Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Nate's Report: Sakura-Con 2017

Well it has been a while right? Since Anime Expo last year I believe. Yeah, it has been that long, wow!

It was just a lot of things happening to me after Anime Expo, money got tight, I had to find a job which I was able to and I'm very happy right now with what I'm at. But during that time, I was limited in con visits. After my visit in J-Pop Summit last year, the only con I would attend would be KrakenCon but only for a day. And of course there was SacAnime Winter that I could write about but that will be at a later time. So since SacAnime Winter till now, not much con visits. And knowing that I was financially well, I needed one. I needed to visit a con that was outstanding, a con that I have never visited before to have a new experience besides the California cons we have. So when we got the green light to be press for a convention up in the Northwest, I was ecstatic! And not some local convention in Washington, it's one of the biggest conventions in the nation. I'm talking about Sakura-Con and we have the coverage for you about this well-known convention up in the city of Seattle.

#RoadToSakura/Day 0

Usually the cons we go to is not that far away from home, at most 6 hours to Los Angeles for Anime Expo. But this one is a journey. California and Washington are not that close at all. Thus, our journey begins! It started for me back home because my plan was to drive up with the rest of the CaliConBlog (Matthew and Ryan) to Seattle and then flying back on the last day of con because I had obligations to work the next day. So driving wasn't an option because my car would be stuck in Sacramento for the weekend if I went through that route. Instead, I had to take public transportation and the only way for me to go up to Sacramento is by train. After work, around 5:30 pm, I took the Capital Corridor Amtrak train from my town in Fremont and took a 2 hour, 45 minute ride through the bay and the valley to reach the city of Sacramento where I would meet up with Matthew and continue on from there.

Pit Stop #1: Sacramento, CA
Me and Matthew before the journey continues
Matthew would pick me up from the train station and we would begin the drive up the Highway 5. From Sacramento to Redding, there really isn't much to see especially at night. So while we were driving up, we had tunes to listen to in order for us to keep us entertained on the drive. We had songs from Persona 5, Love Live!, Radwimps, even Drake on a couple of occasions. A couple of times, we would see either a "famous" liquor store, a casino, or an adult shop on the journey and that's just because every advertisement we saw going up would always promote those things. Remind me next time to buy a couple of liquor in "The best liquor store ever" on the border of Oregon and California. Or to just visit Cache Creek Casino to get more money before con. Haha. As we pass Redding, CA, our drive would get more complex. We would now be driving up the mountain ranges where Mt. Shasta is. We would even see snow on the way up. In fact the road conditions got a little slick with us that we had to actually make a pit stop in a city called Weed, CA. Yeah, look it up it's real. We would get a fill up of gas, grab McDonalds, and even had a little fun in the snow before heading back on the road to our next pit stop. 

Where I'm from, this never occurs. I'm pretty happy to see snow again.
Back on the road again and it was actually past midnight before we saw the "Welcome To Oregon" sign. After 6+ hours on the road, we are close to our next pit stop in Medford, Oregon where our other Caliconblog correspondent would live at. But since we are in Oregon, me and Matthew had to put this one up just for kicks since we were fans of this great Disney XD show!

If you are a fan of Gravity Falls, please listen to this!

We would arrive at Medford around 2am where we would meet up with Ryan at his residence. And the first thing me and Matthew wanted to do was eat. We haven't had much food since McDonalds in Weed (yeah, let that get to your head) so Ryan showed us a 24/7 diner called Sherry's. Since it was around 3am that we went out, I decided to grab myself some breakfast with an omelette and coffee. The coffee would be needed since I would be up a little longer playing a couple card games with everyone in Ryan's house. 

The next morning, we would explore more around the city of Medford, including my first encounter with Dutch Bros. coffee. Apparently it's a coffee shop that's around the northwestern area of the states. Washington and Oregon has stores as well as a couple in California (Sacramento and Davis for example). I've never heard of this coffee shop so this was new experience for me. Got my self one of their classics (Chocomo) and I was hooked. It was really good coffee! We then picked up Ryan and his friend, Brandon, on our ride and we would wander around Medford for a bit. Throughout the city, I was just intrigued with shops I never heard before like Fred Meyer and WinCo, two supermarkets that are not in the Bay Area. I also learned that the first In and Out Burger in Oregon would be in the city as well. But we wouldn't eat there for our lunch out, Ryan brought us to this one burger joint called Jasper's. It has been known that this burger joint has been awarded best burgers in town. And when I bit down on one of their burgers, they definitely deserved it. The burger tasted outstanding! We also had fries and I had a coke while the others with me got shakes from the store which I regretted because they all look good. 

Poor little wabbit, Elmer got him good.
One last selfie before we get back on the road.
And after lunch, we're back on the road. Me, Matthew, Ryan, and Brandon have said farewell to the city of Medford and we have no plans of pit-stops (except for some stops for gas, bathroom breaks, and refreshments) until we hit the city of Seattle. Along the way we would be consumed with hours of nothing but lush green nature along the route. It's like we took a scenic route through the northwest and it was something that you wouldn't see in the city. It was mesmerizing and makes me feel more relaxed as we cut through the Oregon mountains, passed by Eugene and Salem where I would learn that people fill up your gas tank for you! It's actually a law fyi, yeah look it up! I was shocked that I had that Persona 4 moment (if you played the game, you would know lol). We would hit Portland where we would be stuck with enormous traffic getting to the state border to Washington. Apparently, they haven't heard of carpool lanes because it took us an hour to get through the city. Then we would get through more forests as we hit the cities of Olympia and Tacoma. And after an 8 hour drive through highway 5, we made it. The city of Seattle! 

Downtown Seattle on Interstate 5
We "accidentally" took the wrong route to our hotel room and we had to cut through Safeco Field and Century Link Field, home of Seattle's local professional sports teams Mariners, Sounders, and the Seahawks. To me, all of them strike a nerve to me. So when I saw these stadiums, I had to say something:

Gotta stay Local. #NinersBaby

After a couple of blocks sightseeing, we would arrive at our hotel: The Renaissance Seattle, where we would be spending 4 days of con here! When we arrived, the hotel was pretty empty. Maybe everyone was around the city or at registration since it was still open when we arrived. So once we settled in, all of us hurried over to the Washington State Convention Center where we would see the convention center all lit up in green. This convention is built differently than others, It's not just one building that the convention center is covering, it's two! One side has everything from the panels, main events, etc. and the other side had registration, artists alley, and Dealer's Hall. Another thing is that Pike St. seperates both buildings. But there is an indoor bridge above Pike St. that attendees use to get into Dealer's hall of Sakura-Con. And it was glowing green which looked pretty cool from the outside. So to say, this convention center is structurally intriguing, but a new look for us since we never been here before. We've pretty much jumped into a new dimension of cons to say. This ain't no California con anymore. Guys, we're in a brand new neighborhood now and we can't wait to finally step foot into this amazing convention. Now the night is young, we would grab our badges before 8pm and then head into the city for some dinner. We would grab one of Seattle's delicacies in Dick's drive in, a Seattle brand In and out Burger to say. The burgers were kind of ok'ish, not like really tasty like the burgers we got from Jasper's back in Medford, OR. But it was something Seattle loved so we wanted to try it out ourselves. Plus they're also really cheap as well. On the way to Dick's, we would pass by the city's well known Space Needle which really is in the heart of Downtown Seattle. Then we would grab some groceries for the hotel room and then we would just kick it for the rest of the night. We have a big day ahead of us as our #RoadToSakura is over. We did make one preview video that you can see below having our predictions about what Sakura-Con will have for us. Day 1 is just hours away....

The con glows an errie green.
The Space Needle on Day Zero of Sakura-Con, we are finally in here!

Day 1

I would wake up with coffee from the hotel room which is really needed since we only had like ~5 hours of sleep. The hotel room kind of knew that Sakura-Con attendees would be coming in because there was a label on the towels saying which ones are for makeup so that was really handy! Well I needed that as I had to get ready for my first cosplay ever at Sakura-Con: I was going to be high school Ken Amada from the Persona 4 Arena Ultimax game.

Cosplaying Ken Amada
And then we head out to the convention! We actually got the hotel that is the farthest from the convention center but it was still not a bad walk as went through Downtown Seattle to get to the con where all the attendees and cosplayers will be at. It was a Friday that Day 1 started and it was pretty low down mainly because half of the attendees were either in school or weren't there yet. So the first thing we went to was Dealer's Hall. It opens up at 10am and we were there just before the room opened up to the Sakura-Con crowd. Matthew would record the countdown and the march into Sakura-Con's Dealer's Hall. 

And as the countdown ends, the Dealer's hall was open and everyone went straight to Good Smile Company. What I would see already was that GSC would have a line that would reach out to half of Dealer's Hall. I decided not to wait in line, but Ryan would be the one to wait in line to get the goodies from GSC, while I decided to roam around the booth as they showcased figures that they were selling and figures that are about to go on sale soon. What stood out to me would be reprints of old figures like the Kill la Kill series. All Ryuko, Mako and Satsuki figures from GSC would be on showcase. Another thing that stood out was figures not from anime, but instead figures reflecting characters from the west like Mei and Tracer from Overwatch, and Belle from Disney's Beauty and the Beast. One other thing that was showcased were puppets. Puppets that were from the hit show, Thunderbolt Fantasy, which a couple of  people from the show are here at Sakura-Con. You may know the well known director, Gen Urobuchi, who has created shows like Madoka Magica and Psycho Pass. He is one of the creators of this show who is in attendance here as well as the director of GSC, Takanori Aki. We would go further on as we affiliate with them later on in this convention, just wait. You guys will be in for a surprise! 

Mei and Tracer Nendoroids in the Good Smile Company booth
Nenoroid Rem or 1/8 scale Rem? The decision is tough!
Kill la Kill figures back on the market!
We would roam around the Dealer's Hall checking out other booths that were there as well. Some notable companies include Crunchyroll, Funimation, Kotobukiya, and Aniplex, All of them would have panels here that would showcase their upcoming works that they will be showing to the public this upcoming months. And then of course you have local stores around Seattle selling at Dealer's hall, even some that are familiar to me! My friend's booth was here in Sakura-Con so I was glad to see him selling here. And then Concord's Toyslogic was over at Sakura-Con as well. They were selling their goodies also to the Sakura-Con attendees. So I'm pretty much already at the Dealer's hall, I might as well go ahead and start shopping. And by the span of 1.5 hours, I would grab pretty much all that stood out to me. One booth for example had their figures 50% off and their figures were legit nendoroids, 1/8 scale, figma figures! It's funny because this is Kinokuniya/Aniplex + that was doing this promotion. So I went out and splurged there! I would end up getting just 2 nendoroid figures but it was worth it because 2 figures for the price of one! There was one particular thing that I wanted to find here in Sakura-Con and it was a plushie, actually two whichever I find first. And luckily one of them was at con in many of the booths in Dealer's Hall. I would grab a Yoshiko plushie from the series, Love Live! Sunshine. The other plushie I was going to find was a Rem plushie from the show, Re:Zero which I was not able to find at all throughout Dealer's Hall. Maybe it was for the better since I'm already burning through my moneys and how to pack it all up on my flight back home. 

And this was just Day One...
At noon, all of us from the blog would meet up for our first interview of the day with voice actor, Johnny Yong Bosch. You may recall from him that he has done a lot of voice acting in anime and video games. Most notably Joseph Joestar from Jojo's Bizarre Adventure, Lelouch Lamparouge from Code Geass, and Yu Narukami from Persona 4. In our interview, all 3 of us would discuss his roles in voice acting as well as the recent news with the breakup of his band, Eyeshine. You can see the whole interview below:

As you can see in the interview, it was only us and Johnny Yong Bosch. When we got the press letter from Sakura-Con, it was supposed to be a whole group conference for an hour where all press outlets that attended Sakura-Con would all ask questions. Because of the low press attendance for JYB (it was just us and another press outlet interviewing Johnny), we were able to have our 15 minutes with Johnny letting us ask the questions we've been eager to ask him and he answered to the best extent. Overall, I was satisfied with how the interview went! The Sakura-Con press team was not strict, no restrictions or anything, we were able to get our press interview straightforward without any hassle!!

Now that we had an hour till the next interview, Me and Matt would head back to the hotel to unload our purchases from the Dealer's hall and then grab a little snack around the con. I would grab a smoothie inside the con in a little shack called Juicy Cafe and grabbed one of their signature smoothies which was needed since I didn't grab lunch. So then we started to head back to the interview room this time with more press members than what we had with JYB. The next interviewee we went to was Vic Mignogna! Vic has been in the anime and video game business as an english voice actor. His most notable roles includes Tamaki Suoh from Ouran High School Host Club, Rin Matsuoka from Free!, and Edward Elric from Fullmetal Alchemist. Now in our Sakura-Con-con appearance, we were able to have a personal interview with Vic himself!

Overall, Vic was a really fun guy to talk to and he seems so friendly to everyone in the press room. We were very glad to have our interview him!

Now next up is the Funimation Panel that was right after Vic's interview and we had to lineup in a line just outside of the panel room that it was hosting in. The line was actually packed but we would skew through the line fairly quickly and got our seats. In this industry panel, we were introduced to the main guys that hosted the panel including Justin Rojas who has been there for years promoting to what they are now. Overall in the panel, they talked about new series that they're simulcasting including animes this season. Some of you may already know them as Attack on Titan and My Hero Academia are into their 2nd seasons this season and Funimation is able to stream to the anime crowd in America. They also talked about new animes they were simulcasting including Akashic Records of a Bastard Magical Instructor, Love Tyrant, and some animes you should be fond of like One Piece and Dragon Ball Super. All shows are on the FunimationNow app which can be downloaded on all devices (iOS, Android, Playstation, Xbox, Roku, Amazon). And then they went to their Video released that came out recently. Some notable titles include Nichijou: My Ordinary Life (Sub only Blu-Ray and DVD, first time they've done this since OniAi), Code Geass Season 1 and R2 (anime from Toonami picked up from Bandai Entertainment), Wolf's Rain (Toonami Anime picked up from Bandai Entertainment), Outlaw Star (Toonami anime), and Code Geass: Akito the Exiled (OVA series from the original Code Geass series). All are now out or about to be released soon but as you can see from the trend here, when Bandai entertainment went bankrupt, all its right to its animes were gone. So Funimation was actually on top of that news and quickly got some of their titles. For example, The Haruhi Suzumiya series is now under Funimation as well as Cowboy Bebop, two popular titles that helped Bandai Entertainment bloom until it's downfall in 2012. Because of this, Funimation is flourishing with not just this, but a lot of partnerships that allow Funimation to now simulcast. Their deal with Crunchyroll was a surprising one. Now that the two have that partnership, each of the streaming websites can share streaming animes together without a hassle between switching between the two sites. Not all of Funimation's shows are on CR yet and vice versa but they are still in the process. As of now, My Hero Academia, Cowboy Bebop, and Sakura Quest for example are all Funimation titles now appearing on CR as well!

Now Justin would introduce Cinematic premieres that Funimation is trying to do. They've done showcases of their animes before in the big screen (Dragon Ball Resurrection F for example) but they have not done it for long. That movie only lasted only two weeks in theaters and had a decent viewership according to Justin. And he continues to explain the ongoing process of having Anime being shown on the big screen that it should be on the big screen, especially with anime becoming a big trend here in the west. He wants this move to happen and it all relies on us, and for me I want the same thing. For one movie from Funimation that is currently out and is already doing great in theaters is Makoto Shinkai's latest work, Your Name. It has been notably been succeeding according to the panelists, they said they love the movie and cried a bit like I did. But with the success in this movie, they hope the success continues on as they introduce more anime movies to the big screen. Their next one is Black Butler: Book of Atlantic which is supposed to debut in the Summer. They hope to see as much success for this movie as it did with Your Name.

Makoto Shinkai's Your Name now out in theatres
Now comes the announcements to be made here in Sakura-Con. Two major ones that were announced was the release of Record of Lodoss War, a classic anime series for anime fans of the late 1980, early 1990's. A true gem for those who have seen it and Funimation will be releasing this July. Lastly one that shocked me because I was a fan of this series and now knowing that it got a blu-ray/DVD release got my attention: It was the KyoAni mystery anime, Hyouka. And just days after this announcement, they have said there will be a dub also! It has been about 3 years since I've seen it and I must say it was truly an great anime to see and now that it's gone west, I'm more hype! This anime will be released by Funimation this July as well.
Hyouka announced from the Funimation panel!
And with that note, the panel was over. Too many things to take note of but Funimation never fails to impress me! They have been through a process for the better to me and with these announcements makes me think this company is going on the right track. All of us would pick up a ribbon (kind of like Anime Los Angeles ribbons that would hang on our badges) as we continued on to the next panel.
Our next panel was the Persona 20th anniversary celebration in Sakura-Con. When we arrived in the panel room, there was a really long line full of fans and cosplayers waiting for the doors to enter and for us to see this panel celebrating 20 years of a great Shin Megami Tensei series from Atlus. When we got in, we thought this was going to be an official panel since the projector showed that this panel was supported by Atlus. But as we continued watching the panel, it was bland. This really felt more of a fan panel than an official panel. We were shown fact about the whole series and were quizzed on things from the Persona games. And we even interviewed with the cosplayers that were cosplaying from P5 and P4. It's like I knew them but at least we were able to get prizes for answering the right question. Everyone would be handed out "Take your Heart" cards to remind them about the gathering that will be held that night. So we took that and we hoped the gathering would be better than this panel.

Well with more than 2 hours to kill till the gathering, we decided to take a little turn towards the harbor which is pretty much close to the west edge of Downtown Seattle. Me and the blog went to a local eatery in Seattle called Iver's and they specialize in Seafood. I would grab their classic cod and fries and would sink into their fresh seafood. It was delicious, then again when you talk about seafood and Seattle, they do it right! The dinner was great overall!

Dinner with a view
After dinner, we would continue walking through the harbor seeing all the sights around, including The ferris wheel and the famous gum wall!

The famous Seattle Great Wheel
The Gum Wall near Pike's Place in Downtown Seattle
We would walk back to Con from Ivar's just in time for the Persona Gathering. Now the gathering would be hosted by the people from the Persona 20th anniversary panel and it started off well to say as all games of Persona all grouped up for their photos, and then it became a mess. The host just put up random pairings, characters, etc. we from the blog we're just confused on how it's going. We even wanted to take over aka. Take their hearts for making a terrible gathering. Overall I was just disappointed with the gathering, but we at least took some pictures. There was just so many cosplayers from the new game, Persona 5, that it seemed people cosplaying from the other games were not that important anymore based of this gathering. I think the host just knows Persona 5 only.

Persona 5 cosplayers
The navigators of the Persona series
Poor Jokers can't handle the little warden...err servant of the Velvet Room
We would return from the gathering back to our hotel room to change out of our cosplay to casual clothing and to spend our first night out in Sakura-Con. After a few drinks from our hotel room, we would head back to the con and the first thing we wanted to check out is the arcade Room. The Arcade area had most games that you'd see from japan that include Initial D, Dance Dance Revolution, Pump it Up, Dance Evolution, and more. There was also a Rock Band setup in the end of the area where people can play a Rock Band song from their song selection. We would end up playing two songs since one person didn't have a band with her and we volunteered to be her "band."And of course, Rock Band is always a lot of fun! We would then check out the games around and what's shocking to hear about is that it's all free! No money to use, as long as your an attendee of Sakura-Con, All the Initial D, beat mania, DDR, etc. that costs about $1 to play are FREE! No con has ever done this!!! So for the night, me and my colleagues played throughout the night in the arcade, I would remember playing Fighting Climax with Ryan, having my own session in DDR, and playing all the anime songs I could in jubeat. We would be in the arcade till 3am (Yes, Sakura-Con is a 24 hour con) and then head back to the hotel room and crash for the night as we get ready for Day 2.

But Day 1 overall was already impressive to me! A lot of great cosplayers, the con community of Seattle has been great to us, our interviews were absolutely amazing, and there's just so many things to see at Sakura-Con that I can't wait to see what Day 2 will store for all of us! 

Donnel and Tharja from Fire Emblem Awakening
Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid cosplayers
Male and female versions of Bill Cypher from Gravity Falls

Day 2

Our plan for day 2 was to check out the Aniplex industry panel that started at noon on this busy day of Sakura-Con and for me to attend my first gathering in Sakura-Con as I was cosplaying from Fire Emblem for the day. But we had a thought.......It's our first time here in a new city. It's a brand new environment, it's not same ol' California anymore. No, we're in Seattle, Washington. New town, new city. And from what we have heard about Seattle, it's definitely a tourist city like San Francisco in California. So instead of these plans we got, we took a little detour to a little spot just right on the edge of the Harbor called, "Pike's Place Market."

Skyview of the harbor were Pike's Place is.
Pike's Place is mostly a marketplace for tourists to see.
What we mostly went here besides sightseeing was the first ever Starbucks! And of course we would take advantage of it by waiting in their long line getting a coffee. I mean it is starbucks but getting from the first ever Starbucks store makes it feel very special.

The line is already stretching out to the end of the block!
A memorable selfie in front of the first Starbucks!

I would grab a grande White mocha for my drink and would grab a keepsake mug from their store which is now my work mug. We would then continue to see what Pike's place market had to offer and there was vendors around selling things and even giving away freebies. I would remember vendors giving me free samples of snacks as we pass by. There was also stores and restaurants that people can visit or grab a good lunch while touring the area. The one I really wanted to see was in the Pike's place fish market where workers of the shack in Pike's Place market were busy tossing fish for the people. For example if you order a fish, they will treat it well by tossing it around gently and cutting it up well. It's also crazy that they are willing to ship out fish to your house but it will cost you a bit of money. I was actually thinking about that idea but we still have a con to visit. 

We would wind up having lunch at the famous Pike's Place chowder which is claimed to be #1's best chowder spot in Seattle. After a couple of minutes waiting in line, we would grab our bread bowl chowders and dug in to really delicious chowder from this place! 

Crab Oyster & Chorizo Chowder Bread Bowl is so gooooood!
I would I would stay longer but we have a con to go to. After a couple of hours here at Pike Place Market, it was a fun time sightseeing a staple of Seattle. But now the fun is over and now it's time for us to head back to con!

We would arrive around 2pm where we had some time to kill before our first interview of the day. So all of us in the blog would spend some more time in the Dealer's Hall this time just roaming around seeing all the good cosplays and displays around this area of con. Funimation would finally have their display set up where they would promote a couple of shows as they were also selling a couple of their DVD sets as they always do at a con. More importantly, they had a display for the anime movie, Your Name. and everyday at con, they had something special for those who had a FunimationNow account. I would arrive to only grab a couple of notepads that featured the main characters of the movie. Not only that but they also gave away more freebies including posters of My Hero Academia, Dimension W & Attack on Titan Jr. High. So you can pretty much see that we're now just grabbing the freebies that company panels were handing out. I would grab a "Free!" bag from the Crunchyroll booth for being a Crunchyroll Premium member, a free Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild pin because of posting a picture for Good Smile Company, Yen Press was there giving away freebies, where I would grab a Re:Zero poster that featured the best waifu Rem (and Ram). And Aniplex would also give away posters and postcards of shows they were promoting including Sword Art Online: Ordinal Scale & Fate:Grand Order. And even bought more things, sorry the Crunchyroll was so tempting! Bought myself a new Re:Zero shirt and a Yuri on Ice t-shirt as well from that booth. Bye money. 

All the freebies I was able to grab at Sakura-Con. Props to Funimation, Crunchyroll, Yen Press, and Aniplex
Our first interview of the day was upon us as we interviewed another popular voice actor in the business, Matthew Mercer. You may have heard of him in many anime series like Kanji Tatsumi from Persona 4 and Levi from Attack on Titan. And you may have heard him also voice in video games like Chrom and Ryoma from Fire Emblem Heroes and most famously from the popular game, Overwatch, Jesse McCree. We've had a lot to talk about with him and his most recent roles, it was a fun time interviewing him and it looked like he really liked interviewing with us as well!

The team would split as Me and Ryan would stay over for another 30 minutes outside the interview room as our next interview was coming up soon. Matthew would leave us as he gets ready for the Miliyah concert. Our next interview was with us and Christine Cabanos. We talked to her from her first role as Asusa Nakano from K-ON!! and Madoka Kaname from Madoka Magica, to her most recent role in Sailor Moon as Sailor Saturn. You can be able to see our interview with her below:

Our next interview would be in a couple of hours so me and Ryan decided to go back to our hotel room and would relax a bit and grab a little bit of snacks since we plan to have a big dinner later on in the day but at the same time check out the amazing cosplays around the convention while walking back as well!
Love Live! cosplayers
Kanna and Tohru from Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid
Todoroki and Ochako from My Hero Academia
Our next interviewee is someone really new to the business as she started only two years ago as an silly little shota boy with a magical flute. And no, it's not that Disney movie! She would voice Aladdin from Magi and also have done some notable anime roles including Ryuko Matoi from Kill la Kill, Tsuruko Tsurumi from Anohana, and Nico Yazawa from Love Live! (who is best girl btw!). Our interview was very straight through and thorough as we would get our interview questions answered as well as see who her best Love Live! girl is! (Spoiler: It's not Nico...)

Me and Ryan would meet up with Matthew after our interview with Erica Mendez and would head back to our hotel where us and a couple other friends of ours would go up to North Seattle for dinner. Now this location that Ryan was raving about was famous from the show, Diners, Drive in, and Dives and its famous for it's chili. The eatery is called Mike's Chili Parlor and everything from their appetizers to their entrees was mostly full of chili. I would grab a Stella beer to enjoy the occasion while ordering a Chili steak. While Matt and Ryan got a chili burger and chili fries, each. The waiter even warned them that the chili fries plate is a big one and that they should share one instead of each of them having a plate. Bring foodies themselves, they didn't. And they ended up with a big load of fries and chili on top of their burger. So you can call it chili-palooza here because we just ended up eating great chili for the night. The steak tasted great with chili and I can see why Guy Fieri decided to make a stop here. While for Matt and Ryan, they had to take home their fries to go.
That's a whole lot of chili fries!!!
I can't even find a steak in this chili!!!
Thank you Guy Fieri for showing us this delicious place!
We would be back around 11 where me, Ryan, and Brandon would kick back at Sakura-Con for the night mostly playing Weiss Schwarz games with each other for my keychains that I was giving away to winners of the game. At around 3am, we would head back to our hotel to get ready for the Final day of Sakura-Con. This day turned out to be the busiest as always, but this time around we got a lot of things productive in the con including many interviews we've done today as well as Matthew viewing the Miliyah concert, which you can see in his report. And of course with us being new to the city, we would have our share of sightseeing and tasting the local delicacies of Seattle. Overall, a really awesome day. It's so sad that we're about to end coverage (well for me since I leave on day 3), but I just don't want it to end...

BiBi sub-group from Love Live!
Magi cosplayers
Persona 5 cosplayers, looks like they're about to steal something...

Day 3

Alas the final day is here. Earlier in the morning hours, I would pack up all my stuff and my luggage wouldn't even close sometimes due to all the stuff I got from the con. It would take me hours to rearrange things for me to be ready for my flight home. Eventually I would have a bag with me that if it would open would just bust out everything out of the bag. The "Free!" bag would help me carry most of the stuff and my P5 bag being a carry on for my phone, charger, and other necessities. 

Our checkout time was at noon so we didn't need to move out everything yet and we didn't do so because we had an interview at 10am and wouldn't you know it, this interview would be groundbreaking. We were going to interview Director Gen Urobuchi, Digitarou, Koh Kitaoka, Takanori Aki, Yi-Tsun Hsiao, Liang-Husn Huang, and Chen-Ching Ting, the minds behind the hit show, Thunderbolt Fantasy. You might know Gen as the director behind great animes like Madoka Magica, Fate/Zero, and Psycho-Pass. Unfortunately, we could only ask them questions about Thunderbolt Fantasy but we were able to get a great interview from them!

And then something extraordinary happened. When we were leaving the interview, one of their representatives talked to us and wanted us to do a live recording of the PILI Budaixi panel later on in the day. The thing is my flight. Although the panel is at 3pm, my flight doesn't leave until 6pm so it actually not going to be conflicting. So we agreed to do that and actually do a live-stream of this panel. The results of this will be shown later. 

Now back to the hotel room where Ryan and Brandon would wake up and we would start cleaning up and packing everything we could until the room is free of our stuff. The other 3 will be moving into their friend's hotel as they plan to stay longer. It's unfortunate I had to leave on this day because we could have stayed in the hotel longer. But priorities are more important and with me working the next day, I have to fly out today. Thus, ends our stay in the Renaissance hotel of Seattle. We thanked them wholeheartedly for the great stay and hope to stay here again next time we are in Seattle. 

I would hang out with Matthew for most of the day as we would move our luggage to Matt's car. We would hit up the closest Starbucks at con and per Matt's recommendation, I would get their new Nitro Cold Brew. As a fan of cold brew coffee, this was very new to me and I greatly enjoyed it from the first sip. Definitely needed since I only had 4 hours of sleep to start the day. Our route would take us through Pike's street where walking up the street would take us straight to Sakura-Con. 

The Starbucks close to Sakura-Con recognizes the con!
The banners leading us to Sakura-Con!
With time to kill before the Budaixi panel, I talked to Matthew and Ryan about a project that I wanted to do. It's called the convention perspectives, where I would talk to attendees to say their part of how their convention experience was for this Sakura-Con. We would end up getting a couple of groups of people to say their part in how Sakura-Con was and we've ended up getting mixed reviews from the people we talked to. 

Before we headed to the panel, we would visit Ryan in his Gunpla building contest to hear that he would be ranked 2nd overall in the competition!!! And note, he just started in competing with building gunpla so this feat is really great for him! Congrats to Ryan, he'll explain more about this in his report.

And then we would have one last look around the Dealer's hall before the doors close and I would do a live video around the hall for about 30 minutes having everyone who didn't attend see how great the dealer's hall is and hope they come by next year!

Panoramic view of the Funimation booth
I would meet up with Matthew 30 minutes before the Budaixi panel where he would already started setting up his video camera for the panel. For me, I was the one responsible for the live-streaming. We would meet up with the person who wanted us to do the video recording and live-streaming for this panel and we would provide her our link to where she would find the video. What we didn't know is that she would use the live-stream for everyone to see in China and Taiwan, the main source of where Thunderbolt Fantasy was made. Because during the stream, we would see our viewership go up by plenty. The comments would come from other countries. She pretty much gave our site the spotlight for this panel. And I was the one responsible for this live-stream, I can't mess this up! You can see the whole live-stream plus how the viewership came to be below: 

The panel was informative and pretty fun to watch, we were shown how the puppeteers do the work of how the show is mostly about. Because it's different from what we see here, it's not animation for this show, it's all puppets! And no lie, the use of puppets for TV shows hasn't been used in quite a while, maybe like in the 50's before any of us were born. The idea from Gen Urobuchi was to bring this type of style back on to the TV world and it has been a hit in Taiwan and other Asian markets. For Thunderbolt Fantasy to come here to the west would be a big heap for the show, and so far it has its fans. This panel in Sakura-Con was almost completely filled and they were really happy with what they have been informed on how Budaixi works to make a great show like this.   

It was already 3pm when the panel ended, hence my departure from Sakura-Con. Matthew and me would take the last walk back to our hotel and it was pretty sad. This con was memorable, I can't say enough that it was such a fun weekend with these guys! I really wanted to stay longer if only priorities weren't a factor, I wanted to explore more around the city of Seattle (avoiding the stadiums), and a whole lot more. But that will come at another time, hopefully next year. Ryan would call us on our ride to the SEA-TAC airport telling us to listen to one song by the Dropkick Murphys, "Until the Next Time." No lie, both Matt and me shed a tear hearing it. When will be the next time? Hopefully sooner than next Sakura-Con. It only took 15 minutes for us to get to the SEA-TAC airport. I arrived with all my luggage, said my final farewell to Matthew, checked into my flight, and took the long journey back home to San Jose, CA. The rest of the con would stay a couple more days up in Seattle and Medford but they'll place up their reports for #PostSakura when you read their reports. Thus, ends my coverage of Sakura-Con. A new con we have ventured into and no lie, I'm so glad we were able to go here!! 

Until the next time, boys!
Thanks Matthew for the rides, the fun times, pretty much everything on this trip!
I wasn't the only one flying back. My good buddy Charles came along too!


How it began for my Sakura-Con visit was a plan with a couple of friends that were NOT from the California Conventions Blog. Although it started in January, the plan looked to be legit happening but I was 50% sure it may go through. But a couple of months later, my friend would plan not to go anymore and since she's not going, her hotel plans would be cancelled. I told her I could take over for the plan, which I did and we were at least assured a hotel room. But there was other questions that came to mind: How to get there? Should I buy a Badge? Who will be rooming with me? Because the expenses would be very high in my case if I just go it alone. Then, Matthew and Ryan would tell me they are still down for the plan to go to Sakura-Con and I brought them over to be my roommates. And then a couple of weeks before Sakura-Con even started, we got the approval for Press. So I have to say with a sort of luck, a plan was set in place. And we went through it and overall, the CaliConBlog ran through this con like it's business. 

What I'm so impressed in how in ease we were when it comes to interviews with the guests of honor. Sakura-Con would email us about requests for interviews which they greatly allowed us. And through each interview, we were able to have our own private interview with each guest in ease. No setbacks, no cancellations, nothing that would stop our plan. We just got in the interview room and done our interview just like that. I have to really thank this group of people who ran Sakura-Con's press team because they know what to do. This isn't like Fanime or AX where we aren't assured about interviews, Sakura-Con's system was really just do your interview and then go, enjoy the con. No lie, every interview we took I was happy about. We were able to get these interviews that we've been longing for that other cons won't let us do. And we really thank this Staff of Sakura-Con for doing this. Even if it was our first time going to this con, it already has left me an impression that this staff knows what they're doing and have been accommodating everyone with having a fun time at a big convention like Sakura-Con. 

I have to say even if it was my first time going to Sakura-Con, the feeling of going to your first anime convention just hits me when I entered Sakura-Con. I mean I was impressed with everything that was going on in the convention. All of the panels we went to left us with good impressions (except for the Persona 20th anniversary celebration, we've pretty much already talked about that).  The dealer's hall was laid out like a smaller version of Anime Expo's exhibit hall. All the main companies from anime (Crunchyroll, Funimation, Good Smile, etc.) were there to sell stuff and showcase items from their lineup and it was great to see that. Best thing of all with Sakura-Cons exhibit hall is that it wasn't packed or suffocating like what Anime Expo's exhibit hall is recently. It was a sense of Fanime's dealer's hall but less roomy. Nonetheless, the way I would put Sakura-Con's dealer's hall is that it was very comfortable being in there. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to see the Artist Alley since it was in the other building of the overall convention center. 

All the gatherings would be outside of Sakura-Con in the park area of the convention center. This actually is not a bad idea since the convention was full of attendees walking around and having a gathering in the space that has a lot of people around sounds like a bad idea. Another thing that gets me is that there are restaurants and food shops in the convention center that will help accommodate attendees with food while roaming around the convention, along with the whole city of Downtown Seattle if they want to explore more food locations. 

But the most surprising thing that I would catch from this convention, or actually this whole city overall, is that Seattle knows Sakura-Con. What I mean by that is that the people really respect everyone coming to this big convention. It's like Sakura-Con is a staple to this city. For example on our time off visiting Pike's place, people would know we were cosplaying for Sakura-Con and when we go to each vendor, they ask nicely "How is the convention?". We even met up with an employee in the First Starbucks who was an anime fan herself and all of us were talking to her about animes and video games while waiting for our coffees. So to sum things up, Seattle knows Sakura-Con and they really respect everyone cosplaying around this time. I just don't see that much respect around other conventions that we have visited, at least not like this. It showed me a lot about Seattle that this town is really nice to everyone, especially tourists, especially the anime convention goers, just everyone. It makes me want to go back again just to see how much more I need to know about Seattle. 

Overall, it was a new experience. Going into a new territory not in California and going to one of the biggest conventions in the nation. It comes to show you gain your honor as being one of the best conventions and yes, this one definitely takes the cake. On it's 20th anniversary, I think it's done it's job in showing how awesome Sakura-Con is. Sure it's just our first year going, but there's just so much to do in Seattle. The con has so much to offer, I really want to come back and see all of the con since I missed Artist's Alley and a lot of other things. And of course the city has so much to see, especially all the tourist sites to check out. We've already took half a day off at Pike's Place Market and I hope to see more of what the town has, maybe go up the Space Needle next time around. And maybe next time we'll see a Seattle Mariners game.........no let's not. At least it ain't football season. 

Thus ends my coverage here in Sakura-Con. Long report as always, I'm just glad you were able to read through it all! Heed my word that if you haven't been to Sakura-Con, go. It's definitely worth the trip! Next up for me is Fanimecon, the main con of the Bay Area and I will be in attendance again! Can't wait for another great year at this con which starts in 2 weeks?? Oh no, time to work on my cosplays!!

But anyways thanks again to the Caliconblog staff, Sakura-Con, and the city of Seattle for the great hospitality and showing us a great time in our first time in the city. We hope to come back again next year! Until then, See you at FanimeCon 2017!!!! 

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