(Head Geek’s Note: This post was provided by Friend of the Blog Jose Gomez. Part 2 of his report will be posted on Saturday.)
This is Jose Gomez and I’m here to review all three days of San Japan, an anime convention here in San Antonio, TX.
San Japan is began in 2007. The first event was supposed to be a regular 3-day event but there were some issues with the location, so they did a one-day event at the local Our Lady Of The Lake University as a sort of “preview”.
A year later, it began proper at the El Tropicano Hotel to great reviews. Since then, the event has gained popularity, going from a humble 800-plus attendance at Our Lady Of The Lake University to 18,000-plus last year over three locations (Henry B. Gonzalez Center, The Grand Hyatt Hotel and The Marriot Hotel, which are all spitting distance from each other. And I mean that literally, the Hyatt is connected to the convention center, so you can probably lean out the window of the hotel and spit at the crowd below). This year it topped off at more than 16,000, which is still pretty good considering this year (and the next two years) fell during Labor Day Weekend and the convention center is being renovated. To its credit, San Japan’s popularity has led to other conventions popping up in San Antonio, such as Alamo City Comic Con, Cyber City Con and Mizuumi Con.
San Japan also has a unique way to name each event and give it a theme. Examples include Mach 5 for the 5th event (Old School theme), Sinister Six for the 6th event (Villains), and 8-bit for last year’s event (Gaming, which is my favorite because they used Mega Man as inspiration for some of the art and design). This year was 009 (Robots and Androids).
Given that this is my first review, bear with me and be gentle. I’ll do my best to make this review at least halfway decent. Also of note, this is my fourth San Japan. The first two years my wife and I only did Sunday, while last year was the first year we did the whole three days.
My wife, her niece and I began our day by arriving around 10 a.m. to pick up our badges, which we bought 2 months in advanced.
If you’re wondering why “Blues” is on my badge instead of my name, it’s the Japanese name for Protoman of the Mega Man game franchise. Anyway, we then decided to head to the Table Top area where board games are played and sit down to discuss our plan of attack.
There were way too many panels to check out, so we circled the ones that we wanted to see, or at least attempt to see. What’s interesting is, if you look closely, most panels for Friday (and on Saturday) end around 11:30 p.m. BUT the fun doesn’t end, as there’s an electronic dance rave at the Hyatt ballroom that runs until 4 a.m., and there’s something important that I will point out when we get to Saturday in regards to the rave.
Since we hadn’t eaten anything yet, we decided to get some food first and do our first panel at 1:30. So we went out and stopped at this place called Schilo’s, which is a German restaurant. If anybody is in town, I implore you to stop by. The food is amazing, along with their home made root beer, which is truly the nectar of the Gods. I ordered the Papa Fritz, a sandwich that includes ham, turkey, swiss and American cheese on rye bread with potato salad and a soup (I chose split pea). We were also here last year during Alamo City Comic Con, so we decided to make Schilo’s our go-to place to eat during any conventions held downtown.
After we ate, we went back to the convention to check out the vendors and kill some time. The Vendors and Dealers area is a lot more spread out this time, which in years past felt too cramped. There’s so much cool stuff, if you’re not careful you’ll be broke within one HOUR. For us, we’ve been to so many cons that we actually didn’t buy a lot of stuff this year. Hell my wife and I STILL have prints and scrolls that we haven’t hung up yet from last year. Soon enough it’s time for our first panel begins so we went to stand in line for Anime In America: From Speed Racer to Space Dandy.
‘Murica, right? This panel discusses anime and its impact on American culture, ranging from shows like Astro Boy, Speed Racer, Sailor Moon and Dragon Ball Z to various studios and distributors like Toei Animations, Mushi Production and Pioneer. Fun facts included Spirited Away being the highest grossing anime movie ever, grossing almost $300 million; and My Neighbor Totoro being distributed by Troma Films (yes, TROMA films, famous for The Toxic Avenger, Tromeo & Juliet and Cannibal The Musical, distributed an anime starring a large but cute bunny-type creature). There was a funny bit when the panelists talk about Crunchyroll (think Netflix for anime), I heard someone say “Booty!” and me and maybe one other person laughed, as Xavier Woods (of New Day fame) has plugged Crunchyroll on his UpUpDownDown channel on YouTube. Another highlight included discussing a supposed attempt by Bandai and Toon Makers Inc. at an American version of Sailor Moon. It’s supposed to be half animation and half live action, and judging from the trailer that was shown, it was like a combination of Power Rangers and a Clearasil commercial for teens. Don’t believe me??
Gotta admit, the theme is irritatingly catchy.
After the panel, we went back in line for Hot Dads Of Anime (not my idea). I remember there being a few discussions of anime fandom over at Scott Keith’s Blog Of Doom (particularly the girls), and this panel certainly proves that. I don’t have anything against the fandom, as I enjoy anime myself (Hellsing and Soul Eater are my favorites at the moment) but I can kinda see why people have a certain opinion on it. Nothing bad as far I know, but it can draw some confused looks from some people. Speaking of which…
Not a whole lot to this panel, as it talks about (duh) dads in anime who are hot, plus the most common thing about dads in anime is that they either a) Die within the first couple of episodes, b)Turn evil at some point, or c)They’ll appear early in the series but then disappear until MUUUUUCH later.
Our next panel is one of my favorites, called Disney Sing Along, where the panelist will choose someone from the crowd to sing a song with help from a projector, but of course EVERYONE gets in on the fun. There were songs from the Lion King (no Hakuna Matata, the bastards!), Little Mermaid, Jungle Book, Beauty and The Beast, Mulan, Hercules, Aladdin and Nightmare Before Christmas (no This Is Halloween, again those bastards) among others. There was also a song that’s from a short video with two volcanos. I can’t remember the name of it, but BY GAWD it’s one of the saddest songs there is (it rivals the first few minutes of Up in terms of tear jerkiness). The last song ended up being “Let It Go” from Frozen, and I think everyone else in the crowd sensed that, because about half the crowd decided to leave at that point
There were a couple of panels we wanted to check out after that, but really the one we really wanted to see is the Hilarious Hentei Dub panel (yes, it’s an actual panel), so we decided to get some food. After we ate we made our way back to the convention and just walked around a bit. Even though the panel started at 10 p.m., we knew the line would probably get big fast, so we made sure to head over around 8:30. Good thing we did, because not long after we got there, there was a line that not only hit the end of the hallway but curved back another time. It ended being max capacity by the time we were seated (the room the panel was in seated about 600 max).
The panel is just what the name says. Just think of MST3K but with cartoon nudity. What makes it even funnier (aside from the actual footage) was that some of the people who did the voice overs for the clips shown have actually done some well-known cartoons, including Attack On Titan, Evangelion, Yu-Gi-Oh, Pokemon, and Venture Brothers. I think some childhoods of many were shattered to smithereens when they showed a clip involving one character, who was dubbed by the person who voiced Ash in Pokemon, was getting it on with another character who was dubbed by the person who dubbed Yugi from Yu-Gi-Oh. The last clip from a show called F Force probably didn’t need any dubs, as the clip itself was enough of a trip that EVERYONE lost their minds.
We actually hit up a total of four panels, which may not seem a lot, but we managed to space everything out to where we could actually hang out, mingle with some peeps and still manage to attend the panels we really wanted to see.