Super Awesome - Sugoi Saturday (Otaku Month Ep.1)
Picking off on the feature I did on Project A Class - notably its new look in the form of an ‘itasha’ livery, reminded me that the period between March-April also tends to be a very special time of the year for Oahu. Namely, the time by which ‘Kawaii Kon’ usually falls under.
Around this time - between March and May, many anime, manga, and otaku fans of all ages come to the island of Oahu to celebrate the life that is being an otaku. Cosplaying as their favorite characters, engaging in panels discussing who is the best girl, or battling it out on Dance Dance Revolution and Smash Bros. It’s a three-day festival dedicated to appreciating everything & anything, that makes everyone’s inner geek come out, old and new.
Having confirmed my identity as a full-on weeb in the latter part of 2019, I had planned to cement my newfound identity by attending my first ever convention: Kawaii Kon 2020. Sad to say that the show’s schedule was also yet another victim of 2020. And while Kawaii Kon has scheduled for an in-person convention to take place in November this year, its uncertain if I can fly into Hawaii to make it in time; let alone if they are open for regular international travellers (with clear health clearance and vaccination guidelines for travellers in place). But while the majority of anime conventions and festivals have been postponed until things improve - some of which have announced dates, it should be fitting that we pay tribute in some form during this special time of the year; and honor the otaku community wherever they may be.
It is here that I explain why you haven’t seen fliers or posts from me promoting new features lately.
Over the past month and a half, I have been busy: busy working on a series of multiple features about various ‘otaku’ focused car meets/events; much of which I have come to learn about through the itasha community (primarily those in the United States). These events have been springing up, one after the other, aiming to bridge together two of the biggest subcultures that come to mind: car culture and weeb culture. You can think of these type of events as a mashup of half car-meet/show, half artist showcase (and maybe a quarter pop-up boba store, depending on the setup). For people who enjoy both, seamlessly hoping between talking about what mods are being planned on my car, and wondering how much damage a wallet can take trying to add more waifus to one's sticker collection, it's the perfect way to spend a night out.
Considering the past year has seen both conventions and major car shows put on hold from their usual schedules, these options have been serving as great alternative venues for people wanting to admire cars and anything anime-related.
Which brings me on to what I have in store. In recognition of what normally would be con-season at this time of the year, HiddenPalmTree will be having an ‘Otaku Month’: one whole month starting from this week's feature, dedicated to showcasing these otaku-themed car events. And as a special bonus, I’ll be temporarily going back to my original, original feature release schedule: one new feature online each week. So, look forward to learning about a new event for the next couple of weeks!
And we begin this monthly series with one of the events I had the opportunity to attend last year, during my last trip to California. It’s one that has been going on for four years now, and in fact, is one of the chances I got to meet some ‘Subtle Asian Cars’ members in real life; both sh*tposters and their cars.
But first, we need to introduce the brand behind the ‘awesomeness’: Offset Co/Shwainc. By day, they are a premium printing service based in Santa Ana, California; printing everything from stickers to custom jet-tags, lanyards, and various accessories. Chances are, some of the stickers that you are hoarding, or displayed on your windows, were printed at this very facility owned and operated by Van Nguyen and his wife, Khiem.
But on certain Saturdays, they play host to their unique event: Sugoi Saturday. ‘Sugoi’, in case you are wondering, stands for ‘awesome/good’ in Japanese; hence the event is referred to as ‘Good Saturdays’.
Having attended many car meets and shows (no short of options, being the West Coast), they felt that there was something missing; something that would allow both otakus and car enthusiasts to not be afraid to network with one another. As Van explains, Sugoi Saturday is intended to bridge the two groups, who tend to be separated at their own dedicated spots or meets.
“We noticed people tended to stay within certain groups, making it feel intimidating for newcomers to car events welcome and start conversations. So the intention of Sugoi Saturday is to provide a place where everyone can feel welcomed, fun, and comfortable sharing our hobbies together: cars and anime.”
"We want to create a day that everyone looks forward to every month and have a good time with each other: whether it be with their friends or someone they just met. So we try our best every month to allow the community to have a 'good Saturday.'
While the last time I personally attended was all the way back last March, the overall layout and premise hasn’t changed from what I experienced. Funny thing is, it never dawned on me that this event was focused on cars, let alone itasha cars until I went for myself. My first impression was that it was a regular car meet where everyone parks up just to chill.
“Besides being fans of anime like our customers and attendees, since we have done work printing designs for itasha clients, and are known well in the community for those wishing to pursue an itasha project. We have done a lot of itasha wraps and most of these clietns have become really good friends of ours." Hence, it was a no brainer to include itasha cars at an anime-centric event.
In fact, some of the first people I got acquainted with in the itasha community, before I joined the scene this year, were also in attendance during my visit.
Though I did bring my camera that night planning to do some coverage, having driven from Pasadena to Santa Ana (after having come from Long Beach side to pick up my Turo rental late afternoon), I only was able to catch the last half hour of the event. Hence, and I do apologise compared to previous features, the lower-quality photos you’ll be seeing right now, since I mainly used my phone to grab some photos here and there.
Despite the poor lighting and my Huawei Mate 10’s sad excuse of a ‘night mode’, I still got a few photos of some of my favorite itasha cars there that night. There was a lot that did turn out and I wish I took the time to capture more, but I was preoccupied with trying to look through all of the artists booths before everything had to be packed up, or at least cop the last few good ones before all of their supply for that night ran out.
Plus at the end of the day, I am a big f*cking weeb and a sticker-hoarder, nonetheless.
One of the few good photos I got from that night. If it is not obvious, this Prius is owned by someone who is really into ‘Love Live’, more specifically: Hanamaru Kunikiada.
Ryan Seo’s Lexus IS, sporting the ‘future queen of hell’ Satania Kurumizama McDowell (Gabriel Dropout) design he had at the time. He’s gone through a few partial wraps since the last time I saw his car: currently its serving as a mobile mural for Hololive VTuber ‘Haachama’.
An unmodified Subaru Forester XT: with a ‘BanG Dream’ sides and hood itasha. Another reminder to those thinking about getting into the itasha community: you don’t have to modify your car to make it complete with the wrap. A bone-stock ‘Point A to Point B’ driver can serve as the ideal canvas for an itasha project, as much as a fully-built street build or drift car. And be just as head-turning.
Akira Nakai, the person behind RWB (Rau Welt Begriff) body kits for Porsche 911s has divided everyone: from classic Porsche purists to people who don’t understand why modifying cars is a thing. I wonder what those same people will say to a RWB 964, the 71st one built for the USA, with a mecha-livery on it. (This is also Offset Co’s shop car)
It wasn’t just otaku-themed cars that were grabbing attention while I made the rounds: plenty of non-liveried cars were just as eye catching.
Like an orange RHD Honda Beat. With a pair of orange traffic cones.
Or, this RX7 FB. Probably one of the cleanest, rust-free USDM models I have ever seen too.
And as someone in Subtle Asian Cars pointed out: I apparently glossed over a Miata to give full attention to this Toyota Camry with a bodykit I've never seen before, yet I am drawn to. I like oddballs, what else is there to say.
Some might assume that being an anime-centered event, attendees have to dress the part and come in cosplay/costume just like the cars that come by. For any newcomers to these types of events, that is not true. Unless the event happens to take place during the occasional holiday weekend, or happens to be during a collaboration with a certain figure/artist.
“During certain holidays, like Halloween, we do have cosplay contests to encourage everyone to dress up and enjoy the event.” - in keeping with the theme during those times.
Whereas typical conventions and bigger-scale events aim to attract as many vendors as possible that can drive out to the location, keeping it small has been central to each Sugoi Sat. While it may be a popular event, there are no plans to expand Sugoi as is, nor the goal make it the biggest event possible in their area. "We want to keep this event as what it was intended to do: provide a little to no cost platform for small artists to be able to reach new audiences, and maintain it as a small community gathering; not a convention-style event."
"We don't pick or choose which artists can attend as we aim it to be open for everyone and anyone. However, due to limited spaces, we can only have a certain amount of artists to show their work each time, so its first come first served (for signing up for a spot)."
“We also run a larger scale spin-off called 'Super Sugoi': where we aim to accommodate far more artists and vendors, compared to our small selection each month. We’ll be focusing our efforts to manage a bigger venue and event there.”
Since restarting monthly Sugoi Saturday events after a prolonged hiatus, the Offset team have been working away to grow the event and get it back on schedule. “We have obtained a new warehouse space to host future Sugois, which will enable us to host more artists, collaborations, and pop-up events."’
And if you want to check out the ‘awesomeness’ yourself, you are in luck. The Offset team has already announced their next major collaboration that will take place at next month’s event: a collab meet and greet with model @Neptuneexplainsitall, one of their largest collaborations this year. This next installment of Sugoi Saturday will be taking place this coming Saturday, May 1st!
And that officially kicks off ‘Otaku Month’ here on the HiddenPalmTree blog. Look forward to more features on these unique, interesting events, some of which might be happening in your area, for the rest of the coming month!
Let’s all be weebs together.