Always set your expectations to low to none at all when coming to a convention for the first time. This was something I learned this past weekend when I went to Sakuracon in Seattle. This was my first time going to Sakuracon and prior to coming I had big expectations to what the convention was going to be in my head. I seen videos of panels and other great events that Sakuracon in the past have shown on youtube and I had the envision of that’s what Sakuracon was going to be. Not to say that this was a waste of time or energy, no by all means I had a great time at the convention, but as a reporter for the website, and Co-Director, I have to look on both sides of every convention no matter how big or small it may be.
Areas around the convention center
So coming to Seattle for the first time was kinda new to me, as I haven't been to Seattle for a very long time, but as I walked to the convention center with my luggage I noticed a lot of great things and to why Sakuracon was located to this area of downtown Seattle. The convention center is huge and connected to two buildings. Almost in the same vain as Sac Anime recently. These two buildings were six stories up using each floor to their fullest with panels, events, gatherings, video game rooms, cosplay repair stations and other uses Sakuracon was using. Around the convention center was hotels, food restaurants, that ranged from your expansive to your very convenient grocery store near by. This was a perfect place to put Sakuracon and the convention center here is in the heart of downtown Seattle. So even if you wanted to check out what else was going on around the convention center you very well could. Also to add to this if you were he from the airport to downtown Seattle, Seattle had a great light rail system that would take you from the airport to downtown Seattle where the convention center was located at. My only gripe was that during this weekend I was stopped by several people asking for donations for various organizations, but a small price to pay for attending Sakuracon.
As I have said before the convention center itself was huge and was six stories high. What really interesting was that they have two buildings for Sakuracon. One building was only for registration while the other was the main convention building, which make things a lot easier for people to get their badge and walk across the street to the main convention center building reducing space and time. When walking around the main convention center the first things that stood out to me was: A. There were food and other stores in the convention center, B. There was no heavy traffic in the main hallways or any other place in the convention center due to the huge space Sakuracon has, C. The Sakuracon staff handled everybody and was directing traffic throughout the convention center as well as signs as to where to walk and where not to walk to. Looking around the convention center it was like as if I walked into a mall and hotel at the same time, because there were food and other stores in each level of the convention center as well as rooms for panels to use. Also open space in the convention center that there was no problem handling so many people at once during either the slow or peak hours of the convention. It seems like the staff here at the convention center were a good amount compared the conventions I been to in California. There were staff at the doors always checking for badges, staff directing traffic, and making sure that no one stopped in the middle of an area were people are trying to get through. Also one more thing to add, not only was the convention center was huge, but they also had in each floor a outside area people can walk around or have their gatherings at. I have not really been awe struck when it comes to an outside area or a patio, but this one did. Not to mention there were the same type of design inside the convention center with almost like a big block stones built right into the convention center as if it was taken out of a video game.
I was in the dealers hall a lot, where I stack this dealers hall compared to the ones in California I would say its in the right size for everyone to walk around and look at stuff to buy. If I were to compare it or to have an example of how big the dealers hall was, I would say its bigger then Fanime's dealers hall but smaller then Anime Expo's. So somewhere in-between there is the size of Sakuracons and I had no problems walking around the dealers hall. Of course there were a lot of venders selling their products as well giving out free stuff. Big companies like Funimation, Aniplex, and other anime industry booths were not only giving out stuff but were holding their own gatherings at their booth for their licensed anime. It was a good move on their parts because not only did it promote themselves, but also engaged fans as well. The theme I been seeing recently was that with recent anime conventions I been to or have been going to have put the artist alley into the dealers hall along side with the venders. While this may be some stiff competition I do feel conflicted with this idea. While it is much easier for someone to want to buy something from one vender and then walk over to the artist alley its great for that, but at the same time it creates this small vs big competition for selling their products. Or maybe I am just giving this too much thought and its been working great for Sakuracon for years. Overall the dealers hall was great and I had no problems walking in or out of it.
I have written down panels that I planned to go check out and I actually attended more panels then what I expected to. Each panel I went to from the very funny Zapp Branagin's Spaceship of Love, the games like Name that Anime Tune, as well as the informal like the Funimation panel and a lot more. Each panel I did enjoy going to but there were some things I noticed in some of the panels I went to. There seems to be some sort of issues going on in some of the panels with the equipment or not being able to move certain items just because of fire safety hazards. The Sakuracon staff were very strict and what they say goes no matter what the fans or the people hosting the panel think. There were a lot of different panels going on at any given moment at the convention as I have said before I had written down panels to attend to that peaked my interest but looking through they had every possible panel for almost everything. If Homestuck is something you're interested in they had a panel, if you’re into anime music videos, or AMVs, they had a room dedicated to that, if you are into more traditional culture panels about Japan they had it there too. It was pretty awesome to have not only any panel going on at any given time, but also a wide selection of various topics and subjects. There is one panel I would like to point out that I felt went a little over the line when it comes to taste. I felt that the Swimsuit cosplay competition panel was a bit too much in the sense of how it was set up and how it was runned. First off the panel was poorly runned when sitting down the only people that were able to see the competitors were the people in the front, 2nd was that while each lady was very lovely I felt bad for them being in a room full of 95% guys staring at each one of them like a piece of meat. Now I do know this is an event that has been runned for years, but I can't help be feel that this was very awkward not only for the judges but also for the people that were in the competition. Also this is a little exploitative for what it is. But who knows this might have been just a bad year and might have been really fun and funny in previous years, but as someone who's first time going to this convention and panel it came off very uncomfortable. I do wish Sakuracon will take a look at this panel and either fix some issues with it or take it out completely. Overall I do like how panels were runned, and I like how the Sakuracon staff went out of their way to keep the 18 and up panels only for 18 and up people. They had people get a stamp prior to getting into the panel to make sure only the adults were getting in.
Console video game room
Now I was curious to see how the console video game room would like. I have been to other conventions where the sizes were from very small to very large and Sakuracon is inbetween that. It was big enough to hold enough people but small enough that the room was filled with all sorts of equipment and tv that they needed for people to play on. From what I witnessed they had a great set up for not only fighting games but other games too you can check out to play for a certain amount of time. They had a good amount of flat screen tvs as well as two projectors to showcase the featured game of the night including in fighting game tournaments. They also provided a lot of chairs for everyone to sit down and use which was great for some of us who been walking all day. What I really enjoyed was that the tournaments were held late at night. As someone who loves playing in fighting game tournaments I could never find the time during the day to attend one because of the panels and other things going on, so having it late in the night was great for me. Not only was held a very good time but it was also a double elimination tournament and was being streamed on Twitchtv. I was loving everything that Sakuracon was doing at that moment. Streaming tournaments from conventions have been going on lately and I have always thought it should be more then just a thing. Also having the tournaments run a double elimination was a great idea and I wish more conventions that are 24/7 would take this idea to run their tournaments. I really enjoyed the console gaming room and what they had to provided as well as the other game rooms that were dedicated to mobile gaming, card games, and miniatures. I really did enjoy how Sakuracon set up the gaming rooms to be their own thing to spread out so that the main console room was not overcrowded with everything in it.
Cosplay Repair room and Prize System
I am still new to this idea and I have seen it at fanime as well as other anime conventions I been to but I went to check out the cosplay repair room at Sakuracon. It was very organized, and everyone in the room was very helpful. They had set up different tables for different things to help cosplayers who need help repairing costumes. If it is was wigs, material, hot glue, everything a cosplayer needed to fix any problem. The cosplay repair room was open for most of the day and night. I might be mistaken, but I do believe that the room was open 24/7 during Sakuracon. The other thing that really stood out to me at this convention was how the prize system was set up. Normally for competitions at an anime convention the panels would already have prizes set up to give away or in video game tournaments people would give money to enter. Most often then not this is very risky because if the money went missing or say if the audience was trying to convince to have someone win a prize for not doing anything, it normally doesn't end well. What Sakuracon set up was to avoid all of that controversy and have prizes already ready to give out in a separate room. If the person won a prize at a panel they are given a card that has a number on it. That person then goes into the prize room and choose which prize that he or she wants given what number they have received. I really love this idea and probably should be implemented in every anime convention. Not only does this bypass all the trouble, but it makes prize giving away a lot easier for the attendee and convention.
So I went to rave expecting something along the lines as the one at Fanime or Anime Expo. What I got was rather interesting ideas in place and the kind of people in the rave. So the rave was held in the main stage room in the convention and it was huge to hold everyone. There were plenty of chairs as well as a water station in the back for people who need a drink of water and not to over do it. The cool set up Sakuracon had for the rave was that there was the stage and behind the DJ was a giant screen showing anime while the music was blasting. The great thing about this rave was that it kept to the theme of the anime convention and actually played rave remixes of anime songs. There were a few questionable songs that were played, but overall I really enjoyed the music selection. It was everything a rave needed to be great, big screen, lights flickering, smoke machines, and huge speakers blasting all the good music. What my gripes are with the rave was that it was rather small and not big in terms of crowds dancing. The type of people that were dancing were dancing very different then what I am used to seeing in California, but not to say its not a bad thing just very different. This was the first rave that was really safe in terms of that there was very little girls grinding in the rave and more of people dancing very nerdy way. What I didn't like was that in the last hour they have only reserved for the people that are only 18 and up. I am not sure what the difference in the last hour of the rave versus the last couple of hours where everyone was having fun regardless of the age. There was an emergency that did happen in the rave and the DJ stopped the music and killed the vibe, but I do applaud taking care of the issue rather then waiting till the next morning to find out another person has fainted during the rave. Once it was taken care of the rave started up again.
Overall it was a great experience and loved my time in Seattle. With only a few gripes I have the convention overall I highly suggest to anyone who is in the Seattle area or just a convention goer in general to check it out. I had a great time and next year I will defiantly go, I only wish this convention was at least a day longer, just because it felt too short for me.