Con Report: San Japan: 8-Bit
Where: The Henry B. Gonzales Convention Center/Grand Hyatt Hotel,
San Antonio, Texas
When: Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, July 31st through August 2nd, 2015
As I reported last year, I’m a bit of a strange duck when it comes to anime conventions. I’ve never been into the panels or cosplay competitions, although I have a lot of respect for the people who put so much time and effort into their outfits, and in traveling the convention circuit. I especially had respect for the cosplayers and guests who were in San Antonio, braving the 99° late July and early August heat at San Japan: 8-bit, at the Henry B. Gonzales Convention Center. I’m always looking for two things at an anime convention: The overall feel of the con, and of course, the opportunity to sit back in a room with a bunch of fellow otaku and soak up some anime. I’m happy to say that this con didn’t disappoint.
I showed up at San Japan just about an hour after the official opening on Friday, grabbed my badge, and took my time wandering the grounds, getting to know where everything was. The line to get into the dealer’s room snaked all the way along the wall in the exhibit hall outside, a huge serpentine line of cosplayers and fans waiting to get in and glom some of the merchandise inside. I grabbed a sandwich and a diet soda, for which I was charged like sin, a key mistake I didn’t make again. It pays to know where the affordable places to eat are down here. I then settled down in the cosplay lounge to look over the con materials, take some notes, and wait for the opening ceremony. With forty-four minutes remaining, I figured I’d get to know more about where everything was, so I wandered over to the Grand Hyatt, where more of the panel and anime rooms were located. It’s very important to know where the anime viewing rooms are in an anime convention – they are, in my view, the chief reasons for having an anime convention. It’s really great to sit down with a bunch of fellow fans and enjoy a laugh or two, whether it’s a new series, or a title you’ve enjoyed many times before.
As usual, the setting was both beautiful and convenient, with the Rivercenter Shopping Mall, a fast walk down the Riverwalk from the Convention Center, and the adjacent hotel. The fans, of course, were top-notch, well-behaved and exuberant. They really make any con an unforgettable experience.
After locating the video rooms, I went over to line up for the opening ceremonies. Sure, I had a press pass, but as I told the door attendant, I’m just a geek like anybody else, and I was perfectly willing to wait in line, as any fan would have to. I feel a great sense of camaraderie with other anime fans, especially here in South Central Texas, where anime fandom is still viewed as something of a novelty, if not with some scorn on the part of some segments of the populace.
The opening ceremony was, to put it mildly, low-key. I really think this is an area where the con organizers could put in a little more effort. A bit more flash-bang at future conventions would be nice. Of course, I may have attended with overblown expectations. I saw big video screens on either side of the stage, and I was expecting a multi-media affair that would have really made it an unforgettable experience. Chairman Dave Henkin was gracious in introducing some of the guests who had made it early, including Japanese Fashion Guest of Honor Fumiko Kawamura, manga creator Svetlana Chmakova, Anime parody geniuses Team Four Star, Hip-hop artist Mega Ran, and AnimeCons TV podcaster Patrick Delahanty, to name but a few. This would be a great opportunity for someone to do an opening animation, or other multi-media sequence to kick things off in the future. As they used to shout to the Beatles in Hamburg, “Mak schau! Mak schau!”
After the opening ceremony, I headed over to the dealers’ room to browse a bit. I ran into my good friend Rod Espinosa at the Antarctic Press booth there, and he autographed a couple of issues of his new work Steampunk Snow Queen for me. After grabbing some lunch at Rivercenter (tip – you can fill up at the Taco Bell there for less than $10), I made my way over to the Hyatt and the anime rooms to round out my day. I sat back with fans, watching episodes of AKB0048 and Food Wars. I have to say that the Crunchyroll video room is much improved this year, with the sound system not having any of the problems that it had last year.
Overall, I had a great time at San Japan and I look forward to more fun and mayhem at next year’s con. Last year’s attendance was over 14,000. This year, their final attendance count was 18,411. Next year, will mark the con’s ninth year here in San Antonio. They plan on having it over the Labor Day weekend, which is a good time to have it, I think, since this allows more time to enjoy the festivities, plus have that following Monday off to recover from it all. With all the activities, dances, contests, panels, guests, and yes, anime to enjoy, there’s no way you can take it all in. Just pick your poison and go for it, I say. See y’all there next year, same anime-time, same anime-channel.