Sakuracon 2011 April 25, 2011Posted by aggrogahu| in Conventions.
Despite being my second time attending, Sakuracon 2011 was an entirely different beast from 2010; this I attribute to how my otaku level has sky-rocketed since last year (can’t say I’m proud, but that’s how it is). I’ve become a fan of Touhou Project, amassed a sizeable figure collection, and started watching 15-20 anime series at any given time for Power Rank, just to cover the main changes. Ultimately, I went into this past weekend with a different state-of-mind, which led to the experience detailed in the following wall of text.
For the sake of organization, I’m putting the events and panel reports up first (not necessarily in chronological order) and then the more personal stories later.
K-On! Mini Concert
Cristina Vee, Stephanie Sheh, and Cassandra Lee Morris (the English voices of Mio, Yui, and Ritsu) put on a mini concert where they got on stage and pretended to play instruments as they sang to the off-vocal versions of songs from K-On! As unexciting as that sounds, it was actually quite enjoyable. I’m usually really critical of Cristina’s singing, but her performance was quite good, and I’m surprised that Stephanie could sing too, yet alone in the absurdly high squeaky Yui vocal range. I love the K-On! songs either way so I could get into the music and try singing along to whatever lyrics I remember from making the Rock Band customs. I give a lot of credit to the girls because even if they weren’t really playing the instruments, they had a lot of energy.
Following the concert was the premiere of episodes 1 and 2 of the English dub. Verdict: pretty bad. This might be my bias as a long-time fan of the original voices, but everyone’s voice in the dub came off as high-pitched and annoying; it was hard for me to determine which girl was talking. It didn’t help that I was in the front row with the audio of the show blasting at me from the giant stage speakers. On another note, it was oddly nostalgic watching the first two episodes. Ultimately I support anime licensing inAmerica. The DVD/Blu-ray release includes both Japanese/English dialogue and comes out today so get yours.
VOFAN and Jo Chen artist panels
These two are popular visual artists originally from Taiwan. VOFAN is popular for being the illustrator for the Bakemonogatari light novel series and Jo Chen for being the artist for the Buffy the Vampire Slayer covers as well as being a respected figure in the BL community. They made the above poster exclusively for Sakuracon 2011 which also served as a fundraiser for Japan earthquake/tsunami relief. VOFAN drew the girl because he likes drawing girls in seifuku and Jo Chen drew the guy ‘cause she likes BL; funny how that works out.
I also attended VOFAN’s separate panel strictly about his work with Bakemonogatari. He gave a lot of insight into the character designs and how each little detail reflected a personality trait, from the obvious aspects like Mayoi’s giant backpack representing the shell of a snail and the twin-tails with the ribbon representing the eyes, to the subtle aspects like the bear hand coming out of her backpack representing mystery, and the sharp lines of Senjougahara’s character design representing her stern and strong personality. This panel also made me want to read the light novels. VOFAN said during the Q&A session that Karen was his favorite girl of the series. From what I’ve seen in the anime, Ararararagi-kun’s sisters roles are to wake him up in the morning, so I want to read their arc as well as the others that weren’t adapted into the anime to see why the original character designer is such a fan of her.
exist†trace and Berryz Koubou Concerts
I wasn’t much of a fan of exist†trace’s music when I was looking them up before Sakuracon, but a lot of the impact came from the live-concert experience. exist†trace is a female visual kei metal band, so their outfits, style, and stage presence made for a nice concert, at least when it actually got started, an hour later than the scheduled time. This untimeliness was funny in a sadistic way, because an announcer would get on the mike every 5 minutes to remind us that flash photography wasn’t allowed. Of course people in the audience expected him to say the concert would begin each time and get increasingly frustrated. On top of that, staff was testing the stage effects, consequently suffocating the crowd with fog and giving us seizures with the flare and strobe lights. Besides being an otaku, I’m also somewhat of an experienced concertgoer, so I didn’t mind the abuse for the sake of attending a concert.
I wasn’t much of a fan of Berryz Koubou’s music either, which was surprising to me considering the amount of J-pop I listen to that is in some way related to anime. Again, it was the live experience that made the concert super fun. Dedicated fans came all the way from Japan to watch their concert, and they were the super fans that knew all the choreographed glow-stick waving motions for each song. Japanese fans are pros at audience participation. On the topic of fans, it was kinda creepy that, as I looked towards the Berryz Koubou girls dancing on stage, most of the heads obstructing my view were of balding men.
The pics I took of other people’s cosplays are all uploaded on my figure.fm post here and/or on Facebook. This part is in regards to my cosplay over the weekend.
Looking back, my schedule of cosplays worked out quite well. Day 1 was me as Naoi from Angel Beats! (above along with a T.K. I ran into). Since it was Day 1 I was mostly easing into the cosplay madness.
For the record, here‘s a reference picture. It is actually part of the anime that the guy is in a magical girl outfit.
Day 2 was Ayumu from Kore wa Zombie desu ka? This easily being the most out-going stunt I’ve ever done in my life. This started out as a joke where my con-buddies and I were saying I should dress in a loli outfit since I didn’t have a 3rd cosplay planned. I thought about Ayumu because Kore wa Zombie desu ka was a recent anime that I became a fan of, so I linked a reference picture into the group chat. My local friend, who is now an uber cosplay maker, took it upon herself to make the actual Ayumu cosplay less than 4 days left before con. Inspired by this, I put tons of effort into making the chainsaw prop to compliment her costume. Other than the chainsaw, shoes, and gloves, all
blame credit goes to her. That aside, this cosplay was one of the highlights of Sakuracon 2011 because people were asking to take my picture for a change. The nature of the cosplay also led to funny and awkward moments. Some dude approached me from behind with an “Excuse me, miss…” In my mind, I’m thinking “Mwuahaha, still want to take my picture?!?!?!”
Day 3 was Ichinomiya Kou (Riku) from Arakawa Under The Bridge. It was a lucky moment when I ran into this Nino, because we were both lone cosplayers missing the other half. Needless to say Riku is a very simply cosplay so it definitely lacks impact if you don’t have at least another Arakawa cosplay with you. It’s a functional cosplay that I could wear to Easter mass in the morning and return to the con afterwards with. This also allowed me to get all my loot from the Dealer’s Hall without having to carry around a chainsaw. Speaking of…
…I bought this little cutie. Going into Sakuracon, I wouldn’t have thought that I’d come back with a Mikuru Gekisou figure. It was technically an impulse buy, but I’ll tell you the whole story. At the Dealer’s Hall I found one new for $70 (cheaper than the original $95 retail), but she wasn’t exactly a figure on my wish-list. Sunday comes along and I realize that the K-On! cast is having their autographing session. I see that the line isn’t too long so I decide to line-up and get a free autographed poster. Dude behind me in line is holding a Mio figure that he was going to get signed by Cristina so I get the same idea. I quickly went to buy Mikuru, went back in line (which was now dwindling) and hurriedly opened the packaging. When I got around to asking Stephanie to sign the Mikuru figure, she seemed excited to know that someone knew she was Mikuru’s english voice. All-in-all, this purchase was a win because it was cheaper than retail, autographed for increased value, and the process in turn let me show my appreciation for a guest of honor’s work in the industry.
There are many untold stories left to tell, but I’ll end the report here. Sakuracon 2011 was lovely: new people and new experiences, but it’s time to come back to reality.