Sakura-Con 2011 – Impressions

May 31st, 2011 | Filed under Ranting

Sakura in Seattle

Thursday

Chad and I arrived at around 3 pm for registration, and it went by pretty quickly. It took about an hour, and I would estimate there were about 1000 people waiting in line.

Registration at Sakura-Con 2011

Registration had 15 booths plus a management booth. There is an interesting system of putting a hologram sticker on the badge after they put the name tag on it. The only vice was the lack of a lanyard, and I had forgotten to bring mine at the time. It’s especially sad since I have around 15 at home. The merchandise booth were selling them for $3, but I figured I could manage with just the clip. I had never been to the Washington State Convention & Trade Center before, and it kinda felt like a mall in certain portions. After registration, we met up with Roland and headed over to Cedars for some Indian food.

Butter Chicken, Butter Masala with Lamb, Pesto & Plain Nan at Cedars Restaurant

They gave us a ton, so I should keep in mind to not order so much next time. It was nice that Roland let us stay at his house in Shoreline, but it would have probably been better to stay in a hotel to maximize conventioning activities.

Friday

We woke up at around 4:45, and we headed to downtown Seattle at around 5:45. Fortunately, Roland’s work is 2 blocks away from the convention center, so we just hung out at the Starbuck’s near Pine and 7th until around 7, then headed over to the con.

There wasn’t much to do so early in the morning except check out the layout of the con. Chad asked for any tickets to the Guest Reception, but they had apparently sold out of them on Thursday (only 4 were available). To kill some time, Chad and I set up to the side of the Main Hall (4f) to play some Queen of Heart ’99 for a bit, then some Melty Blood: Act Cadenza. One guy came to play a bit, but he had forgotten to shower. He also thought that Chad and I were “father and son” so he was probably a bit confused too. Another guy came to play, and it was pretty fun.

Afterwards, I went to check out the Karaoke room, but it wasn’t open yet. I talked to the guy running the room for a bit, then I suggested he just set up a Joysound Wii.

He replied, “But that would be easy.”

Touché.

Use escalators with caution if you are wearing a long, flowing costume Sign at Sakura-Con

I decided to come back later so I went to join up with Chad at the AMV Showcase room. We watched for a bit, but the system broke down after around 45 min. It looked like the projector had burned out or something. Being quite impatient, we decided to leave right away to wait for the Opening Ceremonies. I also realized that I left my camera back at Roland’s house.

Opening Ceremonies wasn’t that interesting except for their introductory music video – it seems like they really like Hidamari Sketch.

We then went to the Exhibit Hall and went around looking for anything interesting. Fortunately, it wasn’t too large, so I was able to get through it relatively fast. I saw Chris again from Hen da Ne and decided to patronize his shop a bit by buying a few doujins.

The next thing on the agenda was to get an autograph by Mitsuishi Kotono. There was actually enough time to eat lunch before going to the line so we went to Johnny Rockets to grab a quick bite to eat. We managed to get in a good spot in line, and the staff actually let us take some pictures. Chad got her to sign his Birdy the Mighty: The Introduction CD, while I got her to sign the Melty Blood: Act Cadenza booklet on the page with Aoko Aozaki.

Autographed Aoko Aozaki page from Melty Blood: Act Cadenza booklet with Mitsuishi Kotono
Picture c/o Chad

The guy behind me got some good video of the autograph session, and he said he’d post it on youtube. I looked around for it recently, but couldn’t find it.

I wanted to do some Open Mic at the Karaoke room, but they were in the middle of a contest. The system sounded a bit muffled. The video game rooms didn’t seem all that interesting except they were projecting Rock Band on a big screen in an area adjacent to one of the walkways. I found out later that there were some game rooms on the sides with modern and classic games, and those were actually pretty decent.

After that, I went to the Guest Reception. Apparently, there were a lot of Berryz Kobo fans, a group who I never heard of before. I was outnumbered by around 5 to 1.

“It seems like there are a lot of Berryz Kobo fans around,” I noted to the guy next to me.
“Yeah! They’re amazing!” he replied. “Are you here for them too?!”
“No, I’m here to see Mitsuishi Kotono.”
“Who’s that?”

I felt a bit out of place.

After sitting down at a table, I was joined by Sailor Uranus, some random fans, and a guy from Japan who was apparently an exhibitor. I noticed that he had a “#1 SEGA” pin with Sonic so I showed him my Sega Saturn controller and we chatted a bit about games. His English was about as good as my Japanese so our conversation was a bit limited. The atmosphere was a lot more relaxed compared to the guest reception at Anime Expo, but I do appreciate the structure of having guests sit at certain tables. Fortunately, not a lot of people were crowding around Mitsuishi Kotono, so I was able to ask her a few questions.

How did you get involved with Melty Blood (Aoko)?
I was given the script/job from my company – it was mostly just a coincidence. I read a bit about the game and it seemed dramatic and sad. I never really saw the game or played it since I don’t have that much time to play games. I used to play some games in college though.

Why didn’t you reprise your role of Birdy in Birdy: Decode? I liked your voice better.
Thank you! I’d like to know why I didn’t get the role either, but that sort of thing happens from time to time in the industry.

How close to reality is the seiyuu business in Love Get Chu? Would you be like the president, Daimon Eri?
Wow, you know a lot. Of course, Love Get Chu is a bit exaggerated, and I’m not that interested in being in charge of a seiyuu company. I wouldn’t be like Daimon Eri, but I did have a sempai I looked up to like Eri had.

Saturday

Chad and I went to the Daily Grill for a nice breakfast, then headed off to the Karaoke room, much to Chad’s chagrin. They didn’t have a lot of the songs I wanted to sing, so I just picked a relatively popular one: Period by Chemistry from Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood. I found a karaoke version of it on YouTube so I had the guy running it queue it up. I failed to check if there were actual lyrics on it, but, fortunately, I had looked it up on my phone prior to going up on stage. Technology is great! Nobody ran out of the room screaming, but they were probably too tired to notice.

Anime & Manga Fans Must Go to Japan panel seemed like the next logical stop, so we dropped by for a bit. Maybe I’ll go to Japan someday. Someday…

As one can never have enough Mitsuishi Kotono we went to her panel next.

What kind of image did you want to give to young girls – Usagi?
At the time, it was my first tv anime role, so I didn’t have anything in mind – I spent a lot of energy just trying to do my very best. I got a lot of help from the veteran seiyuu and staff.

How did you get involved with Ebichu?
After doing Evangelion, I was a fan of Ebichu and heard it was being made into an anime so I had asked Anno to do the role. I even promised to keep a straight face even through the embarrassing lines.

What was it like being Misato Katusragi, a commanding and mature role?
At the beginning of the show I was 28 years old, and before I had done young roles, and I wanted to do a more mature role, so I think doing Misato helped me grow as a voice actress as well. Compared to the other strong characters in the show, I felt my role was a bit different. I thought about how to approach this role since it was hard at first. I realized that since Misato was close to my age at the time I decided that would play it relatively straight and it came out well. At that time, I realized that I had lost sight of how to voice a role in lieu of the technicalities, and I realized that it is most important to speak from the heart.

Are you a One Piece fan? If not, how did you get involved in the role. If so, what character do you like?
Before doing the role, I had no idea about One Piece. When I found out about this role, I read from Volume 1 to 49, and I was deeply moved by it and became a big fan. So, the scenes I like the best are the one where Hancock are in, especially ones where she’s speaking down to people. I also like the ones with Chopper.

What did you learn from the experience of playing Juri in Utena?
When approaching a role, I make my heart and mind completely blank, and approach each role that way. I don’t think of anything particular in mind. The director, Ikuhara, was director of both Sailor Moon and Utena, so I think that he picked me to do Juri because he wanted to give me a different role than Usagi.

How do you look back on Sailor Moon, and what was your favorite thing about doing the role of Usagi?
Next year will be the 20th anniversary. I watched the show with my daughter, one episode every day, and I realized it was really good and I consider it a treasure box. I like a lot of scenes from Sailor Moon and I really like the Sailor Moon R Movie, and also one scene from the TV series where sailor moon saves Sailor Saturn from destroying the earth.

Since Sailor Moon was one of your first roles, how did it feel to say goodbye to that show?
I did it for 5 years. In Japan, the show needs to be wrapped up each year in case they can’t make it next year. I did my very best every time so I wouldn’t have any regrets if it did end.

Is there any other manga that you enjoy that you would want to do the main role for?
There are quite a few that I’m interested in – one that I can think of is 20th Century Boys which was made into a live action movie. If it were ever made into an anime I would want to be part of it.

Has being Usagi affected your life in any way?
Yes, it had a big effect on my life. When I was a student, I wasn’t very confident, but doing that role has helped a lot with my confidence so it affected my life greatly.

How is the competition for foreigners to enter voice acting in Japan?
Right now, there are a large amount of people who want to get in, but you should chase after your dreams and not give up. Being able to speak English might be an asset.

Who would you pick? Lufy or Tuxedo Mask?
Ehhh??! So difficult! Tuxedo Mask loves Usagi back, but Lufy treats Hancock as a best friend forever, so I would pick Lufy.

How did you get involved with Melty Blood?


Video c/o Chad

We then went to see Evangelion 2.22, which I had seen before, but I liked it enough to watch it again. It was different enough that it was worth watching, and the animation was Anno at his best. Probably the only problem was the volume and bass were up too high.

We then met up with Roland, Gerald, and Juliet to grab some dinner at Maekawa. Curiously, this restaurant is on the 2nd story of a building where I used to go to check out games. It never occured to me to go up the stairs…

Sunday

Dreamcatchers with Mitsuishi Kotono was the first stop in the morning. It was an odd live-action group who would act out lines from anime in English. They had some technical difficulties so it ran a bit late. Consequently, they cut some of the stuff that Mitsuishi Kotono was going to do. I felt a bit sad that she didn’t get to do more stuff.

I had an obligation to eat Easter lunch with my family so I left Chad at the convention for a couple hours. I missed the other Mitsuishi Kotono panel, but I was satisfied, for the most part, with the amount of time that I had seen her before.

On the way back home, as I was walking through the Seattle airport, I heard someone shout, “Tony! Tony!”

It was my uncle Fred and aunt Imelda who were on their way back to Anchorage after visiting some relatives in California. It’s interesting who you meet up with in random places.

Verdict

Sakura-Con was a pretty good experience, and I would probably go back. This year it happened to be during my Spring Break, so the timing worked out well. I’m not sure if I’ll be so lucky next year. If I do go back, I would plan to get a hotel room to maximize conventioning. If I’m gonna go, I might as well go all the way.

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