I’m a strange duck when it comes to anime conventions. I’m not into panels or cosplay competition, but I love the colorful sea of fans, the dealers’ room, artists’ alley, and of course, the anime, which is why I really go to anime conventions in the first place. Sure, I can always watch anime on my own, and I frequently do – and there’s plenty of online streaming content that makes that task even easier now – but there’s still something about enjoying a well-animated drama or comedy in a room full of people who are into the same stuff that you’re into that you can’t experience on your own.
That’s why, when I knew back in April that I was coming back to San Antonio this summer, I went online and bought a ticket for San Japan: Samurai 7 at the Henry B. Gonzales Convention Center.
I was working a new job on Friday when the Con opened, so I was unable to attend, but I came down on Saturday for an afternoon of fun and had a great time. The crowds were sizable and well-behaved, the spaces were well air-conditioned, the setting of the HBG Convention Center on the San Antonio Riverwalk was scenic and convenient to shopping and hotels, and of course, the anime was first rate.
One of the things I look for when I visit the video rooms is a mix of new discoveries and familiar titles, and San Japan didn’t disappoint. The standout for me this year was an older title, Intrigue in the Bakumatsu. The animation was gorgeous, and the plotline of intrigue and skullduggery in the last days of the shogunate in Japan was enough to pique my curiosity. I just wish I had more money to spend at the dealers’ room, or I would have gone looking for it. I was also treated to more familiar titles like Tsuritama and Pet Girl of Sakurasou, which went over particularly well with the fans watching it for the first time. The only fly in the ointment for me was the Crunchyroll video room over in the Grand Hyatt. While the room was nice and the video was well set up, the sound system that was used was insufficiently powerful and the speakers buzzed like a bassist trying to play through a ten-watt guitar amp.
I also spent a sizable amount of time browsing the wonders of the dealers’ room. Sadly, this year I came with a smaller budget than I would have liked. Usually I like to have a couple of hundred to blow through, but I had to limit myself to one video purchase and one or two small items. I did, however, pick up that copy of Akira: The 25th Anniversary Edition on DVD that I’ve been craving for the past couple of years, and with my sister’s birthday happening earlier in the week, I was looking for anime-related gifts for her as well.
I don’t know why, but for me, there is nothing that compares to the feeling of the dealers’ room at an anime convention. There’s a vibrancy and energy there that I just can’t find at any other fan-related con. It’s almost as fun for me as the video rooms are. The open-air marketplace feel and the crowds of cosplayers give the room an otherworldly feel. There was a replica of the TARDIS placed strategically in a corner of an adjoining hall where the artists’ alley was located, and I would not have been surprised to see the Doctor and one of his companions walk out of it, given the ambiance.
Overall, I had a really great time this year, and I plan on picking up a pre-reg soon for the next one. According to San Japan’s Facebook page, final attendance this year was over 14,000, which means they’re on their way to competing with the likes of their venerable old cousin, A-Kon, up the pike in Dallas.
Pre-registration for next year’s Con, San Japan 8-Bit, is already up and running with 3-day tickets being priced at $35 until August 1st. Now is the time to get jumping on a reservation for next year. You can’t beat the price, the venue is fantastic, the fans are wonderful, and of course, there’s always the anime, which, as I stated above, is the reason they call it an anime convention in the first place.