Sakura-Con 2015

Spring is all about the blossoms, sunny weather and anime! Especially if you’re in Seattle around the Easter Weekend when Sakura-Con brings Japanese and Asian culture together inside the Washington State Convention Center. This year, the convention ran from Friday, April 3rd through Sunday, April 5th with plenty of anime to watch, manga to buy and costumes to admire.

Couldn’t make it? Photos are up on Gallery.

I always enjoy visiting Seattle and attending Sakura-Con; it’s within driving distance and there’s always something to see and do. My weekend began Thursday since it’s easy to check in and grab the admission badges early and experience more of the event instead of dealing with the crush on Friday.

After picking up my friend Tony from SeaTac International Airport, it was off for some lunch and back to the hotel to unpack, stroll up to pre-registration for the badges and then have the rest of the afternoon to relax. For the last few years, I’ve booked a room at the Sheraton Seattle Hotel since their prices are reasonable (especially when booking through the Sakura-Con web site), convenient location (right across the street from the Washington State Convention Center), and friendly staff. Booking through the convention nets you benefits including complimentary Wi-Fi, and early access to concerts and other events.

Once we got settled into our room and some unpacking done, we made the uphill journey to registration in the Conference Center, a part of the convention center. We did have a problem with collecting our badges since neither of our names were in the system, but I had my PayPal receipt which helped the staff sort everything out for us. Everything worked out in the end!

We made a detour Friday morning so Tony could attend to some work-related matters before returning to the hotel to suit up for day one of Sakura-Con. I packed three costumes this year: Naruto Uzumaki from Naruto, Soul Evans from Soul Eater and a new outfit: Ichigo Kurosaki from Bleach. Since I had some last minute adjustments to make to Ichigo (I’ll elaborate further down), I opted for Naruto on Friday.

Our first stop at Sakura-Con was the autograph line to see Bryce Papenbrook. When Bryce came up for Sakura-Con a few years ago, we didn’t have much trouble getting his signature. However, now that he headlines a number of series (Eren Jaeger in Attack on Titan, Kirito in Sword Art Online / II) his popularity has exploded. We were among the last to enter the autograph line which was given an hour and left after 45 minutes considering we hadn’t even rounded the corner. No big deal we thought, we’ll catch him at his afternoon panel — how mistaken we were. Staff turned us away as the line into the panel snaked out into the skybridge connecting the exhibitors and artists with the rest of the convention centre.

Instead we decided to explore the exhibitor’s hall and the artists alley. Sakura-Con secures the most amazing vendors and artists. If you’re looking for that CD, figure, art book, or video game, you’re most likely going to find it here. I wound up purchasing OLDCODEX’s Dried Up Youthful Fame single (the opening to Free! Eternal Summer), Naruto and Food Wars manga, and two t-shirts (Sword Art Online and Kuroko’s Basketball). I didn’t spend much as I was on a budget, but those $1 mango/strawberry/melon frozen bars are too irresistible to turn down.

For Saturday I wore Ichigo. I originally purchased the costume from a friend who was selling it because it was my size and I thought why not? It was missing the sandals, wig and belt, but that didn’t stop me. I bought a nice orange, Jett-style wig from Arda Wigs, and thanks to this amazing tutorial on Cosplay.com, 12 feet of white cotton/poly blend fabric for the belt that Tony helped cut and tie. As there’s lots of walking and escalators involved with a convention, I skipped the straw sandals and wore my Bleach skate shoes instead. Not highly accurate, but fitting. I need to make Zangetsu, the sword Ichigo uses. A new project!

Part of our (well mine) Sakura-Con tradition is to hit up Pike Place Market for a quick breakfast in cosplay. Dressed as Ichigo, while Tony declined a costume, we made our way into the first Starbucks for coffee and Piroshky Piroshky for flaky, succulent-filled pastries. Most of the locals don’t bat their eyes at us since they see it every year (considering that Emerald City Comic Con was the weekend before), but many out-of-town visitors were perplexed and tried to sneak photos. I love that attention!

I’ve never experienced the craziness involved with Black Friday, that is until we had to line-up for the Sword Art Online II English premiere. Staff had prevented people queuing early for this screening, but that didn’t stop people from loitering in the hall and once the line was ready, staff linked their arms together to force everyone to go through a single opening to keep order. And boy did that fail; a massive crowd of people just pushed and shoved trying to get in. Unbelievable! We made it in but it was insane, all that just to catch two episodes of the new series in English.

I’ll have to say the screening was amazing, as it included a Q&A session with Kirito’s Japanese voice actor Yoshitsugu Matsuoka, series producer Shinichiro Kashiwada, and Kirito’s English voice actor Bryce Papenbrook. Kirito dons a female avatar in the latest anime about the VMMORPG, which forced Bryce to alter his voice for the role. In keeping with the title, yes, swords are used in conjunction with guns. Some of thee fans asking the questions had some fun querying guests over which characters they enjoyed working with and their favourite story arcs of the Sword Art Online series. Afterwards, Aniplex held a draw for those who were lucky enough to get tickets for autographed posters, none of which I won.

The last panel we got into was a bit of an adventure. Efforts and Reactions for Anime & Video Games with Bryce Papenbrook was apparently cancelled on the schedule by panel room, and staff at the Information Booth confirmed this, but people were still lining up for it. We went back just as the staff at the panel room opened the doors and confirmed it was still going to happen. Bryce had us recreate the sounds that would normally be used in a studio for dubbing, focusing on sounds humans would make after running, while eating, or being eaten. It was a lot of fun; especially with the few jokers in the room.

Sunday is always depressing — it’s the last day, not as many people wear costumes and it means we have to return to our regular life. I decided upon wearing Naruto again, since for some reason it’s my more popular outfit. That and I wanted to take advantage of wearing a costume just because.

The day was relatively relaxed, we spent it browsing the exhibitors hall and taking as many pictures of the costumes as possible. There were just so many and I regret not being able to see them all.

With the sun shining, we wandered out into Freeway Park, the green space adjacent to the convention centre and found a group of Haikyuu cosplayers in the midst of a volleyball game. It looked pretty organized and everyone was having fun, which is the most important part. I stopped to capture some of the game with my camera.

I always enjoy Sakura-Con. Sure, there were a few issues because the convention’s size is always growing, but that’s to be expected. The staff work hard to put on a great show and they should always be thanked for their effort so that we can have a fun time. I definitely look forward to returning in 2016.

About Frederick Linsmeyer

A regular pop-drinking, hockey-watching, snow-shovelling Canadian, Frederick, aka Nephrus, loves his anime. Born and raised in Vancouver, British Columbia, Frederick runs amok between his hometown and the states of Illinois and Texas, spending time with friends, at anime conventions and looking for some good burgers or sashimi.

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