Hakukumo

May 232012
 

2012 marked the year where a bunch of small local Vancouver conventions started cropping up all throughout the year.  The first anime-related convention in the 2012 Vancouver cons lineup belongs to our very first Fan-Expo Vancouver 2012.  Fan-Expo has been a very long-standing convention that started out east, and finally it has migrated all the way to our very own west coast!  But although it does include anime in its bosom, I have to say Fan-Expo caters to more of the Western comic books and TV/films persuasion and less of the Japanese anime taste.

Most of the vendors that set up tables at Fan-Expo’s hall sells Western comic books, comic books/movies related action figures, comic books/movies posters, related T-shirts and apparel, etc. etc.  So, if you’re into those types of awesome geekery, you’ll have a fantastic time at Fan-Expo.  Oh yes, there’s also the video game awards event that they host I believe.

Not to say there’s anything wrong, but if you were looking for more of the “traditional” Japanese anime-centric conventions, Fan-Expo might not be the one for you.  However, it does have a lot of other cool and neat stuff that you should definitely keep an eye out.  They bring in really cool guests!  Some of them are voice actors of cartoons and video games.  Some of them are celebrity/actor guests.  Just, lots and lots of amazing guests!  These guests have their own time slots for autographs and photos.  Some of them even have panels that you can go check out.

So, like I said, if you’re excited about this type of stuff, definitely go check out their website:
http://www.fanexpovancouver.com/

They have a facebook as well that you can follow.  They update pretty frequently whenever they have something new to tease the fans.

May 082012
 

It’s always an adventure to travel down across the border to Sakura-con every year.  Sometimes it’s eventful, sometimes it’s not so much when you’re used to the sights already.  But there is always something new you can discover when you go travelling.  Say, for example, the differences between Canadian McD’s and USA McD’s:   Apparently, the staff at Canadian McD’s will understand “McChicken sauce” and not ‘mayo’, but it’s the other way around in the states!  …Long story short, we had a hard time trying to get the sauce when we were ordering our snack… haha.

After getting 20 pieces McNuggets for $6? (Here’s another difference, our McNuggets are waaaay more expensive than that.)  We continued our drive down but unfortunately hit a very bad traffic jam.   Apparently there was a really bad accident underneath the overpass at the exit into downtown Seattle?   There might have been 3 overturned cars, so many of us were unfortunately stuck on the highway for ~1.5hrs.  Further yet, we’ve just hit rush hour, of all the hours in the day you can pick to have a 3 overturned cars accident right off the highway…  Finally, we got fed up and took an earlier exit.  But since we didn’t have a GPS with us, it was “Adventure Time”.  We got lost for a little bit, and decided to stop at a Starbucks for direction.

Pro-tip guys, if you’re lost and if you have a device on you that can access wifi, stop at a Starbucks!

Luckily, I brought my Touchpad with me so while I perused their free wifi, another went to ask the super nice girl behind the counter for directions.  Eventually, we got our directions and went on our merry way.  We were actually not that far off from the hotel so that was a good thing.  Navigating through downtown (of anywhere) is always hectic but we managed to get to our hotel in one piece.

 

Hotel/Accommodations:

As per tradition, we stayed at the Homewood Suites Seattle.  We really like how they have wifi access for the guests, a kitchen for their suite rooms (studio rooms do not have kitchenettes!), and free breakfast every morning.  There are also free dinners during Mon-Thurs, so we were able to grab their Thurs dinner when we rolled in.  This year’s dinner was Chicken Salad with Clam Chowder.  I don’t particular enjoy salads in general so I thought it was great they had the clam chowder.  Apparently, my friend tells me it’s Ivar’s Clam Chowder, and it was SUPER GOOD!  If you’re ever in the area, you should go try it out (I think there might be a restaurant near the waterfront)!  For breakfast, they usually have a variety of things for you to choose from.  The thing that always appealed to me was their self-serve waffle machines.  They also provide whipped cream cans and fresh strawberries for you to top your fresh waffles!  Although I would suggest staying away from their eggs… they always taste a bit off to me. (^^;)

 

Seiyuu (Japanese Voice Actor) Guest of Sakura-con:

Sakura-con 2012 was basically “Morita Masakazu –Con” for me.  I managed to attend all of his events (except for the guest reception).

It was definitely fun to watch him and listen to him tell us stories about his work.

I thought his autograph sessions were well done by the staff.  I’ve attended both times and they seemed pretty smooth to me.  Basically, the only thing you weren’t allowed to do was to ask him to pose for a picture.  But you can take pictures of him while you’re in line or when you’re up there getting your thing signed (But most people forget that since they’re too busy staring at Morita-san, haha).  This was the second year for me to attend autograph sessions at Sakura-con (the first was for Ali Project years ago~), and getting advanced tickets to these sessions were actually really convenient.  Of course, you still have to wait and stand in line, but the rules this year were:

–         You can get advanced tickets which allows you to line up before attendees that do not have advanced tickets

–         You are only allowed to start lining up for the session 30min prior to the beginning of the session

–         You are allowed to have only 1 item signed, but it can be practically anything (but I think it’s as long as the object’s deemed “appropriate”?)

–         Pictures are allowed, you just can’t ask him to pose for you (which is understandable since this will eat up a lot of time if he’s asked to do this for everyone, therefore, not everyone will have their item signed)

Morita-san was very friendly and genuinely happy to see everyone.  After he signs your item, he’d give you this huge smile and shake your hand earnestly.  It’s kind of heart-warming and makes you want to keep on supporting him… haha!


Morita-san signing for the fans.

Shaking hands with the fans, look at his huge smile!

 

Q&A:

I thought the lineup for the Q&A panel could have been organized a little better.  The line got too long so it had to be separated right after me and my friend since otherwise, the convention’s service doors would have been blocked and the convention staff wouldn’t have been happy.  The S-con staff stationed there might have been a little inexperienced since we kept getting attendees wanting to line up right behind us when they should’ve been told to go to the other half of the line.  My friend kept having to do the staff’s job, and redirecting everyone to the other line down the hall.

Also, let me just rant a little here:  If you weren’t in line at all and waited like the rest of the people, don’t just budge and walk in.  That’s not cool.  Go to the back of the line like everyone else.  If you don’t get in, that’s your own fault for not coming to wait like everyone else.  This is especially irritating when it’s a group of people and not just 1 or 2 people.

Anyways, highlights from the Q&A included:

– Morita-san being an amazing person in general

– A girl asking him to say “Rukia I love you” in Ichigo’s voice that caused the room to be in an uproar

– his super long story from how he auditioned and got Barnaby’s role to interesting stories during Tiger&Bunny recordings that spanned over 10min

– someone asking him to say a Barnaby line and he asked a Barnaby cosplayer to borrow his glasses, and the cosplayer gave him the jacket to put on as well.  He then stood up on the chair and saluted to the whole audience with his Barnaby ‘See Ya’ line!


A picture from Morita-san’s official twitter at the Q&A.

 

Voice Acting Demonstration:

This panel was scheduled at around 10 in the morning, and it was more of a panel where Morita-san does a bit of voice acting demos.  He spoke about voice acting in general: how he got into it, his roles, and stuff like that.

He also did a demonstration of doing live acting for 3 different characters he’s voiced:  Kurosaki Ichigo (Bleach), Tidus (FFX), and Maeda Keiji (Sengoku Basara).  Basically, he did 3 memorable scenes from each of the works, and it was such a treat to witness him do the lines live.  I especially liked the Tidus part (he did the ending scene) since it was so nostalgic to hear him say the lines live after so many years.

 

Layout of the Convention:

This year, it seems Sakura-con had expanded their grounds yet again!  The most obvious sign was that they moved the Registration hall to the Hyatt hotel.  This freed up an entire section of the ballroom in the actual convention grounds for the expansion of the Dealers Hall/Artist Alley.  They moved AA from where they stashed them on the 6th floor from last year into the same ballroom with the Dealers.  They also expanded their “variety” by adding in a ‘Small Press’ option for sellers that do not carry mass-produced merchandise and also do not have a big volume of goods to sell.

Moving Registration and freeing up the other end of the Dealers Hall was definitely a good move.  It means more vendors, more stalls to look at, and more importantly: more space for people to walk through.  Sometimes I find it extremely difficult and not enjoyable to walk through a crowded Dealers Hall.  With the additional space, it was a much more enjoyable experience to walk around, even in your costume!  I also really liked how all of the vendors were in one place.  It means that I would only require to go to one room to look at stuff to buy, in opposed to several different spots.  Because sometimes, when you have walked through one area, you get tired and you just don’t want to venture out to a different spot.  You might save it for later, but chances are, you might forget about it and go do something else instead.

 

Food:

There are many food options around the area when you’re hungry.  This year, I finally tried the Blue C Sushi restaurant.  It’s a Kaiten Sushi restaurant (aka, the sushi dishes are served on a conveyor belt that travels around the sushi chefs.  It was pretty fun to eat there.  If you go in with a costume on during the convention weekend, you can even get 10% off your total bill!  They sure knew how to do their promotions since they changed some of the names of their dishes to match the geeky audience that weekend (like: edamame would have Edward Elric’s name in it, and there were also Sailormoon and Naruto related dishes as well.)

Pike Market Place is another great place for food stuff.  During this trip, I found out that one of the shops at the market place even offer fresh seafood delivery to your hotel if you’re able to cook it in your room!  If you venture down Post Alley, you can try out a place called the Pike Place Chowder for their famous clam chowder: http://www.pikeplacechowder.com/  There’s not a whole lot of seats there, and it was pretty busy when I visited there so be prepared to order it for take-out.  I’ve tried their clam chowder, seafood bisque, and scallop chowder.  All 3 came with a slice of sourdough bread, and the chowders were delicious!


Pike Place Chowder

If you’re in the mood for an ice-cream cone, I would recommend getting a freshly made waffle cone from an ice-cream parlor not far from Pike Place Chowder.  The waffle smells amazing (and delicious).  I paired my waffle cone with their Salted Caramel ice-cream, and it was super delicious!  It might have been Shy Giant Frozen Yogurt that we went to (there’s a few ice-cream places there)… I forgot to get a business card so I don’t remember the exact name.  You can get to it by going down a flight of stairs, and it’s diagonally opposite of a meat place.  I remember they had interesting flavours like Honey Lavender and Licorice!  I tried the Honey Lavender, it tasted like lavender but I don’t particular care for that taste so I didn’t get it, I just thought it was interesting!  I didn’t try the licorice one but there were 3 tourists there that tried it and all of their mouths turned black after their spoonful of it.  They said it was good though!


It was sooooo gooooood!!!  I’d love to come back again!

 

Pre-reg for next year’s Sakura-con:

If you already know you will be attending Sakura-con next year, it would be smart to pre-register for your badge before the end of the con!  It’s even cheaper than the first round of pre-reg badge sales on their website.  We found out that it was half-price at $30 for a full weekend pass at Sakura-con 2013.  I didn’t know where you were able to get it at first but the staff at the Information Booth was very friendly and helpful.  It was at the Hyatt across the street, but before you head over remember to bring the following:

–         Money (either cash or credit card)

–         ID

Otherwise, you’ll have to turn back, grab your stuff and go line up again.

 

Random Thoughts:

As a cosplayer myself, I’m happy to see that Sakura-con was able to implement the Cosplay Repair room for cosplayers in need of some emergency fix-ups.  I personally did not use the Cosplay Repair room since I was fortunate enough to not have any mishaps on convention grounds.  However, I did have a wardrobe malfunction at one point, and I brought my hot glue gun so I was able to repair it in my hotel room.

Protip for cosplayers:  Always make sure you or one of your roomies pack a hot glue gun (and glue sticks)!  You never know when it’ll come in handy!

But I heard that there were people that blatantly abused the tools in the room.  I think the Cosplay Repair room should only be for people that need emergency repairs, not for people that want to start making their costume at the convention (i.e. literally using the sewing machine in the room and going at it with their fabrics).  Maybe if you only need a tiny bit of your costume finished (although I still think you should keep that in your hotel room and not use public resources on convention grounds).

 

What makes a successful convention is credited to good planning, but I think what makes a good convention experience really depends on who you’re with and who you meet during said convention.  So go out there, stick with your friends, and have fun!  Just remember to keep your common sense and courtesy in tact.

Aug 232011
 

First in its year, MiniComi is a small convention(?) event (?) that is 1 day only, and is structured to imitate the famous Comiket event in Japan bi-annually.  For those not in the know, Comiket is a 4 day endeavour that is basically a giant doujinshi (fan-comics done on, usually, the hot series of the season) and other fanmade goods market where people line up every which way and that to get to the tables that the different artists of your choosing are situated and buy copies of their newest works.  Some of these fan-artists are so popular that most of  their stuff gets sold out at Comiket even if people line up for hours for them (or so I’ve heard).  It is not an event to tackle lightly.  You’ll need to be prepared to line up for hours outside before the venue opens for the general public, then locate (beforehand with the guide) the artists you want to buy stuff from, and line up again for the goods.  If you want to get stuff from multiple artists, be prepared to strategize your routes and time wisely.  Given all the time you’ll be standing in line, it’s also best to be prepared to keep some food on you when your energy starts running low.  Basically, it’s like going into battle as a dear friend describes.

Fortunately for us, we don’t have to go into battle-mode like that.  Our MiniComi is as it’s named “mini”.  As I’ve mentioned, it’s a 1 day event held at UBC.  And best of all, it’s free admission!  You get to waltz in and look through the tables that our different local artists have set up and peruse their different anime-related wares.  You’re also welcome to come dressed up in cosplay.  After the market hours end, there’s a small concert by local bands to end the day as well.

As it’s starting out, the venue they’ve chosen is the ballroom on the second floor of the Student Union Building (SUB), near the bus loop.  It’s pretty accessible and not a bad start.  I hope they’ll be able to do well in future years as well.  I mean, who could resist going to a free event, amirite?

May 222011
 

For 2011, my Sakura-con experience was a little different than previous years.  This year, along with a bunch of fellow friends and cosplayers, we decided to form a group to enter into the Costume Contest.  So, this report will have more of a focus on the contest aspect of the convention rather than other aspects as previous years have elaborated on.

When you decide to participate as a group in the contest (depending on the level of intricacy you’re willing to put forth into the skit), you tend to start months in advance to start preparing for the show.

This is usually how most people go about preparing for the contest:
You start by bouncing off ideas of what you want to do for the skit as a group -> hash out the ideas in details -> debate about it some -> procrastinate a whole lot -> realizing time is diminishing -> start panicking -> and finally you start actually working on the stuff.

We decided on utilizing set props as well as (of course) our costumes (+costume props) as part of our skit.  So, those were needed to be made prior our leaving for Sakura-con.  We pooled our resources and invested a lot of time to put them together besides sewing and making each of our costumes.  We even roped in friends that agreed to help as our stage ninjas.  It was awesome.  Aside from working on everything, we also made time to practice our skit.  It was just weeks of making our backdrop, building a frame for the backdrop (and making sure it doesn’t fall), sewing our costumes, making props as part of our costumes, practicing for our skit, getting people to voice for our skit recording, editing and finalizing for our skit recording, and… more skit practicing plus finishing the costumes on time.  The last two actually carried on into the late night of Day 1, just before the morning of for the contest!

So with limited amount of sleep, we woke up at the crack of dawn to start getting into our costumes and preparing for the actual event.  As parts of some of our costumes were not practical to walk to streets in, some of us decided to finish changing when we get to the event hall.  No point in jeopardizing the safety of your costume when the time hasn’t come yet, amirite?

Waiting for check-in before the cosplay contestWaiting for check-in before the cosplay contest.

Preparing to go backstageGetting ready to go backstage to the “Green Room” area.

When you first arrive at the event hall, you get to check-in with the coordinator to ensure and double-check your placement within the roster/schedule.  As groups are being checked-in, the ones that are waiting are allowed a few minutes to go on the stage and have a feel for it before the actual deal.  You don’t really have enough time to do a run-through of your entire skit but at least it gives you enough time to figure out where you need to place your sets and where to go for the people coming on the stage throughout your skit.

Once all of the groups are checked-in and nearing the time to let the audience into the hall for seating, the groups are led to the “Green Room” to wait until they are to go onstage.  In other years, I’ve been to a “Green Room” at another convention, and it was a separate room adjacent to the actual hall.  But as space was limited, the “Green Room” for this event was just the area behind the stage.  It was dark as the lights are all dimmed, and we all waited in the dark while watching the back of the screens of the video feed from the camera.

It was anxiety-inducing, waiting for our turn on stage.  So, a few of us decided to go outside through the back door and do some last minute practice run-throughs to pass the time and to shake off some of those anxious jitters.  A word of advice if you decide to do this, keep to the sides as much as possible and don’t get in the way of the actual con staffs.  They’re nice people and are just doing their jobs.  Also, watch out for the traffic!

Everything after that was pretty much, go on stage, perform, make an efficient exit, and wait for the results with everyone else!

It was definitely an experience to go through this whole thing.  It was tremendous fun as well.  And I think that’s the whole point: to have fun.  I’ve never thought I’d have the courage to go on stage and perform in front of a hall full of audiences.  But it’s really not so bad when you have your friends on the stage with you, and the lights shining onstage are so bright you barely make out how far the event hall goes to.  All of the practices helped too.  It allowed me to just focus on where I needed to be, and what I needed to do.  And you’ll find that you won’t even have time to be nervous onstage!  By the time you realize it, you’ll have finished performing and it’s time to make your fabulous exit stage left.

So get out there and have fun!  Try something new!  It’ll sure be a memory you won’t forget for years to come!

IMG_6931