Thursday, January 10, 2013

Sac Anime Winter 2013: Robbie's Report

At long last, Sac Anime has moved from the Woodlake Hotel to an actual convention center! Those familiar with my horror story of that hotel should know why I'm glad to be rid of it, but that aside, it was an overdue change, given the crowding we had to deal with. So, now we've experienced the first year of Sac Anime in the new location, how does it stack up?

Let's begin from Friday, when I arrived at the convention. After I found parking in the garage, I dropped my stuff off in the room and went off to explore the area. I was cosplaying as Nagi Springfield from Negima, as Mai Aizawa, who voices Natsumi from that series, was one of the guests. (Although upon checking the autograph schedule, I regretted not bringing my Riddler cosplay with me, since the first autograph I'd get was from Kevin Conroy, who voiced Batman in the animated series and video games.)

After checking out the hotel, which had the various small panel rooms and gaming rooms, I went to get my badge. Well, the pickup booth for the press badges wasn't particularly well labeled, especially since there was no one manning it. I stood in front of it for a good five minutes, looking at the tables on either side, which were staffed and not always doing anything, and asking "Can anyone help me?" which no one seemed to hear. Finally, one of them noticed me, and got me the badge.

Once I was checked in, I went to check out the convention center itself, located right across the street from the hotel. The first thing I noticed: it was spacious! I could actually walk from one side of the hall to the other without running into people. What's more, the halls actually had sides I could walk back and forth between!

Of course, then I immediately got in a long line for autographs. When it finally moved, I found the line leading into a large building, where each of the guests had a different table. People would then line up for whichever guest they wanted to see first, before moving on to another or leaving. This meant that it was a slightly longer wait between guests, but a shorter wait overall, and meant no additional waiting for autographs of someone you're not familiar with. All in all, an improvement from the usual setup.

With autographs obtained, I went to the Dealer's Hall. The room for it was plenty large, even large enough to host the Artist Alley as well, which I believe the artists were happy for. I bought myself a new sword, and finally caved and bought a classic Pokemon hat. No regrets.

After some time, I got in the autograph line again for Mai Aizawa and Toshio Furukawa. They were both offering pictures with autographs signed to one's name for ten dollars (otherwise they'd sign one thing you brought for free, but just their names and the con it was signed at), but I opted against it. Still, it's more affordable than autographs at conventions like Comic Con, so it wasn't that bad a deal. I also gave Mai Aizawa a Pactio card of her character from Negima (hopefully she recognized that I was cosplaying from it).

As the first day neared its end, I went to get dinner with friends. There was an affordable sushi place nearby with good food, and they accommodated our group. Following dinner, the rest of the night was spent hanging out, relaxing, and quickly going through the Swap Meet. The Swap Meet didn't have many sellers, and not all of them had the best prices, but I still managed to get some good stuff out of it.

Rise of the Guardians was a popular cosplay choice
War Machine: so awesome I had to turn my camera sideways to get a picture
Wreck-It Ralph was equally well-represented
Saturday morning, the California Conventions Blog crew went to Jim-Denny's for breakfast. I opted against the massive pancakes, but if you're up for a challenge, see if you can eat it all. If not, the french toast is still delicious. The problem, though, was getting there: the weather was freezing, and I was cosplaying as Ryoga Hibiki from Ranma 1/2… a version without sleeves.

Needless to say, every time I went outside I was met with freezing air that made my teeth chatter in an almost comical way. Inside, at least, the rooms were kept warm by the huge amount of people moving through it.

It was around that point that a large empty space in the convention center had been filled by crowds of people either hanging out, playing music, dancing, or otherwise hanging out. That's fine, as long as they watch out for the others around them, so it didn't cause problems.

I met up with other friends cosplaying from Ranma 1/2, and spent time wandering around, getting pictures, and checking out the con until around 1. It was at that point that I split temporarily to change costumes.

I hadn't planned on cosplaying Giovanni, but I had the hat I usually wear and a black jacket, so with a Pokeball prop from the swap meet, I pulled together an impromptu Giovanni cosplay. It's not up to my usual standards, but it worked. The reason for the sudden change was for the Pokemon gathering; I wasn't hosting it this year, but there seemed to be a lot of cosplayers, so I decided to join in. The organizer had never done it before, so I volunteered to assist, and ended up co-hosting with him.

The gathering went well, in spite of the new organizer's concerns. I helped him get through the characters and run the battles, while getting in for a few good pictures as well. Gotta represent Team Rocket, after all.

When that was over, I changed back into Ryoga, where I met up with more Ranma 1/2 cosplaying friends. We got a photoshoot in, then as the night dawned, I split from them to get dinner. Unfortunately, at that point it had started to rain.

Now, those who watch Ranma 1/2 (or my abridged series of it) know that Ryoga is cursed to turn into a pig when doused by cold water. As such, he carries an umbrella at pretty much all times. My prop umbrella, however, was made of paper and painted red. Either way, the rain would get it, so I opened the umbrella and took to the rain, really hoping it would work.

Thankfully, the paint I used was water-resistant, so my umbrella wasn't damaged by it. My jacket, which I wore to keep warm, was in a bit more trouble, but I dried it off quickly enough. Disaster averted, cold aside.

I got dinner at the hotel, inviting any friends I saw passing by to join me. Unfortunately, I couldn't make it to meet up with the rest of the crew for Nate's birthday party, but the burgers at the hotel were quite good nonetheless. So I still had an enjoyable dinner with friends, before returning to the room to rest.

As the night grew late, I joined several friends for karaoke. I ended up singing Weird Al's "Polkamon" (a polka song listing several Pokemon), which went over quite well - I even had some people doing a joke polka dance while I was singing it. Later that night, I joined some friends in singing "A Man's Gotta Do" from "Doctor Horrible's Sing-Along Blog," with myself as Captain Hammer. All in all, a very fun way to end the night.

Star Wars cosplayers show us the power of the dark side
A Pokemon battle at the gathering: Misty and Psyduck vs a Team Rocket grunt and Meowth
Finally, Sunday morning. I dropped my stuff off in my car, and prepared my Team Fortress 2 Sniper cosplay. People who play TF2 are familiar with the popularity of hats in the game, so I took a variety of hats from my various cosplays and stacked them on top of each other, which made for an amusing costume, and a sore neck.

Unfortunately, I found that the guy in charge of peace bonding refused to approve my prop, because it was a Nerf gun, which had "moving parts" even when unloaded. Suffice to say, that was very frustrating. His response? I could break my Nerf gun. Yes, he told me to BREAK it, make it totally unusable ever again, for the sake of getting it peace bonded. It's a Nerf gun. It cannot be mistaken for a real gun. Even if it were loaded, the darts are made of foam, they could not possibly be used to harm anyone. But no, the only way to prove it wasn't harmful was to completely break it.

Yeah, I didn't do that.

At any rate, I got in the VIP autograph line, which returned to the usual "One desk of guests, go through quickly, no pictures, just one autograph" format. Not all the guests were there, sadly, but the autograph schedule was split into the VIP session and two mega signings to accommodate all the guests.

It was in the line that I discovered that something had happened overnight. One of the statues in the courtyard had been wrecked, presumably by con attendees. I can only assume they got drunk and goofed around on the statue, somehow knocking it over and breaking it into pieces.

Do I even need to say how not right this is?

C'mon, people, we are guests at the convention center. This is NOT a good first impression to make! And if a few drunk idiots have ruined things for the rest of us, if we're not allowed to return next year because of this, then you can believe there will be a lot of pissed off con-goers.

UPDATE: Apparently the statue was not destroyed by con attendees, but people who tried to crash the dance. So I'm glad to say the none of the attendees were that stupidly destructive.

Well, I ended up hanging out with friends in TF2 cosplay, before we went to the Valve gathering. The gathering was 90% Team Fortress 2 cosplayers, but we had plenty of fun and got some great pictures. There were a fair amount of Left 4 Dead cosplayers, and some from Portal and Half-Life, so it was certainly fun.

Once that was over, I started to take my final trip around the con to say goodbye to everyone I knew. I left around 3, feeling satisfied and looking forward to the next one.

Peppermint Butler
Zombies at the Valve gathering
So, how does this con compare? I much prefer the new location. My personal issues with the Woodlake aside, it was far more spacious, and gave us a lot more room for moving around. It managed to fit all the attendees, although there was plenty of guest overflow into nearby hotels. Admittedly, the Woodlake has better spots for photoshoots, but I think that's a fair trade-off. On a less fair note, a good friend of mine had his car broken into, so that is a real cause for concern.

The guests were great - Kevin Conroy was a real treat, and the other guests like Grey DeLisle and Mai Aizawa were a thrill to meet as well. Sure, that meant the lines were long, but it was worth it.

There were some problems, such as the swap meet, the badge pickup, and the peace bonding issue. There was also a problem with many staff members failing to understand that Press Passes do not come with wristbands, and thus spent extra time grilling us before letting us into the Dealer's Hall, or even outright denying entry. Hopefully these problems will be addressed later.

I also had some problems of my own, such as forgetting my backpack at home (fortunately, a friend brought it to me the next day) and my wallet going missing (but it was recovered intact). Those problems were solved, though, and I managed to enjoy the con afterwards.

All things considered, the good outweighed the bad, and I had a very fun time. It was definitely an improvement from previous years, particularly location-wise, and there were many more options for places to eat and spots to relax. Imperfect, yes, but a step up nonetheless. I'm glad Sac Anime finally moved to the convention center, I hope to see it continue to improve in coming years.

1 comment:

  1. You know if you are going as Ryoga, then inconvenient rain at the worst moment really should have been expected. It was just the universe playing along.

    Now the susceptibility to the cold...I can help fix that. I found this endurance training regime that might help. It involves a shirt and helmet made of carved ice, a feather duster, two killer whales and a polar bear.

    I translated it from this old Japanese manual, well mostly translated. There are a couple of pages left at the end, but they don't look as if they are important or anything.


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