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Duodenum's Sakuracon 2002 Report

This was my first anime convention. What follows is not a formal or exhaustive report but rather my personal thoughts/musings relating to my con experience. As far as specific panels went, if you want hard facts on what was said or announced, then I would advise going to fansview or animeondvd for further info. Also, check out fansview for more pictures of cosplayers, as I was rather biased in who I took pictures of as well as which pictures I decided to post here.

Thursday, April 25

I carpooled up from Portland to the Seattle area with Antonia Levi. We arrived at Rick and Annie's place around dinner time and took it easy that night. They have two cute cats that they got since I saw them last:

Ghengis.
Khan.

Friday, April 26

First day of the con! We commuted down to the Seattle Airport Hilton (about 45 minutes away) and arrived in time for the opening ceremonies. We wandered around a bit afterwards, checking out the fanart on display (I was told, once I was about to leave, to put the lens cap on my camera; I'm surprised they let me take it in there at all) but holding off on the dealer room as there was already a big line (there was an occupancy limit, and the dealers didn't expect nearly as many people as there were). The first panel I went to was the voice actors' panel, featuring Doug Smith (Kintaro from Goldenboy), Pam Lauer (Kei from Dirty Pair), Jessica Calvello (Yuri in Dirty Pair, Mink in Dragon Half, Excel in Excel Saga!), and Johnny Yong Bosch (former Power Ranger, and voiced Vash in Trigun and Kaneda in new Akira dub):

Doug Smith, Pam, Jessica Calvello, and Johnny.
Rick talking to Johnny Yong Bosch.

The voice actors were all very nice, humble people with good senses of humor. I got the impression that they were really enjoying their work (although Jessica made it quite clear how difficult and painful it was to voice Excel) and that they liked meeting and talking with the fans. Someone asked what I thought was a rude question regarding the difference in quality between Japanese and American voice acting, but the voice actors took it in stride. It was interesting to hear how they each got into voice acting, and how each one prepared (or didn't prepare) for the roles they took. There was quite a range of backgrounds and methods represented, and I was glad to hear Jessica acknowledge how helpful it was to do group voice recording for the original Dirty Pair. In Japan, voice actors work together more often than they do in the States, where most roles are recorded individually and then combined after the fact. After the panel we noticed there was no line for the dealer room, so we checked that out. I bought the first volume of Goldenboy and then had it signed by Doug Smith. I ended up giving the DVD to Rick, because while I thought it was funny (and Doug's acting in the dub is hilarious), I knew Rick would enjoy it more.

The dealer room was packed, and most of the vendors ran out of stock before the con was over, not expecting such a big crowd this year.
Pocky!
One of several vendors selling Ghibli plushes. Why oh why are stuffed animals so expensive?

There were a fair amount of cosplayers wandering the halls, and I got pictures of a handful of them.

Menchi from Excel Saga! No salt shaker in sight, however...
Kaneda and Tetsuo.

Annie with a Ryoga cosplayer.
I was trying to get a picture of some cosplayers but my camera has a slight delay and I got a picture of voice actors Pam and Jessica instead.
Best Asuka ever. Fansview has another picture.

Kuroneko (from Trigun I believe).
Subtle You're Under Arrest outfits.
Vash was the most popular cosplay character, regardless of gender.

We then attended Toni's lecture/discussion, in which she talked about encoding and decoding of anime (not digital encoding, but rather what the creator invests in the work, and what the audience takes from it), which is a particularly interesting issue when dealing with anime such as Evangelion, which uses a particular Japanese interpretation of Western religion, which is then re-interpreted (decoded) by an audience it was never meant for in the first place (Western, non-Japanese anime fans).

Toni talks with anime fans about cross-cultural issues in anime.
Annie and Rick, who has found a cheaper alternative to cheap con food.

That evening Toni met with the other guests of honor for dinner, and Annie, Rick, and I dined on frozen pizza and dry cold sandwiches (mmmmmmm). We watched the first three episodes of Samurai Girl: Real Bout High School. It began slightly repetitive (it was a fighting anime, after all) and heavy on the skirt-in-the-wind fanservice (I'm very curious to know how these strong gusts of wind get inside buildings), but the third episode started to get a little more serious, as the main character (I forgot her name) convinced a samurai master to take her on as an apprentice. It reminded us of Jubei-chan, which starts silly but changes in tone as the series progresses. Samurai Girl is a Gonzo anime, but I didn't notice any out-of-place CG, which is often the main complaint relating to their productions (Blue Sub 6, Vandread). I thought it was decent, and I'd like to see some more of this one.

Saturday, April 27

After catching the last half of Johnny Bosch's panel (during which he yelled "Love and Peace" for the crowd), Rick, Annie, and Toni remained in the main room to watch Metropolis. Since I had seen the movie just a few days before (I highly, highly, highly recommend this movie by the way), I decided to meet up with them later. To kill time, I went back into the dealer room and bought a stuffed Totoro, the Art of Laputa book, and a Faye Valentine T-shirt:

This was the second largest Totoro they sold there. I would've gotten the biggest one, but it was 80 bucks.

I then noticed that the Excel Saga dub was playing, but the room was filled to capacity and they weren't letting anyone in. Well, after the first two episodes enough people left that they opened the doors and I was able to catch the third episode. I was thoroughly impressed with the dub. Jessica Calvello nailed the role of Excel, and all the supporting actors shined in their respective roles. Pedro wasn't quite as exaggerated as he was in the Japanese, but he was still good. In addition to the high quality of the acting, the dub was an accurate, non-watered down translation. Lines like "I'm more concerned about your lower half" remained in the dub, as well as humorous mild swearing such as "bastard" and "goddamn." Accents were used when appropriate, and overdone when called for. I was especially pleased that certain language-related jokes still worked in the English version--such as the Engrish spoken at the beginning of episode 3, and the food word game played by Excel and Tet-chan. And yes, he's still called Tet-chan, rather than "Iron Baby" or something appalling like that. There's no dumbing down of the dub here, folks. A few more things to note: the opening song was not re-recorded in English, but is soft-subtitled for the dub track (there are multiple subtitle tracks, as well as pop-up vidnotes); also, it's "Hail" and not "Heil Il Palazzo". I'll have to listen to the Japanese again to be sure, but I think it was the Germain "Heil" in the original. I don't know how they'll spell it in the subtitles.

After watching episode 3, I left to reconnect with my friends, but I couldn't find them anywhere. I even waited in line to get into the dealer room again, but they weren't there either. I then noticed that the ADV panel was under way and nearly over, and I found them there. I had wanted to sit in on the whole thing, and regret not getting there earlier, because they were giving out cool Excel Saga posters which Jessica Calvello was signing. But Rick, Annie, and I met with David Williams afterward, and expressed our admiration of the job they were doing. ADV has shot to the top of my list, in terms of professionalism, dedication to their product, and friendliness to the fans. Pam kissed DLW (as he's known on the animeondvd.com boards) after he gave her a copy of the first Evangelion DVD.

Pam Lauer and David Williams of ADV. Awwwww! ^_^

Learning from our con food experience of the previous day, we got hamburgers and sandwiches at the Hilton's Spencer's Restaurant. It was very good food, and worth the extra money (not that it was that much more expensive). That evening there were two main events I wanted to attend: the cosplay competition and the anime music videos contest... however, they were both very popular and overlapped on the schedule (grrrrrrrrrrr), so I only went to the latter, thinking that at least fansview would have pictures of the cosplay. Well, as it turns out, the guy from fansview was at Fanime on Saturday, so I lost out there. Oh well. I just hope they do a better job of scheduling next year's Sakuracon, because I'd like to go to both of these events and I'm sure I'm not the only one. As for the videos, a lot of them were so-so, but there were some great ones that stood out. Pink Floyd's "Comfortably Numb" and Memories, a DBZ/Cowboy Bebop crossover, Evangelion set to "El Tango De Roxanne" from Moulin Rouge, footage from one of the Card Captor Sakura movies set to techno, and a tense scene from Irresponsible Captain Tylor using the soundtrack and German dialogue from Das Boot. It was entertaining, but the seats were uncomfortable and the projection was too low (I couldn't see the bottom quarter of the screen... a problem which would have been remedied had it been in the bigger room where the cosplay competition was currently being held... yet another reason to schedule them at different times!). A rather arduous four hour ordeal that left us very worn out.

Sunday, April 28

We didn't go into the con on Sunday; not only did we all oversleep because of staying up late the night before, but Toni and I had a decent drive ahead of us and we wanted to leave the Seattle area before it got too late. I'd like to find out which music videos won the competition, however... I suspect that will probably be posted online somewhere, either at sakuracon.org or animemusicvideos.org.

I took a picture of myself using the mirror in one of the Hilton bathrooms.
Toni, Rick, and Annie, just before Toni and I left to return to Oregon.

Overall, it was a fun experience, and I'd really like to go back to Sakuracon next year, if not another con (although travel expenses may prohibit that). It was great having friends that lived in the Seattle area, since that cut down on hotel and some food costs, although there are certainly advantages to staying in the hotel: room parties and the anime viewing rooms that go all night, not to mention no commute. But money is money, and I was glad to keep costs down on this trip. (I spent less than 140 dollars over all... over half of which went into the Totoro, the art book, and the T-shirt.) I might consider cosplaying in the future (it looks fun, and the con is a very friendly environment), if only I can figure out who to cosplay as (I don't think I look like anyone).

I think that about covers it. ^_^