Monday, 31 October 2011 13:56

Sac Anime Summer 2011 Report

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Sac Anime is a biannual convention located in Sacramento, California taking place in January and September, which I attended this past September. Both Mayhem and Gensao had been bothering me about checking it out at least once; so finally caving, I went ahead and made plans to attend. As is usual for me in current years, I attended as Press, which typically allows me to set up camera gear, record events, and whatnot with minimal fuss, especially at smaller conventions like this one.

Mayhem and I actually missed Day 1, opting instead to check out San Francisco which turned out to be more amusing than anticipated. Taking pictures of various landmarks and the ocean was an exercise in creativity due to the fact the fog was coming in quickly which made most of the landmarks, including the Golden Gate Bridge itself impossible to actually see even if you were right on top of it. You can imagine trying to drive through that stuff, heh. Also, while it was over a hundred degrees Fahrenheit in the valley, it was more like fourty-eight on the coast. Needless to say, we froze pretty good. While in San Francisco we picked up another friend by the name of Conrad, and made a specific trip to go to Ryoko's Sushi.

There's actually a story behind this little quest, you must understand. Back in the late 90's all of us were fans of a series called "Tenchi Muyo!" A series I know right now a lot of newer anime fans may only recall in passing (hopefully along with Ranma 1/2), but was the progenitor of every single harem story you are now subjected to anime season after anime season. One of the main characters was named Ryouko, and was typically beloved by all the fans, both for her exotic and buxom looks and her, how shall we say, outgoing…yeah, that'll work…personality. Mayhem and Gensao had long had a story about driving through San Francisco and seeing a place called Ryoko's Sushi, but never dining there. Through the years we would occasionally drive by it, always there, but we'd never stop until finally we made it a goal to go there well past the years in which "Tenchi Muyo!" had become a story and franchise that was hardly worth mentioning as anything other than a footnote in the history of anime. That Friday, we finally made our way to that little restaurant and come hell or high water, we were going to eat there. It should be stated that Ryoko's Sushi is a small place, but a lot bigger than one would think from the entrance due to the fact that the bulk of it is actually underground. Going inside, you're treated to Japanese techno music and a whole shitload of psychedelic neon lights set against the ambient muted tungsten of the main illumination. If you ever go, at the bottom, you'll find a sign up list since this place is busy as fuck all. Sign yourself up if there's no one greeting you, because the poor little hostess is one harried little girl that won't do it for you…I know, not exactly any points in its favor. In fact, make a reservation; you'll probably be better off. The sushi itself is being cut behind the bar in a furious fervor you can probably sit there and watch hypnotically while you wait and the Japanese trance is lulling you into insensible complacency. Hipsters love this joint, and I can see why. Oh, the food? Damn good, actually, if you like sushi. Also expensive, since it's sushi in fucking San Francisco. The guys on Yelp recommend the Volcano roll, but since I don't really like peanut butter in my goddamn fish, I wound up with the Dragon Roll and bowl of unwrapped assorted sushi on a bed of rice. The Dragon Roll was suitably nommable and hot, but the bowl of loose sushi, while good, was extremely hard to eat since it kept on slipping off my chopsticks. Wash it down with an Asahi (HA!!!) and I would have to say that was a good $50 well spent. All told, I'd have to say that's a checkmark on the bucket list.

Speaking of hipsters, you hear the one about the one who burned himself while eating a pizza? Yeah, he ate it before it was cool enough.

I slay me! Anyway, the following day we collected Mayhem's daughter and headed out to Sacramento. Unfortunately none of the other usual suspects were going to be at this one due to prior obligations, which I found ironic, but shit happens, and it's not like we were sharing a room at the hotel, so it wasn't that big a deal. As for initial impressions, it's a lot bigger than I initially thought. It's divided into two major areas, as you can see from the maps on Mayhem's original report on it for Summer of 2010 and Winter of 2011 which enables a great freedom of movement except in that choke point he mentions which seems to have gotten worse as the convention has gotten bigger, if previous descriptions were any indication. I'd say as far as numbers go, it's about two to three times as big as Anime Conji here in San Diego, but the demograph is still far younger until later at night when the older fans come out to play in force. In other words, don't hit on anyone 'til much later unless you see some ID.

One thing I did notice was that while there were some panels and gatherings going on, there appeared to be no anime viewing rooms. I suspect this is more of an outgrowth of most being able to see anime in almost real time anymore, as opposed to how it was when I first started in that we had to wait until a company over here licensed something and made it available. In other words, why bother watching something you've already watched? While many will, and a few more will actually discover something new, the observation is still quite valid. Unless it's something relatively new or highly anticipated, it's not going to draw insanely large crowds. Even so, it's kind of a staple at these events…almost the reason they were made. I'm…conflicted…on seeing this go by the wayside; even at a smaller convention like this.

Of the main events going on, I attended two of them: the Masquerade and the Eyeshine Concert, both of which you can watch by clicking their respective links.

I think I'm beginning to prefer the shorter Masquerades at smaller conventions as time has gone on. Perhaps it's because I'm getting older, perhaps it's because I've just seen too much, or perhaps I've just grown impatient over the years. Whatever it is my feelings on the subject of four to five plus hours of recording have begun to change, regardless of most of my problems that I had initially having been solved by modern technology. In any event, a couple of skits caught my notice, though all were pretty good. Actually, I'm not sure you'd call them normal cosplay skits per se. The first one was a Korean fan dance; my first time seeing such a thing. It was really very well done, though it was obvious as it went on that they'd practiced the beginning a lot more than the end since the choreography wasn't as in sync as it was in the beginning (where it was absolutely perfect). Still, it was a very beautiful performance, and I hope to see its like again sometime. The second event at the cosplay was a wonderful performance in singing the song Fallen Angel from Panty and Stocking with Garterbelt by Charmie Sweets in a perfect Princess Toadstool cosplay who won the karaoke contest. If she continues on this path, Charmie will likely take her place next to other masters like Maridah, Living Ichigo and perhaps more appropriately Traci Hines, due to sharing a dual talent of singing and cosplay. I enjoy watching talent mature, and like many others, it will be a fun trip as we watch what form hers will take.

Eyeshine is a four piece Edge Rock band whose members are composed Johnny Young Bosch (lead vocals, rhythm guitar), Maurice Salmin (drums, backing vocals, piano), Crystal Mesina (bass, backing vocals), and Daniel (Ji Ho) Lee (lead guitar, backing vocals). You might recognize the lead singer in his various roles in anime as a voice actor, or perhaps his most famous role, the second Black Ranger in Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers. One of these days I'm going to have to ask him why they keep making jokes about him looking for his paycheck at Bang Zoom, and I still need to buy them a few drinks for what went on at Anime Expo 2007. They're actually pretty decent, though I would have to say that they shouldn't even try to get signed and just make a label of their own. From what I've seen of most modern labels, they'll chew you up and spit you out, leaving you in debt or worse unless you're the next Guns 'n Roses (and probably even then). I had honestly thought initially I'd missed filming any bands, but talking with them during their signings, they had expressed an interest in getting pics from their concert on Saturday night. I simply offered to record it all which they were very enthusiastic about. I'll need to get them a Blu Ray of this concert eventually.

The pics that were taken you can find here on TFA Cosplay. Some of the highlights include this picture of Sailor Jupiter, whom was so good (and familiar…I think I may have taken some pics of her before) that I really wish I could have gotten some better lighting for. Speaking of better lighting, the sun is not your friend, though I wish it was when taking pics of subjects wearing white clothing such as this stunning Catherine here. Then we get to what is probably the second best shot of the convention, this one of Princess Peach as portrayed by the extremely photogenic Charmie Sweets. Now these guys I've seen at Fanime before, and their skills at making animal cosplays still impress me. In the midst of all this, it's important to remember that we're here to goof off and have fun. Also, Batman, it wasn't me, I swear it…though admittedly I would have bought him one, heheheh. Ah, Hanyuu, when don't you amuse me? This cosplay of Rukia from Bleach was so spot on I thought the character had walked into the real world. And finally, what is probably the best shot of the convention this very pretty young lady from a series I have no knowledge of; the lighting and composition worked out extremely well, which pleasantly surprised me. It is shots like these that make it worth taking the time to learn how to take them.

When a convention reaches a certain size, it becomes a little bit more like a trade show than a gathering of fans, and all that entails. This means the money being made becomes substantial and the industry and city/location gets a little more involved wanting their cut…and perhaps more importantly, their greater control. There's also another problem, they tend to get a bit of an overinflated sense of their own importance. By this I mean while there should be standards for press membership, it really seems like in many respects they want the national news there only; when those guys only give maybe a five minute blurb on the TV or an article in some newspaper or magazine about a paragraph long. When you're a member of the small press like me, you run into both the problems trying to cover these large shows since you don't meet the unreasonable size criteria they set and when you try to do things outside of taking photographs (which anyone can do) you run into a helluva lot of pushback as there's too much 'you will sit down and do what you're told and do this only in the way we decide you will.' I'm not advocating pure chaos, but if I wanted that treatment, I'd go back to gradeschool. Having to go back and verify and reverify what is allowed and inform everyone who should already know what is allowed and not be dicks about everything turns the whole event into work. Even when I'm working as press, I'm not here for work I do not enjoy; I'm here to have fun, and that attitude just kills it. At smaller conventions such as this, I don't have the problems I have at the larger ones. I can record take photos and report just about anything and they're more than grateful for my participation. The fruits of which I share with them and everyone is enriched because of this. I'm also not running around from one event to the next like a chicken with my head cut off, so I can take time to walk my way through, take in the ambience, attend panels…basically take part in the convention rather than hovering on the outskirts recording. This changes the experience for me, and I find I'm enjoying that a lot more. I'm not sure what that means in the long run, but we'll see. Overall though, this convention was most enjoyable, and I recommend it if you find yourself in the Sacramento area when it's going on.

Last modified on Monday, 30 January 2012 20:22

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