Location: Seattle, WA
Dates: April 18th-20th, 2014
Report by: Katie Cunico
Sakuracon has a lot going for it: it’s in the spring in Seattle, which even when it rains, as it did part of this year, is always nice and mild. It’s very suitable for any type of convention activity, whether it be lugging purchases around or costumes of any type. The neighborhood the convention center and surrounding hotels are in is a fantastic one – I’ve mentioned the Gameworks across the street before, and it remains a favorite after-con activity for many congoers, especially on Thursday night – and there’s no shortage of food or shopping or entertainment. The area is also super-welcoming to congoers – all the Starbucks in the downtown area (and there are a LOT of Starbucks – it is Seattle, after all) offer a special drink just for Sakuracon called the Sakuraccino, and many stores and restaurants offer discounts if you show your badge.
This year felt much more varied in terms of guests; many of the guests of honor, instead of being from a couple series, seemed more spread out. Premieres of note were the continuations of the Attack on Titan and Magi dubs, both of which offered English VA guests as well as some of the Japanese staff, as well as related panels for Q&A. These panels are always fun to attend, especially when it’s clear that the casts really enjoy the series they’ve been working on. For Magi, I was especially pleased to learn that the favorite characters of the Japanese staff, character designer Toshifuki Akai, director Koji Masunari, and character designer and animator Shingo Adachi, were all females (mostly because Magi: the labyrinth of magic has an amazing female cast). The English cast clearly had fun as well, as it was announced that Aniplex of America would again be holding auditions in cooperation with Bang Zoom! Entertainment to cast roles for Magi, this time for the second season.
Of personal interest to me was the presence of the main designer and the main model for the lolita brand Angelic Pretty, Maki and Rinrin Doll. They participated in a fashion show, along with another popular Japanese label, Mint Neko, on Saturday afternoon, which featured an astonishing amount of new looks and clothes that the designers brought for the convention (and were on sale immediately afterwards in the dealer’s hall).
Sakuracon, even though it tries to cling to a non-sponsored “by fans” status, has a number of industry panels alongside fan-run panels. This time of year, most announcements are more discussions than reveals, but there were a number of interesting fan-run panels, including a panel about where “otaku culture” has gone wrong. We went, thinking that for a panel run at midnight, it would be more jokes and light-hearted poking fun at anime fans and convention goers. While the panel may have started out that way, unfortunately, opening up the mic to the floor turned out to be a bad decision, as the panel became overrun with complaints about how Tumblr culture, specifically fans attacking traditional tropes and fanservice, were ruining the anime industry and their enjoyment of it. To me, the panel definitely did succeed in highlighting a problem with “otaku culture” – that we’re letting anyone else’s dislike of something we like ruin our enjoyment of that thing.
For a 16-year old convention, Sakuracon has grown exceedingly well – I’ve never heard anyone complain about registration, whether at-con or prereg, and having to accompany a friend through the at-con registration line on Friday morning, I can testify that we were in and out within 15 minutes. The convention had an option on their site to fill out the registration form on your phone ahead of time and pass it over to staff once you get to the front of the line, an option that seemed to have severely decreased wait times. In addition to having professional security doing badge checks in strategic locations, rather than volunteers at every door, Sakuracon is a very well-run convention. However, there were a number of hiccups in terms of times of panels and events – at least half of what I attended changed times from the original published time (and sometimes, back again), and in one case, an unscheduled event resulted in an at-booth event being cancelled. There was a board up near the information desk at all times that was supposed to be up-to-date, and the convention’s mobile app was supposedly updated frequently, but in many cases, we just didn’t know for sure when anything was until the panel actually started.
Overall, it was another great year at Sakuracon; the weather was only a minor deterrent, and with good guests and a clear interest in keeping any crowd control problems and typical convention issues down, Sakuracon was a joy to attend.