My Adventure at Sakura con 2001, A guide to convention going
In true con tradition I woke up a 4am. After a short bus ride to the hotel where the convention was to be held, I got in a line and waited patiently for four hours. This line was special as no one could really figure out where the line was supposed to be. This was especially bad as I forgot to pre-register. Lesson #1Pre-register Pre-register Pre-register. Eventually we poor saps in the non pre-register line were stuck out in the cold. I gained a new appreciation for the final episode of Sailor Moon where they had to fight at the north pole in miniskirts.
After my long wait in line the first thing I did was buy A T-shirt as all good conventioneers should do. You also get a convention badge that you have to wear to prove you are the convention. The best place to place it is the bottom of the shirt, since at Sakura-con they use clip on badges. Otherwise they might fall off and then you have to get a new one.
To start off the convention in earnest I hit the video room to watch some anime. This is one of the best features of an anime convention as you can watch shows you are unsure if you want to buy, or shows you still want to see but are unwilling to shell out the twenty plus bucks to buy. There are also titles that are not yet available on the American market fansubbed or in raw Japanese. It is important if you are watching subtitled anime to make sure that no ones head is in the way. So be courteous and if you are tall please sit at the back of the room while watching subtitled anime. By the way, anime conventions are also great place to write reviews and previews for anime as Sakura con gave me enough material for about three or four reviews and previews to be forthcoming at Anifanitiku.
After watching anime for a few hours I went to a couple of panels. If you donít know a panel is an event where some guy talks about something you might find interesting. A panel can be great or blow chunks so if you are unsure if you really want to listen, sit in the back row you can leave if it is boring. Lesson #2 Never jump into a series at the 43rd episode.
After the panels I went to get something to eat. Eating is important as you should know and anime conventions do not let you eat in the event rooms. There are two choices; go to the conventionís hospitality room, or go out to a restaurant to eat. The hospitality room is good for a quick snack between Videos. Payment is mandatory but as an ethical otaku I paid to the suggested price plus a bit more since I couldnít get change. They offer the usual snack stuff, plus sandwiches and hot-dogs. If you are lucky they also have Japanese snacks, I got to try sushi and pocky. As for going out to a restaurant there are usually a few choices since conventions usually happen at hotels. The best places to go are fast-food restaurants and all night dinners, like dennyís. Going out for a bite takes time away from the convention so be careful to plan it when there is nothing that important happening, however it is a good time to plan the rest of your convention. Lesson #3 New shirts and Ice cream do not mix.
In the evening Of the convention I attended an anime-themed Rpg. Rpgs at an anime convention are kind of a crap shoot as they can take a big chuck our of your convention time. However, they can be great fun as a most of an Rpg is just off topic conversations, in this case about anime.
After the Rpg I went home to get some sleep. Sleep is a tricky issue with conventions since it eat up a lot of time that could be better spent watching anime. Some people try to stay awake 24 hours a day during conventions but I find that a good 4 to 6 hours of sleep really enhances the rest of the convention. It is a good idea to get a hotel room However regardless of whether you intend to sleep or not, caffeine is a absolute necessity when going to a convention, anime or otherwise. The traditional way to get caffeine is coffee, and you can get that at the hotel or at those all night diners I mentioned before. There is also cola drinks, Mountain Dew being very popular since it has more caffeine than most other brands. I personally donít like mountain dew but almost all cola drinks have a substantial amount of caffeine and sugar to boot. Another good source of caffeine is chocolate. Normally chocolate will not give you the buzz needed to face anime conventions, but the high caffeine chocolate found in gas stations is a good way to stave off sleep.
Saturday when I return to the convention the first thing I did was to go to the video game room. Most of the games at conventions tend to be two player fighting games. Normally fighting games are not my bag but since you donít have to put in quarters and there is always someone to play against it is fun. It is good to note that most of the people who were my competitors werenít the quarter popping maniacs you see at the arcades, I had some good competition without being overwhelmed.
Another feature to an anime convention is the dealer room. There you can buy all the anime merchandise your budget can afford and possible a bit more. There was a line at Sakura-con but it moved quickly so it was not a big problem. My favorite thing to get at an anime convention surprisingly is more anime. Yes I know you can get it at any time of the year, but at a convention I found you can get tapes and dvds I a very good price.
Another great feature is conventions is that they have important people in the anime industry. The way you will usually meet one at an con is to show up at a panel that they run. The panel is usually about them, and you can ask them questions. The celebrity panel I attended was Lia Sargentís panel. She is a really cool voice actor who you probably have heard if you watch a lot of dubbed anime. My favorite part was when she stopped for a second to comment on how cool some people cosplaying as trigun characters where. If you plan on attending one of these panels it is a good idea to research a bit to see what the celebrity has done. This will greatly increase your appreciation of the event.
One of my favorite features to a convention is that you can see is stuff the fans themselves made. There is an art show where you can see and sometimes buy some fan made artwork. Some of these people are talented enough to start drawing their own manga series if they could a good idea. Another great con staple is cosplay, short for costume play, where fans dress up as their favorite anime character. You can see cosplayers just walking around the convention but the there is one big show that happens on Saturday where they have a big competition to see who is the best. I didnít attend this year because there was something else I wanted to see at that time. I instead saw the anime music video contest. If you donít know, an anime music video is where a fan records a song to be played to some anime clips. Some video really funny. Both the cosplay competition and the music video competition have large lines that you have to wait in. Be sure to plan for that, as space is limited. Both events are well worth the wait and can be considered the highlight of the convention, so I recommend going to see them.
Overall if you like anime you just have to go to a anime convention. Remember to plan ahead so you have time and money to go, so you can enjoy everything at the convention.
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