By Kawehi Haug
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Kawehi Haug
When a stuffed animal talks, you listen. Audra Furuichi knew that going in, and now her livelihood depends on it.
It all started with Plopper, a stuffed dog that was a get-well gift to Furuichi from her friend Scott Yoshinaga. It ended with the creation of an anime comic based on her relationship with Plopper, and a marriage proposal — from Yoshinaga.
One could (and probably should) say that it was all meant to be.
Yoshinaga and Furuichi are the creators of "nemu*nemu," a Web-based comic about two little girls whose pet dogs interact with them. In and of itself, that isn't so fantastical. But when one considers that the dogs are stuffed animals, incapable (by most unimaginative standards) of human interaction, the anime-style comic takes on a magical component typical of its genre.
They're two of a handful of local artists who will be attending and showcasing their work at this year's Kawaii Kon, an anime and manga convention in Honolulu, now in its fourth year. The convention opens today and runs through Sunday evening.
"From the time (Yoshinaga) gave me Plopper, I would carry him around and come up with stories in my head about how he might interact with us," said Furuichi. "It was a great starting-off point for us, and a fun way to start a project."
The choice of a serial comic as the vehicle to tell their puppy dog-inspired story came easily for the two artists, who had both been cartoonists for the University of Hawai'i-Manoa student newspaper Ka Leo. Putting "nemu*nemu" online, as opposed to printing it, eliminated all the issues that come with print publishing, such as finding someone willing to publish it. And since part of what makes anime anime is that it is uses computer-assisted techniques to give it its signature look, it made sense to do everything digitally.
To the uninitiated, anime is just a buzzword for cartoons that are cuter (or, in some cases, more adult) than the stuff that's on basic cable on Saturday mornings. But ask an expert — or a fan — and they'll tell you this: Anime is a Japanese-inspired form of motion-picture animation, which often incorporates aspects of magic and fantasy into the stories.
"Nemu*nemu" fits the bill with its cast of characters, all of whom are of Japanese ancestry and all of whom are doing things that aren't actually possible. Like listening to their stuffed animals talk.
Though much of anime today is geared toward adult audiences, Yoshinaga and Furuichi wanted their project to be family-friendly fare.
"The norm now is to be really edgy and to be hip. ... A lot of anime nowadays has a lot of swearing and other adult themes," said Yoshinaga. "But we try to stay as far away from that as possible. We try to maintain a more down-to-earth approach, which is the kind of stuff we were brought up on."
Since its online debut in 2006, the couple's ongoing tale of two super-cute (or "supa kawaii!" as they say in the anime world) little girls and their stuffed-pup adventures has garnered a solid fan base, allowing the couple to self-publish two "nemu*nemu" comic books.
The second book, "nemu*nemu, Volume 2," officially launches this weekend at Kawaii Kon, where the camaraderie of the attendees might only be outdone by those "Star War" conventiongoers.
The fourth annual Kawaii Kon kicks off this morning at the Hawai'i Convention Center for a three-day gathering of lovers of anime and manga eager to meet each other, as well as rub shoulders with their heroes in the manga/anime field.
While most attendees will be anime enthusiasts, newcomers to the subculture will find some of what they expect (lots of comic books and people dressed up like their favorite anime characters), as well as a few surprises (a karaoke contest, a library of manga literature and a whole room set aside for gaming). Special guests include anime and manga artists and creators Emily and Robert DeJesus, anime voice actor Tiffany Grant, "Full Metal Alchemist" voice actors Vic Mignogna and Colleen Clinkenbeard, and film director David Williams.
Here are a few weekend highlights:
Reach Kawehi Haug at email@example.com.