Seattle, Washington, USA. April 22 – April 24, 2011.
Sakura Con 2011 was quite the experience. It takes place in Seattle, WA, and is the largest anime con in the Northwest. With a massive crowd in the tens of thousands, it pulls out all the stops, almost being overwhelming at times. However, that leaves you with plenty to do and plan for, and it is definitely worth it. This year’s Sakuracon was very well set up, being held in the Seattle Convention Center, and everything was very streamlined. Lines were split up into four or five stations, so things went very quickly in that regard. Also, the large schedules posted in many areas helped me find all the events I wanted to see.
Day 1 was pretty easy going. I picked up my press badge early and went scouting around, checking out some of the sights. The gaming area was split up into several rooms, the largest being dedicated to music and rhythm games. Round-the-clock Rock Band was happening, complete with a full stage and projector screen, while another corner was devoted to DDR, and another to Pop n’ Music. There was a standard console gaming room, with everything from the Playstation era to the current gen. If you fancy something older, they also offered a retro gaming room with NES, SNES, and Genesis.
After a few rounds of that, I went to one of my old favorites, the Slightly Anime Dating Game. For those of you unfamiliar, it’s a parody of the Dating Game gameshow from the 70s, where bachelors and bachelorettes compete and answer amusing questions for the chance to win their mystery date. This, of course, was all in fun, and the prize was a photograph with the mystery date, and it was highly amusing. Imagine if you will Sora, Lelouch, and a Seaking Gijinka making suggestive (but PG-13) comments to a magical girl, or a giant piece of toast winning the courtship of a Pikachu. It’s wild and hilarious, and it’s definitely worth a trip to see.
After the Dating Game, I went around, hung out with a few people, and eventually happened upon an interesting panel about ball jointed dolls from Japan. These dolls are expertly crafted, highly customizable, and very expensive. The panel itself was about customization tips, such as finding the right wigs, making the right parts, and working with clothes. As a total outsider, it was interesting to see just how much time and work goes into these dolls. Once the panel was over, I met up with my group, ate, then checked out a few more panels before going to bed.
Day 2 was the highlight, as is the case with many cons. After getting some coffee and a bite to eat, my first stop was the Cosplay Skit competition, which was very well put together. The sound system was perfectly equipped for projecting loud enough for everyone to hear, and the stage had two large screens, so even people in the very back could see what was going on. I stayed for a while, and saw everything from a comedic Kingdom Hearts musical routine to a well choreographed Vocaloid dance number. It went on for some time, and while I didn’t stay for all of it, it provided a chuckle or two and a very good show.
I then went to the dealer’s room and artist alley. The dealer’s room was massive, and one of the best displays was the official Bandai booth, where they had several impressive Gundam and Revoltech figures, some fetching very high prices. Amongst the scores of models, I personally picked up a rare Tachikoma figure from Ghost in the Shell. There was also the usual fare of print artists, webcomic tables, and various Japanese goods courtesy of Uwajimaya, a popular Asian supermarket. Later on, I caught wind of a panel done by Roland Kelts, a Japanese-American author who wrote about the impact of Japanese culture in America in his book Japanamerica. The panel was about how post apocalyptic imagery in anime draws from Japan’s experience with the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and how those experiences shaped culture and imagery overall. The panel was educational and fascinating, and familiar to me as I had seen Roland Kelts speak about his book once before.
Following that, I took a rest back at the hotel room and got ready for the evening events. At 10:30 was the ever popular dance, or as they called it “The Festively Groovy Random Rhythmic Robot Jam” featuring music from happy hardcore djs such as DJ Saiyan, Spunkybunny, and others. If pounding bass and frantic techno is your scene, then they really put on a fine show. After sticking my head in for a bit, I went to the “You Laugh You Lose” panel, which is a contest based off of 4chan threads where the object is, obviously, not to laugh. The host went through bizarre, hilarious, and borderline insane pictures, testing the crowd to see if they could, in fact, win. The final panel for the night was one of my favorites from Kumoricon, “Where Fanfiction Goes to Die.” For those of you who haven’t read the previous review, it’s where they read the worst of the worst fanfiction, be it horribly written or loaded with unspeakable horrors. It was the longest panel I went to, and it was every bit as funny and horrifying as the last one.
As the convention wound to a close, the main event for me was the charity auction. This year, the charity that they were funding was the Make a Wish Foundation, which fulfills the dreams of terminally ill children. I myself participated, even though I didn’t win anything, I was glad to help boost the price of items to get money going into such a great charity. This year, like the year before, they were very successful, and it felt good knowing that I could be a part of helping a truly important organization. After the auction, I said my goodbyes, and I made my way back to Oregon. Overall, it was a very good convention, if a bit overwhelming due to the size, but I still enjoyed myself a lot. If you’re ever in Seattle for Sakuracon, be sure to go at least once.