Tag Archives: Sakuracon

The Gauntlet of Sakuracon

By all accounts I should be too old for Anime conventions. They are crowded, smelly, and noisy. Not a year goes by without some epic account of organizational ineptitude on the part of the managing staff. My total wait time at registration this year was three and a half hours. The hazards of cosplay are many. You can kill yourself trying to meet a con deadline through accidents with sharp objects,  hotglue and paint fumes, not to mention sleep deprivation. Don’t ever forget the sleep deprivation! That bustling photo you see in this post was taken at 10:30pm! Yet still, year after year, my friends and I manage to show up. Why do we do this to ourselves?

I don’t think the answer has anything to do with meeting friends or a slavish devotion to Japanese cartoons. Sometimes you just need an ordeal. No matter where you are in life, no matter what problems you have, there is nothing like a good shunt of self-inflicted stress to make it all go away. When you’re working on a costume, a music video or a drawing, you aren’t thinking about car payments or where your career is going. You just know that when Saturday rolls around, that labor of love needs to be out the door, no matter what state it’s in. When you see the looks of amazement on the faces of passersby, you know you’ve just spun a little bit of fiction into fact.

These conventions retain a kind of purity because of the fact that only the anime creators are allowed to really make money there. You’re not grasping after abstract concepts like meaning or marketability, you’re just having fun taking something that was in your head and making it a reality. That feeling of knowing “hey, I made that” feeds the soul. Once you’ve tasted it, you’ll go through hell and back to experience it again.

Anime Conventions

When I went to my first anime convention in 2001, I was expecting to see maybe a few card tables of merchandise, perhaps a video room, nothing fancy. What I found was a phenomenon in mid-explosion. There was an entire ballroom dedicated to the dealers room, a music video contest, and a cosplay contest with a fervor a rock concert. Today Sakuracon can pack the Seattle convention Center with over 15,000 attendees. Even though the anime industry is in a slump, the convention continued to grow all over the world. It’s hard to believe they all started out as a twinkle in the eyes of scattered pockets of fans.

The images you see in this post are by lionboogy, a celebrated con photographer and Transformers cosplayer. When he posted these pictures on IRC in 1994, his friend balked at the idea that anime conventions could ever get this big. At the time they would have been right. What changed over the past 15 years to bring us what are essentially mobile theme parks dedicated to anime?

The answer is the personal computer. Anime fans, being interested in futuristic stuff, were quick to use their gadgets to plan their activities. When the Internet came to prominence, and from all over the state or province could find out where to gather. They were even distributing entire anime episodes over the net a full seven years before YouTube hit the scene.

I find it ironic when people talk about technology and the force of the isolation. I found Sakuracon over the Internet, and through it I’ve met very dear friends that I’ve had for almost a decade. Sure, you could use the Internet to sit in your basement all day and play MMOs, but if you’re willing to make full use of the technology they can make your life more real than you ever thought possible.