REPORT - Sakura Con 2006
Sakura Con 2006 went from March 24th, to 26th in downtown Seattle. Attendance was somewhere between 8,000 and 10,000 people. I had a good time, saw lots of good anime costumes and picked up a few art books in the dealer room.
Only pre-registration was happening on Thursday. My friend and I reached the convention center an hour before they closed the registration booths in the evening. The convention center was large and rather interesting. The unusual concrete construction and huge, blocky columns arrayed in odd patterns everywhere lent itself well to a sci-fi/fantasy gathering. Even though there were no events there were crowds of people everywhere throughout the facility, most of them in costume. It was a fun atmosphere and made us really want to find a bench and search through the program guide and other handouts.
At 10am I attended the opening ceremonies. I’d never seen an opening ceremony before at an anime convention so I was curious. A three man comedy improv team tried (and failed) to be funny throughout the ceremonies. The con officials gave brief information on previous Sakura Cons and gave their thanks to sponsors. The last Sakura Con drew 4,800 people.
Next up was the dealer room. I was hoping for a large selection of art books and manga straight from Japan but only 3 booths offered these and two of them were small. I managed to grab a few worthwhile books so I can’t complain too much. Naruto and Full Metal Alchemist fans were everywhere. I kept an eye on T-shirts trying to find mecha fans but I don’t remember seeing any (I was one of the brave few). Either we mecha fans are few in number or good an hiding.
A lot of people were there in costume. Some, like cross-dressing men and really overweight women showing lots of skin, were rather frightening but most of the costumes were great. It really adds to the fun of a convention when so many people go to the extra effort to cosplay.
I made it to the Gun Sword panel hosted by Geneon. The Japanese voice actor and 3 of the top people making the show (plus a translator) presented the show and fielded questions. They came across as real nice guys with a good sense of humor.
Day two of the convention was the best. The best panels and events were taking place on this day. I made it to the question and answer session with the 2 Penny Arcade Web strip guys. They were a lot of fun to hear. The offerings in the dealer room didn’t change at all. I guess I’ve been spoiled by the California cons but I was expecting fresh supplies of stuff to tempt me into buying.
David Williams represented ADV Films at a panel and handed out free random DVDs to those who were chosen to ask questions. We had an hour and a half so he called on almost everyone who attended. He confirmed my fears – ADV Films has no rights and no plans to bring the Macross Movie to North America. To help heal the pain I talked his assistant into picking out a box set of Gravion’s 1st season (all 13 episodes for free!). David Williams has worked in almost every division of ADV Films since the company’s founding and was well-equipped to answer all our questions. He gave us insight into how the company makes its decisions and where they want to go in the future.
From there my friend and I rushed downstairs for the first 4 episodes of Gun Sword. It offered good laughs and good mecha action (one episode parodied the Power Rangers).
The convention’s guest list wasn’t impressive by my standards and as a result the list of panels was rather short and mostly uninteresting. However, I tend to be pretty picky and I’m used to attending Anime Expo in California.
When compared to past convention I’ve attended I was disappointed to find almost no signs of fan activity. I’m used to seeing flyers, signs and T-shirts for fan clubs everywhere. This time, however, it looked like the fans were little more than consumers waiting to get their news from official sources. There was a page listing fan clubs in the con guide book but it seemed so small and “official.” I realize that most of that kind of fan communication has moved online but it was still disappointing to note that my flyers were the only ones on display that weren’t official announcements from the con staff members. My flyers were disappearing at a pretty good rate so I hope we’ll see some new screen names on the message board soon. It’s also worth noting that the con staff only let fans place flyers at one set location.
I said hello to the guys at the Mechanized Propulsion Systems booth. They hadn’t heard of Gears Online but they enthusiastically accepted the flyer Falk created.
Although I didn’t meet any mecha fans during the con there were a few people cosplaying as pilots from Gundam Seed so there’s still hope.
I would have to say my biggest disappointment with Sakura Con was the lack of focus on new stuff from Japan. The 4 theater rooms, although nice, only showed stuff that was officially released in the U.S. and subtitled or dubbed. I didn’t notice anyone talking about what’s new in Japan right now. What was annoying was everywhere people were chirping about Gun Sword as if it was brand new. It’s only new in the U.S.! It’s already over and done with in Japan!
My wife and boys were waiting so after haggling down the price of an out-of-print Sonoda artbook my friend and I hopped in the car and left the Emerald City. It was a weekend well spent.
Great opportunities to meet other fans
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