Sakura-Con 2015

My third year back at Sakura-Con, I again went with KWoo for all three days. This year, I spent more time in panels and less time running around the Dealer’s Hall / Artist Alley and taking cosplay pictures. I’m not sure the reason for the shift in attention, but I found myself more interested in listening to the guests from Japan discuss their works and process than on throwing down more money on dust collectors. This years guests covered a few major franchises: Blazblue, Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works (TV), and Sword Art Online. A big surprise was the amount of time spent on WIT’s recent show, Rolling Girls, which received its own panel on top of the industry panel.

Note: I originally planned to transcribe the panels I attended, but due to the poor audio quality of my recordings, I decided to skip unless specifically requested by readers. Please let me know if there are any particular panels you would like me to transcribe.

April 3rd – Day 1

  

Sword Art Online Kirito Panel with Yoshitsugu Matsuoka and Bryce Papenbrook

I’m not the biggest SAO fan, but thought this opportunity to see both the Japanese and English voice actors for Kirito together too good to miss. This was the first panel of this year’s convention that we attended, and I enjoyed seeing and hearing the two young men discuss their experiences. It’s evident from their speech that they’re still young in the voice acting field; they lack the smoothness that older seiyuu possess when face-to-face with fans.

The panel opened with some key scenes for both the Japanese voicing and English dub to showcase their talents. More popular scenes included Kirito’s female voicing in GGO. As attendees to this panel, we all received a free poster.

Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works Second Season US Premiere Event

As was expected, this was one of the biggest panels to attend this year. KWoo and I played the game of lining up before the line, and were subsequently told to not line up too early and to “do a lap” until a half hour prior to the start time. I’ll rant later in my Tidbits section about the line ridiculousness.

I think most everyone present thought that this screening would only feature a bit of talking and the first episode of the newly airing spring show. To our surprise and delight, they revealed that they would actually be showing us the first three episodes, complete with subtitles. Awesome! The truth, however, was that anyone past the first few rows probably couldn’t even see the bottom half of the screen, much less the subtitles. There were random moments where the text would suddenly be at the top of the screen–which was perfect, though had no reasoning. I really wish staff had thought out the mechanics and used a player that would fix the subtitles at the top for everyone to read. The person in front of me almost completely blocked the center of my view and the total bottom where all the dialogue ran. I wanted to grab a brush and smooth down her tangled black wig and push her down in her seat like a reverse push pop. From the little I could see and hear, I basically understood what was going on–I’ll have to re-watch all three again, though.

April 4 – Day 2

Q&A with Kondo Kanako

What little I know about Blazblue stems from my ex who played the video game. I watched the fighting and cut scenes, and even tried to watch the later anime. Unfortunately, the first episode of Blazblue was utter rubbish, so I dropped it immediately. I do like the personalities of two of the main girls based solely on the games, so when I saw one of the voice actresses worked in both Blazblue and Fate/stay night, I dragged KWoo along with me to both of their morning Q&As. Since the two were back-to-back, it was more convenient to just sit in on both since staff let us know they wouldn’t be kicking people out in between.

Kondo Kanoko voices Noel Vermillion, the poster girl of the Blazblue franchise. Young and still fairly new to the VA business, she first began as an anime seiyuu before dabbling in games. She only has a smattering of works to her name.

Q&A with Kana Ueda

Kana Ueda was my real draw to these two panels, as she has voiced beloved characters in Fate/stay night (Tohsaka Rin) and Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha (Yagami Hayate). In Blazblue, she voices the character who is my visual favorite: Rachel Alucard. While she hasn’t been in the industry much longer than Kanoko-chan, she has a much larger repertoire under her belt, including anime, film, tv, games, music, and radio. She also spoke more naturally and relaxed than Kanako, though I found both equally adorable. Something I find amazing about her is that she has been the voice of Fate’s Tohsaka Rin since the start. When she first began, Rin’s lower voice was a bit of a challenge for her, but as she aged, her really grew into the role. We were even entertained with some choice tsundere exclamations!

The Life of an Animation Director with Osamu Kobayashi

I was afraid that this panel would be dry, but it turned out to be one of the more fascinating discussions we attended over the weekend. Kobayashi has vast experience in illustrating, animating, designing, and directing, and he spoke more openly about his history and knowledge than I expected. A lot of the questions directed at him reminded me of Shirobako. Kobayashi was extremely laid back from the get go, and answered questions almost the entire time. Also included were occasional slides of some of his concept art, both rejected and accepted. I would love to attend more panels like these with other directors.

The Rolling☆Girls Special with Kotomi Deai, Katsuhiko Kitada & Arifumi Imai

When I first saw this on the schedule, I thought we’d be treated to some special episode only released on blu-ray or something. That totally was not correct. We instead ended up watching the first two episodes of the series, as well as a handful of scenes showing the key stills. For a show as vibrant and creative as Rolling☆Girls, I didn’t mind so much, though I think they could have greatly shortened the key animation (they did later during the WIT panel) by chopping out the aired scenes that were shown immediately after every example. I can’t even begin to count the number of times I watched Matcha Green’s opening fight over the course of this weekend. Also, by opening the panel with all this screening, they lost a good chunk of their audience before the Q&A even began. It’s really a shame that poor organization negatively affected the audience when so much more could have been shared via discussion with the three staff members present.

April 5 – Day 3

J-Walk Seattle Streets

KWoo and I were only able to show up for the last section, which featured lolita fashion. I had expected more of a variety of outfits, but I still enjoyed seeing the various dresses and learning about the inspiration for each one of them. There was a wonderful woman whose outfits were all handmade and inspired by things like coffee and chocolate. Other closets were almost entirely filled by Angelic Pretty, which were elaborate but less impressive creativity wise compared to the handmade and thrifted clothes.

Lion Dance and Kung Fu with Northwest Kung Fu and Fitness

I was interested in seeing the lion dance due to KWoo’s Chinese heritage; I’d never seen that type of performance before, except on YouTube. The ones online aren’t a fair comparison since most of the ones posted are from national and international competitions. The dancers at Sakura-con are part of a regional organization–they didn’t have any of the fancy platforms or props other than the lions themselves, of which there were three. They also demonstrated musical instruments whose rhythmic pulses were the foundation for the lions’ movements. I very much liked seeing the performers interact with the audience and with each other. I was able to imagine a story based on their actions, and found them playful and a little greedy.

WIT Studio 2015 Previews

This is essentially what it sounds like, a discussion of the upcoming anime from WIT for 2015. They of course took the opportunity to again push Rolling☆Girls, then proceeded with promos of this season’s Owari no Seraph, and the upcoming movie, Attack on Titan: Jiyū no Tsubasa.

Q&A with Sumi Shimamoto

This panel with Sumi Shimamoto was hands down my favorite of the weekend. She is a renown voice actress, with roles in some of my most beloved shows and movies: Nausicaa: Valley of the Wind, Princess Mononoke, Maison Ikkoku, XxxHolic, and many, many more. Like with Kobayashi, almost the entire time was spent with her answering the audience’s questions. She also gave plenty of examples of her voice work, the most memorable one being a long segment where she demonstrated a complete age range of voices from infancy to the elderly. Of all the ones I wanted transcribe, I really wish I could have taken hers down everything in real time.

Haul

I’m very surprised with myself for purchasing hardly anything this year. Most of the items picked up was artwork from the Artist Alley. Two other notable purchases included a GochiUsa mug and a Koufuku G artbook. I also took all three days to finally find what I had wanted to buy from the beginning: new notebooks. I was only able to find one booth that had any notebooks at all, and was delighted to find a couple of series I love–Shirokuma Cafe and Natsume Yuujinchou. I’ll be traveling a fair bit this year and will need plenty of writing space!

KWoo and I also found a fair number of really nice artwork from the Artist Alley, as well as a couple of large black cat pillows for the couch. They’re the perfect size for hugging in your lap or resting your head on.

   

Art from zzyzzy: http://zzyzzyy.deviantart.com/

  

Art from TBA (trying to hunt down the name):

 

Art from Crayon Monster: http://www.crayonmonsters.com/

 

Cosplay

One of these days I’ll get over my shyness of asking cosplayers for pictures. I saw some fantastic costumes, but chickened out of approaching them unless there was already a horde of other people taking pictures. I really wish I could have snapped a shot for you all of a couple of wonderful Tokyo Ghoul cosplayers, one dressed as Kaneki and the other as Rize and both wearing spread out tentacle-like kagune. I also saw some Ginko (Mushishi) quietly striding along with their white hair and back boxes.
    

Random Tidbits

The lines fiascoes this year were much more present than the previous due to a new rule that lines were not to be formed until 30 minutes prior to an event’s start time. While I can certainly see the advantage to other panels and events right beforehand that might have their chairs filled for a longer time, the decreased line time only caused crowding in other nearby areas. Staff would storm out and tell people to do a lap around the building, or to quit plugging up the hallways waiting for the line to form. There was one staff member in particular I recall who seemed to find it her mission to hustle people in line every few minutes. When sitting in panels along some of the main hallways, you could occasionally hear staff yelling through the walls at excessive volumes.

Last year, KWoo excitedly pointed out the Initial D driving game, but only watched. This year, he was able to find a rare time when the game was available and there were few people around to watch, and he raced once. The difficulty was nothing compared to other driving games, but it was more of a novelty for him since he loves the anime.

I really didn’t meet up with people this year from Twitter or blogs. I was so focused on my own schedule, that I didn’t have too much free time for checking in with others. I was able to briefly meet up in line and at a panel with ToastCrust, Shinmaru, geassed, and Avvesione, but we parted ways shortly after.
 

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