Monday, September 5, 2011

Sac Anime Summer 2011: Robbie's Report

Sac Anime happened to fall on one of the hottest days of summer, but no amount of heat can stop cosplayers when they've got something they want to wear. Throughout the weekend, I saw full-body costumes, long sleeves, even fursuits, all worn in the blazing sunlight in the name of cosplay. Of course, it's no secret that we cosplayers can be a crazy bunch, so let's begin with the recap and review.

I arrived Friday morning, dressed as Nale from the webcomic "Order of the Stick." Since I didn't have anyone to cosplay his twin, Elan (Nale is the evil twin, naturally), I switched back and forth randomly throughout the day.

My first concern was getting the Press Pass. We had applied for one by the deadline, but did not receive any e-mail confirmations. Fortunately, they had our passes ready and waiting for us upon arrival, but getting a confirmation letter would have been appreciated.

I spent the first half of Friday wandering about and checking out the exhibit hall. The layout was the same as in previous years, so it felt as though nothing had changed between the conventions. In fact, even the guests were almost all the same as in previous years. So while I did like the guests that they had, I felt no great urge to stand in the autograph lines again.

At four o'clock, I participated in the panel for Samurai Senshi. It's a web series made by a friend of mine, and I provide the voice of Ichiro, the monk. The panel was spent describing the series, showing character and concept art, and answering questions from the audience. Our time slot was up against the voice actor panel, so the audience wasn't too large, but it was still decent, and they were pretty receptive. If you would like to check out the series, you can Like it on Facebook at:

One attraction at Sac Anime I particularly liked was the Cafe Hoshi. When I visited, it was karaoke time, but later visits had it as a maid cafe. There was also a Matsuri Festival set up in the courtyard, where people could buy tickets to play games such as sumo wrestling in fat-suits. I have to give credit to the convention for that, it was a good idea, and the people who entered seemed to enjoy it.

Following that was a group dinner, which doesn't really need much describing. When I got back, I changed my costume to Elwood Blues from the movie "Blues Brothers," with a friend of mine as Jake. Rather than hit the rave, we spent our time wandering about and checking out the swap meet.

Speaking of, the hallway the swap meet was held at was way too crowded. There'll be more on the crowding later, but there needs to be more room for people to move about there.

As for the rave, I was shocked to hear that they were charging ten dollars to enter the rave, but I was later informed that it was for people without badges, which makes sense, seeing as the rave is a big draw for Sac Anime. However, it would be a simple matter for someone to borrow their friend's pass and enter the rave without paying, just as they would to sneak in if they didn't have a pass in the first place.

Saturday was by far the most crowded day. The halls were filled with attendees, making it difficult to move or pose for pictures. You'll notice that talking about crowds will be a recurring theme in this review. There was also the usual problem faced by Sac Anime: noisy fans with no sense of personal space. A friend of mine decided to beat the heat by cosplaying as Leeloo from "The Fifth Element," and was glomped without warning or permission twice. Meanwhile, some people were walking around with clown horns, which they would honk at random. It's one thing to get excited and have a good time, but another to forget about manners while doing so. This is a problem the convention has always had, and has made several of my friends decide that they will not return in coming years.

Later in the day, I hosted the meetup for the Bay Area Conventions group, an affiliate of California Conventions Blog. It's an information hub for conventions and gatherings that hosts monthly meetups, as well as small gatherings at conventions. Due to the fact that there's no one series for the gathering, it was hard to find everyone who was there for it, but once we got started, the attendees had a good time. After taking photos, we participated in a few improv games. Right afterwards, in an amusing coincidence, the "Whose Line Is It Anime" panel took place. They're a very funny group of performers, but sometimes the material is hit and miss. Such is the nature of improv.

As it was so hot out, my friends and I (some of whom were only there for the day) decided to use the convention pool. Spending time with friends around the pool and swimming about was perhaps the highlight of the day, although even then, it was slightly dampened by the guests cursing while there were little children nearby. Seriously, guys, watch yourselves.

I also took the time to visit the Q&A panel for Johnny Yong Bosch and his band, Eyeshine. He would occasionally answer questions in song, which was clever and entertaining, and he's always been quite good at keeping the crowd interested.

At night was the masquerade. I didn't compete, but I did watch several of the performances, and would like to offer my congratulations to the winners. Several prize winners were friends of mine this time, so it was great to see them rewarded for their hard work.

Following that, my friends and I decided to get dinner. We tried to order pizza, only to learn that the Domino's we ordered from last year had closed, and the next closest one didn't deliver to the convention center. Instead, we had to pick up some from the nearby Extreme Pizza, and we placed a very special order: covered in pepperoni on one side, cheese on the other, with a line of olives between the divide and forming a small circle in the middle. Yes, we ordered our pizza to look like a Pokeball. And it was awesome.

After changing into my Bill Nye the Science Guy cosplay, I spent the rest of the night hanging out with friends in and around the courtyard. It was quite busy even then, with people playing red rover and other playground games, chatting with friends, or heading to rooms for con parties. When it was getting late, I turned in for the night.

When Sunday rolled around, I prepared for the Pokemon cosplay gathering. I'd hosted it in previous years, and was looking forward to giving my Snivy gijinka its convention debut. After rounding up my friends and finding as many cosplayers as possible, we went to the pagoda for the gathering. I'm happy to say it was a huge success, as we had a variety of great cosplayers and fun Pokemon battles. Sadly, a few people could not make it due to time conflicts or confusion (and I really hope this isn't a repeat of last Winter, where someone tried to set up another Pokemon gathering while I was already organizing it), but everyone who was there had a good time.

Immediately after, I changed into my Baka Test uniform for a group photo shoot. Before that, I had to go through an incredibly long checkout line, but that happens at every convention at checkout time. The group shoot was incredibly fun, but once that was over, there wasn't much left to do. The guest Q&A panel was going on, followed by the closing ceremonies, but it was nothing I hadn't already seen. So it was time to leave, and I bid farewell to Sac Anime.

There are a few things worthy of note for this convention. There were some vendors in the video game room who sold hard-to-find used games for cheap, and getting a copy of Pokemon FireRed for ten dollars less than GameStop charges was a treat. Cafe Hoshi was nice as well, and the Matsuri was a blast. However, there are some issues worth mentioning.

As I've said before, the convention had too many attendees for the size of the hotel. The halls were crowded, and I saw many props and accessories destroyed by people running into them in the halls. It's time to move to somewhere larger, Sac Anime. We all know it's time.

There were several unruly and loud attendees who needed to tone it down a bit, as already mentioned, and I had some problems with the staff as well. One of them shouted, "Hey, you!" at me while I was walking by, in order to get me to peace bond a prop I had sticking out of the bag it was packed in, when "Excuse me" would have worked. I also had several friends complain about one large female member of Security who was incredibly rude and disrespectful. Another member of security told us we were going to have our badges confiscated for setting our bags down where they weren't allowed, but told us he was joking and then just asked us to move them; he wasn't being rude, just trying to have a good time.

Still, there was some good to come from this con. I saw some great cosplayers, spent time with good friends, and generally enjoyed myself. This convention has always been more about the friends I know there than anything else, with the guests as icing on the cake. (Although it's time to start varying up the guests a bit more, since I've seen most of those that were there already.) So while several friends have decided they will not be returning to Sac Anime, I'm going to stick around a bit longer and see how it develops.

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