It’s the middle of Summer and it doesn’t seem to bother the thousands who have shown up for the sixth annual San Japan anime convention in San Antonio, Texas. From Friday, August 16th until Sunday, August 18th, fans of all ages converged on the Henry B. Gonzales Convention Center and Grand Hyatt Hotel in the heart of the Alamo City. With a wide selection of guests, activities, exhibitors and events, it was a packed weekend. Photos from the three-day weekend are available on Gallery.
Our group had booked a room at the Marriott Riverwalk, conveniently located across from the action. It’s just easier booking near the convention hotel — you’re still within reach of the action, but you don’t have to fight for the elevators and parking. After checking in and unloading our luggage, we made our way over to the convention to collect our badges. While there was still a line-up, it wasn’t too long (appearances are deceiving) before we had our badges and program bag. We were now free to grab some dinner and prepare for Friday.
In their second year at the Henry B. Gonzales Convention Center, San Japan made some changes to the layout including the opening of the skywalk from the Grand Hyatt Hotel into the main hall with the artist’s alley and table top gaming hall. This year’s turnout was pretty huge, which is always a good sign. I’m totally a fan of the open space that holds the artist’s alley and table top gaming. It’s refreshing to have a place that offers tables to sit and converse, play and relax. Plenty of outfits – Naruto, Kingdom Hearts, Attack on Titan, Sword Art Online, Hetalia: Axis Powers, Yu-Gi-Oh!, Bleach, The Legend of Zelda, Soul Eater, Vocaloids and so on pausing in the halls and public spaces for a photo or two.
As usual, my friend Tony, hosted the recurring Anime Olympics on Friday morning. Here, sixteen contestants participated as a pre-determined country and placed in four groups — A, B, C or D — before going head-to-head in anime trivia, re-creating character poses, Iron Cosplay and the dreaded eating contest. After an encounter with some kimchi Ramune at Anime Central a few months back, Tony decided he would obtain a number of the foul-flavoured beverage and work it into the eating contest with a few rare boxes of Hostess Twinkies. While the event wasn’t as crowded like in previous years, there was still a decent turnout. Thankfully, none of the contestants returned the ramune; they all seemed to be enjoying it.
Once the Anime Olympics concluded and the room returned to its previous state for the next group, we were free to roam the convention. First stop, the dealer’s room. This ballroom was bursting at the seems with merchandise of all sorts. T-shirts, figures, DVDs, manga, plushes, costumes, hats, accessories, playing cards, video games, props, costumes and so much more. I purchased a t-shirt along with a nendoroid Kagamine Rin:Append to keep my Kagamine Len:Append company. A few booths were selling something unique – a miniature table with one purpose: to be flipped. Since it was new and built from crowd-funding, its price was enough to flip a table: $10 USD.
I decided to take a few of my friends out for some photoshoots along the Riverwalk late Friday afternoon. Tony dressed up as Mako from Yu-Gi-Oh!, James as Sora from Kingdom Hearts II, and Jen as Yin from Darker Than Black. Utilizing the path around the San Antonio River, I captured a few neat scenes and some confused tourists on the river tour. I love seeing people’s reactions to everyone in costume; it totally makes them do a double-take. For the first time ever, I brought a costume along with me. Prior to arriving, my group had pressured me into bringing Naruto since there would be a Sakura and a Sasuke — an almost complete Team 7. An unfortunate turn of events prevented the Sakura from attending and then the Sasuke costume was found to be damaged to the point of being unwearable. Oh well, but I still managed to don the blonde ninja, albeit for the evening only. Even then, I still suffered from the Texas heat and made worthwhile during a stroll along the Riverwalk with tourists and locals alike asking for pictures. While many of them guessed correctly I was Naruto, most everyone else always asks if I’m from Dragon Ball Z or Yu-Gi-Oh!. I think next time I’ll wear something a little lighter so I don’t overheat again.
Saturday evening proved to be exciting and tiring: my friends and I decided to go out and explore Hemisfair Park for pictures in cosplay. With myself dressed as Naruto, Tony as Yukio Okumura, Trey as Rin Okumura, James as Kirito and Jen as Asuna, we made our way out under the setting sun. With the different light sources and architecture in the park, I was able to capture some really nice shots. Some of my favourites were of Kirito and Asuna resting on the grass and looking up at the stars, plus the pictures in front of the waterfalls at the base of the Tower of the Americas. After an exhausting few hours of snapping photos, it was decided to stop off at Whataburger for a late dinner although we weren’t the only ones with that idea. It was packed, many others in costume, with those not wearing outfits perplexed at the assortment of characters waiting for a burger.
I’ve made many friends down in Texas and they’re always inviting me back to party with them at San Japan. I always look forward to visiting because the convention keeps growing and changing — a good sign of things to come. I really need to explore more of the panels and events, but I keep getting sidetracked by checking up with my Texan pals. Things only keep getting better and I definitely can’t wait for San Japan 7.