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Thursday, May 29, 2008

Korean Toys: Cross-Cultural Traffic: Toying with Brands, Borders and Bootlegs

Panel: (Left to Right) Eric Nakamura, Joshua Bernard, and Seho Kim

NEW YORK, May 28 — On a warm and humid night, the Korea Society (950 Third Avenue) had a special panel discussion about the early Korean toy industry. The panel complemented the recent Korea Society exhibit called Toy Stories: Souvenirs from Korean Childhood. I cover the gallery opening of that show in a past blog post.

Joshua Bernard, editor,
Eric Nakamura, publisher, Giant Robot Magazine
Seho Kim, creative director, The Korea Society

The panel covered the early years of the South Korean toy industry, which included the 60s, 70s, and 80s. The period was a time of growth for the Korean economy. However, the large Japanese and American toy corporations did not penetrate the Korean market until the 90s. This lead to the development of a domestic toy industry in South Korea.

The panel began with a power point presentation by Joshua Bernard, editor of

In his presentation, Bernard covered a lot of different Korean toys and related merchandise. It was interesting to see some of the most bizarre toys ever conceived. In order to create new toys, Korean toy makers would use the head mold of one robot and attach it to the body mold of another robot. This lead to a very Postmodern Kitsch design sensibility.

After the presentation, the panel addressed several questions about the history and influence of Korean toy design. They also discussed the broader commercial Korean influence in cinema and television.

Eric Nakamura autographing issues of Giant Robot Magazine

At the end of the panel, I had an opportunity to talk to the panelists. I knew Eric Nakamura from my annual trips to Los Angeles. My trips to L.A. largely consisted of loitering at the Giant Robot HQ for several days. This time he came to New York. It was totally cool to hang out with Eric over here.

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Monday, May 19, 2008

JACON 2008: The Horror That Dare Not Speak Its Name

KISSIMMEE, May 18 — It's been nearly a month since my last blog post due to a very busy work schedule. This time I'm blogging from the sunny state of Florida. I'm here for the local anime convention known as JACON.

This year's JACON was held at the Orlando Sun Resort by Lexington (aka The Ramada Orlando Celebration Resort and Convention Center). The hotel recently changed their name, which caused a bit of confusion.

After I got to my room, I dropped my stuff and went directly to the convention center. As I walked into the hallway, I ran into television's Daryl Surat [Anime World Order (AWO) and Otaku USA]. We quickly rounded up some other people including Gerald (AWO) and Paul "Gooberzilla" Chapman (Greatest Movie EVER Podcast and Otaku USA). The group went to watch the live-action Speed Racer movie at the local IMAX Theater. It was a good film despite Gooberzilla's opinion. (I might write a review for this blog.)

Odin: Photon Sailer Starlight Midnight Endurance Marathon

At midnight, Joey Snackpants Esquire and Gooberzilla hosted the "Odin: Photon Sailer Starlight Midnight Endurance Marathon". They proceeded to show the entire uncut Japanese version of Odin: Photon Sailer Starlight (オーディーン 光子帆船スターライト). Joey and Goob injected their comedic commentary to this mess of film. It was the most sadistic experiment ever.

I was surprised that the crowd was pretty big at the beginning. However, they did not last. They never do... The crowd was struggling, but they made it through an hour of the movie. At that point, Daryl announced, "there is still another hour and twenty minutes to this show." This absolutely frightened the crowd, and half of the audience left the panel.

The movie ended at 2:30 AM. I was dead tired. A few people withered away. The remaining thirty-something people got free "I survived the Odin Endurance Marathon" t-shirts.

On the second day, I ran into Charles Feldmeth from the New York Metro Anime club. We browsed the dealers’ room, but nothing really enticed me. I usually don't buy a lot of con merchandise. I hate con impulse shopping. I always regret it later.

We had lunch and attended a Japanese Music panel. The panel played a lot of sugary pop acts. It was too pop for my tastes. I decided to take a break and took a nap in my hotel room.

Gerald's 80s Giant Robot Panel

I rejoined Charles at the Pelican (the Panels building). We joined the entire AWO crew, Gooberzilla, and their friends for the "80s Giant Robot Panel". It was Gerald's panel. He ran the panel as an open discussion.

As Gerald talked about the scope of Giant Robot shows, he played opening sequences from different mech anime show such as Gundam (ガンダム), The Super Dimension Fortress Macross (超時空要塞マクロス), and Go Lion (百獣王ゴライオン). It was an interesting panel, but he ran out of time.

He was followed by the "Manga Influence on American Comics" panel. It was run by final_fury and his special lady friend. They were originally slated for a two-hour block, but Joey had to reduce it to an hour. They also ran out of time, but they still managed to have an entertaining and informative panel.

We all went to grab a quick dinner and attended a private recording of the Snacktime Online Podcast with Joey Snackpants Esquire, Daryl, and Gooberzilla. You can listen to the podcast at The SNACKTIME ONLINE Podcast.

Max Pointing at Television's Daryl Surat (Panel of Doom)

After the podcast recording, we proceeded to "Panel of Doom". It was Daryl's one-man show of horror. It was pretty awesome. All I can say is "Once you watch it, you can't unwatch it!" I am legally prohibited from describing the panel. You have to see it for yourself.

The panel ended at about 2:30 AM. I called it a night.

On Sunday, I roamed the dealer room again. Some items were marked down, but they were still kinda high compared to other cons. I didn't get anything.

In summary, I had a good time at JACON. Joey and his crew put on a good show.

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