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Kim Voynar

By Kim Voynar

Sakura-Con 2010 — Anime Geeks, Manga Freaks and Pocky, Oh My

three girls.jpgIt was anime geek heaven at Sakura-Con, the biggest anime convention in the Pacific Northwest. Over 20,000 excited anime fans of all ages turned out for the event, and I think about half of them were in line at the same time we were to get their badges. I took Neve and two of her girlfriends for a weekend of geeky-girly bonding time, and I bought our passes waaaaaay back in November because it’s cheaper if you pre-register. You might also think that pre-registering would make it quicker and easier to pick up your badge. Hah, silly you. Why would you think that?
We got to the exhibition hall to pick our badges up Friday morning and faced a daunting line snaking around for what looked like forever. It looked chaotic, but friendly convention staff was on hand to guide us to the end of the right line. Neve’s friend Steph did not pre-register way early like we did, she just bought her pass a couple days ago. So you might think that she would have a longer wait at the Will Call booth than those of us who paid for ours months ago. Again, you would be wrong. Steph had her badge in hand in a matter of minutes, whereas we waited in line for over two hours. Fortunately, there were plenty of interesting costumes all around to look at while we were waiting and folks were mostly cheerful in spite of the long wait.
Image157.jpgBecause the wait for our badges was so long, the girls missed the panels they were most interested in on Friday, so we mostly spent Friday just walking around, checking out everyone’s awesome costumes. There was a truly amazing array of costumes and creativiy on display at this con; people really put a lot of work into playing their favorite characters, and there was a lot of impressive attention to detail and quality of workmanship.
Sakura-Con runs 24-7 the whole weekend, with a 1AM-5AM curfew for minors. There was a lot to see and do, and the girls wanted to go pretty much nonstop so I didn’t have a lot of time to jot down thoughts during the con, but I broke down here the best and worst of our Sakura-Con experience.

Top Six Things We Saw/Did at Sakura-con:

1. Cosplay Chess — Picture a giant chess board with folks dressed in cosplay as the chess pieces and Batman and Jack Sparrow as the Kings directing their teams. Only instead of one piece just moving to a square and taking an opposing piece, they have to engage in a battle for the square, while staying in character. My favorite Cosplay Chess character was Futurama’s Zapp Brannigan, who stayed totally in character right down to sending his second-in-command, Kif, to do battle for him.
On Sunday, the last day of the con, there was a second cosplay chess match, and this time Jesus and the Pope were on hand to take place (it being Easter Sunday and all, Jesus and his team won).
2. Random People– The con takes place at the Seattle Convention Center, and some 20,000 people converged on downtown to cosplay. The reactions to this from folks in downtown for reasons other than Sakura-Con ranged from the interested, as in, “There’s a whole convention about anime? Cool!”; to the annoying, as in, “Why are all these freaks running around dressed up like it’s Halloween?”; to the sweet, as in the elderly woman who said to me a bit wistfully at a crosswalk, “I think it’s really neat how all these kids have these clever costumes. I wish they’d had something like this when I was a girl.”
Image153.jpg3. Cosplays. Lots of cosplays. — Half the fun of going to an anime convention is planning and making your elaborate costumes months in advance, and people especially go all out for Sakura-Con. We saw some truly amazing displays of creativity and ingenuity here at Sakura-Con, from scantily-clad females representing the … more revealing side of the anime genre, to groups of people acting carefully orchestrated cosplays involving a set of characters from anime and manga; from costumes requiring elaborate sewing or construction to costumes involving full body makeup and carefully styled wigs.
There were some astonishing props; all “weapons” have to be “peacebonded” at Sakura-Con, but in spite of that the con staff sent an email out asking con members to keep their weapons out of view as much as possible when out on the streets, because Seattle Police were getting calls from concerned citizenry about costumed folks running around with weapons — some people have no sense of humor. Lots of creative con attendees here at Sakura-Con, and it is really impressive.
Image155.jpg4. Crossplays. Lots of crossplays. — One of the interesting things about crossplays is that there are lots of girls who cosplay guy characters, and that never seems like a big deal (perhaps because so many of the guy characters in anime are effeminite pretty boys anyhow). But when a 6′ guy with hairy legs dresses up in a Japanese schoolgirl costume? Or a big, 300-pound guy who looks better suited to riding around on a Harley is dressed in a pink skirt and fairy wings? That catches your attention. Note to the man in the skintight yellow bodysuit and clown makeup: We really didn’t need to see your … lower anatomy … quite so emphasized by your outfit, sir. Please put that away.
5. Anime That Scarred Me for Life: My favorite panel of the con, this one was kind of an open mic where people line up to share with the group about their favorite (or least favorite) disturbing experiences with anime or manga. Most folks who go to this panel use it to make a list of animes they want to hunt down and check out for themselves, because it’s just so intriguing to hear about anime that other fans consider to be “scarring”. Who can resist that? Neve and I are going to hunt down as many as we can find so we can host an “Anime That Scarred Us for Life” sleepover.
Image164.jpg6. The Exhibition Hall — Kids save up their allowance all year to spend at Sakura-Con, and it’s no small wonder. This con has tons of exhibitors selling their wares, and here you can find everything from those perfect white or purple or cat’s eye contacts or high-quality wigs you need to complete your costume, to custom-made, intricate swords and other fake weaponry, to the perfectly fitted corset to complete your Victorian attire, to handmade Goth Lolita costumes and accessories, to hard-to-find manga and anime titles. And of course, there was a vendor there selling an array of Japanese candy and snacks, including the requisite Pocky. Nevermind that this is Seattle and you can find this stuff at any Asian market; if you’re downtown at the con cosplaying, you need your Pocky and gel candy and you need them now!
7. AMV Hell Marathon — Saturday night (and into the wee hours of Sunday morning) the con hosted the AMV (anime music video) Hell marathon — hours and hours of compilations of short, funny AMVs. They had all of the compilations showing last night: AMV Hell, AMV Hell 2: The Son of AMV Hell, AMV Hell 3: The Motion Picture, AMV Hell 0, AMV Hell Championship Edition, and AMV Hell 4: The Last One. We watched most of them, and it was way fun.
Top Five Things Heard/Overheard at Sakura-Con.

1. I didn’t realize when I designed it that this skirt is so big I can’t use the bathroom while wearing it!
2. Random Guy: So, are you an assassin? ME: Yup. RG: Are you a … bisexual assassin? ME: Yup. RG: That’s SO hot.
Image154.jpg3. … so I stayed up all night finishing making my sword, and then the bus driver almost wouldn’t let me on the bus with it even though it’s obviously not real — I mean, who carries around a real five-foot sword? — and then after all that I almost forgot it when I got off the bus!
4. Psssst … Hey. Do you like gay pretty boys?
5. Back in MY day, sci-fi cons were just full of a bunch of dorky guys getting drunk and talking about how we wished there were hot chicks there. These guys don’t know how good they’ve got it, with all these hot girls in sexy costumes into anime running around. If I was a teenage boy, I’d be in heaven here.
Top Six Expressions I’ve Heard Too Much of at Sakura-Con:

1. That’s epic!
2. Epic fail!
3. Marco! Polo!
4. I lost The Game! (Oh, The Game. I am so tired of The Game.)
5. Free hugs!!!! Free hugs!!!! (I managed to avoid the free hugs by saying with an icy glare, “I’d hug you, but since I’m an assassin I’d have to kill you after that.”)
6. (Heard endlessly from convention staff) Keep moving, people! No blocking the escalators, take your pictures over at the side.

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3 Responses to “Sakura-Con 2010 — Anime Geeks, Manga Freaks and Pocky, Oh My”

  1. Joe Straat says:

    People still lose The Game at the big cons? I thought that was just us in Nebraska who are three years behind everyone else on Internet fads (At least there was little to no “All Your Base Are Belong to Us,” though that strangely turned up in Kevin Smith’s latest movie). I knew I was too old for this stuff when I went to a con last year and there was nobody shouting, “Kanedaaaaaaaaaaaa!,” but as long as my girlfriend wants to go, I’m in, though after MUCH negotiation on costumes. No I am not wearing eye liner. No, sweetie, nobody needs to see my chest…. Don’t they wear lavendar blazers and squeeing fangirls all write gay fanfictions about them? Uh, I don’t think you want me getting that kind of attention….
    Out of curiosity, how old are your kids? Because on that “anime that has scarred me for life” thing, you want to make sure they’re old enough to see R movies before you show them some of those titles. I’m thinking if they’re pre-teen, watching Elfen Lied or Wicked City would be a very VERY bad idea…..
    Did I just out myself on being an extreme dork? Oops.

  2. Kim Voynar says:

    Joe, yes, The Game is still on. And on. And on.
    As for the anime that scarred me, Neve is 13 and watches R-rated stuff, and we’ll host this on a weekend when the youngers are with their dad. Particularly anxious to see Elfen Lied — a young kid at the con said it’s his favorite, although the first time he accidentally ordered Elfen Laid through eBay and got quite scarred from that. 🙂

  3. Joe Straat says:

    Okay. Just be aware the first five minutes alone has about as brutal and graphic “cartoonish” violence (distinguishing between that kind of violence, and, say, war violence) as I’ve ever seen, and very VERY blatant female nudity. That’s before the series decides to pour in the psychologically disturbing stuff. I used to work for a now-defunct anime magazine and I watched the series to help a friend research a “Death of the Month” article, and hoo boy, did we find some dandies….

Quote Unquotesee all »

It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon