This year’s Sakura-Con marked its 20th-year anniversary, a milestone I am thrilled to have been a part of. I am eternally grateful to live in a city that hosts conventions of this nature, particularly one that claims the title of the largest anime convention in Northwest United States. While the anniversary was brought up a few times during the convention, I don’t feel like it was highlighted overly much. Perhaps there were more festivities marking the occasion in the evening, but I never stay around long after the Exhibition Hall closes.
I attended with my husband as usual, as well as with draggle who was visiting the area. Experiencing conventions with friends is a large part of what makes them so enjoyable for me. While I would certainly still attend by myself, there’s a priceless feeling when sharing those same moments with the people you care about. I also bumped into several Twitter folk, many of whom seem to like coming to Seattle–that makes them cooler in my book! To those of you I saw, it was great meeting you!
As usual, I’ll break up this post into the below sections. While I attended multiple Japanese guest panels, I decided to dedicate individual blog posts for those transcriptions instead of compiling them here. Please be sure to check them out!
- Dealer Hall / Artist Alley Haul
- Final impressions
- Random pictures
Friday, April 14th
- Hiroshi Nagahama and His Love for American Comics
- Who’s Miliyah? (only about 15 minutes)
Saturday, April 15th
- Live Drawing with Yasuhiro Irie
- Chikashi Kubota Q&A
- Shiki Douji Live Sketch Q&A
- Thunderbolt Fantasy Panel with Urobuchi Gen (U.S. exclusive) (only the last 30 minutes)
Sunday, April 16th
- Crunchyroll – Working in the Anime Industry
- Kenichi Sonoda Live Sketch Q&A
- Making of The Reflection by Hiroshi Nagahama
Other than the guest panels, I only attended a few other events. One was the Crunchyroll panel covering working in the anime industry. I only saw the latter half of the session, but it was great hearing them discuss their experiences and present goals. KWoo and I were particularly looking forward to seeing Reina Scully in person, since she’s someone we follow on YouTube. I doubt I’ll ever go into a career in anime, but I still appreciated hearing them discuss how the industry has evolved in the U.S. to where it is today.
I attempted to sit in on the panel, Who’s Miliyah?, but ended up walking out after fifteen minutes. Yes, the description warned that there would be instructional videos and the singer’s later appearance, but I had no idea it would be so…boring? Ill-thought out? First off, the short video describing Miliyah’s career in music and related fields felt like straight advertisement ramming her awesomeness down our throats. I understand that promotional videos focus on the positives, but the language of the entire thing exuded cheesy praise. She’s a singer! She used to hate adults! She has a fashion line! She’s a novelist, too! After the video, they followed with another, this time a live concert recording. This is where I finally couldn’t stand it anymore. I find it exceedingly lazy to trap audience members with a concert recording that could be easily looked up on our own time. I wish related staff had at least sat up front and answer questions, maybe talked a bit about her visit in the U.S. With Miliyah not showing up until the end, I highly doubt many questions were posed and answered. This also turned me off on going to her concert.
I sat in for a couple songs performed by Kaze Daiko, a local taiko drum group for youth and young adults. They even included a piece composed by their teacher. I really enjoy seeing Japanese performance and fine arts included in the scheduling. I only wish I could have also attended the demonstrations by the Tacoma Kendo and Iaido Club and by samurai sword master Isao Machii.
There was a lot of great cosplay this year, and, as usual, I was stupidly too shy to request pictures for a lot of them. Most of my shots were taken on Sunday after desperation set in and I realized it was almost over. Not shown here are some great cosplay of Re:Zero’s Rem and Ram, KonoSuba’s Darkness and Megumin, Maid Dragon’s entire ensemble (Kobayashi, Tohru, Elma, Fafnir, Lucoa), and many more. There were a lot of Rems and Rams running around. I was surprised to not see more Attack on Titan cosplay given that the sequel is now airing–perhaps that’s a testament to people’s lack of patience for the second installment.
Dealer Hall / Artist Alley Haul
One of my favorite changes to the Exhibition Hall was the decision to move the Artist Alley across the street to the connected Conference Center. Instead of being crammed into a narrow section of the Exhibition Hall, artists could spread out on two floors in the Conference Center. The walkways were wider, and I felt like there were more artists present. I wonder if they will continue with this planning in the future, and if they noticed any increase or decrease in foot traffic.
The Exhibition Hall, now with more space to spread out, also felt like it had more stalls and wider walkways. I felt again that my desire to purchase goods had declined. I bought very few things, focusing on t-shirts to replace some of my older shirts. KWoo waited too long to decide on purchasing the one Megumin figurine we found, and it was gone on Sunday when we went to look for it again. I’m sure we’ll see more when we attend this year’s Anime Expo in July.
This year’s convention felt better planned out schedule-wise than the previous. I was able to attend more of the Japanese guest panels, with any overlap being minimal. In past years, I experienced more dead time in between panels. I’d either waste time repeatedly wandering the Exhibition Hall, or sitting around resting my feet. The one downside for me about attending the Japanese guest panels back-to-back was that I missed out on fan-run panels, like the one on Japanese Anime Shorts by satchiikoma. This was my first time meeting him, and I was intrigued by the panel’s subject since I have a love/hate relationship with anime shorts. I hope I can attend one of his panels in the future.
Another improvement this year was the scheduled line time for panels. Before, you had to hover around the rooms and keep moving, since staff would not allow people to line up any earlier than a half hour to the start time. This year, line times were noted on the schedule. I also prefer Sakura-Con’s method of lines where a wider path is provided and people requested to bunch up in groups of three. Anime Expo tends to use a single-file, follow-the-ground-tape method that ineffectively uses more space.
I do think that Sakura-Con is getting bigger, despite it being much smaller than some of the major U.S. anime conventions. I used to leave with my badge after maybe only 30 minutes of waiting, but this year we were in line for almost two hours. The line extended into another room, even though we had pre-registered. Part of me thinks this might be due to the higher number of attendees, while another part of me blames the on-site printing of badges. It’s not until you present your I.D. in person that they print out your Sakura-Con badge. Is it greener? Probably, yes. By not pre-printing badges, they avoid unclaimed trash. But it’s certainly not as efficient as it could be.
I will continue to attend Sakura-Con as long as I live in Seattle, and look forward to seeing how it evolves over the next ten years. Maybe one of these years I’ll actually jump in on volunteering. If you live nearby, or even far, I encourage you to try out this anime convention. The smaller size allows formore intimate exchanges with guests, of whom we regularly receive many, from Japan and elsewhere. While fan panels are still not as numerous as at East coast conventions, they’re on the rise. There are plenty of things to also see, do, and eat nearby the Washington State Convention Center, so you can definitely make more of a trip of it. And if you do visit, please don’t hesitate to say hi!
Next on the agenda: Anime Expo this July!