CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / CRUSSELL@STARBULLETIN.COM
Scott Yoshinaga wears a Nemu fluffly fleece hat, while Audra Furuichi wears the Anpan version, which are among the items the creators of the comic strip nemu*nemu will be offering at Kawaii Kon this weekend at the Hawai'i Convention Center.
Oh My Pizza! Nemu and Anpan come to Kawaii Kon
The online comic "nemu*nemu" moves into T-shirts and toys
Most women would be a bit disheartened -- to put it mildly -- if their new beau presented them with a gift of a stuffed animal that had been languishing in a car trunk for months.
Kawaii Kon 2008
» Place: Hawaii Convention Center, third floor
» Time: 10 a.m. to midnight tomorrow and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday; registration opens at 9 a.m. all three days
» Admission: $25 single-day pass, $35 for two days, $50 for three; children ages 6-13, $15, $25 and $40
» Information: www.kawaii-kon.org
» Colleen Clinkenbeard, voice actor, director and scriptwriter best known as Luffy in the new English dub of "One Piece" and Riza Hawkeye in "Fullmetal Alchemist"
» Robert and Emily DeJesus, Studio Capsule artists
» The Emeralds, Japanese rock band
» Tiffany Grant, voice actor and scriptwriter best known as Asuka in the English dub of "Neon Genesis Evangelion"
» Mari Iijima, singer-songwriter and voice of Lynn Minmay in "Macross"
» Vic Mignogna, voice actor best known as Edward Elric from "Fullmetal Alchemist"
» Yuuko Miyamura, voice actor best known as Asuka in "Neon Genesis Evangelion" and Chun Li from "Street Fighter"
» Monica Rial, voice actor
» Rikki Simons, voice of Gir in "Invader Zim"
» Tavisha Wolfgarth-Simons, Studio Tavicat artist
» David Williams, ADV director and representative
Not Audra Furuichi. As Tinkerbell is to Paris Hilton, Furuichi took to the little stuffed pup given to her by Scott Yoshinaga about the time they started dating in 2005.
"I'd carry it everywhere as a companion. I really got attached to it and put a personality on that stuffed animal, talking to it as if it were another person," Furuichi said.
"As a kid I talked to my stuffed animals in the privacy of my room, so I didn't think anything of it, even though I'm kind of old to be doing something like that."
All the talking paid off when Yoshinaga, now her husband, proposed working on a story together. Both had experience working on their own comic strips while in school, though she was working at the Legislature and he was working as a Web designer.
His story was to be a dark action-adventure tale featuring two female leads. But Furuichi had ideas of her own, favoring an episodic project rather than a single epic tale.
When she proposed introducing her stuffed dog as a major character, Yoshinaga said, "I was against it, asking, 'What are you trying to do to my story?'"
But it was too late. The stuffed pup that came to be known as Nemu already had a life of its own and needed a companion of its own, which took the form of a smaller dog the two named Anpan.
The two pups are now featured with their two female owners, Anise and Kana, in the couple's online comic strip "nemu*nemu," with new adventures posted Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at nemunemu.com, plus once a month in the East Oahu Sun. The strips also are compiled in three books, "nemu*nemu" Vols. 1 and 2, and "The Art of nemu*nemu Vol. 1."
THE LATEST adventures of Nemu and Anpan include starring in a line of T-shirts ($18), pins and soft goods like plush dolls ($20 each or $30 for a set of two) and toddlers' fleece hats ($20) created by Furuichi and Yoshinaga to introduce the general public to their world of "Peanut Butter Pirates," "Nemu Can Have Grilld Cheez Pleez" and "OMP!" -- short for "Oh My Pizza!"
"In the comic strip, Nemu and Anpan don't act like dogs, but dogs instinctively like food," said Yoshinaga, who came up with "OMP!" on one of the couple's road trips with the stuffed dogs.
"A lot of what they say would happen spontaneously," Yoshinaga said. "We'd think of what a kid might say, not 'Oh my God,' but 'Oh my pizza.' It was just a way to pass the time while waiting for food to come, and Anpan really likes pizza."
"For us the T-shirts are a way to grow our audience," said Furuichi, who now works on the strips full time.
The shirts, as well as other nemu*nemu items, will be available at Kawaii Kon this weekend at the Hawaii Convention Center. (See HI Life for more details about the anime convention.)
"I see a lot of T-shirt people out there, but none of them have a story to them," said Yoshinaga. "I hope people like the story and fall in love with the characters.
"Someday I plan to go back to my original story, but I'm kind of glad things happened this way. The characters took on a life of their own in a good way."
"nemu*nemu" books can be found at Collector Maniacs, Barnes & Noble Ala Moana, Borders.com and Amazon.com, or visit the webcomic at nemu-nemu.com for the full line.
COURTESY SCOTT YOSHINAGA
This stuffed dog, Yoshinaga's gift to Furuichi, took on a life of its own while traveling with the duo, and became the inspiration for the character of Nemu.