April 6–8, 2012 Seattle, Washington, USA
Sakura-Con 2012 was by far one of the best cons I’ve been to in a long time, largely due to all the awesome friends I got to see and a total lack of drama. Furthermore, it was one of the con’s biggest years for guests. This year there were three major musical performances and a whole bunch of industry people. Voice actors, directors, and producers came in droves, and for good reason: this was Sakura-Con’s fifteenth year, and the staff gave it their all to make it their best.
Day Zero was short, as we arrived quite late, and we didn’t even get our badges until morning. However, we had a lot of fun at Gameworks, an arcade and bar right across the street from the con. Gameworks has an unlimited video games special on Thursdays, an appealing draw for Sakura-Con’s early attendees. Despite the short day, I could still go out in cosplay (as Jotaro Kujo from Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure) and have a grand old time.
Day One was big, featuring so many panels that there wasn’t enough time to get through them all. To start things off, I found an interesting and important panel that focused on the recent Tohoku earthquake, a truly tragic and devastating event. The panel went into detail about what happened in the region, including the tsunami and subsequent disaster at the Fukushima reactors. It was a moment of reflection and discussion on Japan’s plight, and more importantly, on the nation’s recovery a year later.
On a lighter note, there were also tons of industry panels. Steve Blum, most famous as the voice of Spike from Cowboy Bebop, was one of the many big names in voice acting, and he held quite a few sessions throughout the con. He was accompanied by another major name: Chris Sabbat, the director of the Dragonball Z dubs, as well as the voice of Vegeta and Piccolo. Although I could not personally attend due to crowds and a time crunch, it was definitely an event worth jotting down. As far as the anime panels went, Madoka was the big theme this year. The producer of the well-received magical-girl series, Atsuhiro Iwakami, showed up to host a panel on the subject. Several other big names, including visual novel writer Gen Urobuchi, were present as well. There were also a number of panels on gothic lolita fashion, which featured big names like Fumiko Kawamura, the lead designer for the major Japanese fashion label Chantilly.
Along with all the panels, Sakura-Con also hosted a Masquerade Ball, which was a big hit (as always) with everyone who likes to literally waltz around in fancy attire. Day One also featured popular Japanese rock group Stereopony as one of the con’s first major musical performances, and it completely sold out. From what I heard, they did a fantastic job.
By the end of the night, I had more or less planned what my second day would hold, and after swinging through the retro game room and a few viewing areas, I hit the hay.
Day Two had much more focus, and one of the first things I went to was an amateur voice acting panel. This one was interesting, as it educated people on the entire process. For example, one of the panelists talked about the equipment required for voice acting and recommended microphones, cables, boxes, and software. The other panelist talked about how to consistently keep a style of voice and eventually invited people up to give it a shot. I myself gave my best Mad Max and Kenshiro impersonations, and after a while I went off to check out the exhibition hall.
The dealer’s hall is always impressive at Sakura-Con, and it is always very well-organized, with one half reserved for merchandise and the other half set up for Small Press and Artist Alley tables. The first area I went to was the Bandai booth, which had an impressive display case loaded with high-end models and figures. After perusing the various Gundam products, I went over and got myself a spiffy new Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex wall scroll. I also finally got my hands on a long sought-after Berserkartbook imported from Japan. Afterward, I went to the tabletop gaming room, where my friend introduced me to Classroom Deathmatch, a simple, fast-paced pen and paper RPG that’s essentially Battle Royale: the tabletop game. We hit up Gameworks, then played a few rounds.As far as performances the second day, the two big names were well-known cellist Kanon Wakeshima and visual kei sensation Moi dix Mois, both produced by Malice Mizer frontman and gothic lolita legend Mana. The Moi dix Mois concert was definitely the biggest of the con, and the lines for their autograph session apparently dwarfed all the others. Then again, Moi dix Mois was the most well-known of Sakura-Con’s musical guests, and I have to give Kanon Wakeshima credit for the popularity she’s already gained, seeing as she’s still pretty new. She has a lot of talent, and she perfectly captured that gothic lolita/classical style in her performance. As the night went on, I also went to the dance, of course, which was once again spun by Disko Warp. The bass was heavy and the beats were sick, as could be expected. Last but not least, I made my usual visit to the Where Fanfiction Goes to Die panel, where the absolute worst of the worst is read aloud, acted out, and even interpreted in ASL.
While Day Three mainly consisted of packing and getting ready to leave, I still managed to meet up with my new friends from Canada (who I met at the aforementioned fanfiction panel), and we hit up a panel on knitting, which turned out to be pretty interesting. It covered everything from blankets to cosplay accessories, all the way up to making plushies. I also checked out the con’s charity auction, which once again raised a grand sum of money for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Interestingly enough, one of the kids from the program was at the con, as her health didn’t permit her to go to Japan; Make-A-Wish delivered and got her in for three fun-filled days. This was really something else, and it showed just how great the organization is, doing everything it can to make each kid’s wish come true.
So ends another con report about another con. Stay tuned for more! Hitmage out.