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Animefringe Coverage:
Sakura Con 2002
By Jack Blazkiewicz

By far, I have to say that this years Sakura Con was the best yet! We finally got a big hotel to accommodate the huge increase of attendance we had this year. I believe the unofficial total was that of around 2,300! Up over 800 from the previous year; Itís amazing to think when we first started we had a measly 400 attendees.

This year, to help keep the pre-reg line down to a minimum, we allowed those con goers to come by and pick they con badges up early on Thursday night. This help immensely for Friday morning, where the line had cleared up completely in just over an hour and a half! Even those who werenít fortunate to pre-register had it easy, that line actually cleared up before the pre-reg line did. Of course, they had to pay the full $50, where those who pre-reged got in for $45 or less. My guess is that nobody had to wait in line for more than 15-20 minutes.

The opening ceremonies were apparently well received. Since I had the Sakura Con Merchandising Booth to run, I unfortunately missed it. The highlights, from what I hear, were an anniversary video that was shown that highlighted the past cons, and Animator Hiroki Hayashiís apology letter for not being able to attend as planned due to scheduling conflicts with many projects currently going.

The other guests included Hiroshi Nagahara, director for Revolutionary Girl Utena; Norio Shioyama, character designer for a lot of old 80ís anime including Ronin Warriors; Johnny Yong Bosch, dub voice for Vash the Stampede from Trigun; and Pamela Lauer and Jessica Cavello, dub voices for the Dirty Pair, Kei and Yuri. Doug Smith was also there, representing Studio Iron Cat, but best known for bringing Golden Boyís Kintaro Oe to life in the English dub.

I ended up spending most of my time running my Merchandising booth, but I was luckily enough to have several lackeys under me to help me out. And being that my booth was in front of the Dealers room, it was tough not walking in there every half-hour to drool over the many goodies that all the merchants had. Notable merchants were Anime Jungle, Copic Markers *drools*, and Kinokuniya and Hash, makers of Animation Master (3D program used to create the Mahou Yuugi Anime).

As usual, I spent over my budget in that room. Two hundred dollars went towards purchasing Animation Master. Soon Iíll have my own anime. *evil laughter* I also bought some posters, a Motoko action figure from Love Hina, and a sketch book specifically designed for the Copic Markers. Now all I need is a good set of those Copic markers, but I sadly didnít have any more money leftÖ next year!

As for my booth, we did quite well. We ended up selling out of our 5th anniversary con shirts; It was designed by our Guest Doug Smith. Our other con shirt had the new Armitage: Dual Matrix on it. Had we actually shown it, that shirt would also have sold out, but even so, it did quite well. Our mugs and pins went like hotcakes, and sold out fast.

I was fortunate enough to attend the cosplay this year. Last year I didnít, since I was part of the show, and after our skit, we shuffled offstage and ended up missing the rest of the show. Many improvements were made this year. Firstly, the room was HUGE. It could accommodate over a thousand people, I think. The lighting and sound were superb. Competent people handled the two spotlights. They actually had lights on the Cosplayers on stage! Itís actually more amazing than it sounds, compared to the previous year. The actual Cosplayers werenít too shabby, either. The first was the Escaflowne dragon. This thing was gigantic, I think it had three people walking underneath the body. And the wingspan on it were a good 15 feet or better. My only gripe is that there werenít more Cosplayers on stage. We had many dressed up and roaming the con, they all should have gone onstage.

I was only able to attend two panels this year: The Kendo Demonstration and the Character Design panel. Both were excellent. The Kendo demonstrators were from a local Kendo club. They had the shinai, the bamboo stick that makes lots of noise. It was great seeing them all decked out in the kendo armor, going at each other stomping and yelling. They even had two eight year old kids showing their stuff. It was quite kawaii.

The Character Design panel by Norio Shioyama was quite interesting. The coolest thing was the demonstration of the evolution of anime character designs. In the beginning, designs were kept simple for budget and other reasons. Then as time went on, the artists matured, and new techniques entered which made more complex character designs a reality, even with tight budgets. Shioyama was kind enough to draw out all these various styles of character designs.

The video rooms showed various new anime, most of which I sadly missed. However, I was luckily enough to attend the 2D version of Mahou Yuugi. Albeit it was raw Japanese, it was still fun to sit and watch each five-minute episode. I canít wait for the 3D version to make it over here. The thing that I did miss, that Iím still kicking myself for, was the Excel Saga dub. I was extremely interested in seeing how they handled the eccentricities of Excel... I guess Iíll just have to wait until ADV releases it this June.

One of the best features we had this year was Dance Dance Revolution (DDR) and Para Para Paradise (PPP) for free! Illusionz was kind enough to bring over DDR Solo 2k, DDR 4th Solo, and PPP version 1.1. I didnít spend much time DDRing, but I did spend a lot of time showing off my Para Para moves. Boy did my arms get a work out!

As for the other gaming rooms, the console gaming had at least one of every system, even as far back as the regular Nintendo! The computer gaming room was crowded, to say the least. Because of the many computers they had, they ended up popping the circuit a few too many times. I was in there for about 15 minutes playing some Jedi Knight 2 until my computer went dead. I looked around and noticed that all the computers were dead, so I took that as my que to leave. I heard that by Saturday evening they had gotten that problem fixed.

Sadly, I even missed out on the closing ceremonies. The Taiko drummers performed, and it would have been cool to see that. Maybe next year, Iíll close my booth early enough to attend.

With all that said, I'm sure I've forgotten to mention several things. It all went by so quickly. Nevertheless, I have to say that this year's Sakura Con was definitely the best. Many things were improved over the past years and being in a larger hotel help significantly. I look forward to next year's convention. Hope to see you all there! I'll be running the convention merchandising booth yet again, so stop by and say Hi... and by a t-shirt!

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