Written by Robbie Pleasant
Kraken Con has returned and grown, expanding from a one-day con to a two-day event, welcoming October with one of the last conventions of the year. This year’s convention was larger than ever, thanks in equal parts to word of mouth, and to the many impressive guests the convention brought in.
This was the third Kraken Con, but it was growing at a very nice rate, and the previous two times had received positive reviews. Like last year, it was held in the Oakland Convention Center, with the dealer’s hall, artist alley, and panel rooms all located in the main hall. For the most part, everything was spaced apart properly, so traffic could flow and people could find their way around; I continue to be impressed by how they can place a large anime screening area right beside the artist alley in such a way that neither gets drowned out by the other. Occasionally the crowds around the gaming area would slow traffic, or make it hard to hear a panel, but that was a minor issue at worst.
There were a few changes from the previous year’s layout, with a larger gaming area (containing mostly Smash Bros. and Street Fighter, but also a large area for Just Dance), and the panel rooms were open areas, divided by two walls only, and this time with helpful signs letting people know what panel was when.
I took the time early on to stop at the “Makeup Tips & Tricks for Bodypaint & Photos” panel, hosted by Dynamic Cosplay Couple. This was actually a very educational panel for cosplayers who don’t often dabble in makeup or body paint, particularly the lessons in contouring to change one’s features and accentuate muscles or cleavage. They demonstrated as they went, showing just how impressive the changes can be.
Of course, there was a line to speak with guests throughout most of the entire convention. The big three guests were Caitlin Glass, Matthew Mercer, and Eric Stuart. (Of course, this meant that there were plenty of cosplayers dressed as characters from Attack on Titan, Fullmetal Alchemist, Pokemon, and Yu-Gi-Oh.) During their autograph sessions, each allowed one free autograph per person, with additional ones at the guest’s discretion and price point. Eric Stuart also had a table set up, where he sold pictures and CDs.
I attempted to set up an interview with Eric, but due to his video policy and time constraints, I could only ask a few questions, and had to remember the answers. When asked about the edits and changes the 4Kids dubs are known for, he was quick to defend the company, reminding us that the censorship was due to the broadcast standards. The company had to make certain edits, in order to get the shows on Saturday morning TV, and he’s glad they did, because shows like Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh really took off and got kids into anime because of it. (That doesn’t quite explain the need to change names, like Hayato into Chumley, or Anzu into Tea, but that’s beside the point.)
However, as mentioned, he was also there selling his CDs. His musical and acting careers, he explained, both made use of his best instrument - his voice. Living in Nashville, he’s at the heart of the musical industry, and is quite happy to be there. (He doesn’t do songs for anime anymore, though, in spite of hits such as Brock’s “Two Perfect Girls.”)
In fact, it often seemed like he was far more interested in talking about his music than his voice acting. It was a mixed experience to speak with him, but as long as the attendees were happy, then it’s all good.
Of course, those three were not the only guests. I also took the time to speak with Nicki Rapp, a voice actor and director known for her work in The Sims, Tales of Monkey Island, and as Lilly in The Walking Dead. Now, there are some guests who you can speak with, and everything they say makes it clear just how much they love what they do, and how much they appreciate the fans that they meet. After not even three minutes of speaking with Nicki, it was abundantly clear how filled with joy she was just to be there, interacting with fans and sharing the good times. In fact, it’s hard to explain just how sweet she was in person, so you can watch the interview below, and if you ever get the chance to meet her at a con, I highly advise you take it.
For those who are just wandering the halls, Kraken Con offered a scavenger hunt for guests to participate in. They were given a sheet of clues, which they would have to decipher to find a certain vendor or artist, who would give them a stamp. Anyone who collected all the stamps would win a bag of candy, and it was not only a good way to kill some time, but also proved very helpful to the vendors and artists, as it brought more traffic to their tables, thus providing more sales opportunities.
In addition, there was the Maid Cafe, which offered games, entertainments, and the attention of a maid or butler for $10. There was a stage there, which the hosts would occasionally perform a song or dance number on throughout the day, and the cafe was almost always filled with attendees.
Although the food options were limited at the convention center, the con offered a map with all the nearby eateries marked down. It even included notes on prices, which is convenient for a con-goer on a budget. There were a few places mere blocks away, which meant staying well fed was not a problem.
On Saturday evening was the Cosplay Contest. In spite of it being a young convention, there was still some high-level competition at play. Sign-ups could be done online or at the convention, although apparently there were some issues with all the online spots being filled when people tried to sign up. Still, the cosplayers were at their best, and three winners were chosen.
However, the contest was craftsmanship judging only. There were no skits or performances, just walk-ons. It seemed like the masquerade portion was an option made for the second day, for the “talent show,” but that turned out to not be the case.
Instead, the Talent Show was just that: a talent show. Cosplay was not required, nor did the performance need to be related to cosplay, or even anime, in any way. The performances were evenly split between singing and dancing, with one person performing a violin piece she composed, and my group being the only one to do a skit. The prizes were all cash, and were awarded to first, second, and third place winners; there were no individual categories, such as “Best Group Performance,” “Best Individual Performance,” “Best Song,” “Best Dance,” or anything like that.
While both contests were run very well, I feel that there was no room at either for someone to do a Cosplay Skit. There were no performances for the Cosplay Contest, and the Talent Show was no place for a group skit. This is one thing I would like to see changed next time.
At the end of the weekend, I was satisfied. Though the convention had some ups and downs, it was still very well organized, and ran smoothly. The convention provided plenty for people to do, it had a good assortment of guests, and made the most of the space it had. The next Kraken Con will be in April, and as large as this one was, I’m sure the next will grow even more.