Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Kraken Con Spring 2014: Robbie's Report

This was the second year for Kraken Con, but my first time attending, so not only did I not know what to expect, there was little precedent to go on. I had, however, heard good things about it, so I was optimistic when I went to the convention.

The con was held at the Oakland Convention Center, located on the first floor. Parking was plentiful, although rather expensive if you parked directly at the convention center, and the con was easy to find. Check-in moved quickly, and I soon had my badge. Well, I say “badge,” but it was a wristband, which, as I’ve mentioned before, is very inconvenient for cosplayers, and is less preferable to physical badges, even if they’re harder to lose.

The convention itself was located inside a single room, though it was large enough to accommodate everything. Most of it was the dealer’s hall, which had a decent variety of goods (I personally bought more souvenirs than anticipated), as well as the occasional guest, before it switched over to the artist alley. In the corner was the table where the industry guests had their autograph sessions, and a little ways away from that was a maid cafe. I did not visit the cafe myself, though I could see that it had several small games that patrons could enjoy with the staff, as well as a stage, some snacks, and a five dollar entrance fee.

On the opposite side from the maid cafe was a screening area, where various series, sponsored by organizations like Crunchyroll or FUNimation, were airing for all to see. The series playing did not distract too much from anything else, and may have even proven a nice bonus for those who were stuck behind tables and booths, though perhaps an actual room may have been convenient for viewing’s sake.

The game area was off to the side before the dealer’s hall, where games like “Just Dance” were projected onto a large screen, while other tables were set up for fighting games and other console games. Right before that were the panel rooms, which held a nice variety of panels, covering subject from getting published to living in Japan to getting into shape for cosplay. One thing I do wish they had done, though, was include a listing of the panels on the signs, rather than just saying which rooms they were. Occasionally I wanted to duck into a panel, only to have no idea what it was about until I was already inside, making me do the awkward “slowly leave without being noticed by the panelist.”

I was cosplaying as Chiyo’s father from Azumanga Daioh, figuring it would be an easy one for a one-day event. It got a fair amount of recognition, though I was occasionally mistaken for Lemongrab from Adventure Time. That, I assume, is due to BMO and Lady Rainicorn’s voice actress, Niki Yang, being one of the guests. With the additional presence of Bee and Puppycat creator Natasha Allegri, there were a lot of cosplayers from the two series.

As for cosplay in general, the quality varied all around the con, with many going casual or “first costume,” while others broke out their A-game for the contest. I saw many familiar faces among the winners that day, so congratulations to everyone who won.

For lunch, some friends and I wandered around the area to try and find somewhere to eat. As it was Sunday, a few places were closed, but we stopped by a nearby ramen restaurant that was pretty good. It was only after that we learned the information table had maps of all the nearby places we could have gone, though that will be useful for next time.

I took the time to try out the scavenger hunt, which consisted of following clues to fill in the blanks, as well as collecting stamps from various tables around the con. After solving all the clues, we unscrambled the puzzle to win several pieces of candy, which is as good a scavenger hunt prize as one could hope for. It made for a fun diversion, at the very least.

I mostly spent the convention hanging out with friends and seeing the guests. Patrick Seitz was an easy figure to spot around the con, and he was incredibly nice to those he spoke with. The lines for all the guests got pretty long, but worth the wait. It did get a little irritating when people kept moving through the line to get in and out of the convention, but that’s a small issue. Next time, I expect even more lines, as the announced guest is Eric Stuart, perhaps best known as Brock and James in Pokemon or Seto Kaiba in Yu-Gi-Oh.

All in all, I had an enjoyable time at the convention. Sometimes it felt like I needed more to do, but there were friends to hang out with and great guests to see, and for a second-time convention, it was very well organized. I look forward to seeing how it improves in October, when the con returns for the fall.

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