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Anime Expo 2005

On the weekend of July 1-4, while the rest of America is celebrating Independence Day, tens of thousands with red, white and blue hair (among other colors, of course) will be pouring into the Anaheim Convention Center to the 14th Annual Anime Expo (AX). With autograph book in one hand, camera in the other, and worn-out credit card in pocket, I’ll be lining up with the rest to see Akihiko Yamashita, animation director for Howl’s Moving Castle, and the cast and crew of the Read or Die TV series. Besides roaming through the Asian pop culture novelty mega-mall, I’ll be searching the crowds for great cosplay — especially the one girl who donned the spitting image of Gogo from Kill Bill that I missed last year. Hopefully, if I don’t get trampled to death by hordes of screaming girl fans asking Tomokazu Seki, Japanese voice actor, to say sweet nothings in their ears with Van Fanel’s voice (Vision of Escaflowne), I’d like to stop by the non-stop karaoke battles, watch some of the anime music video submissions, hang out at the 24-hour free manga library, and browse in the artist’s alley. Concerts will be in full swing this year with Random Ninjas, and a rare sighting of Michael Bradley and his band featuring Robotech songs. Something for all your otaku passions! www.anime-expo.org

Room To Improv

Ardy the elephant-sized aardvark stomps across the stage in the midst of a musical monologue. A hapless basketball player desperately tries to dribble a bowling ball. The hunter’s cap with protective flaps for the ears sits forlornly on the stool as a woman points to it and screams, “Holden Caulfield spontaneously combusted!” On the first Friday of June, the stage of the Two Roads Theater in Studio City bursts with life again as one of the few Asian American improvisation groups in the nation, Room To Improv, took the stage. If you let your imagination run wild, you’ll be transported to a strange world where up is down, gender has no limits and strange feats across liquid, hot magma with no legs is the norm. www.roomtoimprov.com

Corrinne May

Wall-to-wall fans packing into L.A. Irish pub Molly Malone’s, listened eagerly to the first live full-band performance of Corrinne May’s new album, Safe in a Crazy World. In May, her new website launched and the album was released in countries across Asia. Though barely making a blip on the American mainstream radar, May’s highly anticipated second album has been topping every chart in her hometown Singapore, beating out Black Eyed Peas for best-selling album. This Asian American female singer-songwriter sensation has been turning heads here in the States with her tireless tour of the East and West Coast while playing regularly in Southern California, where she is currently based. www.corrinnemay.com

Pine Am

On the last day of May at the rock-hot spot Amoeba Music on Sunset in L.A. was a small stage set up with a trio of Japanese pop rocker chicks jumping around. In their colorful flower-print tops and their ripped jeans, Pine Am was rocking out to a crowd of admirers with baby doll voices to some fun, retro ‘60s and ‘70s rock tunes bursting out of their instruments. Main singer Tsugumi Takashi, who also plays bass, is backed vocally by both Chizuko Matsubayashi on guitar and Taeca Kinoshita on keyboard. After they finished their playful set reminiscent of some Austin Powers soundtrack pieces, the three girls signed copies of their new album, Pull The Rabbit Ears by eenie meenie records. www.pine-am.com

‘Howl’s Moving Castle’ –– Hayao Miyazaki

Releasing Howl’s Moving Castle, Disney Studios has apparently been very pleased with the results of previous releases of Hayao Miyazaki’s animated films such as the highly acclaimed Spirited Away. Miyazaki’s films have long been legendary in his Japanese homeland and across Asia, including the highly successful animated film, Tonari no Totoro (My Neighbor Totoro). Although audiences in the U.S. have been slow again to pick up on Miyazaki’s amazing and expansive imagination that pulls viewers into a world utterly beautiful and fantastic, it is always on the edge of frightening. This new tour de force already playing in Japan, will re-establish Miyazaki’s brilliance for those all ready in the know and introduce his work to more and more audiences. www.disney.go.com

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