Monday, December 31, 2012

Ray Writes: 2012 - The Year in Cons

 (Photo credit: Morgan F.)

With just a little over 8 hours before the end of the calendar year, I thought I'd take the time to reflect upon my convention experiences here in Northern California.

Sac-Anime Winter in January was my first time attending a convention as a member of CCB, and my second time ever attending Sac. Despite a few personal troubles here and there, it was a worthwhile convention for me; were it not for this convention I probably wouldn't have been introduced to one of my favorite shmups, Escahtos, which was playing in the gaming room.

Animation on Display in February came about a month later. Location-wise, it's perhaps one of my favorites, being positioned in the Japantown shopping center, bringing effective convention space up by about four- or fivefold. Mostly I just spent time with friends, taking advantage of the availability of some good Japanese restaurants. This was also my first time being in charge of a hotel room, and while some unexpected developments happened (namely having to take in an entire room's worth of guests due to reservation problems), that part went off smoothly and without any issues with the hotel staff.

I don't believe I ever mentioned the Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival in my posts here, but I may as well give it a quick mention. While the festival spans four days over two weekends in April, I only went on the last day, mainly for the parade, which includes a block of cosplayers. The CBF is generally the busiest time of year for Japantown, with waits at restaurants easily lasting 40-60 minutes.

Of course, everyone knows about Fanime, or as I like to call it, my kind of post-academic year party. Major highlights include entering a Touhou Sky Arena tournament, meeting Japanese voice actor Mai Aizawa (and even making it onto her Twitter) and cosplaying as Touhou's central protagonist, Reimu Hakurei, my first "serious" crossplay. As for how this came to happen, it's a long story (to make a long story short, my name is involved), and to this day, it's a cosplay I hold in very high value. Even just looking at the interactions I have with my friends who are also into Touhou outside the context of cosplay, I can safely say that this cosplay, and the fact that I cosplay Reimu, has brought me some very interesting new friends and experiences. Other than that, this convention went by fairly well, maybe not as good as in past years (2008 and 2010 come to mind for me) thanks in no small part to issues like blackouts and construction, but still better than the year before.

Coming into August, a heavy month of conventions and con-like events, we have Kin-Yoobi Con which, ironically enough, does not take place on a Friday despite bearing the Japanese word for "Friday" in its name. Whereas past runs of KYC have taken place at Chabot College, this year marked KYC's move to a new venue, the Hilton Newark/Fremont Hotel. I like the new location as it has lodging space and it looks much nicer than Chabot's cafeteria, though admittedly I miss the more physically-open nature of the cafeteria, where 70% of the con is contained into one large indoor space. Like other small cons, KYC is mostly a "hang out with friends" con; it's mostly fun if you have friends to hang out with there. Again, I put a room under my name, and through this experience I started to realize that I enjoy being the room host, as not only does this grant me better control over what's allowed and what's not inside the room (crazy room parties being one of the latter), but I've found that the friends I choose to room with end up being the most pleasant folks. In general there just seemed to be a strong sense of camaraderie amongst congoers here, from everyone knowing each other to hanging out with friends who happened to be working at the maid cafe.

As the academic year begins again, we have J-Pop Summit Festival, which is not really a festival about Japanese pop music so much as it is about general Japanese pop culture. This was also the first cosplay-related event that the newly-opened Playland Japan arcade would see; it's nice to see large numbers of attendees going to this new arcade to play music games and Bishi Bashi, especially since I am a big fan of arcades and music games. Also, seeing one of my DJ'ing friends put on a show was brilliant, as it gave me a chance to hang out with some friends who I normally would not see at these sorts of festivals.

Sac-Anime would have its last summer iteration--and last Sac-Anime period--at the Woodlake, on the border of August and September. Although my hotel stay went without any major problems, I still felt paranoid of any random post-stay charges, and I can see why people are glad Sac-Anime is getting a new venue. Most of my time was spent playing music games and shmups, window-shopping at the DoujinPress booth, and catching up with cosplay friends (though to a lesser extent than prior conventions). It is also here that I caught wind of a Pac-Man Championship Edition DX tournament, which, to my pleasant surprise, I would come to take first place in--my first time winning some sort of video game competition.

October marks the end of the Bay Area convention year.  Anime Destiny ran its course, and there I bonded with some friends who were into the Shin Megami Tensei series; always good to connect with fandoms. Japan Center Anime Fair took place the week after in Japantown; while certainly not on the scale of other festivals in that area, it's still a fair opportunity to go to the arcade and get a taste of the restaurants there. Sadly, I could not make Yaoi-Con that same month due to its distance and the fact that it's in the middle of the semester.

With 2012 coming to a close (and end-of-the-world jokes aside), it's time to look at what 2013 will have to offer. Some new additions and deviations from the usual convention and festival cycle include:
  • Sac-Anime Winter - Now all grown-up and at the Sacramento Convention Center, I hope to see the new venue be put to its best use. Unfortunately, that may be a problem, as Sac-Anime is occupying the venue at the same time as the California State Home & Garden Show.
  • Japan Expo - Japan Expo is one of the largest events dedicated to Japanese pop culture in Europe, with an attendance of 208,000 this past year. I was not going to care too much about the US version of this until I discovered that it will be taking place at the Santa Clara Convention Center, which puts me at just a little over four miles from the festival and will also bring back memories for those who attended Fanime durig its SCCC days. I very much look forward to seeing how JE will turn out here, though it should be noted that this is going to be in a month already stuffed with conventions and festsivals (Kin-Yoobi Con, J-Pop Summit, and Sac-Anime).
As for my plans this coming year:

Unfortunately, it looks like I will have to cut a day out of attending Fanime as I am slated to graduate this spring and the graduation ceremony is on a Saturday. This for me is a little tough to swallow, as Saturday is usually when a lot of events take place, and Sunday is, to be frank, a lonely day for those who don't participate in the masquerade or the Black and White Ball. However, it is best that I don't dwell too much upon this. Why?

In July, I will finally be attending Anime Expo! I've been saving up for the past several months, and have just recently met what I feel to be my minimum funds to attend the convention in full. From what I understand, AX deviates from the usual convention standards, being an industry-based convention, and I've heard good things about the Dealer's Hall for Touhou fans. Furthermore a couple of my long-distance friends express interest in going, so I definitely have my sights set for this convention.

As for my August conventions, I may have to cut out Sac-Anime or Kin-Yoobi Con if it means having more budget for Japan Expo. Especially since by then I'll start working and I don't want to ask for too many days off.

What do I plan to do in terms of cosplay? I hope to finally begin learning how to sew my own cosplays. I have both practical and personal reasons for doing so: saving money, developing useful skills, and the sense of accomplishment that comes with crafting my own cosplays. I also plan to add at least three new characters to my cosplay roster: Lemeza from La-Mulana, the protagonist of Devil Survivor, and of course I'm going to continue cultivating my crossplay endeavors either with Homura from Madoka Magica or some sort of maid outfit.

To my colleagues: I hope you've enjoyed my first year here on CCB staff. To our readers: I hope you've enjoyed reading my convention writings, as well as those of other staff here. As one of CCB's Convention Specialists, I wish you all a spectacular new year. =)

This is Ray, signing off.

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