars and vans are kept in the same kind of Hot Wheels container I had as a child, and spring to life-size with a walloping burst. It’s fascinating and hilarious. Director Peyton Reed is part of a generation of behind-the-camera artists who easily weave mind-blowing CGI into full-movie experience. The writers — Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers. Andrew Barrer, Gabriel Ferrari and Rudd himself — spread witty dialogue around the effects. There’s a chase through San Francisco that would make Steve McQueen’s Bullitt and Burt Reynolds’ Bandit sullen with envy. Lilly, an actress who grew up climbing trees in British Columbia, is a perfect Wasp. She and Rudd make an entertaining team. The Wasp wasn’t in Avengers: Infinity War for reasons that’ll become obvious by the final scene. Also certain: As you leave the air-conditioned chill of the theater and get hit with a blast of hot summer air, you’ll want to turn around, retake your seat ♦ and wait for Ant-Man and the Wasp to return. 

Ant-Man and the Wasp have the stage to themselves this summer, in a film full of fun and post-Fourth of July fireworks.

Ventura County Reporter | July 12, 2018  
Ventura County Reporter | July 12, 2018