Again, I'm back from a long absence. This time, I'm here to tell you about Sakuracon!
What is Sakuracon, you ask? Well, it's the largest Anime Convention in the Pacific Northwest, if you believe the flyer. I don't have any reason to doubt it, as I don't know of any other anime conventions in the area. It just happened, and I wasn't able to spend as much time there as I would have liked, but I can tell you about what I saw.
This is the third time I have attended Sakuracon, and overall, it is usually an enjoyable experience. I didn't make it to a panel this year, so I can't really talk about those. There were some interesting ones, which I had circled to go see, and they covered a wide variety of topics. There were panels with manga artists and voice actors, how to design characters and video games, and even one on bonsai trees. But like I stated before, I didn't go to any of them. Next year, I swear!
As for what I did see, I saw all the bands that were playing, half an episode of xXxHOLiC, I saw a lot of the dealers room, and cosplay, of course! You couldn't avoid it if you tried!
The 4 bands that played are Ketchup Mania, ALI Project, The Slants, and Scandal.
Ketchup Mania - Ketchup Mania is a pop-punk band from Japan (of course). They are the first of the four bands I saw, and their music seemed to cover a wide range of sounds, from speed metal to an Irish drinking song, if you can believe it.They were vary lively on stage, and had a good rapport with the audience that was there, but, to be perfectly honest, they sounded horrible. The first half of the show sounded like white noise, and by the third song, there was a mass exodus of people out the door. As the set went on, they did start to sound better, and when they slowed down the tempo, and vocalist HIRO wasn't screaming, they actually didn't sound that bad. Overall, I could not recomend them.
ALI Project - ALI Project is the main reason I went to Sakuracon this year. I would definitely classify them as a Goth band. They have a unique sound (well, when your band cosists of a vocalist, two violins and a keyboard, I don't think you can sound like too many other bands) which is easy to identify. Their music has appeared in many anime including Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion, CLAMP School Detectives, and Kamichama Karin, and they have done all the Opening theme songs for Rozen Maiden. The show itself was pretty much what I expected. Good music, a mellow pace, and a bit of stage show. Unfortunately, I did not get to see the entire show, but I would recomend them.
The Slants - The Slants are a pop-rock band out of Portland, OR, which means that they are somewhat local! More opportunities to see them! I really enjoyed their music and their show. I must admit that I can't remember much beyond that, but regardless, I would still recomend going to see these guys (and gal).
Scandal - This was the surprise of the con. After the Slants played, they started looping their DVD Single (for lack of a better term), and it involved cute little stories involving animated versions of the band members. Unfortunately, they were no subtitles, but I could understand some of it. It ended with their first single, which sounded great. When they finally came on, they really impressed me with their energy, enthusiasm, and especially their music! It is basically pop-rock, but it was very catchy, even sung in Japanese. They apparently now have a single available on iTunes (I know because I'm on their mailing list), which I will have to get. What amazes me most is they sound so polished and they only had one single out when they played!
xXxHOLiC - Well, I've actually already seen the entire first season, and I really like the show. I do wish they would have tied it with Tsubasa Chronicles, like they did the manga, but it does well on it's own. The story revolves around Watanuki, who is haunted by spirits. They just can't leave him alone. He meets Yuko, who is a witch of sorts, and he goes to work for her as a way to pay her for teaching him how to be rid of the spirits. Being a CLAMP property, there is of course a large cast of characters that he interacts with, from Himawari (who he adores more than anyone), to Doumeki (who he considers the bane of his existence), and many, many supernatural beings. The portion of the English dub I heard wasn't that bad, and that, coming from me, is a BIG compliment. If you like supernatural themed anime, this is a great one, and funny to boot.
The cosplay at the con was a mixed bag, but that's what I always expect at cons. There weren't any absolutley horrible costumes that I saw, but not too many that were amazing, either. I didn't see as many Naruto or Bleach costumes this year as last, so it was a nice mix of old and new. Two of my favorites were Fran from Final Fantasy XII (and very well done, let me tell you) and Akira from Lucky Star (very cute).
The dealers room was a bit disappointing for me. It didn't seem any smaller than last year, but the amount of bargain shopping for mangas and DVD's I expected to find just wasn't there. Anything that was a good deal was completely picked through. I guess that shows me for waiting until Sunday to do my primary shopping. Their seemed to be a higher number of costuming related booths, and fewer places that carried unusual items than I remember from last years con, but that could just be my warped perception of what was really there.
Overall, I still enjoyed the con, but not as much as I did last years. Here's to hoping Sakuracon 2009 will be better!