In April of 2012, I attended my first anime convention, Sakura-Con, the premier anime convention in the Pacific Northwest. Although I’ve had numerous opportunities to attend the convention since its inception in 1998 and even made legitimate plans to go while in high school, this year was the first that I actually went to. For three days, I witnessed and participated in a paradise created by and intended for anime fans such as myself and my experience has provided a permanent impression on how I watch, understand and appreciate anime.
To me, Sakura-Con can be broken up into three specific categories with each having a specific impact on my anime life. The three categories are the Convention, the Panels, and my Friends. Although each category technically could fit under the umbrella term “the Convention”, this category refers to the entirety of the convention that every fan experienced whereas the others are tailored toward my specific interests and the people I saw while at the convention.
My experience of the convention itself, outside the panels and social aspect, mainly consisted of wandered aimlessly through the Exhibitors’ Hall and Artist Alley, looking in and watching a few of the Anime Theaters, and playing a few games in some of the gaming rooms. The Exhibitors’ Hall quickly became my favorite due to its extensive size of merchandise and other oddities. And while I did not really intend to blow my wallet here, I did end up buying several art books that I couldn’t take my eyes away from. Of note were three art books of Aria, a Spice and Wolf art book, and one of various works by Makoto Shinkai. These were the first and are the only art books that I own in the realm of anime/manga. Additionally, a few DVDs, posters, and amateur drawings were purchased, too. Over the course of the three days, this is easily the most I’ve ever spent on anime/manga merchandise, something that indicates how truly spectacular and powerful an anime convention can be to an easily-inspired fan.
The panels I attended were perhaps the most fascinating aspect of the convention, putting me in the same room with lectures and Q&A and information sessions with prominent figures in the anime industry, like Gen Urobuchi, Atsuhiro Iwakami, Michihiko Suwa, Steve Blum, and many more. Each session was unique and inspiring with topics ranging from Q&A on Puella Magi Madoka Magica and Fate/Zero, to how the voice actresses were selected for Rinne no Lagrange, to how anime is promoted and advertised in Japan, to the production and directing of anime dubbing in the United States. Every panel I attended was fascinating and informative which is truly meaningful to me, helping me understand various diverse aspects of the anime industry from the very people who operate it and provide us with the anime they create. The only panel that wasn’t informative was perhaps my favorite, the comedy panel late at night, which left me smiling and laughing long after the panel had ended. Looking back on it now, I wish I had attended more panels but, with a year of experience, I figure I will have an easier time paneling out my schedule so that way I can attend every panel I want to.
The last major impact that Sakura-Con had on me was meeting up with various friends over the course of the three day experience. Among this cohort, I saw groups of friends from high school, college, and from the online anime community totaling 20 people even. Every person I met helped me enjoy the convention since I hardly ever talk to them about anime and for most, this was the first time I’ve ever done it with them face-to-face. Not only was it fun to have a friend with me while I walked around the Exhibitors’ Hall or with me while I attended a panel, but it showed me some sides or details about them that I probably would not have known about otherwise. Not only that, but it helped me realize a few things about myself, too. I can only hope that I had the same lasting experience for everyone else that I saw, seeing how positive an effect it had on me. And when I look forward to Sakura-Con in 2013, seeing the people is literally the one I am looking forward to the most.
When combining all these categories together, it’s easy to see how and why Sakura-Con is one of the 12 greatest moments of the year in terms of anime and manga for me. The experience I had at my first anime convention truly inspired me in many ways, helping me purchase various amounts of merchandise (that I may or may not have needed), educating me about the anime industry from respected and famous professionals, and letting me share in this experience with friends. With this in mind, I am already looking forward to visiting Sakura-Con again in 2013. And with a year of experience already gained, I expect my next trip to the convention will be even bigger, brighter and better than before.