Thursday, January 9, 2014

Sac Anime Winter 2014

I'm going to preface this post with a statement that will summarize my feelings about this convention: this was the best Sac Anime I have ever been to.

Normally, the con is decent enough, with a few problems here and there and only so much to do. This year, however, I had one of those conventions where everything goes right, but after needing just enough effort to really make one appreciate it.

I arrived around 10 on Friday, when the convention opened. After picking up my press pass, I took to the halls to catch up with friends and get pictures of cosplayers. I was going as Jean from "Attack on Titan," and had brought with me the Christmas variant from the latest NorCal cosplay gathering (admittedly, the season had passed, but it was still close enough for us to get a little more mileage out of it).

As always, there was a fair amount of cosplayers about the halls, bringing a variety of series and fandoms to the con. Disney in particular had more cosplayers than usual, due in part to the popularity of Frozen and in part to the gathering on Day 2.

Elsa and Ursula
After spending some time catching up with old friends and wandering the halls, I met up with some friends for a quick Attack on Titan photoshoot. Of course, Attack on Titan is still a popular series with several cosplayers, but that made it all the more fun to cosplay. I quite like how the salute used in the series has reached the point where if you see another person cosplaying from it, even without saying anything you just have to salute to indicate "Hey, awesome cosplay, always good to see another fan."

Following dinner, I went to the Swap Meet. I was a little disappointed, as the layout of the room meant that everyone there was in a huge line, trying to circle around the room to look at everything being sold while fighting the crowds to try and look at each seller's wares. There were no manners involved, just pushing and shoving to get through the crowd, and I've even heard some people yanking something out of another person's hands and buying it, while the seller willingly sold it to the person who snatched it away. The sellers needed to be better distributed throughout the room, so that there was space for everyone, rather than a huge line around the edge with plenty of space in the middle.

Still, after the Swap Meet, it was time for hanging out with friends and playing games, so the night came to a good end.

Omegamon from Digimon

I don't think Smaug is here, but that didn't stop these cosplayers
Day 2 I awoke bright and early for what I hoped would be a big day. That was the day of the Avatar Q&A, and I had brought my Shiro Shinobi (the Pro Bending Announcer from Legend of Korra) cosplay for that day. This time, Sac Anime had managed to get Janet Varney, Steve Blum, and Dante Basco to appear as guests, so I was excited to get the chance to meet them.

Of course, I was far from the only one, as there were plenty of people cosplaying from Avatar, as well as Dante Basco fans there as Homestuck characters (apparently Dante Basco is a fan, and has a troll based off of him, that's all I can say on that matter) and even some people cosplaying from "Hook."

Before that, though, I got in one more autograph line to meet with Ashly Burch, voice of Tiny Tina in "Borderlands 2," and Jeremy Shada, voice of Finn in "Adventure Time." I had the misfortune of being in line a little ways ahead of an incredibly obnoxious Homestuck cosplayer, who thought she was in line for Dante Basco, then after being informed she wasn't, started shouting "F*** my life" and "You mean I have to wait in this g*ddamn line again?" loud enough for all to hear. (I later heard her loudly and crudely complaining again about the price of an autograph from certain guests.)

So please, if you're in a line at a convention, remember that you are not the only one. Everyone gets tired of waiting and standing around in the lines, but it's a necessity for the sake of organization and fairness. Making a scene will not help the line move any faster, it just reflects poorly on you and the fandom you're representing.

After getting my autographs, I went off to get in line for the Avatar Q&A panel. At that point, the line had already stretched out the door and started to go around the convention center, though fortunately, the room was large enough to fit everyone. Those with VIP or Press badges were allowed in a little early, so I set up to get some pictures and videos for the blog.

The panel itself was a treat for fans of "Legend of Korra." Having the voices of Korra, Amon, and General Iroh (also Zuko in "Avatar:The Last Airbender") present was an amazing experience, and they answered all the questions the fans brought up. Sometimes the fans had some very peculiar questions, like one who asked Dante to use a Homestuck character's voice to rap about characters from Avatar, but others had very smart questions, and all were answered equally. It was clear that the voice actors not only love what they do on the show, but also getting to meet and interact with the fans at conventions such as this. One person asked if they could speak to a friend who was unable to make it over the phone, and they willingly obliged. Another had a series of bad Amon jokes for Steve to make, and he read a few, as well as fired off a few of his own throughout the day.

Then it was my turn to ask a question. I took the microphone, and in the best impression I could do said, "Hello, folks! This is Shiro Shinobi with Republic City News!" The crowd went wild. I asked my question, using the voice the entire time, inquiring as to how they felt the series would change following the developments in season 2 in regards to technology versus spirituality, and I got a wonderful response, which you can watch below. What really made my day, though, was that they actually liked the impression I did, and complimented me on it. Coming from them, that's the highest praise I can receive.

Following the panel, I decided to put my Press status to use and actually get an interview in. When I signed up to report on the convention, I requested to interview them earlier, but the Press Relations Department was struggling to organize any interviews for us, and I had not heard back from them about whether or not I had anything set up. So it was time to take it into my own hands, and the actors were willing to sit down with the press members for a few interviews before their autograph sessions.

You can see the interview below, starting with in-character questions, and later doing an actual interview. This is perhaps the highlight of any convention experience for me, as I was able to speak with voice actors whom I highly respect and admire, and they were truly a pleasure to speak with. It was only after that I realized the in-character part means I did improv with them all, which I'm still in a bit of shock over.

With the interviews over, I joined friends in the autograph line again, before doing more wandering and resting. We got dinner at a new Japanese restaurant that had opened up, Osaka Sushi. The food was fine, and the prices were reasonable, so we all enjoyed it.

I decided to wrap up the night with some karaoke, as I like to do at Sac Anime. I joined some friends in the room and sang "Slaughter Your World," a parody of Disney's "Part of Your World" from the Looking For Group webcomic. There were plenty of people singing Disney songs that night, not counting the parody (and I did jump in later for the Pokemon theme song, of course).

At night, it was back to the room for Cards Against Humanity and the premier of "Space Dandy." A fine way to wrap up the night indeed.
Kaiju attack on Sac!

The Happy Mask Salesman from "Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask"
Sunday morning was time to pack it up, so I got into my Giovanni cosplay and brought my stuff to the car. I decided to skip the VIP autograph session, since I'd already gotten all the autographs I needed, and instead took my time enjoying the dealer's hall and artist alley.

At noon, it was time for the Pokemon gathering, which long-time readers may recall I used to run at Sac Anime. When the time came, and attendees had gathered, no one knew who the gathering organizer was, so I took over and ran it myself. Attendance was decent, and the gathering went well enough, all things considered.

Then, when I was getting lunch, I got a call from the Press Relations Department. They'd finally set up interviews, and while I had already spoken to the guests I had originally asked to, I was told Jeremy Shada was free to interview, so I quickly grabbed my lunch to go and went to meet him in the Press Room.

After offering him a cookie, I set up my camera as best I could, and the interview began. You can see it below, and I should mention that even though I'd already had an amazing convention experience, getting to sing "I've Got a Lovely Bunch of Coconuts" with him was more than just icing on the cake.


Following the interview, it was time to prepare to leave. So I stopped by the karaoke room to quickly sing "Two Perfect Girls" from Pokemon, then made a last round through the convention center to say goodbye to all my friends.

When I left, I was feeling the joy that can only come from a convention well spent. Things went more than well for me this time around; I avoided drama, met and interviewed some amazing guests, and generally had a good time.

Yes, there are some things that still need to improve in the future. The Swap Meet needed rearranging, and I'd have liked to have heard from the Press Relations sooner, but things still worked out in the end.

This was the type of convention I needed at the time. Now that it's over, I'm eagerly awaiting the next, and I hope I can continue to enjoy future Sac Anime conventions as much as I did this.
Zelda and Hilda from "A Link Between Worlds."
Alien vs Team Rocket. That is definitely not a Pokemon...

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