So this past weekend was a busy one for conventions. With PAX East and Anime Boston both going on to cater to nerds on the east-coast, the west-coast had its fun with its one and only big choice for anime fans and nerds alike here in Seattle: Sakura-Con 2012.
Everything, from the panels to the screenings and to even the out-of-con experiences, turned out pretty well for myself, but joining me in recapping this past week is our Cooking Otaku, Josh Totman. We're here to give you a condensed, yet still detailed account of how our respective times were in the Emerald City.
Hit the jump below for our thoughts, as we cover the panels, the cosplays, concerts and so much more.
JT: The cosplay is always a big deal to me. It’s so much fun seeing what people can come up with, from the elaborate, to the bizarre, to the just plain lazy. Some people can’t even get in the door with theirs. There are always the notable favorites from the shows you love, but for me, I always look to the lesser known characters or off the beaten path characters. When I see someone wearing something out of the norm I feel giddy inside. This year it was Tom and Crow from MST3K. Overall I was please with the variety of cosplay this year. Some of the major staples were not as ramped as they have been. So it wasn’t as annoying to keep seeing the same series over and over again.
I try and take pictures when I can or jump in on someone already getting pics taken. Most of the time, if I don’t take the picture when I see the person, I’ll end up never seeing them again for the rest of the con. Also my camera stinks and I don’t like using it half the time. Hope to save up for an upgrade sometime in the future. One cute story that I have from the con was this little girl staring at a Gundam cosplayer. This was a large elaborate cosplay that stood about seven feet tall with glowing lights. Now the guy in the suit can’t move much if at all in it. So I hear the tiny girl ask his friend that was next to him "Is there a real person in there?" He smiled and told her yes. When she looked over at the Gundam again, she could see a hand wave at her. It’s about all he could do at the time to confirm for her.
Marcus: As awesome as it is to see someone put a lot of effort into something they love, I'm pretty much the exact opposite of Josh when it comes to cosplay; unless it's something original or where the details are down to the exact measurements, I'm usually "whatever" on the topic. This year was rather good I would say, however, if only because I got to talk to a lot of the cooler cosplayers. Similar to last year, I made it a point to talk with and take pictures of those ones that I really loved, and a lot of the time it resulted in meeting some awesome people with some great taste. Some of the highlights (or the ones you just seemed to never get away from) included that huge Gundam cosplay previously mentioned, a really huge Kon (Bleach), a cardboard EVA Unit 01, one HUGE DUDE who looked like the goddamn Ox King from Dragon Ball Z (the dude must've been literally 7'6") and a lot of cool super sentai guys walking around.
Of course, there was this one time I ran across a couple of guys who were holding up their Hard Gay cosplays pretty well, especially when I asked them if they can teach me a couple of new dance moves...
JT: I didn’t get to go to many panels this year. It was bad planning on my part and something else that happened that I will go into detail on in overall impressions. Plus the fact that I couldn’t come back on Sunday.
There was one panel I just had to go to, mine. The Cooking Otaku panel went off pretty well I believe. I talked about how to make four dishes and had a load of snacks on the table. I do apologize to anyone that couldn’t get into the panel. The room ended up being even smaller then I anticipated. Only about 50 people got to come in and they had to turn a lot of people away. Next year will be different, that’s for sure. The hour I had gone by so quickly. I figured that I was talking fast and had plenty of time for chit chat after the main part of the panel was finished. This was not the case seeing as there was only five minutes left when I was done. I do have to thank the people that came to the panel. They were what I was hopping for in a panel. I also have to thank the girlfriend for running the laptop for me and Marcus for helping me pass out the snacks for everyone to look at. Thanks again you two.
Marcus: This year was the one where I did nothing but go to panels all weekend long, more than any other year, in fact. Of course, the most fun I had at one was Josh's Cooking Otaku panel, if only because a lot of the people who came were really cool and actually really into food and making food. And even though I would love to see a huge crowd in a huge panel room next year, there was an odd charm to having 50 or so people crammed into a small room smelling squid and feeling up giant cheetos.
Of course, a lot of the best panels I went too were during the late night. There was an open mic Anime Stand-Up panel that I ended up participating in, as well as Anime that Scarred You for Life and the adult version of Whose Line is it Anyways?. But the highlight of the weekend for me? There was a special screening at midnight Friday-Saturday night of a film called Rube Blackjam: The Last Man on Planet Earth. The film was hosted by sketch comedy group The Busted Pixel (who also had a panel earlier that night), and was held in a huge theater with only about 12 other people inside. The movie we saw was, in a word, unforgettable, and had nothing to do with Japan or anime... and thankfully for you, you can catch the whole film on YouTube.
Other than that, one of the more under-appreciated panels were the ones hosted by Lady Librarian, both of which focused on the Miyazaki/Ghibli films Howls Moving Castle and Spirited Away. Far from trying to be a laughfest or wacky like most of the other panels this year, it was an incredibly informative approach to understanding the motifs, themes, reasoning and meanings behind these movies, as well as ask questions and invoke discussion. And while not everyone can sit through a two-hour long Powerpoint presentation for either panel (especially anime fans), Lady Librarian was an amazing speaker, who eagerly listened for others opinions and managed to have cool things to say and keep me entertained. I honestly am really hoping that she can explore some other anime films next year, because I was honestly enthralled by these panels.
JT: I didn’t get to any of the concerts this year. As much as I would have liked to get to the Stereopony concert, it was not meant to be.
Marcus: Funny enough, I also didn't see much out of the concerts, either. Or rather, I should say that I can't really think much of them given my lack of interest. Sakura-Con usually has awesome bands playing each year, and Steropony and Moi Dix Mois definitely have their fans... but I was rather underwhelmed this year. Even going to the Steropony concert and being there was rather forgettable...
JT: I was able to get to Aniplex’s industry panel on Saturday. It was a nice and personal panel. They started out by talking about who they are and what they do. Talking some about what their process is for bringing over titles. They also noted that they are fans too of anime and want to bring over not just DVDs but something more because anyone can watch anime streamed or downloaded on Netflix, but to have extras like artbooks or soundtracks is that extra little something. I know that is a big sale to me. Anything I am thinking of picking up, I always look for the special edition of it. I’m a collector at heart.
As for announcements at the con, there seemed to not be too many. This is not surprising as most companies now wait till summer for the major announcements at the top cons. The industry itself is not as big as it uses to be either which in turn will cut down on the number of announcements.
Marcus: I ending up going to a lot of Industry panels, though of course the big two were FUNimation and Aniplex USA. FUNimation's panel was standard fare: talking about new releases, showing off some new trailers before finally rushing an announcement or two, which honestly I'm familiar with every year at Sakura-Con, so no big thing there.
Aniplex USA's panel was a bit interesting, though: there was a lot of focus on Fate/zero and Madoka Magica. Though mainly would imagine that was due to the Urobuchi, Iwakami and Ota Q&A directly afterwards, all three of which are involved in those two franchises. The Q&A itself was much more interesting than the panel before it, though I guess the surprises that Aniplex dropped were kinda rad too, I guess. Funny story: I was standing in autograph line for Christopher Sabat on Sunday, when suddenly a stampede of roughly 1,000 cosplaying motherfuckers came into the isle next to us.It turns out that, compared to the modest 30 people in Sabat's line, that this was the priority line for people who get Steve Blum's autograph before anyone else. I think his autograph session was scheduled for two hours... what a trooper.
Marcus: First off, the new Dragon Age film screened by FUNimation was pretty bad. Not terrible, or even bad enough to rant about, but I just had a rather poor taste left in my mouth after watching that.
A couple of other cool stuff was shown this year, including some awesome Bakemongatari/Niseimonogatari goodness and the new Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood film. The thing, though, is that watching certain things with the wrong crowd of people at anime cons really dampens the experience. I like Bake/Niseimonogatari enough to watch it occasionally and laugh at some of the more witty moments, so long as I'm not surrounded by people who cite it as the greatest thing ever made. Oddly enough, that exact thing happened when I went to Aniplex's premiere of a few episodes from both series', and by the second episode in Niseimonogatari, I was done.
Something similar happened while watching FUNimation's screening of FMA:B: The Sacred Star of Milos... I really dig the franchise and all that jive n' junk (I'm not nearly as cynical as I make myself out to be, honest), but I was having trouble concentrating when other people in the audience started adding their own commentary, MST3K-style.]
But hey: episode 15 of Fate/zero was pretty tight!
JT: I got nothing.
JT: This year the dealer’s room and artist alley were combined into one very large room. It can be almost too much for some. The aisles were nice and wide with only a couple of spots that were congested. Mainly in front of the Nico Nico Douga live streaming booth. They should really think about moving that more towards the front or into the very back of the room. It’s normally a big draw to see yourself on TV and let Japanese people judge you in the form of comments. The thing that I would like to know is how big is this in Japan? Do thousands of Japanese people really go on here to see us make fools of ourselves?
To me, is seemed that this year’s dealers are getting taller. Since they can not expand out, they are expanding up. I swear some where over 15 feet tall. The wears this year were pretty standard flair. They did have to cute maids back again for a card game. It makes me smile seeing them. I’ll let you decide what I mean, because whatever you pick will be correct. I kind of feel sad about some of the info only booths there. There is always empty space to walk around those booths. The only complaint that I have is the same every year. Don’t take pictures of cosplayers in the dealer’s room. It clogs up the walking lanes and makes about 20 or more people have to stop and wait for you to get done.
Marcus: Josh honestly sums it all up: the expo hall is always the same each year, with the exception that they're always growing. Tanto Cuore was pretty fun last year, so I was glad that they had those maids again this year to make Josh happy.
The Artist Alley was really cool this year, too! i mean, I didn't have any money to buy anything... but it was tight nonetheless!
JT: Sakura-con always maintains a certain level of greatness. The con itself is run as smoothly as can be expected for its size. The biggest problem that I had was in registration. Since I had some troubles acquiring a pre-reg or press pass prior to the con. I had to resort to the most horrific registration line I have ever been in. The reason for such is because the room in the convention center that they used last year was now turned into the new artist alley. They set up registration in a room in the Grand Hyatt and pre-regs in a spot in the conference building. Needless to say, this wasn’t pretty. I arrived at the registration line just before 11am. At this time, the line was a block long. We had to travel down a city block, turn for another quarter of a block, and then we got inside. Once you are inside, the next part of the journey begins. At this point, we travel about half way into the hotel and take a right. For what I am expecting are fire codes, there is a large gap in between the lines. Once you are over the gap you have a nice snack bar where you can buy something to drink and eat. There is free water all over the place as well. Now you just travel a small amount of space and enter Room 1…of 2. Yes, that’s right. You travel all this way to get to the holding tank of the registration line. The line in Room 1 weaves all over the room. Once you survive in there, you are allowed to pass through to Room 2. Where as this room is set up in 8 straight lines. Each line had one person taking info and money. ONE. This is the room that took the longest amount of time to get through. After all was said and done, it took me till 4:30pm to get my badge. People in line tried everything they could to keep themselves entertained from yelling Marco, to singing, to yo-yo tricks, to clapping wildly when some actually got their badge. So remember the first rule of going to a con, always pre-register.
The layout was flipped all around from last year as well. I do believe in the long run that this will be a better layout overall. It gave some of the more popular things, like video game rooms and artist alley, more room to work in. I had a tough time with the modern video game room last year because of cramp space and poor layout. This year thou it was nice and open. Panels were moved to more of the not as much visited places of the convention center. Again, it was a good move. If I take out the awful wait to get in and transferred that time to enjoying the con more, I would have had an even better time.
Marcus: I really, really enjoyed this year at Sakura-Con. The panels were great, there were virtually no troubles in finding certain panels or times thanks to the new amazing mobile app (and one that I can't imagine not using years down the road), there was always stuff to do, whether it was catching up on an old anime series or hitting up a late-night panel where Todd Haberkorn and Leah Clark talk dirty to their guests. of course, one of the reasons I love conventions so much are the moments where you staying up, grabbing a bite to eat at Denny's with your friends in full cosplay, heading back to the hotel for a late-night video gaming, and then hitting the floor the next morning to do it all over again. Hanging out with people who share a similar interest... and even going to panels where similar interested people all gather to have fun (and in some ways, that includes those Bake/Niseimono and FMA:B screenings I went to) are what I really enjoy about cons. It's always awesome to meet new people, grab a slice of pizza with them and see each other at similar panels throughout the weekend. Late-night perusing is always a fun thing to do, and this year ended up being my favorite one since my very first con.
If any of you have never had a con-experience like this: do it. Doing the convention runs is always fun for you and any friends who'd like to pitch in, and even if you're anti-social to the point of avoiding eye-contact with your favorite voice actor, there's still bounds of fun to be had, on and off convention grounds. Try out going to a local anime convention, chip in for an overpriced tiny hotel room, and just have fun. There's nothing I love more than convention season, and this year was just a freaking blast.
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