This past weekend an invasion force took over the San Antonio Marriott Rivercenter Hotel in downtown San Antonio, Texas. They prepared to….dance Caramelldansen dressed up in costumes? That only could mean one thing; San Antonio’s anime and Japanese cultural convention San Japan :3 was back for another year of fun, dress up and panels. This year brought some changes, such as the new location of the convention, new musical acts and much more.
The first thing that I noticed was the change of venue from the Holiday Inn Tropicana to the Marriot Rivercenter Hotel inside the Rivercenter mall in the center of downtown San Antonio, Texas. The move to a new location was a good change for many reasons; the con was all in one area so less walking from place to place, since it was inside guests could come in dressed up without worrying about dying from the Texas heat, and since it was inside a mall there was easy access to the surrounding area shops, restaurants and local attractions. One complaint I did have about the location is that it was kind of hard to find of the panel rooms, even with the help of the map. It was a new location though, so I might just be nit picking a bit, but overall it was a great location and hopefully next year it will be second nature to find the panel rooms.
One the first day going up the escalators, I was bombarded with the sights and sounds of a busy crowd and I wasn’t even in the main area of the con yet. In the second floor lobby of the hotel was artist alley, surrounding the main event ballroom. Ranging from artists drawing commission pieces to selling different types of cosplay accessories there was a wide range of art for sale. In the center of artist alley was the main event ballroom and adjacent panel rooms.
In the main event ballroom was where most of the bigger events take place, from the opening and closing ceremonies to the dance/rave and the band concerts. On the first day in the main event ballroom was the opening ceremony. Dave “The Proz” Henkin kick things off by thanking the con goers for coming to San Japan :3, introduced some of the guests, and gave away some free stuff. The prizes were ranging from posters and air fresheners to tickets to an advance screening for Scott Pilgrim Versus the World (which I won). After talking a bit he turned it over to the opening act, The LoliHolix, an anime and JPop cover band, and followed by the main act for the first night, KESHIKI a JRock band from LA. I didn’t stay for KESHIKI, but The LoliHolix was a really good opening act, playing cover opening songs from shows like FLC, Full Metal Alchemist and some original songs that they have written themselves. I skipped out on the VA panel this year because, well it didn’t interest me. I love anime, don’t get me wrong, but I’m more of a gamer than I am an Otaku.
I ended the first night by sitting in a panel by a group of cosplayers called The Resident Evil Residential Files. These were a group of friends that have a love for the Resident Evil series that they went out and started to make shorts recreating some of the scenes; leading up to the premier of a Big Brother meets Resident Evil parody called “The Resident Evil Residential Files”. The first episode will be premiering sometime after San Japan.
The second day was the busiest day of the convention, as everyone was fully dressed up in their cosplay to compete in the cosplay contest being held in the main event ballroom. Some of the costumes were pretty well made. Some were elaborate and elegant while some were just simple yet the cosplayer really pulled them off very well. The contest was pretty long so I didn’t stick around for the finals or the skit portion of the contest. Afterwards I, thought I’d try my hand at the game room next to the main event ballroom. This year the game room hand a bit more selection of games to play, ranging from fighters like Tekken and SSFIV, to Rock Band and Mario Kart for the SNES. The area was a little smaller than last year but that didn’t stop con goers from going in and seeing who good they really are. The last event of the night was the rave/dance in the main event ballroom. I didn’t stay for the dance, but headlining the concert was a group called The Protomen and their opening act was Maja. From what I heard from other con goers, the concert was awesome and epic.
The third day was the last day of the con and even though it was the final day, it looks and feels like if it just started all over again. Everyone was dress up in there cosplay, buying art pieces from the artist, and merchandise from the dealers’ room. I had missed the Kingdom Hearts Fan panel due to mixing up the times, so it was time to hit up the dealers’ room finally. Now with most cons, buying on the first or second day is ok if you really want that certain item, but it’s worth waiting for the last day of the con. The reason being is that the dealers do not want to go home with all the merchandise they had brought, and will start slashing the prices to lighten their load. After getting what I wanted (which was a Dark Phoenix variant action figure, number 1,2 and 3 set of the 25th anniversary of Marvel’s The Secret Wars, a new katana and the 20th anniversary Street Fighter art book. After almost spending my money at the dealers’ room, one last panel was in order before I decide to leave the con. I met up with Eduardo, drummer of the LoliHolix and voice of the Top lists on the site, and Chris Holm of First Storm Manga and one of the artists for the site to sit in on the panel “How to Break into Comics.”
This panel was interesting to say the least. The orginal people that were suppose to conduct the panel never showed up, so Chris and one of the other artist from FSM Red Beard, stepped up and moved the panel along. It was really informative to hear what they had to say. Their experiences, how they broke into the industry and how they gave tips and advice to aspiring artists. Now I’m not an artist myself, but it was really cool to hear from their perspective on the industry.
So ends another year for San Japan. After attending the last two conventions, I would have to say that this year was pretty good. Other than the me not being interested in the VA panel this, San Japan is heading in a good direction. If anything, I’d like to see more of a video game presence in the cons to come, and I don’t mean just the game room. Video games are a big part of the culture in both Japan and in the US, so having a panel that just focus on the video game VA would be really great. Also, the game room needs to be in a bit bigger space to fit not just the people playing the games but also those who want to watch as well. Other than those things, San Japan was really enjoyable and I cannot wait to see what the con organizers will bring to San Antonio next year.
- Mike V.
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