Before I say anything else, let me begin by saying I love Sakuracon. It is one of my favorite events of the year. I look forward to it from the moment it ends until the moment it starts again. It is fun and exciting and magical and surprising and all sorts of other good things I’m too lazy to look up in my thesaurus right now. I’ve enjoyed all four of my times attending the convention and I will continue to attend and enjoy for years to come. So no matter what issues I may have had with Sakuracon this year, and no matter what items I may be complaining about in this article, I do still love the convention and I’m not breaking up with it. I just think we may have hit a tough point in our relationship.
2012 marked the 15th anniversary of Sakuracon, the largest annual anime convention held in the Pacific Northwest. This was my fourth year in attendance and I feel like I’ve gotten to a point where I’m getting pretty adept at handling the variety of activities, dealer booths, events, and people that will be thrown at me. I still get excited to see cosplayers dressed as my favorite anime, science fiction, movie, television, or video game characters. I still swoon over adorable plushes, custom t-shirts, and amazing posters in the dealer’s hall and artist’s alley. And I still get angry when inconsiderate people jump in line for an event even though everyone else has been waiting for 30 minutes already and should be guaranteed seats in reward for their patience. But I’ve mellowed a bit from where I was five years ago at my first convention where all I could do was shriek, jump up and down, take photos, and stare wide-eyed at everything around me.
Because I’ve mellowed a bit, I was able to notice things that I might not have noticed in years previous. Little things that ranged from slightly irritating to downright anger-inducing. Several panels I attended had technical difficulties. And I’m not talking about issues with highly-advanced projectors or computer servers. More like, whoever was in charge of the lights couldn’t figure out how to turn them off and on appropriately. Seriously guys? I know you are all unpaid volunteers and you are doing this out of love and all that, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take a few extra minutes before a panel starts to figure out the light switches.
There were also some issues this year with registration. While most of the members of my group were pre-registered, there were two people that were registering on the Friday morning the convention began. They hit the line at 9:30am and didn’t make it through until after 2pm. It was ridiculous. They weren’t allowed to sit down because it was a safety hazard so they stood for nearly five hours waiting and waiting and waiting. I was off attending panels and taking pictures and shopping in the dealer’s hall and they were still waiting, waiting, waiting. The first year I attended the convention I registered on Saturday morning and it took an hour. And that felt like a long time. I can’t even imagine waiting five hours. I wonder what the statistics are for people who gave up and decided it wasn’t worth it so just left. I know they changed their system this year and even changed the venue where registration took place. I’m thinking they need to seriously consider what they did wrong and make some changes again before next year.
The concerts all seemed to run on time this year, which was a nice change over last year when they started late due to technical issues (I can see that is a running problem). And most of the panels ran on time, but they weren’t all in appropriate rooms. My group attended a Mystery Science Theater style panel with voice actor Todd Haberkorn that took place in a room much too small, with a movie screen way up front and flat on the floor that was impossible for most of the audience to see. I know there was a giant room or two with large screens that would have worked much better for this event and I don’t understand why the people setting it up didn’t think of that.
Sadly I didn’t just have issues with the people running the convention this year, but also with the attendees. There was a large group of Japanese voice actors, directors, and artists that came to Sakuracon this year. I was thrilled beyond telling at the chance to see the director (Yoshiaki Kawajiri) and character designer (Yutaka Minowa) of two of my favorite anime, Ninja Scroll and Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust. I went to their Q and A sessions as well as a special panel on Ninja Scroll, and I was very disappointed to see the majority of seats were empty around me. These are two of the most important people in anime in America, because without films such as Ninja Scroll coming here decades ago and making an impact on American audiences, there might not even be anime in this country. These are ground-breaking artists and forerunners for modern animation and it was incredibly sad to me that more convention attendees – anime fans all supposedly – weren’t there to listen to these amazing men talk about their careers and their work in the field. And some of the few people that did attend their Q and A sessions were annoying. One girl asked why the main love story of Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust was changed so much from the original novel to the anime. When asked if she had actually read the novel, she said she hadn’t. But she was voicing her opinion on it anyway. By the way, I HAVE read the novel and she had no idea what she was talking about. There is no real love story in it. None of the Vampire Hunter D books work that way. It was doubly annoying when that girl won a custom drawing by Yoshiaki Kawajiri and I didn’t. I’m probably being a bit immature about that and I don’t care. (I did get both men’s autographs though which was pretty exciting.)
My boyfriend and I also attended a panel with the Japanese voice actor for Ichigo from Bleach, Masakazu Morita. This is an extremely popular anime with a large following and I expected the room to be packed full of people wanting to meet this actor and ask him questions. But once again I was disappointed to find the room over half empty. If you were to poll a large section of the attendees at Sakuracon they would probably tell you they prefer the original Japanese language versions of anime (with subtitles) over the English dubbed versions. And yet while Steve Blum’s Q and A was standing room only (I love him by the way, his normal voice sounds exactly like Spike Speigel from Cowboy Bebop), Masakazu Morita’s was close to empty.
So there were definitely some moments this year that I found myself a little less than totally and sublimely happy. But once again I want to say that I still love Sakuracon and I did still have a good time. My boyfriend dressed up as Jamie and his friend was Adam of the Mythbusters. Their costumes were awesome and people even recognized them. I got autographs from two very important figures in anime, plus I met the Consulate General of Japan who was wearing a silly hat and agreed to take a picture with the boyfriend. I saw the premiere trailer for a new Ninja Scroll project, which originally was supposed to air at Anime Expo but we got to see it first because Sakuracon is obviously more awesome (I have no basis for that really as I’ve never attended Anime Expo, so don’t take my word for it). I went with a large group this year and got to meet new people and see some new things. My favorite panel – Where the Fanfic Goes to Die – took place once again and was just as hilarious this year as it was last year.
I suppose there comes a time in every relationship where the giddy infatuated feelings fade out and the realities become more obvious. No one is perfect and it isn’t like Sakuracon isn’t trying its best to be the most amazing convention of its kind. And maybe I’m getting a bit old and cynical and it is easier to see the problems than the successes. But even if we are in a bit of a slump, I want Sakuracon to know that I still love it and wish it the best and I will be back next year with friends and costumes and money to spend and questions to ask and pictures to take. Our relationship may have hit a slump, but I’m not giving up on it yet.
And now Crow and Tom Servo will dance us out: