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Con Report: Sakura-Con 2012 April 15th, 2012 @ 6:47 pm

There were a ton of anime conventions over Easter weekend, including Anime Boston, Anime Matsuri, MTAC, and — the one I attended — Sakura-Con here in Seattle, in the same venue as ECCC just last week. And man, Sakura-Con is an aptly named convention. It was a gorgeous weekend, even if we didn’t spend that much time outside. The weather was perfect and everything has been blooming for a few weeks now~.

These aren't actually sakura, but it's close enough!

I, once again (!), did not have an Artist Alley table, but Kiiyame (White Oblivion) did, and she was staying with me for the duration of the con, plus an extra day before and after. As her official table lackey, I would still have a Exhibitor/Artist Alley badge, so hurray for not having to stand in the pre-registration badge pick-up line, which reportedly took three hours to get through on Friday. I also did have space in the Art Show, and it was my first art show, so I was pretty curious as to how that would go. Many exciting* things in this 8,628 word report!

*Excitement not guaranteed.

Jump to: Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Final thoughts.

THURSDAY

Kiiyame arrived Wednesday night, but a day of traveling and two-hour jetlag (much more potent than 14-hour jetlag, in my opinion) meant we didn’t do much besides toss her four giant suitcases of stuff in the living room and sleep. Artist Alley check-in for Thursday was from noon to 6pm; Art Show check-in was from 4pm to 7pm. We figured we may as well head over around four then, so we could take care of our things at the same time. This gave us all morning and early afternoon to do whatever, but it wasn’t hard to decide. Weeaboo friend from the middle of no where Texas who’s never been to Seattle? Only one place to go: Kinokuniya.

We walked to Chinatown, taking pictures of flowering trees all the way. We found a One Piece car chillin’ outside a restaurant. Funny how the con doesn’t start until Friday, but Thursday is still a game day for a rousing round of “Spot the Con-Goers.” How many can you find?? Even some thirty blocks south of the convention center, without their badges? Easy peasy.

One Piece car chillin' in Chinatown.

There were several groups of obvious con-goers at the bookstore, including a bunch of high school girls clustered around the artbooks and yaoi and another girl with a very thick European accent who asked us for directions via bus to the convention center. So I guess we were pretty obvious too, what with Kiiyame digging through the anime magazine racks and squeeing over everything Tiger and Bunny-related. ;) We spent quite a bit of time at Kinokuniya while she marveled over just about everything and looked for a specific Pixiv magazine and struggled continuously over the pronunciation of the store’s name. The latter bit I found hilarious because it wasn’t like she has a problem with Japanese names; it was just names in general. Apparently. (It isn’t “canoe-canoe-yah,” omg.)

We had a late lunch at a Chinese restaurant a few blocks away with decent food and terrible service, then checked out a small anime goods store that was also nearby. We went in expecting a lot of hilarious bootlegs, but the store actually carried mostly legitimate merchandise at pretty standard prices? Good to know for the off-season, I suppose! We bused back to the apartment around three, grabbed the suitcase with Kiiyame’s table set-up, along with my boxes of matted Art Show pieces and prints, then bused up to the convention center: the first of several adventures involving giant suitcases on public transit. Playing “Spot the Con-Goers” got easier block by block until we couldn’t keep count anymore. Into the swarming nest we go!

Welcome to Sakura-Con!

It was weird being back at the same convention center, just a week later, and seeing the whole place decorated for a different show. There were hundreds of people milling around already, but things were a little confusing because normal registration and pre-registration were in different areas, neither of which were anywhere near DR/AA check-in. Thankfully, there were a ton of building staff (as opposed to con staff) posted at hallway junctions and all around the escalators giving very informed directions. It was pretty impressive, honestly. It seemed clear that the organizational caliber of Sakura-Con was higher than most anime shows — in addition to the very helpful convention center staff, there were signs and banners everywhere, all fancy and nicely printed. Sakura-Con is a show with a budget, man.

We made it to Artist Alley check-in without a hitch, forked over some ID, then grabbed our badges. Pet peeve: we, once again, did not receive a program with our badges. The AA check-in staff seemed surprised that we even asked. What?! Artists want a program with the schedule and the going-ons of the convention?! MADNESS. What could they possibly need a program for?! They’re chained to the table all weekend anyway, right?? :| No, but seriously, guys, come on. I just want a program like everyone else, especially since Sakura-Con gives out a ton of sponsor goodies with its program, including a lanyard, various coupons, stickers, and postcards.

The Exhibits Hall (encompassing both Dealer’s Room and Artist Alley) was in the same space as it was at ECCC, though the Dealers’ areas and the Artists’ areas were swapped and there was an awkward little Small Press area dividing them. After verifying Kiiyame’s table location in the Alley, I left her to set up while I went to find the Art Show…

My Art Show panel

The Art Show was in a rather lonely corner down on the second floor, pretty far from the rest of the action. It was my first time at Sakura, so I have no idea how things were set up previously, but the location definitely worried me, even if there were signs pointing to it. There were escalators leading right up to it, too, but they were a side pair of escalators, not the main set that everyone was using to get to the Exhibits Hall. The charity auction items (to benefit the Make-A-Wish Foundation) shared space with the Art Show, which was surely meant to drive more traffic to the area, but I didn’t know much about the popularity of charity auctions, so I wasn’t too reassured by this.

Jeff, the Art Show Coordinator, was a really nice guy though. There were only a few other artists setting up, along with the Bonsai Association (or something), and he and the other Art Show staff were good about helping out, providing supplies, and answering questions. The Art Show is split into two parts — panels with artwork for bidding, and tables for artwork for direct sale. I had one panel, which had all original pieces in real media, and one table, which had a bunch of prints. Setting up the panel was easy, but I still had to label every… single… print… for the table. Which was a lot. I was erring on the side of  “too many” for sure.

I ended up hanging out at Art Show set up for a lot longer than I planned, but it was just as well. I chatted a little with Cari (Blix-it), who was setting up her own three panels, along with a panel for Amanda (Cinnamoron) and Jessica (Radiuszero), who were doing Anime Matsuri instead. I also chatted at length with the folks setting up at the table two down from mine, who ended up helping me cut and label my billion prints. ;__; They weren’t also doing Artist Alley and were registered as normal attendees, so one of them offered to give me his con program and goodies since he’d be sharing with his friend anyway. Thank youuuuu. ♥

As a side note, it seems that these geek conventions are highly appreciated by the convention center staff — the lady skirting all the tables at the Art Show said again and again that she wished Sakura-Con happened every month instead of every year. Sakura-Con has been at the Washington State Convention Center since 2006, and ECCC has been there since 2008, and I don’t think either will need to move any time soon. :o There’s plenty of space for both to grow.

My Art Show table full of prints.

Originally, Kiiyame and I had planned to walk over to the Blick Art Store in Captiol Hill after we were done setting up, but I took so long labeling things that the store closed before I finished, haha. So instead, we went back to the Exhibits Hall to roam the aisles and check out the artists and dealers that were already set up. No one was ready enough to actually handle transactions, and we felt bad bothering them while they were still getting settled anyway, but Kiiyame made a mental shopping list, and that shopping list was pretty impressive. I love having friends that spend more than me! It means I’ll feel less guilty about any purchases I make! 8D Enablers, woo!

I feel so privileged whenever my AA badge gives me early access to DR, lol.

We lingered until they shut down around eight. It wasn’t that late, but apparently there are no restaurants open downtown on a weeknight after sundown. Except Subway. So we grab some sandwiches to go, wait forever for a bus, then go home. Anticipation for the next day is high!

FRIDAY

The Exhibits Hall was open to Exhibitors at 8am and open to the public at 10am. The Art Show opened for set-up at 10am and opened to the public at noon. We were up and ready to go by a quarter to seven, but we just barely missed the bus we were planning to take. ._. We were just on the other side of the street when the bus rolled by, but we didn’t feel like chasing after it… especially since we were at the bottom of a hill with a 45 degree slope, and chasing the bus meant dragging two very heavy suitcases up said hill. NOPE. Too early in the morning for that. So we just waited another twenty minutes or so for the next bus. Good thing we were early anyway.

Bringing luggage onto the bus, while physically annoying and difficult, wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it’d be. The drivers didn’t care at all, at least, and other passengers tended to be understanding about us encroaching on their space. There was actually a nice lady that recognized us as con-goers and chatted with us a bit on the bus. We got dropped off just a few blocks from the convention center, so it was very convenient. Also convenient: a Kinko’s in the lobby of the convention center, an Office Depot and a couple of banks down the street, and several Starbuckses within a three block radius.

Kiiyame and I passed no less than eight badge-checkers on our way into the Exhibits Hall. A mix of convention and building staff, there were two at the junction between the main elevators and the sky bridge and six more scattered between the sky bridge and we got to the main doors. There weren’t even that many attendees milling around yet, but they were vigilant anyway! :o

Another regular of the Texas con circuit, John Yume, was up here for the weekend, along with some of her friends from Portland, and they were tabling right next to us. I left everyone to set up while I attended to my first table lackey duty: COFFEE RUN. Though honestly, the coffee run was probably more for me than anyone else, haha. I ran into Cari on the way out, so I took down a coffee order for her too! Caffeine. It is good.

Look at how roomy Artist Alley is. :o

But I actually stopped at the Office Depot first to pick up some paper and index cards, since I was planning to take sketch commissions at Kiiyame’s table all weekend. The place was deserted, but that just meant that the staff were ultra-attentive, and I got what I needed pretty fast. Meanwhile, the line at the Starbucks ran out the door (though there were more businessfolk than con-goers), but the baristas were also cheerful and efficient, so even though I had a list of orders, it didn’t take that long.

Kiiyame was pretty much done prepping the table when I got back, and we still had about half an hour to the grand opening, so we made another round through the dealers since a lot more people were set up now. There were actually quite a few artists in the DR area too, including Cari and Savannah (Amya Chronicles). There were also a ton of people I’d seen at ECCC, like Enfu and Dancing Heron, and some folks I hadn’t seen in a while, like Pawstar!

The Dealer’s Room at Sakura-Con is the largest I’ve seen. I never got to see the A-kon DR because I was so busy that con, but since Sakura is at a convention center instead of a hotel, it’s probably safe to say that it’s much bigger. There were hundreds of vendors there, peddling everything from standard anime goods (figures, plush, wallscrolls) to boxes of doujinshi to steampunk jewelry to non-steampunk jewelry to new and used games and books. Even Uwaijimaya, the area Japanese grocery store, was there, along with Half-Priced Books and Copic, not to mention all the big industry folk, like Bandai, Yen Press, NIS America, and Nico Nico Douga. That all of us were together in the same room made me feel vaguely special, haha.

Still, this meant that we all had the same hours. Friday and Saturday, the Exhibits Hall hours were 10am to 6pm. Sunday, they were 10am to 4pm. Eight hour days at max? Those hours are far too reasonable for Artist Alley!

Kiiyame's table, Friday morning.

The Exhibits Hall actually opened a few minutes later than scheduled, but while the queue outside looked formidable, it was underwhelming when they were actually let in — even with hundreds of booths and tables, there was plenty of room in the hall, so the crowds felt tame and casual for the most part. Shortly after opening, I left Kiiyame at the table and went off to the Art Show again.

But not before snapping this picture of Kyoko and witch!Sayaka (Madoka Magica).

The new custom stamps I’d ordered came in Thursday, so I decided to stamp the backs of all of my prints with my new site URL and such. Because labeling all of them the night before hadn’t been tedious enough, amirite? But I was in no rush to do anything or go anywhere anyway.

Going over the con schedule, there really weren’t many panels I was interested in… it seemed like there were a lot of panels dedicated to introducing people to things, which I didn’t see a point in attending if I was already familiar with the subject, and there weren’t many subjects I didn’t at least know the basics of. There were a lot of voice actor panels, too, which generally don’t interest me, especially now that I don’t watch nearly as many dubs as I used to. (Actually, there was a livedubbing panel with Todd Haberkorn and Steve Blum I intended to go to, but in the end I forgot about it and missed it. <_< I am bad at this being an attendee thing.)

So I took my time and ended up helping Cari and the Art Show staff label and inventory all of her stuff. It was nice helping out!

There were a TON of Avatar cosplayers at Sakura-Con. I imagine Korra has something to do with it.

When I got back to the Artist Alley, I took over manning the table so Kiiyame could get started on her massive shopping list before the popular items sold out. At first it was kind of weird selling at a table without any of my own stuff on it, but it once I got back into the groove of things and familiarized myself with Kiiyame’s merch and where she kept everything behind the table, it really wasn’t that different. It was still fun talking to people, and it was still fun making sales. And after a while, I hung up my own commission examples and proceeded to confuse everyone. :D

It was a pretty slow Friday though. The roominess of the Exhibits Hall wasn’t a bad thing, but it definitely contributed to a subdued and underwhelming feeling. Sakura-Con’s official 2011 attendance was about 600 over A-kon’s (and just 100 under Anime Boston’s), so naturally I’m going to draw a lot of comparisons, along with ECCC, which took place at the same venue. There are a lot of different factors to consider — Sakura-Con’s venue is much, much bigger than A-kon’s, and despite having a lower attendance by at least 10,000, Sakura-Con occupied more physical space at the Washington State Convention Center than ECCC — but still.

Aside from a few popular areas, like the sky bridge where a lot of professional photographers were congregated, the hallway traffic was pretty manageable, in my opinion. There was plenty of room for attendees to sit along the walls and in the handful of chairs and tables available, and there were tons of staff members around to direct people to where they wanted to be and to move people aside if they did stop traffic with cosplay photos. And the hallways were actually more crowded than the Exhibits Hall! Weird!

One of the main escalators: busy, but not ridiculous.

It was nice not to have to fight through teeming masses traveling between the Art Show and the Exhibits Hall, but there is definitely some benefit to having a crowded Exhibits Hall. Crowds mean movement is more restricted, which means people are forced to stop at tables they might otherwise have overlooked — the people in front of them are preventing them from moving forward, so they may as well look at the table next to them. There were a hundred tables in the Artist Alley; it’s very easy to overlook things, even if you’re looking for them specifically. Mild crowding is a great equalizer; large open spaces allow people beeline from one particularly shiny table to the next, skipping all the tables in between. Everyone strives to be that extra shiny table, but there’s only so much you can do.

Derpy and Rarity -- there were SO MANY PONIES! *_*

Spike!

Seriously. It was a brony infestation. ♥

So yeah, Friday was a bit slow. The poor guy manning his (probably) girlfriend’s table across the aisle from us looked bored out of his mind the whole time. Kiiyame and I took turns at the table, but I think I probably ended up spending a lot more time there than she did just because she had so much shopping to do, lol. I didn’t mind at all though. Despite it being full of someone else’s wares, it was actually still hard for me to stay away from the table… I liked being at the table. ;__; It is comfortable and familiar and safe at the table. I’m not spending money when I’m at the table! As it was though, I think I did make most of my purchases on Friday, including my biggest single item purchase at any convention. It was a good deal okay. U_U

STEREOPONY CONCERT

At ~5:30pm, half an hour before the Exhibits Hall closed, I went off to find the line for the Stereopony concert. There were probably two hundred people in it already when I got there, but I’m sure it would have been worse  if people had been allowed to line up earlier (Sakura-Con does not allow people to start waiting for any event more than half an hour ahead of time). I actually like Stereopony a lot, but it’s a big departure from how, um, dedicated, I was to bands like Dir en grey and L’Arc~en~Ciel from the hey day of my J-rock fanaticism. I mean, hell, I don’t even know the names of all the girls in Stereopony. :o Not gonna lie, it was kind of nice not caring at all how far back in the line I was.

Line for Stereopony.

Of course, line position didn’t matter much in the end. The main concert area was also pretty roomy — there was plenty of space to accommodate everyone that’d been standing in line. There were two large sections of seating in the back, followed by the main control area for the lighting and sound guys, then the open floor area, which was hardly a quarter-filled when I got there. I ended up probably fifteen people back from the stage; not a bad position at all, even if there was a tall dude in a top hat diagonally in front of me. <_< Come on, man. Take off your hat. (He did, eventually.)

They really liked those smoke machines.

There was a big screen behind the stage and two more screens on either side. They were set on the Sakura-Con logo when we filed in, but swapped to the Stereopony logo when the band came on about five minutes after people were settled.

I’m most familiar with their first album, Hydrangea ga Saiteiru, along with the themes they did for Gundam 00 (“Namida no Mukou”) and That One Series Which Will Not be Named (“Tsukiakari no Michishirube”), so I didn’t recognize the first couple of songs of the set. The band seemed to be using the first few songs to warm up anyway, as Aimi’s formal introduction of the band did not come until after the third song. The crowd was pretty calm to start with as well, though there were a handful of super excited fanboys that wasted no time rocking out.

Stereopony @ Sakura-Con 2012

Their fifth song was evidently used in a series I haven’t seen. For the the duration of the song (apparently “Chiisana Mahou” from Tegami Bachi: Reverse), the two side screens played through random clips of the show — it was kind of distracting, but kind of enticing too? I still don’t know anything about the series, but it looked kind of neat, anyway. The band seemed to get more energetic the longer they played. The bassist in particular looked really into everything she was playing and sang along frequently with the vocalist. I love it when it’s obvious the band is enjoying themselves. The floor got more crowded as the show went on to, and it was fun being a part of it even if I still didn’t know most of the songs.

Aimi, the vocalist and lead guitarist.

The first song I recognized was “effective line,” about halfway through the set, followed by “Tsukiakari no Michishirube” two songs after that. The full setlist can be found on this site here. In between songs, Aimi would occasionally talk to the crowd. Her English was pretty choppy (it took me a full ten seconds to realize she had addressed us as “Seattle” at one point) and it was obvious she really only knew a handful of phrases, but it was still pretty adorable. <_< I think the crowd’s response would have been a little better if her English had been more understandable, but ah, what can ya do.

My favorites from the set were “I do it” and the encore, “Hitohira no Hanabira,” which I thought was oddly appropriate. When it was over, they teased the crowd a little (perhaps unintentionally), but did not throw anything at us. The whole concert had been streamed live, I believe, and at the end, Stereopony’s cameramen apparently wanted to get a good shot of the crowd, but it was too dark. Aimi tried to get the lighting folks to turn up the lights in the front with her broken English (“Light-o prease~), but it took a while, haha.

Nohana, the bassist. Wish I could have managed better pics of the drummer, but alas!

And then they were gone and the crowd was milling out back into the room it had lined up in as there was a autograph session directly after. I thought about it in the time it took for me to get from the stage to the door, but I decided I was too tired to hang out in another line and went to find Kiiyame instead.

There was this Okami meet-up outside the concert area as I was leaving. :o

It was half past seven, so Exhibits Hall was closed by then, and we had decided to meet outside the Art Show room. Since we collectively had a ton of stuff (better to buy things and bring them home before Sunday so we don’t have anything extra when we have to do the suitcase and public transit dance again, yeah?), we took turns going in to check out the Art Show properly. There had still been a few artists that hadn’t set up yet when I’d left that morning, so it was my first time making a complete round of the show.

To be honest, I was pretty disappointed in the lack of original art in the show (as in, the real, physical piece VS a print, not original VS fanart). A vast majority of the art was prints, and almost all of the prints were open editions — or at least, if they were limited editions, it wasn’t clear how many were in the edition, which is kind of important? I think by virtue of being in the Art Show, because of the way everything is presented, most browsing through would assume that the pieces were limited or special in some way. After all, why would you bid on something if you knew you could just go over to the Artist Alley and buy the exact print directly from the artist without worrying about being outbid? This would actually also benefit the artist too, since Sakura-Con doesn’t take a commission off sales in the AA like it does in the Art Show.

Admittedly, I’m miffed about there being so many prints in the show because prints are obviously priced lower than originals, so having so many prints kept pricing expectations lower. There were no bids on any of my pieces at the end of Friday; my minimum bids were much higher than just about everything else in the show, but regardless, I know they are very reasonable minimum bids. I could have, and probably should have, done something to make it clearer that the pieces in my panel were not prints, but I’m not sure there’s much of a market for originals in the Art Show anyway, if everything else is prints.

Jeff said that the traffic had been pretty light throughout the day, but seemed reassured when I told him that it hadn’t been that busy down in the Exhibits Hall either.

Tiger and Bunny~. Men cosplaying men! IMAGINE THAT. ♥

We took the bus home after we were done at the Art Show. We ate some food and then watched the first four episodes of Tiger and Bunny. Kiiyame had been fantarding pretty hard over it (squee at ALL THE TIGER & BUNNY THINGS IN THE DEALER’S ROOM, YEAHHH~), but I had only seen two random episodes, so I suggested we marathon through it that weekend because being left out is lame! Besides, I’d been planning to watch it for forever anyway and having someone watch it with me is the surest way to get it off my to-watch list.

But we only watched four episodes on Friday because man it was a long day and we were tired and dang, Hulu, you sure have lots of commercials. U_U

SATURDAY

I’m not entirely sure why we were compelled to get up at basically the same time we did Friday, but we did, despite not needing to set up again and despite having already made many purchases from other vendors. There were more attendees milling about when we got to the convention center this time though, and the staffers guarding the Exhibits Hall were even more vigilant about checking badges as we made our way past.

We basically spent the whole time leading up to the 10am show time browsing other  people’s booths and tables and bothering them while they set up for the day. I’d already done my “in depth” round of the Artist Alley Friday, so I spent more time poking around the Dealer’s part of the hall. There were a couple of doujinshi I would have liked, but I balked at the import prices. After buying a majority of my doujin for ¥200 a piece in Ikebukuro, it was really hard to accept $18 USD as the going price for the same book. Anyway, I actually already own all of the Asucaga books by Nijika Kotohira the sellers had and that was mostly what I was looking for. I guess it’s a good thing I mostly ship canon things anymore? (Wait, Asucaga was canon too.) Doujinshi is an expensive habit.

Kyuubey be pimpin'.

I spent a lot of time looking for Madoka Magica merchandise of Kyoko for my brother. There was actually a big pull-out Madoka poster in the Sakura-Con program, and Yen Press was giving away a bunch of postcards at their booth (among a billion other freebies!), but hilariously, Kyoko is excluded in almost all of the official promo art. I have no idea why! I don’t really like any of the girls in the series (my favorite character is Kyuubey), so I don’t really care, but it’s still perplexing? In one set of blind boxes, all of the girls have two different poses. Except Kyoko. She just gets one. She’s the last of the girls to get a Figma and Nendoroid, too, I think. Is she really that unpopular??

It was very handy having Kiiyame around while browsing figures though — she is the resident expert at spotting bootlegs. o_o I can spot you some Pokemon bootlegs, but that’s about it. I don’t have nearly as much knowledge about bootleg Nendoroids and trading figures. There weren’t that many dealers carrying illegitimate goods, and of those, only a small handful were obvious enough that I could tell, so I would guess that many of the dealers weren’t aware either. One booth had the derpiest looking bootleg Kyuubey plush though. Oh man, why didn’t I take a picture of it. o_o It was so ridiculous looking. There was also this terrible giant Charmander plush. It was pretty bad.

Ponies. Ponies everywhere~.

We went back to the table when the doors opened at 10am. Things were a bit busier Saturday, but it was still… calm. Compared to both ECCC and A-kon, it was very calm. There were a few industry panels I was kind of maybe interested in attending in the afternoon (I ended up completely forgetting again, oops), but really, I was content to just sit at the table all day. To keep myself occupied, I doodled a bunch of commission examples and eventually managed to snag a couple of real commissions, including a half dozen Hetalia sketches for a group of friends.

There was also this commission. This was the best commission:

Color sketch card commission of Toph. :3

Around 3pm, Robin texts me to meet up. :o Robin Sevakis is the creator of the Anime News Nina webcomic at Anime News Network and had contacted me a few months ago about doing guest strips. I guess I never mentioned that here! (I really am terrible about updating this with anything other than con reports and pen reviews…) But four of the six strips I did are up (start here), and the last two should be up by the end of the month. Anyway, we figured it would be cool to hang out for a bit since we were both attending the con!

Robin, her husband (sorry, dude, forgot your name!), and I chatted about all manner of random things for about half an hour while wandering through the Exhibits Hall. They were planning to attend a Kuragehime-themed workshop on making your very own jellyfish plush/doll at 4pm, and so went off to drop things off at their car at about a quarter till. I’d been unaware of this workshop, but Kuragehime was an okay series and who doesn’t like jellyfish plushies, so I said I’d meet them at the workshop.

Who doesn’t like jellyfish plushies indeed! The line for the workshop snaked awkwardly down a narrow hallway. It was obvious that there were way more people in line than could fit into the room. A few minutes before the workshop was scheduled to start, a staff person counted down the line to the 40-person capacity of the room. The 40th person wasn’t even halfway to the end of the line. Sadness all around. Robin and her husband arrived on scene to the bad news, but we hung around a bit anyway, looking/waiting for Bamboo, another ANN staffer that was supposed to meet us there.

At least we got some cute Kuranosuke and Tsukimi cosplayers out of it.

In the end, the workshop was actually canceled about five minutes after it was supposed to start. o_o A reason wasn’t given, but the disappointed attendees that had waited in line were given the supplies they needed to make the  jellyfish plushies themselves and sent on their way. Ah, anime cons, where things always go as planned! We did meet up briefly with Bamboo though, along with a Canadian aniblogger (?), and some guys from FUNimation.

Afterwards, Robin, her husband, and I wandered down to the Art Show; they hadn’t been there yet, and I wanted to see how things were going. There were a few more bids on pieces here and there, but I didn’t think more than ten pieces would end up going to auction (it was three bids to auction). I was happy to see that a lot of the pieces that Cari, Amanda, and Jessica had for direct sale were sold though. I finally wandered through the charity auction part of the room while there too. Almost all of the items were posters and things that had been signed by anime staff or voice actors (some Japanese, some American), though there were one or two pieces of original art as well. Pretty neat.

Then the three of us sat around a while in the emptyish area between the Art Show and the main escalators, talkin’ about anime and fandom and keeping up with new things and life and work and such. It was nice! :3 It was kind of weird that we could just sit in a quiet hallway on the Saturday afternoon of one of the biggest anime cons in the country though — Sakura-Con really did have a lot of empty spaces in between the action.

It is pretty awesome when cosplayers get into their characters like this~.

It was just past five when I got back to the Artist Alley. Almost closing time already! Moi dix Mois was having a concert that evening, but I decided to pass. Kiiyame had a panel she was kind of interested in in the evening, but she decided to pass too. We packed up and bailed as soon as the Exhibits Hall closed. Like the empty hallways, being out of the convention center more than an hour before sundown was pretty surreal, but hey! Tiger and Bunny was more important! Watchin’ animu during an animu convention! Whoa!

We made it through to the halfway point, episode 13, before passing out for the night.

SUNDAY

Sunday morning, before the Exhibits Hall opened to the public, I raided the Copic booth! It was glorious. There were actually two other neurotic artists sifting through the hundreds of Sketch markers with me, looking for the perfect colors while cross-referencing color sheets. Comrades in arms! The Copic employees were still setting up, but they were good about letting us dig through things and answering questions. The Copic booth was really something to marvel at, man. I think they had just about every Copic product there, including every single Sketch marker color. Sadly, they only had the standard store set of refill inks, which meant they didn’t have the RV11, R11, E01, and YR16 refills that I needed.

But! They had a cool deal going where I could order anything they didn’t have on hand from the website at the convention price and get free shipping, so it was pretty much the same thing. And convention prices were awesome. Copic Sketch markers were $5 a pop and refills were $6. I KNOW IT IS KIND OF SAD that I think a $5 marker is cheap, but shit, Copic Sketches retail at like $6.99 now. :| Five bucks is a goddamn deal. Why artists are poor: art supplies are stupidly expensive. Sob. I end up grabbing about eight or nine new markers and ordered the refills through their website.

I think the Mako and Bolin cosplayers should switch characters, but oh well!

Sunday actually felt like the busiest day of the convention, though not by much. I did more commissions on Sunday. Some Sundays are slow because everyone’s already done spending and are already heading out for the weekend. Other Sundays are busy because everyone is all, “I have x amount of money left! What can I buy?!” Sakura-Con was neither? It was weird, but Friday and Saturday had been kind of weird too.

I wish I had taken the time to talk more with the artists there. I’m not really sure why I didn’t other than that I didn’t want to accidentally spend more money than I already had. It would have been nice to see which artists were local and to make new connections up here in the Northwest. And seeing how everyone else was doing is always a good way to get some perspective. My next Northwest-region convention isn’t until September. :c

I did chat briefly with my SCAD buddy Billie (DragonBeak)’s little sister Betty (Kafai) though. She flew in from Savannah (as she’s also attending SCAD now) and had all of these adorable buttons that I might have bought even though I still have like 80 buttons I need to put somewhere since I ran out of room on my hat. U_U

Other commissions I did for the same guy that commissioned Toph.

Around noon, I went off to see the Art Show auction. Which was apparently four floors above the actual Art Show, so I ran a little late finding the place. It was just as well though. The charity auction was going to be held directly after the Art Show auction at the same location, but there was some mix-up with the rooms, and we ended up in the room next to what was on the schedule? I dunno! I didn’t miss anything though.

Okay, bronies, how much does friendship cost?

I was a little surprised at how many people were there, even if a vast majority of them were there for the charity auction. There were about a dozen Art Show pieces that went to auction — a majority of them open edition prints by either Robin Kaplan (the Gorgonist) or R. H. Potter. The former had a couple of sci-fi prints go to auction, including multiple Doctor Who pieces, and the latter had a ton of fox design prints. The most spirited bidwar was over the My Little Ponies piece above, which I think ended up going for $125 or whereabouts, though there was also some back and forth on a couple of the R.H. Potter pieces between two guys who apparently really like foxes. :o

The auctioneer did a good job of keeping things entertaining with fun commentary and quips at the bidders. At one point, two friends were bidding against each other, so the auctioneer commented with stuff like “Anyone for $45? $45 and you can save this friendship!” and “Sold! For $70 and a best friend!” It was fun. :o

I wandered back up to Art Show proper after the auction was over, intending to check out my pieces from the show and bring them over to the Artist Alley, but the staff were all busy handling the auction winners, so I decided I’d just come back later.

Kiiyame got a picture of this Lapras gijinka while I was away~.

I got back to the Artist Alley around 1:30pm, I guess? I did some more commissions, realized suddenly at some point that I did not have my camera on me, realized that I probably left it in the auction room, ran off to go find it, and found it right where I left it. x__x The Exhibits Hall would be closing at four, so when I got back to the table, Kiiyame went to go make one last round of the Dealer’s Room. I told her she wasn’t allowed to spend any more money though, because I think she bought more on each day of the convention than I did for the whole weekend. :|

She came back with a stack of seventeen manga and a “LET ME EXPLAIN.” :|

Falco punch?

Apparently the Half-Priced Books booth was selling manga for $2 each and $1 each after the first five. Or something. Some crazy deal. Fair enough. u_u; I went to go check it out, mostly to dig for Tsutomu Nihei books bro is missing. The only manga I’m personally looking for at the moment are the volumes of Bakuman I’m missing, but that’s more a “I’ve been putting it off” than a “I can’t find it anywhere” thing.

It was a feeding frenzy at Half-Priced Books booth. They had a pretty small space — a single 10′x10′ booth, I think — and there were like fifty people packed in there rummaging through the shelves. I was surprised to see that a lot of the books were in good condition, too. Sure, there was a fair share with bent spines and dogeared pages, but man, there was a lot of like-new manga for two dollars or less. :o And the selection was decent as well — lots of out of print TOKYOPOP books, a good number of consecutive volumes, popular titles like Gravitation, Sgt. Frog, and Reborn!

One of the employees manning the booth said they had twelve boxes of books left, but didn’t have room to pull them out until more of what was already out sold. She said that earlier, she had been “literally pouring books out of the boxes and directly into the crowd” and that “books were being snatched out of the air.” It was HPB’s first time at Sakura-Con, and they were only there as a result of one dedicated employee’s persistent pestering of upper management. But according to the employee I spoke with, they had hit their minimum goal Friday morning, so hopefully they’ll be back. :o

Kiiyame found an Uncle Iroh. WHY DO ALL THE COOL PEOPLE COME BY WHEN I'M NOT THERE. 8C

Went back to the Art Show around three to pick up my stuff. I wasn’t surprised that none of my pieces had gotten bids, and I wasn’t upset because I know I can eventually get my asking price on all the pieces just by having them at my table at subsequent cons (I’ve sold a few originals this way before, after all), but I suppose it was still a bit disappointing. The number of prints I sold off the Art Show table was also rather sad when you take Sakura-Con’s numbers into consideration.

It was still only my first time doing Art Show, but my impression for now is that Artist Alley is superior in every way — there is just so much more traffic in Artist Alley, and again, no commission is taken off AA sales, and you get paid immediately. Really, unless your piece happens to go to auction and gets warred over (and not all pieces that go to auction are fought over), there isn’t much benefit to selling through the Art Show unless you’re just not keen on sitting at a table in AA all weekend, and I obviously don’t have a problem with that. I made more doing a tiny handful of commissions at Kiiyame’s table than I did at the Art Show.

That said, I’m gonna give the Art Show another shot at Sakura-Con next year. And I have gone ahead and reserved space in the Art Show at A-kon as well. This Art Show ended up being disappointing, but it wasn’t a total loss, and I’m interested in seeing how A-kon’s show compares.

Little kids are good for two things: singing in choirs and being adorable in chibi cosplay.

When I got back to the table, the announcer had just begun his gradual countdown to closing time. Kiiyame was darting around doing end-of-show button trades with nearby artists. Things wound down pretty easily in the half hour. There weren’t many last-minute purchases, so there weren’t many stragglers. The announcer was also really adamant about all minors being out of the hall when the forklifts came in through the loading dock (apparently it’s against Washington state law for them to be around).

We broke down pretty leisurely while talking to Yume and her friends and some of the other artists. The stock that Kiiyame sold freed up enough space in her suitcases that I could cram all of my stuff in as well, which was great since that freed me to help her drag said suitcases out. Three very heavy suitcases, two out of shape ladies, and a bus that was pulling towards the bus stop at the same time we were. o_o

We chased it this time. There was no hill. We jaywalked with those suitcases. And we caught the bus, arriving at the bus stop at the same time it did. Hallelujah.

We got back to the apartment around six (?), sorted through our loot, took pictures, had a good time doing nothing for a bit, ate some food, and then watched more Tiger and Bunny. Kiiyame was lame, gave up early, and went to sleep around episode 18 or something, but I powered through and finished the series around 2:30am. It was a pretty good show. U_U

BY THE WAY. IT WAS ALSO EASTER. I KEPT FORGETTING.

OVERALL

Sakura-Con was okay.

It was one of the better organized conventions I’ve been to for sure. On-site staff, both for the convention center and for the convention itself, were incredibly amiable and helpful. The space was well utilized for the most part, signage was plentiful, the programming seemed diverse, and their guest list was pretty impressive. It’s probably a great con to go to as an attendee, but for me, it really highlighted the fact that I have no idea how to just be an attendee anymore!

Sakura-Con 2012

My artist perspective is limited because I didn’t have a table of my own and didn’t talk to as many artists/dealers as I could have, but it felt like a pretty slow weekend to me, in the Alley at least. On Sunday, I went over to the AA control booth to inquire about tables for next year. They’re scheduled to go on sale in November again, which is fine, but the AA head mentioned that they were probably going to add tables, maybe to 120 total, so that they “don’t sell out in a minute.” This year, there were exactly 100 tables, plus 16 Small Press booths, for 116 artisty tables total. If they don’t also increase the number of Small Press (or if more people don’t apply for Small Press), that’s 136 artisty tables for next year.

That really isn’t a bad number of tables, but I seriously doubt a twenty table increase will do much to curb demand. A-kon has 120 tables this year and still sold out in a minute. Anime Boston has 144 tables, but they don’t use a purely first-come, first-serve system. Instead, if Sakura-Con’s AA felt slow this year, a twenty table increase might mean that it will be even slower next year.

I’ve never been to and can’t speak for Anime Boston, but A-kon was busy last year. A-kon was busy from the second we opened on Friday to the second we closed on Sunday, and I drew for hours and hours every day to keep up with commissions. A-kon could stand to add more tables, but they don’t physically have the room (for now; they’re moving venues soon though). Sakura-Con has plenty of room, but I don’t know that it should increase tables just yet, even if it means it might be easier for me to actually snag one next year.

Artist Alley.

Part of the slowness might have come from sharing space and sharing hours with the Dealer’s Room, which was always noticeably busier. I believe this is the first year it was set up like that? I always have mixed feelings about this. A 6pm closing time is early for Artist Alley no matter what you compare it to, and being open past Dealers is always a huge advantage. But being able to leave stuff overnight in a highly secured room (so many badge-checkers!) is fantastic, especially when you have to catch a bus home. So I don’t think I’d want them to move the AA out of the Exhibtis Hall.

A different solution might be to change the layout of the Exhibits Hall so that Artist Alley is the middle area and the Dealers are on either side of the main entrance. Attendees will always beeline to Dealers, but AA is easier to overlook. That’s kind of how it was at ECCC, where you hit AA as soon as you enter the hall, but the Artist/Dealer divide at ECCC was much subtler, and ECCC has a more indie, artist-centric focus compared to Sakura. So I dunno.

Loot! Everything to the left of the markers and under the buttons was free.

Right now, as an artist, I don’t think it’d be worth it to table at Sakura-Con if I weren’t local, but I am local, and I’d need to properly table myself to really be able to call it either way. It’s kind of frustrating being so limited in my assessments right now, haha. I suppose next year will be doubly interesting then, assuming I actually remember what day table sign-ups are this time. U_U

Now.

How many of you actually read all that? o_o THANK YOU. But WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU. o_o

Anyway, here are all the pictures. The pink tree blossoms and everything after are photos Kiiyame took.

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