Dragon Con brings cosplayers, anime characters to Atlanta

Associated Press: 

Atlanta‘s annual Dragon Con science fiction and fantasy convention filled the city’s downtown streets with people dressed as zombies, steampunk time travelers, purple-haired anime heroes and aliens by the dozens.

The convention draws fans from around the country to take part in sci-fi and fantasy costume contests, a massive parade through downtown Atlanta and educational seminars about science and costumes making.

One of the more popular events at the convention this year was a private party held at the Georgia Aquarium, home to the largest aquarium in the Western Hemisphere. Costumed revelers danced and drank under the glow of passing Beluga whales and sharks on display, and dance-heavy music thumped in the background.

Tens of thousands attend the annual event, which began Thursday and continued through the weekend.

Steam Garden: Tokyo’s steampunk festival

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RocketNews 24:

Though it sometimes feel a bit like bragging, when people ask what we like best about Tokyo, we can’t help answering that it basically has everything. Now, don’t us wrong, there are some things you can’t find in Japan’s capital city, but just about everything we’ve gone looking for, we’ve been able to find. And we’ve even discovered some things without knowing we were looking for them! Case in point, about a week ago, we found out that Tokyo has its very own quarterly steampunk festival!

Dubbed Steam Garden, the first event of the year will be held next month in Harajuku, but we were dying to know more about it, so we reached out to the Tokyo Inventors Society to learn more about steampunk in Japan.

Check our exclusive interview and get information about joining the fun below!

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The world is overflowing with unique subcultures, but steampunk is perhaps one of the most interesting–though we have to admit it can be somewhat difficult to pin down exactly what it is! Fortunately, we were able to get a pretty satisfying answer from Luke, one of the founders of the Tokyo Inventors Society, which run Steam Garden. “Steampunk is a kind of re-imagining of 19th century science fiction, like a punk-attitude version of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. We like the cool 19th century aesthetic, the sense of adventure, the DIY aspect of crafting and building things, and the satirical, playful approach to history.”

Of course, generally steampunk evokes images of Victorian culture, but it actually seems to work very, very well in Japan as well, thanks to the country’s blend of traditional and contemporary culture during the Meiji era.

Kenny, one of the other founders of the Tokyo Inventors Society, had this to say about steampunk in Japan. “I think Japanese ‘mottainai’ (“don’t be wasteful”) culture is a good influence on re-making and creating things from junk. I like that part of streampunk a lot.”

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Adding to Kenny’s comments, Luke explained that certain aspects of Japanese steampunk are still very new. “Aesthetically, Steam Garden really pioneered what we sometimes call the ‘wild east’ style of Steampunk, a more intense version of the Wa-yo-setyuu style of fusing East and West, and this seems to be inspiring a lot of the younger steampunks now to be proud of Japanese steampunk style, rather than copying a Victorian or American look.”

Now you’re probably wondering just what Steam Garden is. The event is actually only a few years old–it began in 2011 as little more than idea in a bar. As Luke put it, “We were sitting in a hookah bar sometime in 2011 and complaining about the lack of  decent steampunky, gonzo-historical kinda festivals in Japan.”

Most of our great ideas come in hookah bars,” Kenny quipped.

▼Kenny

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Regardless of where the idea came from, it looks like Steam Garden has developed quite the following. It even got started with a bit of a bang! When asked about the festival’s growth over the last four years, Kenny told us, “I thought the first one was going to be a small salon-party. Maybe 40 people. But we packed out a small nightclub. So we picked a bigger place next time, and filled it again. Every time it gets a little bigger. We are on the eighth one now.”

The next event, which is called “Meiji Democracy” is due to take place in just under two weeks on February 7 at Laforet in Harajuku from 2 pm to 7 pm. Admission isn’t exactly cheap at 4,000 yen (about $34) per person, but it promises to be quite the show.

If you’re on the fence about the price, this description from the Steam Garden FAQ should get you excited.

“During DJ and Salon time you can enjoy Hookah, sit and talk with the best-dressed, classiest and friendliest crowd of any event in Tokyo, and dance to adventurous neo-retro sounds from our DJ’s.

The entertainment, music and even booths at each event are carefully selected to match the theme of the episode, whether it is rodeo girls at a ‘Wild Wild West’ fashion show or Katana-wielding samurai and live Japanese traditional music for ‘Meiji Steam.’ The performers are always of top quality including Cirque du Soleil registered acrobats, professional swordfight choreographers, champion Shamisen players and more.”

Now, if you’re worried you don’t have anything to wear, Luke assures us that you don’t have to wear full-on steampunk or historical costume. It’s not entirely necessary, but he did add that “most of the attendees make one hell of an effort to look awesome,” so it may be worth at least throwing something quick together to really get into the spirit.

It’s all about having a sense of adventure!” Kenny added. “If you’ve got that, you’re 99% ready to go!”

Sounds good to us!

If you’re not going to be in Tokyo in two weeks but you really want to see the event, we have good news! We’ll be there taking photos, so you can look forward to a full report…as long as our time machine doesn’t break and leave us stranded in the Meiji period.

For more information about the event be sure to check out the Steam Garden website.

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“20 RANGERS FOR 20 YEARS”: Artists customize Power Ranger figures for 20th Anniversary art show

Saturday night, Power Rangers fans piled inside tiny Toy Art Gallery on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles.

The event was “20 Rangers for 20 Years,” which brought together 20 artists from across the globe for the 20th anniversary of the franchise. Artists were giving 31″ Power Rangers statues to customize. The results were wildly different, and equally spectacular.

L.A.-based artist J*Ryu went the classical route. His piece, “The Statue of Jason,” was an homage to Michelangelo’s David.

I wanted to pay a tribute to the classic element of what it means to be a Power Ranger,” he says.

J*Ryu noted that he didn’t want to change the look of the Power Ranger too much. In the process of making this piece, though, he had to do a lot of deconstruction and reconstruction. The artist, well-regarded for his work customizing toys, cut apart the original and rebuilt it.

If you notice, it’s static,” he says of the figure. “Everything that wasn’t there before, like the jointing, I had to recreate from scratch.” After that, he added a faux plaster effect. Originally, J*Ryu wanted to make the statue look as though it were cut from marble, but, in the end, he decided to go with a look that hinted at age. “I wanted people to understand that it was a little bit older,” he says.

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Nicolette Davenport, by day a senior graphic designer for Saban Brands, played with age too in her contribution to the show.

It’s just a silly take on a Power Ranger, perhaps 20 years later,” she says of the aging and plump ranger spilling out of a too-small costume. Davenport spent a few weeks on her piece, customizing it in the after-work hours. “It was built off of the original plastic toy,” she says. “From there, I built a structure of styrofoam with toothpicks and crazy glue and hot glue and anything you can think of.

She topped off the piece with plastic clay, clear coating and resin.

Some chose to do mash-up pieces, the most unusual of which came from L.A. artist Josh Mayhem. His piece, called Steam Powered Ranger is actually a Power Rangers/Gundam hybrid. Mayhem frequently uses Gundam modeling kits to customize other toys in his work. “I ordered the biggest Gundam kit I could find,” he says. He used those pieces with some odds and ends leftover from past projects to give his Ranger the look of an oversized, steampunk robot.

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20 Rangers for 20 Years” was curated by Caro (first name only) of Sweet Streets, an artist management company based in Los Angeles with offices in Tokyo. Previously, Caro put together the traveling exhibition, “My Little Pony Project,” where artists customized large My Little Pony figures. Like the previous show, “20 Rangers” focuses on a long-running franchise that has a multi-generational fan base. Inside TAG, grown ups and small children arrived in Power Rangers uniforms. The art show also included a Power Rangers pop-up shop, which brought together merchandise from various sources, including We Love Fine t-shirts, a new collaboration with street wear brand Mishka, limited edition prints from Acme Archives and more. There was also a display of Power Rangers toys throughout the years.

There was a charitable component to the show as well. A portion of the proceeds from “20 Rangers for 20 Years,” which ran at TAG through Sunday, December 8, were going to Challengers Boys and Girls Club. Caro herself volunteers at the Boys and Girls Club. The charitable aspect of the show helped dictate the curation of the work as well.

Because it’s Boys and Girls Club, I wanted it to be an even split of girls and boys,” says Caro of the artists for this show. While the bulk of the figures here were masculine Power Rangers, a couple artists, like Pretty in Plastic and Bei Badgirl, worked with feminized Power Ranger forms.

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Because Sweet Streets is an artist management company that focuses specifically on female artists, some asked Caro why she would do a Power Rangers event, assuming the the TV series and toys were boy-centric. She didn’t see it that way. Caro grew up watching the first round of Power Rangers and cites the Pink and Yellow Rangers as two really strong female leads.

Amy Jo Johnson is one of my idols,” she adds, naming the actress behind the first Pink Ranger, Kimberly Ann Hart. “It’s so great to have grown up with her, the Pink Ranger, and the Yellow Ranger on television.”

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Undoubtedly, the Power Rangers made a significant impact on those who grew up in the 1990s. The tightly packed crowds inside the art gallery was testament to that.

Check out this link:

“20 RANGERS FOR 20 YEARS”: Artists customize Power Ranger figures for 20th Anniversary art show