Tokyo Disney Adventures, Part 1

August 15, 2016 | Posted by: rissvandal

I know it’s cliche, but for me Disney is seriously the happiest place on Earth. Like, really. Then as the mecca of all things anime and fandom-related, Japan comes in close second. Since I’m currently in Asia, it only made sense for me to go to the one place that combined the two–Tokyo Disney. To give a simple and concise review, it was wonderful. But for someone living in the states who has access to both Disneyworld and Disneyland, is it really worth the long trip to another country to experience another facet of the Disney Kingdom? Well, take a look at my adventure and you be the judge.

1First, meet Juan, my travel companion during the trip. When I decided that nothing would make me happier than going to Disney dressed as Nana Osaki, Juan agreed to don my Hinata Shouyo Haikyu! uniform so I wouldn’t be alone in my dress up efforts. You may have heard that Disney has strict rules against adults entering the park in costume, but if you choose something subtle and unrelated to Disney or else opt for Disneybounding as opposed to straight up Disney cosplay, it’s no biggie.

DISNEY SEA

Tokyo Disney has two separate parks–Disneyland and DisneySea. DisneySea is the reason I absolutely had to make this trip. I’ve been to Orando’s Disney World more times than I can count so I jumped at the chance to see something entirely new. DisneySea is nautical exploration themed and while it does include some rides and sights you can find elsewhere, the overall experience is very exclusive to Japan.

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Ddong Poop-Themed Cafe in Insadong

April 3, 2016 | Posted by: rissvandal

Last year while I was working as a kindergarten teacher in Seoul, one day I had to take my students to a puppet show. The puppet show was entirely in Korean, so I never understand exactly what was happening, but I did know one thing–it was about poop. I sat through an entire maybe 30-40 minute long puppet show about farting raccoons with indigestion that had to battle evil alien space poops. Why am I telling you this? Well that whole puppet show served as my introduction to Korea’s interesting relationship with poop. In a country that has a toilet-themed park and a well-known dung-obsessed cartoon character, that puppet show really wasn’t all that odd.

ok2Might I also add that maybe only a week or two after arriving in Korea I was quickly introduced to “dong chim” aka “poop needle” aka the “funny” prank some of my students would do where they’d make their hands into a gun shape and try to poke their fingers up my butt. All that said, when I found out there was a poop-themed cafe just a couple train stops from my house, I was a little less surprised than you might expect.
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Fangirling My Way Through Seoul Comics Road

December 5, 2015 | Posted by: rissvandal

Myeongdong area in Seoul is an all-around great place to visit. Its glittering streets feature both high end and budget shopping, row after row of killer street food vendors (i.e. stuffed clams and fresh pomegranite juice), and not to mention random celebrity sightings. But the area that I really love in this trendy shoppers haven is the quiet yet colorful Zaemiro street aka Seoul Comics Road.

z6Featuring statues, signs, and street art, Zaemiro is lined with art from comics and animations around the world. It’s a somewhat meandering street and at times not the most pedestrian-friendly, but that’s in part what gives it its charm. A trip there gives you a chance to explore–you never quite know where you’ll find the next art installation. And the work itself ranges from cute and conventional to wtf (beefcake Pikachu? ehhh).

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Free! Cosplay/Crossplay Photoset and The Healing Powers of Sports Anime

November 5, 2015 | Posted by: rissvandal

Hey friends, it’s been far too long since I updated. I’m still alive and I’m happy to say I’m back in South Korea ^_^ Actually, I’vee been here for two months now. You can expect some Seoul-centric posting to drop in the coming weeks (and I’m also planning and plotting to finally make some vlogs). But in the meantime, I wanted to share the last cosplay photo set I put together in US, featuring a male and female version of Rei Ryugazaki from Free Iwatobi Swim Club.

4There are countless reasons people choose a certain character to cosplay–maybe it’s their favorite from a series, the one the identify with most, or the one they almost perfectly resemble. I usually choose characters that I in some way (or in the case of Nana Osaki, entirely) relate to. This recent cosplay, however, was a character I couldn’t have less in common with. Painfully logical and more studious than I could ever be, Rei is basically the anti-Riss.  That said, he’s a character that became incredibly dear to me. Silly as it sounds, spending a chunk of my summer watching this character’s development in an anime about competitive swimming helped me through a rough time.
1My summer started on a high note–a grand home coming followed by a trip to Disney–but there was a sort of downhill domino effect after a devastating breakup followed by all of my concrete life plans quickly flying out the window. Without an apartment, I ended up stationed in my family’s home in the Pennsylvania country, far from the life I’d known for the last 10 years. With no steady job and no car or form of transportation in a town where there’s virtually nothing within less than a 20 minute drive, I was stuck with a permanent deer-in-headlights expression from how helpless I felt. (more…)

Gothic Lolita Teatime

September 21, 2015 | Posted by: rissvandal

 She had me at tea party.

If anyone ever mentions a tea party, I’m in. It doesn’t really matter what it’s celebrating or where it is, I all about anything related to dress up or pretty foods. In this case, however, my cousin asked me to help her plan and host a Lolita tea party for her sister’s birthday. Of course I accepted the offer, then proceeded to procrastinate so that I ended up having to make about 5 different dishes two hours before the party. All in all, things turned out pretty good, though. Take a look at the spread below.

photo 252You’d be surprised how versatile cream cheese is and how many different times you can cram it into one dinner menu without anyone really noticing, so long as you use a little food coloring and creativity. I made tea sandwiches, vegetable canapes, scones, and stuffed tomatoes, while my cousin supplied all the desserts (no damn way could I have made those petit fours). Note the wide-eyed and mega kawaii food pics contributing to the tablescape, courtesy of my brother. (more…)

Night At the Roxbury Motel Pt. 1

August 4, 2015 | Posted by: rissvandal

Sometimes a hotel is just a hotel, but in the case of The Digs at the Roxbury, it’s more like an adventure-laden playground full of mystery. The Roxbury is a boutique motel located in New York’s Catskills, offering over a dozen themed rooms and suites, each with their own detailed and distinct theme (i.e. a genie’s bottle, outer space, meringue pie). I recently explored their most extreme lodging option, The Digs–a three bedroom archaeology-themed cottage full of secret passages, unique amenities, and surprises.

7My look for the trip includes an offbrand felt hat and stockings I picked up from a street vendor in Seoul and a pleated pastel chiffon skort I received from 10 Dollar Mall. For such an affordable price (everything in the shop is $10 or less), I was incredibly impressed by the quality of the piece. It fits true to size and is a wonderful accent for summer’s crop tops or for a pastel goth ensemble.

Here I am right before entering the cottage. It was a real drum roll anticipation type moment, as the simple exterior of the motel serves as no indication for what’s actually inside.

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4 Methods for Redirection, Renewal, and Reinvention

May 12, 2015 | Posted by: rissvandal

A few times a year, usually as a new season approaches, I feel an overwhelming desire for change. I start to explore new looks, new hobbies, and new methods of self-expression. One defining thing about me though, is that if I plan to make a change I want it to be big. Most times, however, in order to see big changes you need to make big commitments. A dramatic new haircut or closet spring cleaning is a suggestion I often see in regards to a change you can immediately make. Both of those seem like decent enough ideas, but what if the haircut sucks and you’re left mourning your lost tresses? Or maybe a month later you’ll begin to regret that heavy-handed closet purge. Here I have 4 methods to either reinvent your look or push your life in a new direction that I practice myself. Each one is painless, fairly immediate, and requires little commitment.

SEEK OUT A NEW, UNEXPECTED STYLE ICON

Despite the many times I’ve changed my look throughout life, the majority of my look have all been rooted in the same sources. Since my teen years, Siouxsie Sioux, Nana Osaki, and the deadly stylish characters of Tim Burton movies have reigned as my main inspirations. As I age, I’ve begun to crave duality. I’ll never totally abandon black, but in recent years I’ve been admiring sweet lolitahime lolita, and fairy kei looks from afar, though unwilling to actually give these looks a try myself.

blog10That is, until I stumbled across Saaya Hayashida’s Instagram account. Saaya is the creative force behind the sugary sweet Japanese brand, Swankiss. Her look that’s part adorable, part angelic, and part ethereal princess is one of the most striking ones I’ve seen in some time. And after style stalking her long enough on Instagram, it lead me to ponder if I could pull off pinks, pastels, and delicate hues.

blog9

Photos via swankiss.net

I’m not abandoning my trademark style, but I’m opening up to the idea of letting more color in. Judging from the responses I received after pulling off this look (i.e. “I think Korea changed you“), colors can clearly be more shocking and subversive than I realized. My initial three style icons now need to make way for a fourth. And I challenge anyone to start exploring styles way out of your comfort zone–it could have some wonderfully dramatic and eye-opening results.

blog-3Flower crown: Claire’s / Hair extensions: Hair Plus Base / Bodysuit: thrift

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Cosplaying in Seoul and the Challenge of Being an Otaku in Korea

April 22, 2015 | Posted by: rissvandal

Let me be honest about something–I never quite got the hang of Seoul Comic World. So far I’ve attended five events, so don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the cons a whole hell of a lot. What were my issues? Well, obvious challenges arose, such as cultural differences and language barriers. What I hadn’t expected, however, was an abundance of rules that cosplayers were asked to adhere to. And while it was navigating all those rules that ended up making me feel a little bit off to the sidelines, it also ended up teaching me a lot about the state of the anime fan in Korea.

Nana Osaki CosplayI occasionally have grouchy “back in my day” moments where I lament how mainstream cosplay has become, but overall I’m quite happy about how accepted it’s become. I love that conventions are nerdy free-for-alls and how, when a convention rolls to town, most cosplayers will cruise through streets and parking lots without much of a care. With nothing but US con experiences under my belt, I went to Korea expecting that same sort of atmosphere, only to find out, not so much…

Gothic Lolita, Lola CapuletteTo further explain, first it’s important to note that Seoul Comic World is an event that ends in the early evening. Its a day trip thing, not a save-and-plan-all-year-and-book-a-hotel-room thing. Therefore the question arises–how exactly do I cosplay? (more…)

Seoul Kidult Fair–Toys, Crafts, and Hobbies Galore

March 23, 2015 | Posted by: rissvandal

Perhaps I’m a little bit spoiled in that I expect virtually every nerd event to involve toys. So while Seoul’s monthly anime cons were like a cosplay miracle, the fact that none of these cons had toy or figure vendors sort of put me in a panic. Where are my toys? How can you deprive a nerd of their toys? Thankfully the Seoul Kidult Fair helped to assuage my fears that I would leave Korea without an opportunity to fangasm over some sweet figures.

Seoul Kidult Fair

The Kidult Fair is an annual toy and hobby expo, hosted in a convention hall within the Coex megamall. It’s a combo of toy vendors, industry innovators promoting their products (i.e. 3d printers), contests, and toy and art exhibits, along with a massive gaming space. For someone like me, it was an endless heart-attack risk. I ran amok with the hyperness of a child,  scouring through bins of discounted anime figures and marveling at the display of BJD dolls.

Seoul Kidult Fair Seoul Kidult Fair

One of the more notable sights was the exhibit of felt sculptures and papercrafts. At the end of the exhibit there was an area to buy your own papercrafts, along with a workspace where you could assemble your purchases–with the aid of staff members if need be. Well aware that I lack goth the patience and precision for that, I was happy just admiring the pieces and identifying my favorite video game and anime characters.

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The World of Studio Ghibli Arrives in Seoul

January 1, 2015 | Posted by: rissvandal

Studio Ghibli. Miyazaki.

For fans of anime and animated films in general, those words should bring some very distinctive images to mind. Scenes of magic, warmth, and unparalleled beauty and depth. Studio Ghibli–the studio behind memorable films such as Spirited Away, Kiki’s Delivery Service, and My Neighbor Totoro–makes the kind of films that captivate and leave viewers in awe. These are the kind of films you wish you could step inside and experience again and again. Luckily, those in Seoul get to do just that.

Ghibli Exhibit, Spirited Away

During my recent trip to Japan, I took a trip to the official Studio Ghibli museum in Mitaka. And while the experience was a lovely and emotional one, it was not nearly as immersive and squeal-inducing as this temporary exhibit.

15 Tucked away in the mega shopping plaza, i’Park Mall, the exhibit is a magical and detailed Studio Ghibli fan’s dream. (more…)

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