Fans of Japanese culture converged on Seattle’s Washington State Convention and Trade Center over the Easter weekend for Sakura-Con 2010 to celebrate all things related to anime, manga and gaming. Sakura-Con has been a mainstay in the Pacific Northwest for the past thirteen years, drawing in attendees from not only Washington, but Oregon, Idaho, California, Montana, British Columbia and Alberta.
The convention this year was well organized and had a variety of events, panels, exhibitors, artists and video rooms. Con-goers were treated to concerts and even an exclusive premiere of the latest Trigun movie, Badlands Rumble, which is scheduled for in Japan later this month. There was also the long line of respectable guests, including voice actors, artists, musicians and industry personnel.
One feature that I thought was pretty neat, was providing special wristbands to attendees who had booked rooms at con-approved hotels. These wristbands granted priority seating for concerts and additional privileges.
The trip into Seattle wasn’t eventful, thankfully. Our group arrived shortly after 8:30 pm on Thursday evening, giving us a half hour to park at the hotel and bolt for the convention centre to claim our pre-registration badges. Fortunately, we got in just as last few people were being admitted, so we were pretty lucky. We returned to the hotel to check in and unpack our costumes and prepare for Friday morning.
I returned to the convention on Friday morning ahead of the rest of my friends who had elected to stay back and add some finishing touches to their outfits.
Unfortunately, one member of our group wasn’t able to pre-register online, and had to stand in line to get their badge. This turned out to be a five hour wait for him (which for a convention of Sakura-Con’s size, we hoped to have been much less).
While he stood in line, I wandered around for a bit, snapping photographs, having my picture taken, and running into other people that I’ve met at previous conventions (or work). There were lots of amazing costumes and it was great to see every one dressed up as their favourite characters. My friends arrived later; two of them dressed as Fire Nation Soldiers and as Toph, from Nickelodeon’s Avatar: The Last Airbender.
After a brief photo-shoot outside (in between the rain and light snow), we made our way indoors to one of the panels featuring a number of voice actors: Todd Haberkorn, Richard Epcar, Brina Palencia, Luci Christian, Kent Williams, Chris Patton and Wendy Powell. The group fielded all sorts of questions regarding the voice acting industry in North America, and even provided valuable tips and suggestions for those looking to get their foot in the door.
I checked out the exhibition hall later on, where there were rows upon rows of purveyors of anything and everything related to anime. Lots of booths with vendors hawking figures straight from Japan along with DVDs, books, doujinshi, manga, pillows, shirts, energy drinks, Pocky, katanas, kimonos and much, much more.
After dinner and some rest, I returned to the convention centre to partake in some of the late night panels, particularly “Chris Patton Shares Too Much” at the suggestion of another friend. The name is pretty accurate, as voice actor Chris Patton, does indeed share too much, and it’s quite entertaining. However, like most late night panels, it is restricted to adults, and we were asked to produce identification upon entering.
My friends wandered off after Chris’ panel and checked out the Anime Swimsuit Contest and the Adult Anime Dating Game, but weren’t too impressed with the organization of both events.
Saturday was a good day, minus the schizophrenic weather. As per our tradition of visiting Sakura-Con, it’s not quite complete with a brief stop at the amazing Pike Street Market in costume (and venturing into the ever-so busy first Starbucks store).
Upon returning to the hotel to drop off my purchases, I encountered a full gathering of the Power Rangers, complete with Rita Repulsa and Lord Zedd in the lobby. Pretty freakin’ epic, I must say.
I knew there was a Naruto photo-shoot on Saturday at 2:30 pm (thanks to a fellow attendee staying in the same hotel), but wasn’t sure where it was being held (I’ve been to maybe one Naruto photo-shoot in all of the conventions I’ve attended – such luck). Since the weather had been fair for a few hours, everyone had massed outside in Freeway Park above the I-5 freeway where I caught the last remnants of the Naruto shoot as they were departing. I seem to run into almost every other photo-shoot except the ones I want to participate in, but maybe next time.
I made my way back in and rejoined my friends (who, ironically were amassing for an Avatar photo-shoot) after grabbing some shots from the Gurren Lagann and Bleach gatherings.
Later in the evening, a few of us made our way into the main stage for the concert featuring Dazzle Vision and HIGH and MIGHTY COLOR.
Dazzle Vision is an indie Japanese band, which is much harder than most J-rock bands, utilizing alternating vocals and heavier guitar playing. Dazzle Vision involves Maiko as the vocalist, Yu on guitars, Haru on drums and Takuro on bass.
J-rock band, HIGH and MIGHTY COLOR, is noted for their dual vocalists, Halca and Yuusuke, and their heavy sound. In addition to Halca and Yuusuke, Kazuto is on lead guitar, with Meg on the rhythm guitar, Mackaz on bass and Sassy on drums. HIGH and MIGHTY COLOR finished off their performance with the third opening to Bleach, Ichirin no Hana.
The concert was pretty intense, complete with crowd surfing and a mini mosh pit. I hadn’t seen anything like this since Black Label Society was at the Commodore Ballroom five years ago. It was a great experience to see these two bands from Japan live on stage.
Sunday was much quieter as con-goers packed up and prepared to head back home. All that was left was the Exhibitors, autograph sessions and a concert by Hsu-nami. Unfortunately, we didn’t stay too long on the last day since our group had to return to our individual homes before early evening.
Overall, Sakura-Con 2010 was pretty amazing and well done. Aside from a few missteps in the planning of some events, it was a great convention. I look forward to returning in 2011, when the convention is scheduled for the weekend of April 22nd – 24th.
Photographs from Sakura-Con 2010 are available on Gallery.