I like to refer to San Japan as the crown jewel of anime conventions here in San Antonio, Texas. Having been on San Japan's staff during the 2 previous cons, I decided to sit this one out. As much of the organized chaos that goes into putting a con of this size together, I felt I really wasn't needed as San Japan is often complimented on how smoothly everything seems to run. Sure there are mix ups, missing panelists, equipement failures and such. But at the end of the show, nearly everyone has had a great time and can't wait to do it all again next year. There were 5049 people in attendance of 2010. Last year was 4003 and 3532 the previous year before then. I'm no expert, but I would call that a healthy growth as it hasn't dropped in attendance yet.
Boring numbers aside, what is there to do at San Japan? The panels and events for this year were numberous and various in themes. I would argue that there was "Too much to do" as in I felt that there were so many interesting panels happening at the same time. Things like that are bound to happen, which lead most of us to have to "pick and choose" what we want to see. Maybe this is one reason most of the people come back the next year, to see what else is going on around the convention. Most panels are repeats, and some cover subject that are hot at the moment. There are Cosplay panels, Artist related panels, and interactive events. First Storm Manga, the artist group I'm in, hosted a panel. We had a great time talking about drawing art. Until one woman asked what our day jobs were, which reminded me why I come to conventions, to get away from work and reality.
One of the panels I enjoyed was the SteamPunk/Neo-Victorian panel. Hosted by various members, The Neo-Victorian assoication of San Antonio (SANVA), members of Airship Isabella, The Neo-Dulcimer, and Cracked Monocle tabletop gaming. The room was packed and people were standing along the walls. It started with introductions and background on Steampunk and it's influences. Later, it became a lively discussion with an extremely involved audience. Whether it was talking about scavanging thift stores or prop construction, everyone was in tune and interested. Only once or twice did Neo-Victorian member Pablo have act as moderator and bang his SteamPunk laser pistol down to maintain order. One drawback was this one young loud girl that was extremely annoying with a blantantly stupid comment almost every 5 or so minutes, but it was a fantastic panel.
This year, everyone was excited for the formal dance Masquerade. I was unable to attend this event, blame "Pick and Choose" but I heard that it wasn't as fun as everyone had hoped it would be. That the music didn't match up with what people expected or could even dance too. I saw the long line for the Masquerade while I was waiting for the Iron Artist panel to start. Those in the Masquerade line were dressed to elegantly and seemed so excited. I felt sorry for them as most were lining up to stand around and be let down due to a poor choice in music, as I think back to it. Iron Artist on the other hand, I was excited for.
Having participated in previous Iron Artists at Ikkicon, O-conn, and San Japan 2, I felt this year's would be the same. It wasn't, they followed a different format as a new host took over the panel. I was hoping to get a few of my F.S.M. friends into the panel. They were able to be squeezed in, I wasn't. So, I just recorded the panel. Usually, Iron Artist is two teams who mix up a couple of themes and have to quickly draw a picture together combining the themes. The audience picks a winner per round and the teams are mixed up to add a level of randomness to it all. This year's Iron Artist was just 6 artists sitting the table, each drawing one picture on one theme for 30 minutes. In my opinion and as I heard from the opinions of some of my friends in the audience, this was really boring. Most of the time, the only amusement was with the host, named Ushi-Greg I think, and artist Amelie Belcher exchanging inside joke banter. With no real randomness or instant excitement, this event was just dull. No matter how good or popular the artists are, no one wants to sit around and watch people draw for 30 minutes.
I decided to get up early since I was asked to help out with the "How to sell in Artist Alley." Panel with Jackie Naehrig (Artist alley coordinator) and Amelie Belcher. It was short 30 minute panel. We discussed issues such as tax license accountablity, fan art, table set ups, and catering to a show's specfic audience. I enjoyed this panel and it was very informative. This panel was a good one to help new artists get into the con scene and decide whether it is worth the effort or not.
Then I walked around a bit. I decided to kill some time seeing what the Ouran Host club event was going to be like. It seemed to be a lot of fun, There were panelists dressed up as Ouran Host Club characters and they were playing games with the audience. Then afterward they would have a hosting session where they would sit with the audience members a a table and entertain them further with conversation. Everyone attending seemed to be having a great time from what I can gather. I understand why this is one of the more popular event.
After spending some time in one of the video rooms watching the Tsubasa/XXXholic movie, I entered the WebComics panel hosted by Daniel Conner (www.CrazyGoodComics.com). I had a lot of high expectations for this panel, and I set up my press equipiment to record and learn. Being a webcomicer myself I wanted to get the most I could out of it. However, the panelist was mostly rambling and not really answering questions directly. Entering his own personal opinions that weren't really on track with or even on topic most of the time. One guy even feel asleep during the panel. Most of the questions were answered within the audience by audience member themselves. I even texted one of my friends to come to the panel just to check out how badly it was going.
"Digital Mangaka: What's out there for you." hosted by Tina Anderson (tina-anderson.net). This was a panel that was focused more on Yaoi/Boy Love. But even then it was still and interesting and valuable panel about publishing in general that could be applied to more then just one genre. I had a chance to speak with Tina Anderson outside of her panel and found her to be a very knowledgable guest with a lot of useful experience and industry insight.
My friends from First Storm Manga and myself were patiently waiting outside one of the Panel rooms waiting for "How To Break into Comics" which was scheduled to be host by Daniel Conner again. We waited, waited some more, and still waited. Noticed that there were a lot of people lining up behind us. I had asked the volunteers what was going on. As the panelist couldn't be found, FSM and I decided to ask if we could host an improvized panel about making comics to at least give the people waiting in line something to hold them off until the actual panelist showed up. After a few quick phonecalls later Austin "Redbeard" Rogers and I gave a panel on how to make your own comic book. We answerd questions as best we could about how the comic/art industry works from our experience in it. Everyone enjoyed themselves and hopefully we can run a panel like this again.
Overall, I would say this year's San Japan was the best so far of all it's previous years. There were more cosplayers, fursuiter, and fans buzzing about. The new location might have had a lot to do with this more so then people would give it credit for. The gaming room was full of systems and there were plenty of tournaments going on. I cosplayed as Jack Harkness from the TV series Torchwood while my girlsfriend dressed up as Vanessa from the King of Fighters video game. She was more recognized then I was. The dealers alley was full and had more vendors this year. Another addition was Kodomo Corner, which was a child orintadated activity panel in the morning to teach kids the basics of Japanese language with fun arts and crafts.
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