Get it? Because both have flowers in their name? Hana as in flower? Sakura as in cherry blossom?
Complete disclaimer: I went to both of these conventions as press. That means that the conventions were willing to subsidize the cost of my badge in exchange for me writing this article. In Sakuracon’s case, they gave me my badge for free. For Hanadoki Con, they lowered the price to 30 dollars. Take that for what you will.
Dark_Sage tends to format his convention posts in a day-by-day format, meaning that you’d get Thursday as one post, Friday as another post, etc. Convention intervention posts are slightly different. Instead of going over the conventions day-by-day, I usually separate the convention into three parts – the good, the bad, and the weeb – and write down various events from each one of the days in each different part. That gives you a better overall feel for the convention, in my opinion.
…But this isn’t any regular convention intervention. No, we’ve got two conventions to talk about today. So the usual format isn’t going to cut it here, unless you want to hear me bitch and cry about every single facet of these conventions twice over. So we’re gonna pit these conventions head to head, and answer the question that I’m sure you all are thinking: which one of these conventions is the better west coast con?
And no, AX doesn’t count. Shut up.
Location and Venue
San Diego vs. Seattle. Sun vs. Rain. The Chargers vs. the Seahawks. It’s like comparing apples to oranges, but apples are a significantly inferior fruit.
Now, don’t get me wrong. It’s not like San Diego’s a bad place to live, provided that you want one type of weather: sun. Seriously, I spent 11 days there, and every day was the same goddamn weather. Talk about boring.
If you want a little more fun with your life, Seattle is a much better place to live. You know why? Because, contrary to popular belief, Seattle actually gets more weather than just rain. Summers in Seattle are, like, less rain and stuff! Some might even call them sunny.
Oh, yeah. If we’re talking venue, Sakuracon blows Hanadoki con out of the water. Hanadoki took place in like, one floor of a hotel. Two floors, actually, if you count the little 9th floor gaming room + maid cafe set-up they had. Sakuracon, on the other hand, gets an entire convention center to itself. And quantity begets quality. But we’ll get to that later.
Seriously, fuck San Diego. Boring weather.
The Press Badge
Maybe Anirevo spoiled me when it comes to how OP a press badge is, but one of the big things that I care about when I go to a convention is what exactly the press badge does, and if it’s actually worth spending the time and money to go to these conventions. Because, let’s be honest here: anime conventions by themselves are not worth your time.
You may think I’m joking, but it’s the cruel, brutal truth. Anime conventions are nothing more than a cash-grab at the thousands of people that have no better hobby. People are willing to spend hundreds, or even thousands of dollars to attend these events, and attempt to justify wasting a weekend on anime under the guise of “oh, it’s just a hobby” or “I’m supporting the industry” or “it’s fostering a community.” You know that one gif of Miyazaki saying “anime was a mistake”? That’s the truth.
Why, then, do smart people like you and I go to anime conventions?* The answer is simple – you go to reap the benefits of such a terrible culture. Laugh at the swine as they fumble around, salivating at the thought of their favorite voice actress saying a line as their favorite character. Enjoy the cacophony of notes as people who can’t sing try their hand at karaoke. Channel your inner supremacist and don your Gilgamesh attitude, because goddamn it, you’ve got to draw enjoyment somewhere.
* Yes, that’s a compliment. Take it.
It is to this end that the press badge has its purpose. For one, it justifies me traveling to these conventions, a feat that I would otherwise stay far, far away from. As I mentioned in the previous post, normally you have to wait in hellish lines to get your badges. This means two things: a) you end up wasting a bunch of your time, and b) you have to stand around anime fans. Neither is good for your soul. Picking up a press badge, however, is as simple as walking up to the press room and showing your ID.
Unless you’re Hanadoki Con, in which case you have to wait in the same line as everyone else, only to have to wait another ten minutes after you’ve reached the front of the line because nobody knows how to handle a member of the press. “Let me check that we’ve printed your badge.” Rekyu and conkerer, other fansubbers that joined me at Hanadoki, got their badge before me, despite me having to pre-register beforehand.
For two, it allows the recipient to save money. Most places don’t make you pay for the press badge that you’re getting. As I mentioned at the top, them paying for my pass is worth me writing this article, because of the publicity that they receive. This works out as a win-win situation. I get to save money (since >spending money at an anime convention), and they get some publicity. But not Hanadoki Con. While they reduced the cost of my pass, they still expected me to pay thirty bucks for my badge. A badge that, mind you, ended up being more expensive than what a single day pass would cost you. Quite the scam, considering that you probably only want to stay at conventions for six hours, tops. I’m not saying that they’re hungry for money or anything, but hey.
(was that show any good? please let me know in the comments.)
For three, the press badge generally brings with it special benefits at the convention itself. Sure, saving money and saving time are great, but if it’s just a boring ‘ol badge, then it feels kind of pointless. For instance AniRevo’s press badge is basically like a VIP badge – you get front-row seats to all of the panels, and you’re allowed to cut lines where you can, guaranteeing that you can experience a panel. Plus, you get to interview all the guests that are showing up to the convention.
Sakuracon nails those interviews pretty well. This is more because the guests that they get are always pretty good (we’re talking well-known seiyuu – the voice of Kirito and the voice of Tohsaka Rin showed up to this year’s Sakuracon, for instance), rather than the organization behind the interviews themselves. Imagine getting told to show up for a 2pm interview, and being told that your ten-minute slot is from 3:20 to 3:30. But wait! You might get pushed forward if there are other no-shows, so you better stick around for that 80 minute period doing nothing.
Disgusting. At least the interviews themselves were pretty cool. But making me wait like that? No thank you, Sakuracon.
Oh, and about those other “press benefits”? Non-existent. In the press kit that Sakuracon gave us, we were told that we had “reserved seating” for events and panels. Go to a panel, try to use that perk, and we get told that “lol jk no reserved seating for press”. Turns out, you only get reserved seating for concerts. Would have been nice to know! But that’s okay, we’ll just go to the panels and ensure that we get our seats.
…Except that there’s no such thing as reserved seating for the concerts. You get to cut the line, sure, but then if you want an actually good shot of the concert, you need to be in the mosh pit with the rest of the crowd. There’s no closed-off section for press, meaning that you have to spend your time with disgusting anime fans.
Now, I’m badmouthing Sakuracon here, but you have to give them credit for actually having a press policy, as lackluster as it is. Because Hanadoki Con didn’t know what my press badge did. Every single staff member I asked couldn’t tell me what perks my press badge gave me. Which is depressing in its own right.
It’s not that I didn’t try to figure out what the hell my thing actually did. I went to the help desk, intent on getting information on what my press badge did from the help desk, and was greeted with a man who obviously didn’t brush his teeth the week prior. But even that gentleman couldn’t help. We left the help desk to his somber farewells.
Some say he’s still working the help desk to this day.
Point: Sakuracon, though I’d rather abstain from giving points at all.
I’m not sure why I decided to start the last section with a rant on how terrible anime conventions are. Let me try to amend that, dear reader.
If you’re going to anime conventions, you’ve got to check out the panels and specialty content! It’s where anime fans can gather around the topic they enjoy, and learn a little something about anime and fandoms that they know nothing about! Maybe you’ll find your new calling there, because I sure did! And it wouldn’t have happened without <insert anime convention name here>! Man, anime conventions the best!
…Yeah, never mind.
Every anime convention has the standard stuff. Karaoke, artist alley, dealers hall, the like (we’ll get to those in a second. don’t worry). But what can set a convention apart is the quality and variety in the fan-produced content and events that take place in the form of panels. This is where the fans get to show off their stuff, and for the convention, it’s an outlet for them to show the wide array of demographics that it can appeal to. It’s not out of the question to describe panels as the backbone of a convention. Bored? Go to a panel! Want to sit down? Go to a panel! Want to learn something? Go to a panel!
Now, Sakuracon takes place in Seattle, which is like the west coast cultural melting pot. I’m sure it should have some interesting panels—
Race and Ethnicity in Anime
U-Uh, right. There’s gotta be some interesting panels—
Body Positive and Bullying in Cosplay
There’s some interesting panels—
Japanese Cultural Appropriation: Anime and Cultural Misinformation
Fanfiction Tips and Tricks
GOD MAKE IT STOP
O-Okay, I think I’ve calmed down. Well, at least this sets the bar pretty low for Hanadoki to take this on—
Intro to the Touhou Project Doujin Scene
GOD FUCKING DAMN IT
Addendum: No, that Touhou Project Panel was legitimately the worst thing I’ve ever been to. The panelist was probably autistic. Just take a look at this:
I mean, I shitposted and asked her a question about meme culture and memetics, and got her going for a good five minutes on how Touhou doujins relate to memes, but outside of that, the panel had nothing going for it.
The panel was only like 15 minutes of actual content, before the panelist decided that she would take it upon herself to tell us the glorious of Touhou doujin culture (read: show us videos of Touhou memes, like generic IOSYS songs). First up was Marisa Stole the Precious Thing. Tolerable, but disgusting. And boom, right after that, came the slam jam remix, Jordan Stole the Precious Slam.
and in that moment, puddi could see
what it was like to get memed
Dealers’ Hall, Artist Alley, and Buyfaggery, oh my
Look, I get it. You have expendable income and want to waste it all on figures of prepubescent girls and overly busty women who will never exist in real life. We’ve all been there. You’re not alone (though quite frankly, I wish you were).
They say that money talks. You need to prove to yourself that you’re an anime fan by buying as much anime stuff as you can. You need to buy BDs, buy DVDs, buy figs, buy artbooks, buy doujins, buy plushies, etc. Anime isn’t a hobby for you, it’s a lifestyle. And what better place to buy them at an anime convention?
And let’s not forget artists alley! Oh, glorious AA. Where you get to peruse up-and-coming artists, and show your support by buying their latest prints and sketches. The silent battleground, where artists vy for your attention and money.* A deadly zone, but sometimes the purist of gems can be found in the dark mines of artist alley.
* Don’t ever look a person at AA in the eye. At that point, you’ve created a connection with that artist, and you’re obligated to take a look at what they have. The strategy for artist alley is to just to stare slightly above where they are, at the posters on top of their booth. If you like what you see, then shift your gaze downwards and take a look. Otherwise, avoid, avoid, avoid.
Unfortunately, Sakuracon outclasses Hanadoki in size and quality. Sakuracon actually had, like, publishers there (hi Pony Canyon, Aniplex, Funi!), and around a hundred different artists for AA. Hanadoki? Like, 0 and 10 respectively. As a result, this one’s a pretty easy call.
Point: save your money, kids.
Now, I have to give Hanadoki credit here. They actually organized a maid cafe that took place throughout the event. You could sign up for sessions and reserve a spot for a maid cafe experience! Sure, it was >Sailor Moon themed and sure, the cosplayers weren’t all that great, but the amount of effort that went into making that experience a reality isn’t negligible. It takes a lot of heart for a 300 pound girl to go up on stage dressed as Sailor Moon.
They even had special Sailor Moon drinks that you could order, even though it boiled down to sugar water with food coloring and whipped cream. When there were songs playing, the cosplayers would start dancing to them, trying to lipsync to the lyrics that they didn’t know. One of the girls didn’t even bother trying. She just had her mouth shut and smiled, like everything was all right in the world.
Sakuracon didn’t have anything of the sort, and I can’t fathom why.
I’ve been pretty hard on Hanadoki in this article, and that’s for good reason. It was a lackluster convention. Given the option, I wouldn’t have gone to Hanadoki 2015, and rather use my money and time somewhere else. It’s not hard to spend 30 bucks on something more entertaining. To be fair, 2015 was the first time any of the Hanadoki staff put on a convention. But even so, it was boring, bland, and lackluster. I have very low expectations for how Hanadoki Con evolves, because I don’t see any signs of growth for that convention. With poor guests, poor staffing, and poor convention character, I don’t think it’s a convention worth going to.
Meanwhile, it’s hard to go wrong at Sakuracon. They know what they’re doing. Even if the panels may stink and the press badge may be meaningless, they have the expertise and staff in place to create a good overall convention experience. It’s hard to pinpoint an exact moment in time and say, “boy, this really made Sakuracon suck!”, because the complaints are minor in the grand scheme of how that convention is run, and the experiences that you get to have there.
I still stand by my statement that anime conventions are a waste of time and effort, and that you shouldn’t actively seek them out. But as long as I keep getting press passes and as long as I have the time, I’ll suffer through them so you don’t have to.
If you want a good west coast con, Sakuracon’s where it’s at, I guess.