I’ve been attending San Japan since I first knew of it as “Zero Day Anime” at Our Lady of the Lake University. There was something familiar and humble at every one, but this one felt different. Mach 5 didn’t feel like the usual San Japan, something about felt alien. I don’t think it was the new location, either. I believe it had something to do with the extra three thousand people that weren’t there last year. To me, it felt as though this was a whole new grand convention. Gone was the hometown “Mom and Pop” atmosphere of previous San Japans. This one felt more like a national-level convention, not just a Texas one.San Japan has always had a decent sense of organization, I know this having volunteered and staffed at previous ones, but when I was walking around I got this sense of “Holy crap, this is the big time.”
I noticed that sometimes during the panels a few panelists would fall back on inside jokes. Most of these inside jokes and references were lost on a majority of the audience. I chuckled to myself at this as the usual forum personalities and con demons were now strangers in their own townwhile on their “home turf.”This was a whole new convention and I was overwhelmed. One the first day I did spend a lot of time running back and forth from the convention center to the hotel. My feet were aching but it was a good ache as I was seeing so much and finally seeing where I’d like to settle down and get the most out of what I wanted out of this major event.
One of the first places I made sure to head to was the Art Auction. Like many that wanted a table, I couldn’t get one because they sold out in the first 2 minutes. But as a more laid-back type of artist, I now prefer to use the Art Auction even if a table is available. Here’s why: with a table, you have to man it, set up, break down, and you’re tied to it ball and chain unless you have a partner or group with you to help you out. With the Art Auction, all I need to do is show up with a polished, finalized and framed piece that’s sure to sell and let the Auction take care of it. That leaves me free to run around and have fun attending panels, taking pictures of cosplayers, and making a fool of myself. I didn’t have to worry about paying for a table, just an Art Auction spot for each art piece. While I was sitting in listening on a panel on Game Development, I was making money. This year, the Auction had plenty of space available, so for any artists that can’t get a table, I recommend using the auction next year. I know I will! To be honest, I really didn’t care if I had a table or not since I had already planned on going to the Auction.
A majority of the panels I attended were either overflowing or packed. It was great to see so many people interested in the various subjects being discussed at these panels. There were a few panels I caught there are great and some I missed that I wish I could have attended. Even with the Guidebook schedule app giving me reminders of upcoming panels and events, there was so much I wanted to see and do I couldn’t go and see it all. Of course, most of the descriptions for the panels in the Guidebook app could have used some work. Like I had no idea who was running some panels or what some panels even were. For example, it you’re going to give a panel on how to make a webcomic, and you have a webcomic, it might be good to have link on where your comic is? That way I can see if I want to even bother. A few panels I went to had some audio/video issues, but there was a tech on hand to help clear things up.
If you are a fan of anime, steampunk, video games, or just animation in general,San Japan Mach 5 was the place for you. I saw plenty of the usual anime-based costumes, and I loved seeing so many Avatar: The Last Airbender/Legend of Korracos players. I think I lost count of the Korras at 6 or 7. I also saw tons of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic cosplays. I didn’t even bother trying to keep track of those and just enjoyed all the Fluttershys walking about. There were a good handful of HomeStuck cosplayers.
Now, I have to poke some fun at this, and I’m sure I’ll get some grief for it, but so what. I think of Homestuck cosplayers as the "Hipsters of Cosplay." They cosplay Homestuck characters just so they can say: “Oh, you don’t know what Homestuck is?” I’ve tried to follow it myself and I just gave up. Same thing with the HetaliaCosplays. Some of the things these kids are into these days. Ok, now I feel old. Even if I am old, there were still plenty of cosplays and stuff for me to enjoy while the noisy kids “Free Hugged” one another. Plenty of “Free Hug” thugs, I guess “glomping” is going out of style now, or maybe kids getting ejected for harassment might have something to do with it. I didn’t notice any rough housing here, though. The attendees at San Japan Mach 5 were well behaved.
One morning I got up pretty early and decided to head into one of the video rooms. It was nice to see some new anime while waiting for the dealer’s room and other events to start up. I grabbed a glass of fresh water and sat down to enjoy something different. Overall, San Japan Mach 5 was a lot of fun. And after this experience I’ll know how I’ll be better prepared for it next year.