Over the past four years, San Antonio’s very own anime convention San Japan has grown by leaps and bounds. They quickly outgrew each venue they occupied, from their roots at the El Tropicano Riverwalk Hotel and Municipal Auditorium at San Japan 1.5 and 2.x to the Marriott Rivercenter at San Japan :3 and 4TW. And now it seems that they may have finally found a place that will let them grow even more: the Henry B Gonzalez Convention Center and the Grand Hyatt hotel for San Japan Mach 5.
Moving to the HBG Convention Center and the Hyatt was a really great choice in terms of space. Like Eduardo said in his “Top 5 Reasons to go to San Japan Mach 5,” everything was bigger, especially when talking about the events that were being held in the convention center. Though I lived in San Antonio most of my life, I never realized how big the Convention Center really was till day one of the convention. There was tons, and I mean tons, of space in the Convention Center. In past San Japans, space was a valuable commodity. Trying to get through from one end of the convention to the other end without running into crowds, lines and cosplayers posing for pictures made it a chore. As everything was more spread out there was more room to walk around.
The CC housed the artist alley, dealers’ room, and the game room, each with plenty of room. Most notably, artist/con alley had the most room out of the three due to the area was also housing the Sleeping Samurai foam combat area, the chill-out area with snack bar nearby and the table top/card gaming area. While there was enough space for both con goers to wander through the aisles of artists and artists to display more of their art and have breathing room, there was still leftover empty space. This empty leftover space included the area that was designated for the tabletop/card gaming. While I didn’t attend the last day, on the two days that I did attend, I didn’t see anyone using that area for tabletop/card gaming. While I’m sure that San Japan will grow into its new location in the years to come, if the con organizers use the same layout next year I think they should place the tabletop area either in different location completely, like near the chill area and move everyone a few spaces down, or just get rid of tabletops all together. It might sound a bit harsh, but unless someone comes up with a D&D module that features anime characters/an adventure based on an anime, an anime version of Circus Maximus or a war miniatures game based on Hetalia, there is no need for a section designated for tabletop games.
The video gaming area was another area that greatly benefited from having extra room. In the first two San Japans, the gaming rooms were pretty small, with a majority of the setups being dedicated for the tournaments and a small handful for casual/party play. Games like Rock Band and Dance Central were added into the lineup and given their own space. This made for some problems/confusion for some con goers since now there were two different rooms on opposite sides of the con. Now with the added space Mach 5 had, there was enough room to set up everything: casual play, tournament play, music games and even room for more spectators to comfortably watch. There was lots of room left over, but it’s a new location so it’s understandable that not all of the space was used. Hopefully more games, such as imports and arcades, will be added next year.
As for the dealers’ room, it felt the somewhat the same as it did during 4TW but different. The reason being that the room it was housed in was bigger and housed more vendors than last year. Some vendors that have been to San Japan in previous year have expanded. There was plenty of room to walk through for both customers and for those in cosplay.
The other half of San Japan took place in the Grand Hyatt where the majority of the smaller panels that did not involve special guests or people in the industry. I didn’t personally attend some of those panels that took place in the Hyatt, the room that we used for Video Game Jeopardy was a decent size room and the volunteers that helped out with our set ups were helpful in making sure that we had what we need.
San Japan just keeps growing with each passing year. This is shown most clearly with San Japan Mach 5 and its move to a larger venue. With having lots of extra space being the only minor downside, this will be taken care of as San Japan continues to grow into its new home. Personally I’ve been going to the con since 1.5 and I am happy to see San Japan get even bigger.