Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Ray Reports: Sac-Anime Winter 2015

I've gone over Sac-Anime at the Sacramento Convention Center twice before, so I'll stick to what makes this particular iteration stand out, as well as the usual food spot recommendations.

Day 1

To save us the hassle of staying at a hotel that's a 15-minute walk away again, my friend reserved a room at the Sheraton, the "official" hotel of Sac-Anime. We ended up having five-ish roommates with us (one of them only stayed on Saturday night).

Our drive to Sacramento went off without any major hitches, although because my friend hosting lives in San Francisco--where I fully changed into my cosplay of Renko Usami from Touhou Project--I had to skip out on my usual toll-free route (taking 680, 580/205, and the 5), spending a large majority of the drive on Interstate 80, taking us over the Bay Bridge and Carquinez Bridges.

For our food stop, we made an exit in Pinole, scouting out possible places to eat. We decided on the usual California option of In-N-Out until we saw how long the drive-thru line was. Deciding that this would take too long, we instead went over to Mel's Diner, an American diner. Having not eaten yet despite it being around 1:30 PM, I decided on a benedict and some coffee--after all, I was a bit sleep-deprived as well, and would need the energy to continue the drive to Sacramento.

Despite some traffic jams along 80, we arrived around 4 PM, and took the times to get ourselves checked into the room, as well as get my complimentary hotel parking, which was good until 6 PM of our check-out day (in this case, Sunday).

Not a whole lot of note transpired that evening, although I did stop by the TouhouCon booth to say hello. Matt swung by our room to check up on us, and also to inform us of something that seemed to have popped up for this particular iteration of Sac-Anime: Con staff checking badges of people trying to get to the 2nd floor of the convention center.

I wrapped up soon enough, needing to be up a bit early for tomorrow's activties.

Day 2

I woke up shivering. My roommate, who had been sleeping next to me on the bed, told me I had been shaking that morning in my sleep; it didn't help that I was wearing only shorts and a T-shirt, my usual at-home sleep attire. This was surprising, as last night I took off my kneesocks feeling too warm.

Other than that, I threw on my maid costume--my first time doing so at a convention. I really liked it, although Matt had joked a few nights before about me serving breakfast at our breakfast location for this particular morning. He came to join me and one of my roommates as planned, alongside Robbie, and we went to a spot that I'm familiar with from two years ago: Jim-Denny's. (Which has nothing to do with the Denny's chain of 24-hour diners.)

For those who didn't read our Sac-Anime Winter 2013 reports, Jim-Denny's is a popular Sacramento breakfast-and-lunch restaurant, known for, among other things, their "Hubcap" pancakes. The Hubcap, as the name implies, is a pancake size of a tire rim, served on a plate too small to hold it and several sheets to keep it clean. Matt and my friend decided to split one, while I settled on a standard-in-comparison jumbo breakfast. In addition, we got complimentary drinks, as Jim-Denny's was offering such for people with Sac-Anime badges or costumes on.

Our breakfasts were enough to keep us full until dinner, with my roommate saving some of the Hubcap to share with our other roommates.

The walk to and from was cold. Where I'm from, a typical night in the winter is at around 10-12 C, but here in Sacramento? I think it was maybe 3-4 C tops in the morning and at night, and my not-so-covering costume didn't help. Sac-Anime is what I like to call the "con of two extremes": mid-30's C during the summer iterations, and nearly freezing during winter. "Pick your poison," if you will.

It also didn't help that during the convention, Sac-Anime had to share the convention space with the home and garden show, which inconveniently blocked a portion of the con center hallway and forced attendees to walk outside to go between the Starbucks section and the area where one can access the 2nd floor and the dealer's hall. While I admit that it was my fault for not having winter-friendly costumes, and that Sac-Anime isn't quite in a position where they can use the entire convention center, having to walk outside for a few hundred feet was a bit of an inconvenience for me.

Sac-Anime this time around could also be described as "Mimosa-Con" for me; one of my other friends, who was staying in another room, brought bottles of orange juice and champagne to mix into mimosas, helped by the fact that there was a BevMo! down the street. I don't do a lot of drinking at conventions, but these were some good drinks to have, as they helped me loosen up a little (but not to the point where it becomes a problem on any level), and get my fill of vitamin C. I had about two mimosas in the early afternoon and one or two more at night, drinking generous amounts of water to keep myself stable.

Going back to the topic of the 2nd floor: I was able to confirm that yes, Sac-Anime staff was checking for badges for 2nd-floor access. On top of that, posters around the general area read, "Valid Sac-Anime credentials required beyond this point." Some of my acquaintances were complaining that this particuar Sac-Anime was giving them some bad vibes, with the heightened security among other things. Apparently, the increased security dates back to an incident last Sac-Anime, when a number of people, notably Homestuck cosplayers, were causing a mess on the 2nd floor, hence the badge checking. Disappointing, but not surprising; Sac-Anime is known for being a convention geared towards younger crowds, and younger attendees at conventions are known for not understanding proper convention etiquette. In contrast, Yaoi-Con (if its 2009-2011 runs are of indication; I didn't go last year when it returned to the Bay Area) is an 18-and-up con, and because of the adult-only nature of the convention a lot of attendees are typically folks in their 20's and 30's, resulting in a more mature convention experience.

For dinner, Matt took us to a ramen joint about a 5-minute drive away, called Shoki. It seemed like a local hotspot for ramen fans, and on top of that, it provided a large number of customization options for one's bowl. I ended up getting a large curry ramen bowl for about $11. It was a lot of noodles for that price; apparently, this is because Sacramento lies near major agricultural regions, and as a result the ingredients are nice and fresh.

Afterwards we went back to my room where we played Cards Against Humanity and promptly broke the game by accident with a 12-card win.

Day 3

For brunch, I went to a deli / sandwich shop next to the Subway--I forgot the exact name, but my sandwich had turkey and cranberry sauce. I also got a new 1.5L bottle of water and some milk, for safe measure. A bit costly, but the combination of lean meat and bread was enough to keep me going for the day.

I noticed something off about the Starbucks inside the convention center: the tip jars were empty, which, even for someone like me who has never worked in food service, was pretty depressing. I would've expected at least one or two attendees to at the least dump the change they get back as tip, but as of right after I ordered, I was the only one who had put in any amount (specifically, the standard $1 tip I do whenever I go to Starbucks). Ironic, considering that Reimu Hakurei, the character I was cosplaying, is known for being in perpetual poverty.

I was going to get dinner with some of the folks running the Touhoucon booth, but the reservation was for 7:30 PM, and I was not going to make my carpool wait an additional 1 1/2 hours. (As mentioned above, my parking was only good until 6 PM of this day.) Instead we just decided to call our time at the convention done and get dinner along the way, stopping at an In-N-Out in Fairfield before dropping both of my friends off and going home for some long-needed rest.


I've been to Sac-Anime many times in the past, and though the con has its merits, I might start to skip out on future iterations, as I've seen everything this con has to offer at this point; a lot of the guests tend to be recurring ones and many other aspects of the convention don't change for the better that much. The two reasons I come to this convention are to see some friends as well as to check out local Sacramento eateries, but those two reasons are things I could do any time I have a whole day to myself and the gas money to drive to Sacramento and back.

It also doesn't help that the convention is geared towards younger attendees, and like I said, that tends to attract less mature folks, including those who may not understand social cues and proper convention etiquette, which is cited as a reason why Sac-Anime staff was cracking down on people who "ghost" the con (i.e. be at the convention without a badge). People do bad things at cons, and the entire attendee base suffers as a result.

At the end of the day, the entire con comes and goes, I see faces I see regularly as well as faces I don't see often, and then I say goodbye to Sacramento for the next four or eight months.

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