In Full Bloom - Sakura Con 2018 Con Report
written by Justin Prince (@prince_justin)
This year marks the eleventh year that our crew has attended Sakura-Con together. Eleven years of highs with some low moments sprinkled in. This year was no exception but something did feel different... something felt new. I've been attending this con since it was called Baka-Con back in the old days (did I just date myself there?) and despite criticisms one fact remains even now... this con is the biggest anime convention in the PNW. The last few years, the con started to feel a bit stagnant... like it was content to follow the status quo of Sakura-Con past. Somehow this year felt very different, dare I say renewed even.
First off, much of the layout stayed the same with the Vendor Hall situated across the skybridge and the Artist Alley tucked away at the TCC. Last year was the first year they separated the Artist Alley and the Vendor Hall like this and as an attendee this greatly affected what foot traffic was like. This year they seemed to widen the walkways even more, better situating booths and utilizing as much of the Vendor Hall space as they could without creating claustrophobic aisles. Honestly I wish I could say the same about the Artist Alley and the TCC. Tucked away, Artist Alley felt very claustrophobic with constant congestion and a room that feels more like hanging out in someone's basement than a part of the con. The Vendor Hall and much of the con itself felt bathed in white light while the TCC's basement felt more dreary with horrible ventilation. My suggestion would be to swap registration with Artist's Alley, move AA up a couple floors to the brighter and more open areas of the TCC while relegating registration to the lower floors. I don't know how this will impact the logistics of the con, but I feel like it would improve the conditions in AA not just for the artists vending but also fans like myself who want to check out these tables.
The 24 hour theaters and arcades are still a welcome addition to the show. While I admit my age is getting the better of me and staying up all night is no longer the same as it was in my early 20s, I'm still glad that the con has continued to offer so many options for people to party and have a good time at all hours of the show.
The convention's programming felt better than ever, last year and in previous years we touched on how the programming guide felt like it was padding the schedule with “official photoshoot gatherings” for cosplayers. Now, these cosplay gatherings are not new but recent years saw it moving from an unofficial capacity via social media to an official capacity. This isn't bad but when it's used as a way to make a schedule look beefier, it gets to be problematic. This year was different, very few official photoshoot gatherings were posted in the schedule with much of the programming being actual panels and events. We hit a few of our favorite panels, had to visit our friends at Zapp's Spaceship of Love and of course check out the cosplay contests.
One hiccup came from when we tried to get in to the fashion show. We got zero coverage of the fashion show and unfortunately that ended up being one of our biggest disappointments of the show. The volunteers covering the fashion show were not as helpful as previous years, usually those with press/media passes are shuffled into the ADA line to allow us to get set up in the event before general admission, this year they tried to instruct us to queue with the general admission line, something that would have negatively impacted out coverage of it. Luckily, by the time of the cosplay contest I was able to find a staffer who did afford us the ability to queue with the ADA line to get set up. I feel like there has to be a set of standards with how volunteers interact with the press. I'm not here trying to get an entire entourage of my people into the event before doors open, we aren't trying to take up all the best seats from fans who took the time to line up. We have a job a to do at these conventions, unfortunately when staff doesn't adequately communicate standards of practices with volunteers we get situations like this where we have nothing to say about one of the biggest events at the con... but hey, at least the cosplay contest was dope.
Speaking of cosplay, our favorite part of these conventions is checking out the amazing costumes from all levels of expertise. From intricately crafted armor pieces to a costume bought for the show, I love seeing these fans show their love for the characters they portray. Not just limited to anime, we saw everything from Overwatch to Marvel Comics. I'm always astounded at the level of craftsmanship that goes in to these costumes. It's always a highlight for us when we can see our friends rocking the costumes we've only seen as bits and pieces on their social media.
Sakura-Con 2018... at the end of it all... felt good. Roaming the halls was comfortable and as someone who's been attending this particular convention for over a decade I was impressed with the show this year. One hiccup isn't enough for me to write this con off and overall I had a blast. Over the last couple years I was struggling with how I felt about Sakura-Con; on one hand I have made so many memories at this con it's one of the reasons I keep coming back... then on the other hand my enjoyment of this show started getting eclipsed by how much I loved going to other conventions. I'm glad that this year was such a fun Sakura-Con, I'll see you nerds next year.