Last weekend was the 2nd year for the Queen City Anime Convention in Charlotte, NC. The convention was held at the Hilton Charlotte University Place. There were multiple panel rooms, main event room, dealer room, game room, and a great outdoor area. This convention was one of the smallest I have attended, but still offered multiple panels and main event entertainment. There were plenty of water stations and the amount of people roaming the halls never felt overcrowded. The dealer room was surprisingly full of vendors and artists offering a wide assortment of merchandise. I enjoyed seeing many creative cosplayer costumes throughout the convention weekend. One of my personal favorites was a female cosplaying Veronica from Fire Emblem: Heroes, a mobile Fire Emblem game. I mentioned the game in one of my first posts on this blog due to its Gacha mechanic.
I attended a few panels including one hosted by my friend on Japanese baseball. Dan's panel content was interesting and information. The panel covered the history of Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB), star players that came to the United States, stadium information, and other informative facts. It was a great introduction to the Japanese national sport. Dan and I attempted to play a few video games in the game room on Saturday, but most of the popular console games were always full. They did not have any arcade games to try like some other conventions offer. I managed to check out part of a rap concert on Saturday in the main events room. While I was surprised by how few people attended the performance, I thought the gentleman did well.
My panel on traveling to Japan was on Sunday. I created a 40 minute presentation that is geared toward individuals who would like to plan a trip or visit Japan for the first time. Most of the information I cover is from previous posts and the other pages on this website. There were around 30 people in attendance for the panel. I was pleased with the great questions and engagement from the audience. I hope to have the opportunity to present again next year.
My friend and I went to Seoul Food Meat Co. last weekend for wings and beer. I was told they have an awesome Hitachino Beer selection along with great wings. Seoul Food is a BBQ restaurant with Korean inspired offerings located in Charlotte's South End neighborhood. They offer outside seating, an inside bar and dining area, and a back porch bar with full menu. Since my friend brought his amazing dog with us, we went to the back porch bar to try out the restaurant.
Seoul Food offers an assortment of street food options such as wings, tacos, BBQ, and sides. A couple sitting next to us ordered the wings with ramen mac & cheese. We thought the wings looked amazing and ordered a 20 piece with half soy garlic and half spicy BBQ. I was very excited to learn that Seoul Food carries the most Hitachino Nest Beer varieties I have ever seen. They actually had all of Hitachino beers available in bottle on display. I enthusiastically ordered a Nipponia and my friend got a NoDa Brewing Company Cavu. Both beers are Blonde Ales.
Service was fast and the food came out quick. The wings at Seoul Food are quite large and filling. Both sauces were equally good and we ate the whole order. I also had a Hitachino Weizen at the bar. The outside bar offers other amenities such as lawn games, a dog park, and beer pong tables. Another fun fact about visiting Seoul Food is that they play Korean Pop music videos and songs throughout the restaurant. We thoroughly enjoyed the food, drinks, and experience. I definitely recommend visiting Seoul food and will have to try more of the beer and food options next time.
I have recently seen a number of limited release anime films, including the premiere for Attack on Titan, at the Regal Stonecrest Theater in Charlotte, NC. This week, the theater is showing a movie for one of my favorite shows, Cowboy Bebop. The main reason for my increased interest in attending such events is because I have been able to find out about them. Here are a couple of ways for you to see if a theater in your town or city is hosting a special showing.
Funimation Email List
One of the largest distributors of anime shows and movies in the United States is Funimation. Creating an account on the company's website will ensure you receive notifications about upcoming events. I received multiple email blasts about the Attack on Titan release and links to purchase tickets near my zip code. Currently, my favorite shows and related movies are distributed by Funimation.
Another avenue to get information on upcoming releases is Fathom Events. The company hosts special screenings of anime films and other limited release movies across all genres. One event they have partnered with in 2017 and 2018 is the Studio Ghibli Fest. This year, you can see nine Studio Ghibli films throughout the year at select theaters in both subtitled and dubbed. I recommend signing up for their newsletter or checking their website monthly for announcements.
If you mainly want to follow Studio Ghibli film releases, GKIDS is the company that handles their distribution in the United States. They also distribute other animated films throughout the year. There is a opportunity on their website to sign up for a email newsletter as well.
Did you know there is Japanese restaurant located next to Sycamore Brewery in Charlotte's South End? Yamazaru at 2173 Hawkins Street opened in early 2017 with minimal advertising and press. The menu is large and offers appetizers, soups, sushi rolls, sashimi bowls, ramen, and even more options. The quality level of their food is high along with a great selection of saki and other alcoholic beverages. You can view pictures of the menu and additional information in this Charlotte Agenda article. I have had the opportunity to go three times in 2018 and enjoyed each visit. Yamazaru offers some of the most authentic Japanese cuisine in Charlotte, NC.
The long list of appetizers can seem overwhelming at first glance. Edamame and pork gyoza are always crowd pleasing, but my personal favorite is their seasonal quail egg and tuna tartar dish. I would highly recommend it for those interested high quality, raw ingredients. I am also a sucker for anything that comes with chips. I have not had an opportunity to try their soups and salads, but I have eaten the tonkotsu ramen bowl. It was quite tasty and not overbearingly salty. The ramen dish fulfilled my expectations and satisfied a craving since visiting Japan. The portion size is fairly large and pairing it with a smaller specialty roll will suffice your hunger.
The main attraction at Yamazaru is their sushi offerings. They have a large list of specialty and maki rolls. Prices are very affordable with the highest priced specialty roll at $11.00. I would recommend ordering three to share with another person and maybe add in a small appetizer. The Rainbow Roll offered is not the usual California Roll with salmon and tuna on top. Their version comes with with assortment of fish including squid and masago. Another great option is the Ichiban roll with shrimp tempura, crab salad, and eel. For those interested in sashimi or a truly authentic dish, look no further than the Chirashi rice bowl. For $15.00, this dish comes with 10 pieces of assorted sashimi over a bed of rice. What makes this rice bowl an amazing meal, beyond the price point, is the quality of rice served. One of the key indicators of a great sushi restaurant is the quality and texture of the rice. This dish truly took me back to Tokyo, Japan and was on par with many sushi samplings I enjoyed overseas. If you are a fan of sushi or any kind of Asian cuisine, definitely visit Yamazaru for a wonderful meal and experience. They are open for dinner starting at 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.
Last weekend, I had a couple of friends over for a Japan themed evening of presentations, movies, food, and fun. We kicked off the evening with beverage and snack sampling from my trip to the Super G Mart. The seaweed snacks were a huge hit along with the sweet potato curls. I introduced the group to the Ramune drink and showed them how to pop the marble down. The Ramune flavored gummy candy were also very good and a nice addition to trying the carbonated drink. Some of my friends enjoyed the gummy over the actual drink due to the sweetness levels. We also tried some alcoholic beverages including Asahi, Sapporo, and a cucumber flavored sake.
After trying many different foods and drinks, I offered a sneak preview of my travel and culture tips for visiting Japan. It was also the first time I was able to wear my full kimono attire. While it was a little too hot to be in a full kimono, it was fun to wear for my friends. I am presenting again during a panel at the Queen City Anime Convention on August 26th at 2 p.m.
We capped the evening by watching the 2001 remastered version of Akira. Originally released in 1988, Akira is known as a groundbreaking movie that pushed anime into a new frontier. I refer to it as the starting point of modern day anime. It is an intensive psychological thriller and an anime masterpiece. The movie is not for the faint of heart, but certainly one to add to your watch list.