In any event, Sac Anime is a biannual convention with Winter and Summer halves and have just completed its second year at the Sacramento Convention center, having outgrown the hotel it was previously based in. Currently for the Summer half, it is done in tandem with the Greek Festival which benefits both conventions tremendously. The Greek Festival is a good break from the anime convention with its presentations, exhibits, and dealer's booths, but the biggest advantage is the food right there on site. It's damn good food, too, being everything from Gyros to whatever they happen to be cooking in their kitchen area (lamb, stew, veggies, rice, and other more exotic Greek foods). I'm hoping that continues for the foreseeable future, but as Sac Anime grows, it will likely not be possible. On the subject of its growth, it has also had to reserve the theatre complex right across from it, where this year they had several Q&A panels, but is also large enough to handle the Masquerade.
After our rather dismal experience with the Quality Inn last year, we wound up at the Residence Inn this year, and what a joy that was. The comparison was night and day; Hell, the thing had a full kitchen with dishes, a stove, and a really big fridge. Not to mention more than enough room for everyone, which is always a concern at these places. As an added bonus, it was probably closer to the convention center than the Quality Inn; sure parking wasn't free, but it wasn't like $40 a night at hotels such as you find at Anime Expo, Comic Con, or Fanime.
Usually I save the critique for the end, but there is one place I'd like to mention that Sac REALLY needs to get a handle on. That being their press junkets for their guests of honor. They have a place for them, certainly, but I never did quite see a schedule for them. There were also a lot last minute email notifications, which would have required that we drop whatever we were doing and hightail it over to the press area to get set up and ready to go; which is not usually possible. I truly enjoy doing these far more than simple interviews as I'm only one guy and the questions I'd like to ask are very much in the vein of what I would consider interesting. With everyone there, a wide spectrum of subjects can be covered, and many topics, often interesting ones, I'd never think to bring up or even knew about are brought up. Anime Expo does very well with this. ACEN makes it mandatory (before we quit covering it, you had to show up for at least two such junkets). Sac...still hasn't seemingly gotten it down pat yet, and that needs to change. At least this year they did have a press area and I got to talk to their press corps, so improvement is definitely ongoing.
As is the case, pictures are something we primarily enjoy taking. And it is here that you can enjoy them all (more to come as the rest of my compatriots turn them in, heh). Remember, if you see a picture of yours that you want a larger and/or raw version of, shoot me a line, and I'll make them available. Anyway, I'm honestly at a loss on this convention to really say which ones truly stood out, as they all are really something. I'm getting more and more a handle on this picture taking thing I've been doing for years, and aside from some experimentation to get that flash-shadow to go away (without the use of a another separate flash, anyway), I've really liked how they all turned out. One of the best pictures I took this time around, artistically speaking, would have to be of this Vocaloid. It's hard to get motion and facial sharpness like that; it took a few tries, but this is a damn decent shot, I thought. Another that just captures the beautiful windswept look is this one of Roxy I did at the Misfits photoshoot we were kinda called in to do sort of last minute. Originally we were just going to hit the AMV contest (which honestly was kinda boring this year), but Pio got a call asking if he could fill in for this photoshoot for another photographer who was overbooked. He asked if we could help, and that answer will almost always be, "Of course." Once we got there, we found that Toshiyasu Morita had arrived ahead of us, and lent his flashes and umbrellas as well as expertise to Pio to get some of the best pics possible. In my case, using the one flash, I got some heavy shadows, but it seemed to work out for this sort of shoot as well. Admittedly the first few pics there are test shots, but they turned out fairly well, so I threw them up too. It was a lot of fun; maybe I'll look into doing more. Pio seems to be branching into that direction and appears to be having a considerable amount of fun doing so. We shall see.
It should probably be noted that another big draw of the smaller convention is that when musical talent is invited, it's not the kind that screams copyright infringement every five seconds, and actively encourages one to record and share their work. Which I try to do, in order to get the word out there. This year, long time favorites Eyeshine showed up to entertain their fans once again, though admittedly it almost didn't happen. Normally, I wouldn't share a story like this, but in this case, I think it needs to be told. Due to the nature of the work in setting up equipment and getting the best places for pictures and video, press is often allowed in earlier for most events. It's not really a perk given the responsibilities and the fact you're working. It's pleasant enough work, don't get me wrong, but it is work. This also means respecting everyone else who has to do work as well; which includes the technical staff and the entertainers themselves. While not a press problem, there was an incident last year where a guy just got up on stage to take pics and got in everyone's way; which has forever jacked up the ability of press to do this, and this was just an attendee, and not a member of the press. What happened this year was that the technical crew were having serious SERIOUS technical issues before the concert which delayed it considerably. The press was doing what press does, and getting pre concert photos, which is not something a lot of people are privy to, but are rather curious about. However, they failed to read the signs in their zeal to get the shot; everyone's frustrations were going sky high, and bulbs flashing in people's faces only added to it; which resulted in the press being ejected. I wound up hanging in the back of the room until they started letting people in. In any event, as a cautionary tale for all photographers and those learning to be such, one should pay attention to your surroundings and learn that sometimes, even with the best of intentions, that shot may not be worth what we'd have to wind up paying for it. Especially when we start to get in people's way, which is what we're supposed to be trying not to do. In any event, check out the Eyeshine concert below.
After Eyeshine came the band The Slants. I first saw them opening for another group at ACEN several years ago, and while I'll say they weren't what I'd call exceptional, they were still pretty good and entertaining. Hell, I even bought a CD back then. I'll say this much, their instrumentals are top notch, and could be put to so many more uses in the industry if they so wished. On the other hand, they premiered here with a new lead singer, and I'm going to go out on a limb and say that the jury's still out there. I'm thinking he might actually be pretty decent if he takes some voice lessons. In any event, why not just judge for yourself?
One thing I've been promising myself to get to is the Lolita Fashion Show they've been putting on. Well, technically I suppose it's note entirely Lolita fashion, as there were a few kimono displays and even some casual stuff. I managed to set up the video camera center stage and get an impressive video out of it. The only problem I really have is that I'm not able to control the zoom as well as I'd like. It's not usually a problem when dealing with events that go from side to side mostly, but for motion coming to and going from the camera, I would very much like a better control mechanism than the tiny toggle on top of the camera. In any event, enjoy!
This year, as mentioned previously, the Masquerade took place in the theatre next to the convention center. This is a good choice as with the tiered seating it allows everyone a damn good view of the live action on stage; though perhaps a movie screen on top or to the side for those who are in the back might be nice, but this is just future musing at present. What it really allows is a good place in back for one to set up a video camera. Originally we were going to set it up on one of the balconies, but that was quickly nixed when we figured that a tripod with camera equipment not properly secured might pose a falling gear hazard. Given this was a new venue, there were some technical issues, a couple of serious ones at that. Case in point, screwing up the opening and half time dance troop's music. Still, we managed to soldier on and get this thing done. This year's format was dance troop, skits, walkons, dance troop, final skits, and Karaoke contest winners. In terms of outstanding highlights, Dynasty Warriors fight scene was about as good as you're going to get without movie editing or a risk of an OSHA fine. Grim Goblin Jack was damn creepy too. Now the walkons were well placed, I'll note. Though in that regard, I think the Evangelion units pretty much blew everyone away. I think the Kyo Ani skit had the fangirl vote. Sac Anime also has some damn good quality with their Karaoke winners, and I thought the second guy was good...damn good. I couldn't figure out how someone could have beaten him...and then the girl who walks on next shows you with her number from Cowboy Bebop...she even recovers nicely when her phone goes off. But hey, why take my word for it? Check this out on our new Vimeo channel to deal with Youtube being the music industry's bitch.
Let's see, other miscellaneous goings on. I'd like to say something good about the swap meet, but to be brutally honest, getting in there was easy, but seeing anything with everyone crowded around the floor spaces was something else entirely. I don't know that there is anything that can be done either; even with more room in the area, there's nothing that can be done about people crowding around those selling vintage video games. The AMV's this year were quite dull. I think there was one in the comedy category we found amusing, but for the life of me, I cannot remember what it was. It was either drama or romance that was interminable, and after suffering through enough, we bailed. The dealer's hall is getting to be the size of Fanime's; though to be truthful, they did combine it with Artist's Alley. Even so, it's getting big. I was going to buy the Blu Ray for Kaleido Illya (even with the complete change of voice actors from the Fate dub), but not only did they not have it on the final day when I was buying stuff, the guy that had it had no idea he had ever had it in Blu Ray. I wound up getting some manga and some local comics from Jason Dube at Scattered Comics which weren't half bad, I'll admit.
This was probably the most stress and drama free convention I've been to. Everything I wanted to do was done with almost no hastle. Every event I covered was allowed with no problems. No one that I'm aware of threw a fit, and none of the convention staff were dicks, at least not in my observation. I honestly don't know how long this is going to last, to be truthful. Coming to Sac Anime has always been something that has sort of fallen into place, and this may not continue. There's also its growth, and my observations on that. Regardless, this year, this time, it was a good time. I truly, honestly, and deeply hope they can keep it up.