|Previous year Sakura-con attendees in a photo by Roger Abramson via Creative Commons|
It started as a small event for Otaku – devoted fans of anime and manga, Japanese cartoons and comics – back in 1998 at the Double Tree Inn in Tukwila, but in the past few years Sakura-Con has grown huge, necessitating a move to the Washington State Convention and Trade Center in downtown Seattle. Starting April 2, fans of anime, manga, and Japanese culture as a whole will be gathered together for lectures, classes, screenings, contests, shows, games, and just hanging out together and having a good time.
With three full days of activities from morning through night, Sakura-Con truly does offer something for everyone. Diehard fans have some tough decisions to make as they attempt to fit in everything and casual fans or the merely curious get a great opportunity to sample a little bit of everything to determine what they like.
If you are a casual fan, experienced attendees have some tips for you: go with friends who are more knowledgeable to keep from being overwhelmed, or go Friday, the most (relatively) quiet of days and make sure you check the schedule in advance to find a day that offers the most of what interests you. DoktorZetsubou, going for the fifth time, suggests that if you’re not sure you’re ready for a con, you sit on the bottom floor and observe for a while, but adds, “If you’ve got a casual interest in anime, I’d definitely recommend spending one of the days there just to see if you’re into it or not and get an idea as to what the ‘anime fan community’ is like. Sakura-Con’s website has some great tips for con attendees that are particularly helpful for the first-timer.
One of the things I’m most looking forward to seeing is all the costumes – a significant number of people participate in “cosplay” – dressing up as their favorite characters – and ever since the con moved downtown a few years ago I’ve always looked forward to seeing costumed guests walking around downtown. Costumes are a big draw – says Sailor Tweek (who has been six time), ” I’m also a big fan of the costumes. No matter how good or bad the costumes might be, I love the ocean of creativity that is cosplay at a convention!” Michi, an attendee since 2002 and staff since 2006, is looking forward to “being able to wear the costumes that I’ve put several months worth of time and effort into.” Says Small Rini Lady, in her third year on staff with eight years of attendance, “I love to see people dressed up in their outfits and get into the roles and I love to dress up myself (i have 7 outfits ready for this year). It’s so fun to join in games and jump into conversations with people you’ve never met before but its like your best of friends because you assume the roles (the characters) that have known each other forever.”
Not everyone’s comfortable dressing up, of course, but it’s definitely always cool to see those who are. Plus, there’s are many other attractions. Small Rini Lady says, “I’ve brought many friend who just liked to people watch and enjoy the atmosphere. They love to look at the costumes, try the new things, practice their photography, watch the anime to see why it’s so popular. It’s like going to a museum in a foreign country for them, tons to learn and spark new interest from.”
Amplexicaule, going for the second time, says, “[M]y favorite things have been the exhibitor’s hall, and the Anime That Scarred Me For Life panel.” DoktorZetsubou will be happy to see other fans: “I really love the people there, everyone’s so friendly and I’ve met some really incredible fellow fans there. Otherwise, I’m a figure maniac, and so the shopping aspect is really exciting. The panels, too… I just love the whole convention, I guess. This year I’m most looking forward to shopping, being around other anime fanatics, and seeing DJ Sharpnel.”
Most people attending are from the area, but Sakura-Con’s a big enough draw that people travel here for it–besides Washington, con-goers come from all over the US and Canada, too.
Among the activities this year: “Being a Digital DJ” with DJ Shrapnel, Comic Production with Chloe Chan, Ancient Anime from Japanese History, Chado Urasenke Tankokai Seattle Association presenting the Way of Tea, Kabuki Academy, and What Not To Wear, Kimono Edition, are just a few of the panels; there are three dances including a formal ball; a charity auction to benefit the Make-a-Wish Foundation, Sakura-Con Cosplay Chess, in which convention attendees in cosplay serve as the pieces; art shows and exhibitors.
Pre-registration for Sakura-Con is closed, but don’t fret: you can still purchase a membership, full or pro-rated, at the door that allows you to attend.