Waking up fairly early in the morning has been a norm for me lately, but that’s not exactly a good thing. Pile that on top of being too excited to sleep and you’re set for your first day at a convention. If there is one thing I have learned about conventions, it’s that you need to keep yourself well fed and hydrated. Nothing keeps you going quite like an early breakfast. So the first thing I did was hit up a local place in Seattle with puddi, dark_sage, Rekyu, astro, and Ippikiryu. I will admit that place served the best eggs benny I’ve had in my life. After grabbing our first meal, we headed back to the convention center with puddi guiding us back, (guiding may not be the right word.)
The convention center is fairly empty early on Friday morning so it made for a good time to take some pictures of the venue. Compared to last year, not much has really changed. Going up to the fourth floor brings us up to the main convention level where the dealer hall, panel rooms, and the main stage are all located. On the other levels around the escalators are smaller panel rooms, the karaoke room, the staff rooms, the office, and the press office. I grabbed my press pass early in the morning just before we met up for breakfast to beat the rush of people.
Hitting up the dealer hall early is one of my favorite things to do. Being able to grab merchandise before the hall gets super crowded on Saturday is a very good way to stay sane. I didn’t manage to buy much on my first trip there but my friend dark_sage picked up a bunch of things before we left.
Much of the dealer hall sold things you would expect to find at an anime convention. You had the typical t-shirts, figures, books, etc. However, some of the stands actually sold 18+ material that included doujins, VNs, and even some wall scrolls. Of course as with any other anime convention, you can also find more Western themed products such as merchandise from comics or Western animations.
One booth that caught my eye this year was the Pony Canyon USA booth. In the past, Pony Canyon would have a fairly small booth but this time around they decked out their booth and also had a prime location. As you can see, they were selling Yuuki Yuuna and Denkigai merchandise mostly. All the staff here were super friendly and we’ll get to see a lot more of them over the weekend.
I wasn’t kidding when I said there would be a lot of Pony Canyon. They had events schedules throughout most of the convention and they were a major player this year. I wish I could have gone to the autograph signing sessions but I just couldn’t find the time to drop by.
Their booth probably had the most in terms of display items. They had a bunch of TVs showcasing Yuuki Yuuna in dub and Denkigai subbed. Not to mention they had life size cardboard character displays from each of the characters in Yuuki Yuuna. I only managed to get a single picture but you can tell how much effort they put into this convention and how they’re trying to reach out to the US market.
In the corner they had a glass display cabinet to show off the US release of the Yuuki Yuuna BDs. The goodies inside are what you would expect from a Japanese release but there are some staunch differences. Bonus-wise, the BD comes with an additional character song CD and features a magazine sized box. Something to make it stand out from other BD releases. Of course, the English release comes in both dub and subs for those that prefer one or the other. If you’re into art, there is also a 24 page booklet with character designs and two wall pin-ups. One quick things, you can barely see it in all the photos, but there were also some Yuuki Yuuna cosplayers in the background. Sadly, I didn’t manage to snag a photo of them here, but trust me I managed to get a much better picture later on.
When it comes to industry panels, I usually temper my expectations since most companies don’t announce too much at conventions. On the other hand, Sakura-con is a bigger convention and there are some announcements made there. Having been to multiple Funimation and Aniplex panels in the past, I was expecting the usual staff with a few small announcements to get the crowd into it. Surprisingly, Pony Canyon USA not only talked about BD releases and their older releases, but they also had a bunch of exciting new releases. Those releases include Etotama, Hibike! Euphonium, Lances N’ Masques, and Glass no Hana to Kowasu Sekai (Vitreous Flower Destroys the World). All of these titles seem interesting and the last one is actually a movie instead of a TV anime release. Props to Pony Canyon USA for shaking things up and adding to the market in a positive way.
After our time at the Pony Canyon USA panel, we headed down to the karaoke room for some downtime. At around 2:00pm, puddi, Rekyu, and I went over to a panel titled Race and Ethnicity in Anime. To say I was a little bit triggered after the panel ended would be a gross understatement. My background is in applied sciences (specifically computing science,) and I’ve read a lot of technical research papers.
This panel tried to frame itself as an academic look into race and ethnicity in anime which sounded great at first. However, if there is one thing I’ve learned about panels in that room, things quickly take a turn for the worse. An academic discussion is viable when you break down your research and explain how it works. What doesn’t work is when you force research into your conclusion. Exercises in this panel included naming the race and ethnicity of various characters from anime. You can probably visualize how messy that got, now add in a bunch of tumblr references and you’re on the right track. The most frustrating thing though had to be how they framed their conclusion in basically saying Japanese people are racist. They took two ‘research papers’ (social science papers…) and framed their conclusion to fit with theirs. It was one big mess and after that panel I remember why social sciences is such a misnomer to most science students.
An alternative panel I could have went to was the Yuuki Yuuna panel with the dub screening of the show first. For whatever reason I decided a more controversial topic may be more interesting. To put it in perspective, Rekyu took a nice nap in the room, so there’s that at least. Anyway, we headed back to the karaoke room and caught some of the Karaoke Idol preliminaries.
Spoilers: This guy won something on day 2
Want to see more karaoke performances? Check out dark_sage’s Youtube.
Hunger started to set in after watching and experiencing all of the karaoke. We quickly went out to grab some dinner and got ready for the evening events. Our first panel we went to was Body Positive, but after only about 10 minutes we left because one of our crew couldn’t get in. With no panels for a while, we decided to plan out the remainder of the night. Rekyu headed to the Anime Physics panel, puddi went to some Homestuck panel, and dark_sage and I went to the Anime Twitter Panel.
Now, let’s begin with a warning. This part is long. I am fairly tolerant when it comes to panels, I’ve sat through my fair share of panels that were boring or bad. None of that mattered though after attending this panel. Being disorganized is usually a sign of a bad panel, but I’ve never been plain insulted to be in a panel room before this panel. I understand that running a panel isn’t easy and how much work is required in order to run one properly. I should have been tipped off by all the presenters up front in goofy costumes interacting with select attendees. To put it nicely, they were mostly interacting with ‘friends’. Problems arise when you only talk to select members of the audiences, especially when it isn’t in a positive manner. I understand that this panel has a mature rating, but no rating could have been enough to warn me of the cancer in the room.
Heading into the panel hall, I was expecting a joke panel or maybe even a serious panel about how AniTwitter works. On the screen up front was one of the panelist’s Tweetdeck open for display. Aside from a few lewd or altogether porn images aside, there wasn’t too much wrong with it. At least I expected as much with a mature rating. Regardless, he started off by talking to ‘friends’ in the audience and shouting at them or using profanity for no reason. Again, kind of expected in a mature panel. Red flags should have started popping up in my head already, but I decided to stay to see the content at least. Maybe 10 minutes into them being in the room, they told members to Tweet to #animetwitter. This in and of itself isn’t a major problem but when people started Tweeting porn, profanity, NSFW images, NSFL images, and things I don’t even want to talk about, things got out of hand. What made this even worse was the fact that the panelists encouraged such behavior. On top of encouraging it, they started shouting at random audience members and cussing them out about images without a clue as to who sent them.
This went on for another 10 or so minutes before Sakura-con staff told him to stop displaying the images. They could have easily just closed their Tweetdeck at any point to stop the spam on the hashtag or even better unfollow it. One person even decided to drop their chair and throw a water bottle. None of this was acceptable in any form. There should never be a reason for someone to act this way. The worst part was that the panel wasn’t even shut down, they continued on even after I left the panel room. On my way out, I talked to a Sakura-con staff member and asked them where to file a formal complaint. I went through with the formal complaint and even sent in an email later to officially complain about this panel. When things get that out of hand and everyone is being insulted just by being in the room, you know you’ve done something wrong.
So, the takeaway from that panel was apparently if you act like an idiot you gain Twitter followers… I don’t fault Sakura-con for this panel, but I never want to be in one of those panels again. There’s something to be said about being unprepared or having ideas I don’t agree with. It’s something else entirely when you feel insulted just being in the panel room.
I’d like to point out I don’t have anything against the panelists. I just wanted to share my experience since I was obligated to share it. I’m not trying to say the people running the panel were terrible people, but the way the panel was run just wasn’t well thought out. The results were obviously not what they were looking for.
After that whole fiasco, we headed back to the hotel to meet up and discuss our individual panels. We could safely conclude that the best panel was the Anime Physics one. I will never understand my luck with panels. Next up, we headed to the Anime Spotlight panel, where two guys shared their top 15 picks for 2014. Some of the picks I agreed with, while others were pretty standard fare stuff. Interestingly, they did not watch all the shows they recommended. Outside of their top 15, they had a few notable anime which they suggested people give a try. I can’t even recall the look on my face when they had Mekaku City Actors on there. That show contributed music and Shaft animation… and that’s being nice about it. Overall, this panel was decently run and served its purpose well.
With no other major panels scheduled for the rest of the day, we headed down to the rave to see what was going on this year. It was similar to the previous year, with the main stage converted to a dance floor. The great thing about this anime rave is the fact that they actually had anime going on the screens. Some of the dance scenes in anime are strangely appropriate for a rave. You really don’t get to see many anime con raves where they actually display anime, so this definitely is a plus.
What could possibly be better than spending a late night at the rave? Apparently going to the Waifuism and You panel. This was the last panel we planned to attend for the night and we headed there late. Luckily, there were still enough seats for us there. Maybe it was late at night, maybe we didn’t have enough sleep, but something told me we were in for a wild ride. We stayed at the panel for only 20 minutes or so because the waifu powers in the room grew too strong for us to handle. Just looking at the pictures above should give you a general idea of what went down.
Day 1 in general was a pretty good experience. Aside from that one panel, the day was enjoyable and had a lot of fun moments. This set a pretty good standard for what the rest of the weekend would be like since we knew Saturday would be the busiest day of the convention. After some chatting and planning for day 2, I headed back to my room for the night to try to get some sleep and prepare for the longest day of the convention and to give Rekyu + puddi time to get ready to fansub in the morning. I’ve left some cosplay photos that I took on the first day up as well for your viewing pleasure.