Miscellanea and Ephemeron
04/21/2007 Archived Entry: "Con Report: Sakuracon 2007"
by Tom Good
Sakuracon celebrated its tenth anniversary by putting together its largest event ever, with attendance topping 20,000 over 3 days at the Washington State Convention and Trade Center in Seattle, including over 11,000 individual memberships. Outdoor areas that had been nearly deserted last year were crowded with people on Saturday, and the convention seemed not just bigger, but also better than ever. The opening ceremonies included a speech by the Consul General of Japan, who complimented the costumes at the convention, and said he had just started reading the Fullmetal Alchemist manga in Japanese.
Many fans came dressed in polished-looking costumes that really raised the average level of craftsmanship compared to last year. Better materials, finer workmanship, and more attention to detail made some cosplayers look like they just stepped off a Hollywood movie set. A convention staffer explained the rise in costume quality by noting that many fans had come to Sakuracon '06 as first-timers. "Then they looked around and said, 'Wow, this is serious,' and they put a lot more work into it this year."
Death Note Cosplay On The Rise
Trend-wise, 2007 marked a big rise in Death Note cosplay. Some great Shinigami roamed the convention center, along with many L and Misa-Misa lookalikes. It was fascinating to see fans take on the role of the detective L from Death Note, because his minimalist attire of jeans and a white T-shirt is almost invisible as a costume, especially when other people are sporting wings and giant swords.
L cosplayers solved this problem in two ways: by carrying distinctive props from the story such as handcuffs, the deadly notebook, or Pocky candy, and by imitating L's mannerisms and odd body language. Some of them pulled off the attitude so well that they grabbed my attention from across the room, and I thought, "wow, that is L!" It was entertaining to see cosplay that was 80% acting and 20% costume.
With so many anime out there, it can be hard to recognize all the characters at the convention. In fact, one woman told me that last year she and some friends had pretended to be characters from a nonexistent anime they thought up. They invented characters, plot lines, and episodes to talk about, and told people it was a really obscure anime that was only available in Japan. The best part was when people said, "Oh, I've seen that one!"
Sakuracon's musical events covered a wide range of styles. The Portland band A-Key Kyo played Japanese pop/rock music, and Michael "Piano Squall" Gluck warmed up the crowd with a stand-up comedy routine before performing his piano arrangements of video game and anime music. I heard people in the audience crying during the sad parts of Gluck's performance, such as the Aeris theme from Final Fantasy VII. In a surprise guest appearance, Vic Mignogna joined him on stage to sing a song based on Fullmetal Alchemist, the anime in which he voices the main character, Ed Elric. Gluck also announced his new CD of video game and anime music called "Game."
Katie Gray, the voice of Seres Victoria in Hellsing, showed her talents as a singer and guitar player in a beautiful acoustic performance. She reminded me a bit of Norah Jones or China Forbes (of Pink Martini), but with more folk influences. Her CD, which I bought at the convention, is very good. Though she still works as a voice actor, she said she is concentrating on her musical career. Gray and Mignogna also appeared together for a panel about writing music, where Mignogna cracked up the crowd by stirring his coffee with a Sharpie. "Almost every voice actor I know is a singer," Mignogna said. "There is something about sensing the rhythm of speech that musicians lock into."
Saturday night featured two popular Japanese bands: m.o.v.e., whose music is featured in the anime INITIAL D, and LiN CLOVER. When m.o.v.e. played their high-energy rock/rap, fans responded by jumping around so enthusiastically that at times the whole floor started bouncing up and down. I felt like I was watching the show from one end of the world's largest trampoline, but it was definitely one of the most exciting moments of the weekend.
At the end of the day's festivities, one of the ballrooms transformed into "Club Sakura" and offered a dance club atmosphere to keep the excitement going.
Various anime episodes were shown throughout the weekend, including some new Geneon releases like Rozen Maiden, Black Lagoon, and Hellsing Ultimate. Black Lagoon's action scenes kept me on the edge of my seat, and it seems poised to become the next Cowboy Bebop. Look for a full review of it here at JLHLS soon.
Panels and Workshops
Sakuracon can be as educational as it is entertaining. Panels provided opportunities to learn directly from industry insiders about nearly every aspect of the anime and manga business, from voice acting and directing to music, art, adaptation, and writing. This alone would easily be worth the price of admission.
After enjoying a workshop called "How to Draw Anime Kitties," I decided to go to Doug Smith's "Adult Drawing Panel." I was a little puzzled by the title of this, and wondered at first if it would be a demonstration of how to draw X-rated content, but actually the name simply meant it was aimed at adult artists rather than children. Smith demonstrated many drawing techniques in response to questions from the audience, and watching him work was very inspiring. He has a playful personality and makes creating art seem like pure fun.
I highly recommend the art workshops. Some interested fans may hesitate, wondering if their art skills are sufficient for one of these sessions. Don't worry; people are friendly, and nobody asks to see your Really Talented Artist credentials. It is said that there are some foods you won't want to eat any more after you see them being made. Well, anime art works just the opposite way: the more you learn about the process of creating it, the more intriguing it becomes.
The Wapshott Press
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"Ontology on the Go!"
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