With the summer convention coming to a close, SacAnime completes its first year run at the Sacramento Convention Center. While many have had mixed views based on the performance of its trial run, this reviewer found the experience to be fleshed out --having a greater sense of wholeness in comparison to its preceding run.
To many Californians, aside from San Jose's Fanime and San Diego's Comic-Con, SacAnime was the only convention that could cater to an anime fan's (note, not the pejorative word "otaku") interests. In fact, over the years, Sacramentans and many others have had the opportunity to actually watch an event grow and develop over the years. In its origins, the con had barely scraped over a couple hundred attendees. Nearly a decade later, Summer 2013 set a projection of 7,500 attendees, though the actual total hit over a staggering 9,500. Attendance notwithstanding, there was quite a lot the con had to offer any prospective attendee.
First off, unlike last year, SacAnime had just about full reign over the convention center... Aside from having to share the event with a Greek Festival that was being held that same weekend. If I could interject for a moment here, I just want to say that the gyros there were AMAZING for $7. Pictured right is the stock image that a booth for Kronos Gyros used (if I'm not mistaken) for those curious of what a gyro entails. In a pita bread, fresh carved meat, tomatoes, red onions and a savory Greek cucumber yogurt to top. Other than my salivating thoughts of their food, the Greek Festival did provide a nice change of pace if one looked forward to mixing things up during the weekend. While I wasn't able to look too deeply into GreekFest, it looked rather busy with fresh food stands, jewelry booths, art booths, a dance floor and other miscellaneous shops. Had I the time, I would've loved to check it out further.
SacAnime as a whole did improve on itself and by having a wider range of space, a lot of activities were easier to access. Unfortunately, even considering the expansion did help with overall events, access to the upstairs was somewhat limited to the attending public as the escalators had broken down on more than one occasion. With the upstairs department divided between competitive tournament play and more casual arcade gaming on the opposite end. Being able to access the game room, arcade and autograph session uninhibited by foot traffic was an amazing plus, though the autograph section itself was heavily populated; more on that later.
Full access to the upstairs also provided a nice change of scenery to any cosplay photography. On top of which, for those who desired touch of change to scenery could enjoy something new for the background if their pictures as well as a wide open space for skits and relaxation purposes. With the Greek Festival also taking place, part of the lower half of the building was restricted, so a lot of open space which could've been used for gatherings and general relaxation purposes was unfortunately barred from the attendees. Aside from that though, the vendor's hall/artist's alley was actually made larger from its previous run as it filled two exhibit halls. Needless to say, I was rather impressed with its expanded presentation.
Regarding the vendor's hall, I did think its design was handled well, though the selection of products was kept mainstream and felt otherwise limited and/or repetitive. Aside from a few choice items here and there, I couldn't find much to compel myself to shop. If there was any major complaint I had in regards to the vendor's hall, it would have to be that the only place selling manga was a shop called 'The Comic Shop' and even then, I saw transactions being rung up as the product's full value and what I could assume was roughly 9% for tax, though my math could've been off slightly. I could go into detail, but unfortunately, it's nothing pleasant. Aside from that, the vendor's hall did provide just about everything for anyone's needs.
Restaurants around the area seemed rather accommodating as well with everything from pizza to sushi and even a delicatessen in the nearby area. Of the various places that were around and got a huge boost in success thanks to the convention, I'd like to give a bit of a shout-out to Upper Crust Pizza, Pennisi's Deli and of course, Mikuni's. Ever since the shift of venue to the convention center, Upper Crust provided an all-you-can-eat experience for a low price, Pennisi's provided great quality in their food with a nearby venue and as for Mikuni's? Well, between the Zig-Zag Handrolls, the Unagi Dons and the bevy of other food choices available, one honestly can't go wrong.
The game room was also revamped in this round of convention entertainment, expanding from one minor room to an entire FLOOR of the convention center. On top of this, there was a split between gaming preferences wherein half of the upper floor was dedicated to arcade gaming whereas the other half was dedicated to console gaming and tournaments. Speaking of tournaments, T.B.A.G.R. or The Big Anime Gaming Room helped manage both the free gaming and tournament aspects of the convention. Additionally, I was able to help provide the group with some prizes including several gaming posters, a couple guides and even some games. I couldn't believe how busy it was in there! On Saturday, the game room was entirely packed with people aching to play a match of Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 and to watch the various tournaments being held.
Lastly, my favorite element of conventions: autographing. To many, this may be the sole reason for attending a convention while for others, a mere bonus to the festivities. Naturally, there are a few sets of fears associated with celebrities and conventions: lines, shock, hydration and not knowing whether or not a person will have the opportunity to get articles signed. In my case, I unfortunately found myself to be denied a chance to meet Charles Martinet who voiced characters such as Mario, Luigi, Wario, Waluigi from the Super Mario Bros. series, Paarthurnax from The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and several smaller, more miscellaneous roles for a myriad of titles. Other well known actors included (with condensed descriptions):
-Troy Baker: Vincent Brooks from ATLUS' Catherine, Joel from The Last of Us, Snow Villiers from Final Fantasy XIII
-Johnny Young Bosch: singer for the band Eyeshine and voiced Vash from Trigun and Kaneda from Akira
-Ashley Johnson: Ellie from The Last of Us, Terra from Teen Titans and Gwen Tennyson from Ben 10
-Cherami Leigh: Lucy from Fairy Tail, Gaige from Borderlands 2 and Asuna from Sword Art Online
-Nolan North: Desmond Miles from the Assassin's Creed series, Nathan Drake from Uncharted
-Sumi Shimamoto: the original va for Nausicaä in Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind and Kyoko from Maison Ikkoku
I was able to get my hands on plenty of autographs, but due to limitations presented by blocked off sections of the building, lines were abhorrently crowded, tight and felt like a clausterphobe's nightmare. On top of which, the lack of any feasible hydration stations left con-goers (myself included) waiting in line --some in stifling costumes-- with little to no ventilation and had left some members in attendance feeling light-headed, dehydrated and otherwise less than prime. When it came to the actual autographing sessions however, disregarding the primary line, autographs were broken into three areas based on which person had their table set up, leaving autographs to the discretion of the attendees. While this did help streamline matters somewhat, the tight coiling of the line and the narrow hallway where awaiting fans had to traverse made the experience relatively uncomfortable. If there was full access to the center, one possibility came to mind of separating the larger drawing celebrity's line into an adjacent area so there would be freer access for those who wish to get other autographs. Furthermore, the heat that built up in the line areas had lead to premature exhaustion of guests and nearly left this reporter fainting from dehydration (though in all fairness, wearing a satin cape didn't help much either). While it's just a thought, hydration stations would've been a great asset to have at some of the corners in line, regardless of the cost. It just takes one person collapsing to potentially mar the image of a big organization.
All things considered, SacAnime Summer 2013 was a lot of fun. While the convention still seems just a slight bit rough around the edges, it feels as though the con has found its rightful place after nearly ten years of entertainment. If there was anything I'd like to impart onto the staff for next year's assembly, it would be that for areas such as the autograph lines, little modifications could've made the overall experience feel that much greater. I personally can't complain about the Greek festival, though if it was either earlier or later, then the crowd that wished to enjoy that would've been able to do so without feeling impeded upon and the SacAnime crowd could've also felt somewhat more liberated. These things aside, it was a great experience and I can't wait to see what SacAnime Winter, 2014 has in store for us down the road.
Reviewed by: Kaz
Final Report: The convention could've used some minor tweaking, but was still wholly enjoyable. There was a certain lack of vibrancy present however, though I can't place what it was about it. Keep up the good work, SacAnime staff!
On a personal note, I tried to capture the majesty of Ninja Sex Party's singer/guitarist Danny Sexbang on Saturday. Little did I realize that carrying a guitar and a full speaker set was going to be as heavy as it was. Either way, I had a blast that weekend. For those new to the convention circuit, SacAnime's a great convention to ease oneself into.