I avoided Sakura-Con for years out of shyness over what seemed like an overwhelming sense of fanaticism toward anime. After attending videogame expo PAX twice at the same venue, it was time to experience the industry’s ninth largest North American convention. Even researching newer anime releases, nothing could prepare me for the underwhelming confusion and disorganization that awaited. It wasn’t like stepping into another world so much as temporarily peeking into a very exclusive club.
Rating: ★★☆☆☆ [2/5]
Everything was so disorganized! Sure, you received a schedule and cryptic map buried in what seemed like an advertising booklet, but none of the rooms were clearly labeled! Straightforward maps located everywhere? Who needs ’em!
I only found out where the concert was being held thanks to the schedule pointing to the door labeled “4C-4.” When the line formed thirty minutes before the start of the show, it was chaotic trying to figure out where you had to line up. The volunteers made multiple attempts to tightly corral people. PAX is also supported by volunteers and it wasn’t that weird.
Even after asking a security guard, I couldn’t figure out where any of the lectures were located. Turns out they were in another building. I think. The map that implied any directions was useless and I still don’t understand what it’s going on about.
So that was most of the gripes. How about the grapes?
The vendor booths were nice. I hadn’t seen how much bigger other action figure lines are in comparison to SH Figuarts and it was cool seeing Kotobukiya statues in person. There were anime and manga retailers, costume accessory booths, two local videogame retailers, and booths expressing cultural interests including Japan Fair in July.
The biggest draw could be seeing people dressed in costumes of characters from assorted sources. The videogame Overwatch seemingly had the most cosplayers. There was an absurd Skeletor, a Rogue and Gambit couple, an assortment of anime cosplayers, with a highlight being the assorted Studio Ghibli characters of Totoro, San, and Turnip-Head in the picture above. They were fun to see.
These were unfortunately consolation prizes for me.
Nothing I saw was unique to Sakura-Con. Other conventions, and not just PAX, seem to actively reward curiosity. If something caught your eye, you could check it out in the main hall, or roughly know how to get there to experience it. The big draw here of seeing anything new seemed hidden away, somewhere, like an exclusive viewing for club members.
It was as though you went to an amusement park where half the rides were either removed or under construction and yet everyone was still very excited to be there. The event didn’t inspire excitement or the curiosity to discover anything new. Addressing event accessibility and structure would be help. I might return after two years of improvement.
Sakura-Con felt empty.