Make It Work: Japanese Street Style Refashion

For Otakon 2014, I submitted a workshop a couple of months ago titled “Make it Work: Explore Japanese Street Fashion at Thrift Store Prices“. I promptly forgot about it and when the panel list came out and it wasn’t on it, I assumed it had been declined. Then a flurry of frantic emails about four weeks ago let me know that it had been chosen as a workshop, which is a separate list from the panels. I was excited, because while I’ve presented at Katsucon and Animazement, I’d never presented anything at Otakon. So I pre-registered and got to work.

The premise was to pull together 10 looks at $20 a piece or less, head to toe, and modify them to fall into the category of ‘Japanese street fashion’. I had a few topics I really wanted to address in this workshop, including:

1) The sheer waste involved in the fashion industry today and how clothing has become a disposable commodity that does an enormous amount of damage to our environment.

2) The social cost of the fashion industry, including child labor, poor working conditions and outsourcing.

3) The idea that you can save a lot of money with a bit of creativity. Limitless imagination within a limited budget.

4) That Japanese street fashion isn’t always about the crazy, wild, way-out-there looks. It’s about creativity and inspiration and pulling together a look that suits you and catches the attention of people around you.

The attendance was great, we maxed out the room capacity well before the panel started. Unfortunately there were some IT issues with the projectors that made it hard to present, but we worked around it.

Over the next few weeks I’m going to post all 10 looks along with some instructions on how I made them into something newer and more interesting.

For our first look, I started out with this. A gray and pink peace symbol t-shirt, a pair of jeans and a boring gray cardigan (not pictured).

The Starting Look

What I started with, minus a generic gray cardigan.

The t-shirt was left behind by my niece, but the normal price for a t-shirt at my local Good Will is $3.50. The jeans were $5.50 and the cardigan was $3.50. The t-shirt and jeans are kind of cute on their own, but the t-shirt has a really awkward length to them that makes me think this is what I’d wear to the grocery store on a day when I forgot to wash my hair or brush it, not what I’d wear out to have fun.

The big chop.

Cutting off six inches makes a big difference in where your waistline appears.

So I measured and cut six inches of length off the bottom. I saved the fabric to reuse later on another project. This is a knit fabric, so it’s not going to unravel if you don’t add a new hem. I ran it through the serger to clean up the line of the bottom a bit, but it wasn’t really necessary.

Going sleeveless.

A cute summer look doesn’t need sleeves.

Then I cut the sleeves off at the shoulder seams and re-hemmed them. The trick to taking any shirt or jacket to a sleeveless look is to cut the sleeve off at the seam and then cut an inch or two in along the shoulder seam before folding the sides under and sewing a new seam. This keeps the fabric from wobbling and puckering. Then just trim the extra fabric.

While I was at Michael’s, I found these three cute brassy peace signs for $0.99 on clearance. I picked them up and sewed them on along the neckline, which i liked a lot.

Let’s talk about the jeans. I found these at Good Will and they were already embroidered with this great flower and vine motif on the back, sides, front all the way down. It was love at first sight.

The jeans.

These jeans have a really cute motif embroidered on them.

I loved them the way they were, but it would have been easy to change them into skinny jeans, capris, shorts, even a skirt if I’d wanted to.

The cardigan.

Deconstruction can be fun.

Next is the cardigan. I decided to deconstruct the cardigan along the shoulder seams, arm seams and the side seams, and then reattach with silver safety pins. I actually really love how this turned out as well and plan to do it again with colored safety pins on other types of clothing.

The finished look.

The finished look.

I paired it with a pair of black Doc Martens I already had, but shoes at Good Will run about $5.50 and you can find some great options.

I wish I’d had more time to find and style models for the workshop and I will be doing that when I present it again at other conventions (applications already in for Katsucon and AUSA). But I really love how it turned out.

This took about an hour for all of the work involved and the deconstruction and pinning is super easy to do while watching TV!

Total Cost: $13.50

Other Ideas: I’d love to find a way to paint/dye the white embroidery in a range of colors to look more like real flowers. That might be my next experiment.

Anime Challenge: Initial D – First Stage

Initial D -  First Stage

Initial D – First Stage

Series: Initial D – First Stage

Related Manga: Initial D (46 volumes and still going strong)

Platform: Funimation/Netflix

Episodes: 26

Review: I love a good shounen anime and Initial D is a longtime favorite of mine. I first watched it about six years ago, with the initial Tokyopop dub, which was horrible. I then had to re-watch it as fansubs in the original Japanese to have any idea what the actual story was, much less the character names.

I was overjoyed when Funimation picked up the license because I think they do a great job of keeping close to the original dialogue. They also restored the music to the English dub, which is a huge part of what makes this anime so amazing. I mean, you can only watch cars racing for so long without a good soundtrack, right?

And Initial D is all about racing cars. Street racing and drifting really. If you like the Fast & Furious franchise, you’ll love Initial D.

The first season/First Stage is all about Takumi Fujiwara’s initiation into the world of street racing and introduces the series’ main characters. While there’s a small romantic side story here, it’s just that, a side story. This is all about boys competing with boys in fast cars, and I love it.

Anime Challenge: 411/1000.

Anime Challenge: OVA Marathons…

I spent some time on vacation wading through OVAs I’d collected but not watched. It’s an odd mix of genres… I think I have anime ADHD. Tonight, we’re watching Initial D First Stage.

Anime Challenge: 365/1000 episodes in 2013!

One Piece OVAs 1-3 and Specials 1-4

One Piece OVAs 1-3 and Specials 1


Junjou Romantica OVA

Junjou Romantica OVA

Deadman Wonderland OVA

Deadman Wonderland OVA

Naruto Shippuden OVA

Naruto Shippuden OVA

Fairy Tail OVA 1-3

Fairy Tail OVA 1-3

Anime Challenge: Junjou Romantica Season Two

All the pretty boys...

All the pretty boys…

For the series details, check out my first post on Junjou Romantica.

There’s something I can’t resist about Junjou Romantica. It’s always funny, always emotional and always extremely awkward as people work their way through life and relationships.

I love any anime that has that emotional awkwardness to it that makes me want to look away because I’m so embarrassed for the character or in touch with the feeling. I am the queen of hitting pause and taking a break right in the middle of the emotional peaks of an episode.

Anime Challenge: 361/1000 episodes in 2013.

Anime Challenge: Kamisama Hajimemashita Episodes 1-13 (Complete)

kamisamaSeries: Kamisama Hajimemashita (Anime licensed by Funimation under the title “Kamisama Kiss” and available for viewing on their website.)

Related Manga: Kamisama Hajimemashita (As of today, there are 13 volumes and counting under the title “Kamisama Kiss” available in English for purchase on Manga licensed by VIZ Media.)

Platform: Funimation (you should totally be watching!)

Episodes: 13

Kamisama Hajimemashita hits every check box on my list of things I love in a good anime. I love a hint of the supernatural, a little romance and a lot of humor while not falling fully into the gag/joke/anime trap that some series thrive on. It also has those painful hints of angst and emotional wounds that shape a person into who they will eventually become, which is a theme I adore.

I firmly believe that we, as people, are shaped by our experiences, both positive and negative. A  person who has only positive experiences can never fully comprehend or empathize with the pain another is feeling. It’s why I believe in reincarnation of the spirit. I believe that deity sends us back, again and again, until we fully understand the depths of pain and the highest points of joy a human can experience. Until we can truly do that and still acknowledge our own failures, we are incomplete in some way and are still learning.

That’s a theme that winds its way through Kamisama Hajimemashita. Nanami is a high school student who is abandoned by her father and left alone in the work with nowhere to live and no one to rely on. Through chance, she meets Mikage, an earth deity who manipulates her into taking on responsibility for his shrine and the familiar and spirits he’s left behind.

Nanami’s personal pain allows her to empathize with Tomoe, Mikage’s abandoned familiar who has been waiting patiently for years for Mikage to return. While Tomoe and Nanami fight regularly, Nanami finds herself understanding Tomoe’s fears of being left alone again and embraces ownership of the shrine and her new role as an earth deity to make sure the others at the shrine can have a true home.

Of course all of that happens through thirteen episodes and with a cast of other characters. Even with those distractions, the thread of pain, comfort and learning to understand others is maintained as a theme throughout the series. Each character has their own pain or misfortune and throughout the episodes they learn to connect to each other in the ways that they are able, forming a dysfunctional but caring family.

I loved the themes of comfort, finding a home, finding happiness, learning and growing and the delicately growing romance between Nanami and Tomoe. I love the supporting characters as well. Kurama with his ‘I’m an idol’ ego but soft heart, Ami and her good-natured innocence and excitement about life, even Mizuki with his sweet, heart-rending pain over his loss and his need for a new home, all of them tear at your heart just a little and leave you wanting more.

This has turned out to be one of those animes where I find myself not just wanting but needing to read the manga. I need to know if there’s even more to each story in the manga. I want to know where the characters go from here. I want to continue the warm and bittersweet feelings it brought out in me as I watched it.

I would recommend this anime to anyone, whether it’s something they’d normally watch or not. It’s sweet and gentle, even at the most painful points, and it leaves you with a sense of hopefulness and happiness at the end. I hope that the series is eventually given a second season to continue past the point in the manga’s story where the anime ends. Much like Natsume Yujinchou became a sleeper hit and was given season after season, this series could also do the same.

Coming up next: Kore wa Zombie desu ka? which is twisting my brain.

Anime Challenge: 53/1000.

Anime Challenge: Campione! Episodes 1-13 (Complete)

campioneSeries: Campione!

Related Manga: Campione! (ongoing)

Related Light Novel: Campione!

Platform: Crunchyroll

Episodes: 13

I had briefly glanced at this series last summer and blown it off as it seemed to fall into that mental territory of too much T&A for my tastes. I love a good fight and I love a good magical back story in anime, but I really struggle with the high volume of fan service that often comes with them.

I decided to tough it out this time and try this series out and I’m happy I did.

Godou is a high school student who’s become a god slayer/demon king/campione by slaying the God of War and absorbing his powers. He’s not the only one of his kind running around on Earth but he is the youngest. This change in status apparently requires that he be surrounded by voluptuous teenage girls who try to coach him through this change in life and the battles and prophecies that follow. Normally that would be where I shake my head and walk away, because again, not a fan of the T&A show.

I kept going though, and it was worth it. Erica, the main female character, is a cunning girl who slowly but surely manipulates both Godou and everyone around him into where they need to be to win the escalating battles. While she portrays herself as head over heels in love with Godou, she’s also looking out for him, for the other girls and for the world. I won’t spoil it, but the scene where she almost dies had me ready to cry.

The other girls fall more into that general harem category of talented but not exactly slick or wise about the world. They’re still fun in their own way, however. In particular, I adore Godou’s little sister, who shows an increasing level of irritation and horror as his harem grows in size.

One of my favorite parts is that in so many series with a similar theme, you find a hero who constantly refuses to accept the situation and step up to do what needs to be done. What I liked about Godou is that while he didn’t want to fight or hurt anyone, he was always willing to step up and do his best to protect others.

I also very much enjoyed the art style, especially the magical sigils, beasts, weapons and so on. I also liked that each of the characters had a very distinctive look that, rather than being random, tied into their place in life.

The downside of the series was that it relies heavily on the viewer already knowing the back story, either from the novel or manga, and so several events are referenced in the anime that aren’t shown. I found this jarring as I hadn’t read the manga or novel first. I will definitely be taking a read through the manga at some point, as it is still an ongoing story and the anime does not cover a significant portion of the story in the manga.

Anime Challenge:  0040/1000. (Don’t worry, I’m not behind. I’ve just decided to log by series for completed anime series.)

Anime Challenge: Maoyu Episodes 1-2

maoyuSeries: Maoyu

Related Manga: Maoyuu Maou Yuusha

Related Novel: Maoyuu Maou Yuusha

Every anime season, I check out what Crunchyroll is streaming, to be able to see what’s currently airing in Japan. That’s how I found this little gem, which doesn’t even have it’s own English Wikipedia page yet. I’m sure that will change fairly soon.

The premise is interesting. In a world where demons and humans have been at war for 15 years, the Hero and the Demon Queen meet to fight and end the war. Except that the Maou (demon queen) points out to the Hero exactly how both the human and demon worlds are profiting from this war and the financial impact of ending it, which would be massive starvation as the economy of both populations broke down.

Instead, she challenges him to join her in finding a way to change the world around them so that the war can be ended without the rampant starvation and territorial fighting that would break out within the two populations.

There’s a secondary sub-plot of romance beneath the larger political storyline that it sweet and funny all at the same time. This is definitely one I’ll be keeping on my watch list this season. If you’d like to watch it as well, it’s available on Crunchyroll for streaming.

Anime Challenge: 0027/1000