Now that we got the “issue” of the Grand Hyatt out of the way, let’s talk about the con itself. Did the “issue” with the Grand Hyatt ruin San Japan 8-bit so much that 2015 would be the con’s first bad year? No it did not. Yes the whole thing was kind of a annoyance for most, but that did not let 18,411 attendees let that mess with what has to be most diverse and programmed filled in the con’s history so far.
Largest arcade room in con history- One of the yearly things that I look forward to seeing at San Japan besides the cosplayers is the arcade room. Every year since the move to the convention center, the people in charge of the day time arcade room have been experimenting with several layouts and various types of games to meet the needs of everyone attending the con. This year they hit proverbial nail on the head. San Japan enlisted the help of Ultra Arcade, RikRic OtakuCafe’s Bushido Arcade, both of which are local arcades, and Tokyo Attack, a company that provides Japanese arcade games for cons, to head up the day time arcade at the convention center. Not only were there the usual cabinets with fighting games and classic arcade games, but there were several stations with console games, there was a PC gaming area and Tokyo Attack brought several Japanese arcade games that you could find in Japan. San Japan made sure that there was something for everyone and have enough space so that people who are tried are able to sit down and rest for a bit. From what has been stated by San Japan staff, the con’s day time arcade room was not just the largest arcade room in the history of the con, but was also the largest arcade room in a Texas anime con in general. Hopefully San Japan keeps this going for many years to come.
Japanese anime industry guests– San Japan has always been open to bringing in guests who work in the anime industry in North America in terms of ADR directors, voice actors and distributors. The only time that someone from the Japanese side of the anime industry made an appearance at San Japan was director Shinichi “Nabeshin” Watanabe back in 2011 for San Japan 4TW. Many though that this was really cool to meet someone who worked on the original product before it received a localization. Since then many had voiced that they wanted more Japanese anime industry guests to come over to San Japan and share what goes on their side of the industry. San Japan said sure and brought over for this year Yuji Matsukura of JC Staff and Mitsuru “Mick” Kouzai of Studio GX. Being able to talk to two people who worked on the production side of anime was a really interesting experience and one I hope that San Japan is able to make happen again. If you would like to know more about either Yuji-san or Mitsuru-san, please check out the video of their press conference that Gaming Buddha participated in: http://www.thegamingbuddha.com/san-japan-8-bit-press-conference-with-yuji-matsukura-and-mitsuru-mick-kouzai/
Fostering the growth of the lolita scene- In the past two year (at least in my case) I started to noticed something different. I started to noticed that there were more, for a lack of a better term, people dressed up in frilly, lacy fru-fru dresses. These dresses came in all sorts of styles and colors from blacks and dark blues to reds and soft pinks. I was later informed that these dresses were in the style of lolita. For those not familiar with this style, lolita is a fashion sub-culture that originated in Japan that is based on Victorian-era clothing. The San Japan staff saw that this new fan base growing pretty quickly and wanted to help cater to their needs. So with the past few San Japans, they held a lolita tea party and invited lolita brand Angelic Pretty to sell their wares in the dealers room. This year San Japan made even more strides to foster the growth even more by inviting lolita fashion designer Fumiko Kawamura and fashion model Yuka to not host this year’s tea party, but as well as host the very first San Japan lolita fashion show. Being exposed to a new section of Japanese culture was really awe inspiring. Hopefully the lolita community here in San Antonio keeps growing and hopefully San Japan puts on more programs like this and maybe even branch branch out to other fashion styles. If you would like to know more about Fumiko Kawamura and Yuka, please check out the lolita press conference that we also participated in: http://www.thegamingbuddha.com/san-japan-8-bit-press-conference-with-fumiko-kawamura-and-yuka/. Speaking of press conferences…..
Improved media releations- Although this was my second year in covering San Japan under the Gaming Buddha banner, I have been following and have covered San Japan since San Japan 1.5 when I was writing for a previous local outlet. My job back then was to take in the con, take pictures and give support where needed. I didn’t really interact with media relations/community relations arm of San Japan till last year. While there were some bumps last year, things were alright. This year however things improved drastically, especially how interviews were set up. Last year and in previous years, interviews were almost a solo affair. Which I didn’t mind personally, but when you have such hyped guests, you would think at least local media would show up. This year there was an increase number of people in the media room for interviews that San Japan changed up the format from solo to press conference. This did catch me off guard a bit, but I feel that this is a better format for press and other media to interview guests.
Better communication between main hotel, San Japan staff and community- See the first part of the review for more information about this “issue”.
Audio problems- Between a few of the concerts and panels in the convention center/Hyatt, audio problems have plagued San Japan, especially the concerts. From what I heard, there were some issues during the concerts on the first day with sound board not properly check and the staff recordings of the concerts had terrible sound. This also extended to opening and closing ceremonies and a hand full of panels. While some cons would just shrug their shoulders and move on, San Japan tried their best to fix the problems. This is why so many people love the San Japan staff, they are quick to try to solve the problems of attendees and will admit that they screwed up if they did. I believe they at the rate they are growing that they need to invest in an internal sound team instead of outsourcing.
Early interview sessions- For this year’s San Japan I concentrated more on trying to get as many interviews that I could in between attending various panels. However there were some interviews that I had to miss due to me being in the middle of a panel and vice versa. Combined that with the elevator restrictions at the Hyatt where some of the panels were being hosted made for a lot rushing and missed opportunities. San Japan staff have stated that starting next year that the com might start offering Day Zero activities and content. I’m sure that most guests, especially international ones, are at the convention a few days before the start of the first day. If possible I’d like to see interview sessions moved up to Thursday afternoon/evening before the start of the con. That way those who are already here can have their schedules cleared up and have more time to interact with their fans.
Press ticketing- This year was the first year that San Japan started giving out tickets for events like the cosplay contest and the lolita fashion show. This is to ensure that they obey fire code and that everyone is seated properly. That’s a really good idea, however it wasn’t made clear that press/media had to have tickets as well until day of the shows. While my team had no trouble getting into our assigned press seats, it would have been a better idea if they were given to press early. A good suggestion would be to make a packet for the press that has the tickets and programs that describe what ticket is for which event.
Day zero/4 day con- As I mentioned last year, San Japan is starting to expand in size to the point that eventually they will be needing a fourth day. Now there are talks about adding a Day Zero for next year and that is a good step in the right direction. However for the next few years San Japan will be taking place during the Labor Day weekend. While some may see this a huge set back for those who have to either get ready for school are already in school, San Japan can take this as an opportunity to increase their advertisement scope internationally. Some school have summer break till September and go back that second week. Combine that with San Antonio recently having the Alamo and the Missions designated as World Heritage Sites and you have good reason for families and like minded otaku a reason to visit San Japan during September. At least that’s what I predict. We won’t know for sure until next year rolls around.
With that another San Japan has closed and the next one, San Japan 009 has been announced. The staff has really outdone themselves this year with a ton next content, new guests and new activities for attendees to participate in. The new press format for interviews is a welcome change, as well meeting the Japanese guests. It was kind of hard to find bad faults about San Japan, since they continue to improve every year. However with each new change comes new problems that needs to be worked on and that’s just natural. Even for those who had “issues” with the change of the Grand Hyatt’s policy didn’t let them stop from enjoying the con. Just as I mentioned last year, as long as the staff keep putting love and effort into each San Japan, there will never be a “bad” year. There might be a few bumps and cracks in the road ahead for sure, but I don’t think any fan run con has the extreme support of its community like San Japan does.